How to Get a Literary Agent, Part 4: The Call

Hi everyone!

I’m doing a series of posts on getting an agent and the whole process we go through as writers, and I feel like there are already a bunch of posts on it out there. With that in mind, I’ve compiled the most useful advice I received and am putting it on a series of posts. This one is about the call.

You’ve done your research! You’ve done your query, and it got requests! And now an agent has e-mailed saying they want to talk to you about an offer of representation.

The call is like a mysterious entity, we all want to get it, but we all also dread it. It’s getting to talk to the agent who may be your dream agent, and getting to know the person you’ll be working with.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a series of questions that it’s good to ask during the call. Don’t be shy and ask them all, or get through to the points you’re confused about. The literary agent is someone you’ll hopefully be working with for years to come. You do not want to not know the answer to all the questions you have.

I’ve broken the list down into different topics to make for an easier read.

 

AGENCY AGREEMENT

  • What is your commission structure?
  • What does the agency agreement look like?
  • How will payment work, exactly? What changes since I’m living in a different country? (The last one is because I live in Brazil, and I wanted to know if the process changed).
  • What professional organizations are you a part of?
  • Do you handle film rights?  Foreign rights?  Audio rights?
  • Can I see a copy of your agency agreement?

 

EDITORIAL PROCESS BEFORE SUBMISSION

  • What is your editorial input for it? How many revisions do you think it’ll go through?
  • What is your editorial style?
  • In what “state” do you think my book is?  In other words, how much editing do feel it still needs?
  • How do you work on revisions with clients?

 

SUBMISSION

  • Who do you plan on submitting to? Do you already have editors in mind?
  • What is your submission strategy? Do you go on a big round to editors or do you do smaller rounds that let us hear feedback and make changes, should we need to?
  • How would you position this book to editors? Where do you see this fitting in to publishers’ lists?
  • What would be your timeline for submitting?

 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

  • What happens if this book doesn’t sell?
  • How many editors before giving up?
  • How long is your average client relationship?
  • Can I speak to one or two of your clients?
  • Are you open to authors who work in multiple genres? What happens if I write something that you don’t represent?
  • What happens if you don’t like what I’m working on or my next book? Is this a one-book agreement, or are you a career agent?
  • How do you work with clients as they’re generating new ideas?

 

GENERAL

  • Which part of the book connected with you?
  • Typical response time? How often do you check in?
  • How do you like to communicate? email – phone? And how does it work during submission time?
  • Have you read the book all the way through? (You’d be surprised that some agents don’t. A good agent will have read through your whole book).
  • What would you expect from me as a client?
  • If I sign with you, what will happen next?

 

Now that is said and done, and you’re ready to move on to the next part! The offering agent will usually come back with the standard agency agreement as well as other client’s e-mails.

Make sure you also settle on a date in which you’ll make your decision. The standard is two-weeks time, if it falls during holiday season, ask for three weeks.

Now that you’re through with the call, you should also e-mail all the other agents who have your partial or your full manuscript. If you’re interested in an specific agent but they only have your query, e-mail them also. Make sure it’s in the same e-mail thread, but change the subject line to OFFER OF REPRESENTATION. That gets their attention fast.

Here’s a template of an e-mail you can send.

 

Dear Agent,

I would like to inform you that an agent has made offer of representation for my <Genre> novel, <Book Title>. I wish to make a decision regarding this offer within the next <Time Frame>, but I also want to give you a chance to read the <full or partial or query or synopsis or whatever you sent> I sent. If you could please let me know your position with regards to <Book Title> by <Day>, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks so much, and I look forward to hearing from you.

(This template was taken from Susan Dennard’s website).

 

Now you’ve sent off all the e-mails, it’s time to wait till they get back to you with answers. Mark your calendar with your dates, and it’s time to get back to work and talk to some of that offering agent’s clients.