In light of the fact that Sun versus Snow will soon be upon us (February 1), I wanted to talk a little bit about the topic of literary agents. This year we have 17 amazing agents who will be stopping by to check out the selected entries. And while it’s awesome to be picked for a contest, and even cooler to get a request, there is one thing every writer needs to think about: is the requesting agent a good match for them and their work?
Now I know this is VERY HARD to contemplate considering the thrill you feel when you get a request, but I caution you to think about who would be a great partner, advisor, and champion as you try to navigate the publishing world. Having been in the query trenches for a loooooong time before connecting with my own agent, I understand the despair you feel when you get rejection after rejection. When someone does show an interest in your work, it feels like the heavens open and the angels sing (I get that too). But in these situations, cooler heads need to prevail.
So how do you go about making the most informed choice? Well I’ll be honest, there are no guarantees in this business. Agents will go to other agencies and perhaps not take you along. Others may leave agenting altogether. But I think if you ask the right questions (no matter how uncomfortable), you can get close to aligning yourself with an agent who will be with you for the long haul. And let me tell you after interviewing 60+ agents, there are some incredible people out there to work with!
I recently went through my own list of questions for “The Call” and thought it’d be helpful to share them today. Again, asking these things may not guarantee that you connect with the right person, but it will help to cut through some of the worries that come along with the process.
1. What made you connect with my story? What types of changes need to be made prior to submission? You can even go further here and ask for a timeline of how this process will work.
2. Who do you have in mind to submit to? How will you share that list with me? How frequently will I get updates? Can I make my own suggestions for editors I’d like to include? Will you provide copies of rejection emails for me to review?
3. What is your working style? Do you prefer email or phone calls? What is your communication turnaround time (24 hours? 48 hours?). You need to be clear about your expectations.
4. Talk about what you’re also working on. Does it fit within the parameters of what they rep? This is critical because if you write YA, but you’ve got a Picture Book you want to submit, and the agent doesn’t rep. PBs, then you’re going to have to find a second agent.
5. If your next manuscript fits within what they rep., but agent doesn’t like it, what happens next?
6. Talk about your long term career aspirations. Does the agent only want to work with you on this one book, or do they want be a partner for your entire career?
7. Ask about their sales. Are they predominantly in your category/genre or others? This goes to the agent’s connections in the industry and how well they know editors who are looking for your type of book.
8. Does the agent only help with the submission/offer process or do they also provide marketing guidance?
9. Can you talk to current clients?
10. What happens if you decide to part ways? Do you get a copy of your submission list? As a writer protecting your work, you must consider all scenarios.
The actual process of “The Call” can be nerve-racking, but you need to approach it like any other business transaction. Think about your work as a valuable commodity and treat it, and all who you allow to touch it, as such.
Do you have your own list of questions for “The Call”? Anything you think needs to be added here? Please feel free to share in the comments.