Everything About the Call (2017)
Here’s a guide to what you’ll need to know from the moment you get the “when do you have time to chat” email from an agent to after the offer of representation. I hope all unagented WriteOnCon writers will need this soon!
WHAT I RESEARCHED BEFORE THE CALL:
- Any red flags on Preditors or Editors, Absolute Write, or Querytracker?
- How long have they been around?
- What books do they represent?
- What publishers do they sell to?
- Have there been multiple clients to have signed with the agency and left?
- What’s the subsidiary rights setup for the agency?
- Sales on Publishers Marketplace
- How is his/her track record with your category/genre?
- Clients… more specifically,
- How long have they been clients?
- You can find this information by searching for a client’s How I Got My Agent post on their website or by checking the client’s tweets
- Have there been multiple clients to have left this agent in a short amount of time?
- Again, this information can be gleaned from tweets and blog posts
- How many clients does the agent represent?
- How many of those clients are in your category/genre?
- How successful is the agent on average at selling his/her clients’ books?
- How long have they been clients?
- Every interview they’ve done
- I looked in particular for why they became an agent, what their industry experience is, and whether their MSWL matched with what I want to write
- Are they an AAR member? What about the other agents in the agency?
If I couldn’t find any of these answers, I asked them during The Call.
Finding the answers to the above questions wasn’t easy. I often spent hours Googling and scouring client websites searching for the answer to one part of one of the questions, but I am really happy in retrospect that I spent the time doing this. I think it gave me a good idea of the agent’s experience, success, and client relationships even before the phone call. I felt a lot more prepared during the actual call and felt like I got more out of the call because it built further on the impression I already had.
WHAT I PREPARED:
I also prepared an intro of myself which included a description of my other work, an overview of what I wanted to write in the future, and the answers to the questions below:
- What is your writing process like? How long for drafts? Revisions? Do you have a critique group? Beta readers? When do you write and how often? Where do your ideas come from?
- Who are your favorite authors? Who inspires you?
- What kind of support do you need? What kind of agent-client relationship?
- What is your publishing and writing history?
- What is your vision for your book? Your career?
- What is your social media presence?
- Do you have any ideas for marketing and promoting your book?
I wrote out answers to each of the questions just in case I blanked the day of the phone call. Having everything written out and ready to go also helped calm my nerves since I felt as prepared as I could be.
WHAT I NEEDED FOR THE CALL:
- a protein shake beforehand because I was too nervous to eat, but also didn’t want to be hungry/lightheaded/malnourished
- a cup of tea
- a cup of water
- fully charged Bluetooth
- empty Word document to type up a transcript because I knew I wouldn’t be able to recall everything
- notebook and pen in case something went wonky with my computer (and unfortunately it did during one of my calls)
- my prepared answers about my work, my process, and my background
QUESTIONS I ASKED:
I worked on these questions such that they’re written in almost-dialogue form and can be read word-for-word. Before each call, I read them aloud to practice asking these questions as a friendly conversation, not an interrogation. As discussed, some of these questions like the subsidiary rights and sales can be found online, but the questions are listed here because there were a few instances where I could not find the information.
- What do you love about being an agent? Dislike?
- I’d love to know more about your submission process. Do you have any editors in mind for the manuscript and do you have existing relationships with these editors? Have you sold to them before?
- Do you use a multiple submission strategy?
- How open are you with information during the submission process?
- Will you keep me updated as rejections and offers come in?
- Will I know exactly who you’re submitting to at all times?
- If it doesn’t work out with these editors, how will we proceed? How many editors do you go to before giving up?
- I’d love to hear about your sales, especially in [insert your category] and [insert your genre].
- What happens if you can’t sell this manuscript? (Revise? Try something new? Part ways?)
- What if a situation arises where you don’t like a future project or idea? Would you still support and represent me if at some point I wrote outside of my current genre?
- How many clients do you have? How many clients do you wish to have on your list eventually?
- What if another client and I approached you with a similar idea? How would you move forward in that situation?
- How editorial are you and what’s your editorial style? How do you handle the revision/editing process?
- What would the process be like for future books? When I have an idea or subsequent drafts, how involved do you like to be? What kind of feedback do you give? Do you help authors develop their material?
- What communication method do you prefer and how often?
- What is your typical response time to email/phone calls? For a quick question vs a revision or new project?
- Have you ever had to terminate a client before? If so, what was the reason?
Representation and Contract
- Ideally, I would like to find an agent who would represent me over my career. Are you interested in representing me for my career or a specific time period?
- What would your typical contract entail? I would prefer to have a written contract if possible.
- What is the duration of the contract?
- Is the contract with you or the agency? If you decide to change agencies, will I go with you or stay with the agency?
- If you are no longer working as an agent, what options will I have? Will you work with me to find another agent? What if we are in the middle of the submission process? What guidelines are in place for this? What is the policy for handling any unsold subsidiary rights?
- I of course hope this doesn’t happen, but what’s the process like if one of us wants to part company for some reason?
- Who does your contracts? What kind of background do they have?
- To what extent do you work with other agents at your agency?
- Who is the primary contact? Do I work with you, your assistant, or both?
- What is the policy for handling any unsold subsidiary rights?
- Does the agency have a sub-rights director or agent? A marketing person? A publicity person?
- What’s the subsidiary rights set up?
- Do you have co-agents who help to sell your books overseas?
- Do you have a co-agent in Hollywood?
- Does the agency have a sub-rights director or agent? An in-house film agent? A marketing person? A publicity person?
- If there is no sub-rights director in house, with whom does the agency work?
- Do you actively pursue audio, foreign, and film rights?
- Can you tell me about your agency’s track record with sub-rights? How has it gone for other clients?
- What do you see as the next steps with this manuscript? What revisions/edits do you propose?
- May I contact some of your clients for references? Preferably in the same genre. One you’ve sold at least 1 project for and 1 you have yet to sell for?
Client references were not only important for learning about the agent and his/her client relationships, but also a fabulous way to meet other authors! I’m still in touch with several authors of agents I didn’t end up signing with.
The agent’s willingness to give client contact information and even the number of clients they refer you to can also give you some information.
After receiving client name(s) and email(s) from the agent, I researched each author, added their books on Goodreads if applicable, and followed them on Twitter. I personalized each email based on what I learned about them and their writing. I assured them their responses would remain between us (and remained true to my word).
Here are the main questions I asked:
- I would love to know what [agent name]’s response times are on average for simple questions, revisions, and new projects. If there have been any communication issues, I would appreciate it if you could tell me about them and how they were resolved.
- Have there been any difficulties in the working relationship?
- I would also love to know what your past submission process was like, but I completely understand if you would prefer not to share this information.
I also added questions that were specific to each agent. If you have any concerns, now is the time to ask.
This is not an exhaustive list and every experience is unique, but I hope it’s been helpful to know what I used to navigate through the exciting whirlwind of signing with an agent! Best of luck!