by Tamela Hancock Murray
Over the years I’ve seen lists of questions you’re supposed to ask an agent before signing a contract. Some of the questions are excellent. But I believe if you ask others, at least at the stage when the agent is discussing the possibility of representation, you may have not done the right research ahead of time. I culled these questions from a number of lists on the Internet. Most of these questions appeared on more than one list.
Can you give me a list of authors from whom I may ask for references? A quick trip to most agents’ web sites will tell you about the authors they represent. The Steve Laube Agency site lists all our authors. I’m always glad when authors talk to one another, and I often find new writers based on the recommendations of current clients. But in my view, asking for a list of references is off-putting unless you want to talk to another client before making your decision. If you are unsure of that agency, don’t send them your proposal until you know you’d be thrilled to work with them.
Who do you represent? See Question One. There are exceptions. Some agencies prefer not to make their client lists public and when speaking to them, this question makes sense. But if their client list is already on their web site, your question might give the wrong impression.
How many people work at your agency? Is there any agency web site that doesn’t answer this question with both pictures and agent bios?
How long have you been in business? The reputable agents I know have easily accessible bios. If you ask me this question, I’ll think you haven’t bothered to read my bio, available all over the internet. I’m pretty sure I have said I’ve been a literary agent since 2001 in every single professional bio I’ve ever submitted to any blog, web site, conference brochure, or listing, at least since 2001.
Do you have an electronic presence? Granted, some agents are more active online than others, but this is something you should know well before you start talking seriously about an agency contract. As for myself, well, you’re reading this blog. And I have a personal Facebook page plus a business Facebook page where I post primarily updates of interest to writers. I have over 16,000 Twitter followers. If you haven’t already, feel free to connect with me on both Facebook and Twitter.
These questions are good ones when asked at the very first stages of considering an agent. But the answers can be found so easily on your own that to ask them after you’ve gone through the submissions process shows the agent you didn’t do any homework. She may wonder why you chose her.
What information do you wish was more accessible online?
What are you embarrassed to ask an agent?
Can you think of some other good questions to ask an agent when discussing representation?