get the newsletter

shine along

August 23, 2010

Things to Ask An Agent

Kate Hart
I'm not squeamish about most things. When bug killing is required, I'm on it. Reptiles don't bother me-- I had pet lizards as a teen. I can bait my own hook, take my own fish off said hook, and, if pressed, can even fillet said fish, though I rarely eat said fish and thus manage to avoid cleaning them most of the time. 

But I hate talking on the phone. Like to the point that if we're ordering pizza (which we rarely do, because only one place delivers out here in the boondocks and it's not very good), I make my husband call. So you can imagine my terror when I realized, early in the querying process, that at some point I might be expected to-- *gasp!*-- have an actual conversation with a living, breathing agent.

This prospect did not make me happy.

Defense mechanism: Research the hell out of it. And when it came time, I had a great list of questions next to the phone, which was very helpful when an agent said, "Hello, is this Kate?" and my brain went "uh.... uhh.... uhhhh..." There are several excellent lists already posted around the internet, including:
But some questions were more revealing than others, and I pass them on to you in hopes you find them equally helpful.

1) How is your contract different from those at other agencies? I don't know a huge amount about contracts, so this was an interesting way to approach the issue. What the agent chooses to highlight can also be enlightening-- does s/he mention foreign sales? Publicity? Does the agency use subagents to deal with subsidiary rights or do they keep them in house?

2) What do you think my comp titles would be? Most agents I talked to volunteered it on their own, but the answer is fascinating. Not only is it flattering to hear yourself compared to pros, but an agent who compares you to a title you can't stand might have a very different view of your work or your career.

3) Where do you see this book going? Some agents aren't comfortable giving you their entire potential sub list, which is understandable-- if you go elsewhere, they don't want to show the competition their cards. But they should at least be able to suggest authors with similar career tracks. And on a related note--

4) Do you expect me to write within only one genre? If you're writing YA and picture books, or romance and mystery, you'll obviously need to address this. But more specifically, I also got a wide variety of answers when I asked if a YA author can write both contemporary and paranormal.

5) How do you feel about internships/group blogs/online forums? Everyone was pretty pro-YA Highway, but I got extremely varied responses regarding internships with rival agencies. (No, I don't have an internship, but might like to in the future.) And if an agent has specific expectations for your behavior online, better to know it upfront.

6) What questions do you have for me? Interesting to see what kind of research an agent has already done on you, and how interested they are in your life, opinions, etc. What level of interest you'd like will obviously vary, but if the agent doesn't have any questions for you, that might be a red flag.

7) Take notes. I know, that's not a question. But seriously. It's just like going to the doctor for a diagnosis. All you hear is "pregnant!" or "cancer!" and the details disappear. Same thing here. "Offer!" = braindead. So write it down.

8) What revisions would you like to see? I'd argue this is the most important question of all. If an agent wants you to completely rewrite your book, they may have a point (really, sometimes total rewrites are necessary)... or they may be a horrible match for you. And as squeamish as I am about phone calls? A breakup call is the worst nightmare I can imagine.


  1. This is great! Thanks so much for sharing your insights!!

  2. Bookmarking.

    I hate phone calls too. I'm a nervous talker, so the challenge here would be shutting up and listening. Eek!

  3. I'm not a big phone talker either if you will. These are definitely wonderful questions to keep in mind. I think I'd be soo nervous to have to ask these over the phone though. Eek! Oh well, not there yettt...


  4. Very helpful! thanks for sharing.
    and your sewing is just way cool.
    LOVE it.

  5. I hardly ever use the phone even to the point where some people think it’s weird. Great tips. :)

  6. Lovely list Kate! If an agent calls me, the first thing I'll probably say is, "Oh lord, did I post something ridiculous on your blog and you've called to scold me in person? It was a joke, I swear. I'm really a funny/lighthearted person! *starts juggling without realizing agent can't see over the phone*"


  7. Great list, thanks for posting. I especially liked the tip about taking notes since I tend to only remember the least important details of conversations. The agent could be talking about my career and all I'd remember was she had a dog

  8. ... And bookmarked. Thanks for the list Kate!

  9. ugh, i HATE talking on the phone. and i totally empathize with the "uh.. uhh.. uhhhh" - that was me when i talked to my agent - and i'd already gotten all of my questions answered. i was just calling to say "i accept!" haha!
    (p.s. right now i am ordering my own pizza over the internet, because i don't want to call - and don't have a hubby to do it for me. hee hee.)

  10. Bookmarking this. A fantastic list.

  11. The first time I talked with my agent I didn't take notes. Because I didn't have a pen or pencil. Hello fail.

    Great post!

  12. I'm bookmarking this too! This is really great! Thanks for the list Kate :)

  13. Very helpful list. Like Angie, I'm book marking this in hopes that one day, I will be lucky enough to need to refer to it :-)

  14. These are great, Kate! A few of your questions are missing from my list, so thank you for pointing me in this direction. :)


All content copyright Kate Hart 2016

Template copyright @ 2016, Blogger Templates Designed By Templateism | Distributed By Blogger Templates20