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his article is not about the merits or whether or not to get an agent. This is for writers who are agent hunting. If you have decided that you want an agent, keep and refer to this list.

I'm assuming the agent has already read your work and is willing to represent you. This is a list of questions you may want to ask an agent before agreeing to work together.

Remember, AN AGENT WORKS FOR YOU.  So choose carefully. Always keep in mind that to become an agent, you don’t need any schooling, licensing, certification, or registration. If an agent is a member of AAR, the Association of Author's representatives, it may be a point in her favor.

And don’t assume you can just leave business to your agent. How will you know if they are any good if you don’t pay attention? Even if you hire an agent you should know about contracts—know what to ask and what is going on in the industry.

“Remember an agent is supposed to fight for you.”

What does an agent do?  Some help with writing. Some just send it on to sell. Others market the work. Remember an agent is supposed to fight for you. If there is a problem with your publishing house, the agent's job is to solve it.

Many agents receive 100% of your money from the publishing house, deduct their 15% commission, and then pay you 85% of the proceeds. However, some publishers will agree to split the royalties, sending 15% to the agent and the rest directly to the writer. If you prefer this split payment method, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Picking an agent is similar to choosing a spouse and the agent that is best for you, may be terrible for your friend. So think first about what you want from an agent. Do you want them to critique your work? Do you want career advice? Do you want someone who is very hands on? Are you more comfortable with a large agency or a boutique operation? Some of these questions have no right or wrong answer. Do you want to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond?

To help your research, these are the questions you’ll want to ask your prospective agent:

  1. How many authors does the agent represent? How many are published?
  2. Will the agent submit to several publishers at once?
  3. Who answers the phone? A secretary? A service? A machine?
  4. How long will it take to return my phone call?
  5. How often is it appropriate to check in?
  6. Does the agent help with career planning? Work with a publicist?
  7. What genres does the agent handle?
  8. What are the agent’s business hours?
  9. After the agent receives my work, how long will it take her to send it on to a publisher?
  10. Will you know where and when the agent submits your work?
  11. Will you receive copies of rejection letters?
  12. How long after the agent receives advances and royalties will it be until she sends them to you?
  13. Is the agent a member of any professional organizations?
  14. What is the agent’s percentage? Does he charge for mailing, copies? Faxes? Phone calls?
  15. If the agent doesn't like the work, but the writing is good, will she still submit for you?
  16. Does the agent handle subrights, foreign rights, film rights, audio rights?
  17. Will the agent ask you to sign a written contract?
  18. What happens if you wish to sever your relationship?
  19. Do you see eye-to-eye on where your career should go?
  20. Is the agent enthusiastic about your work?
  21. Ask the agent for a client list.
  22. Will the agent submit just a synopsis and 3 chapters? Or need the whole manuscript?
  23. Who takes over when the agent is on vacation?
  24. Does the agent critique your work?
  25. How many authors has the agent dropped in the last year?
  26. Are royalties escrowed in a separate account? What happens to the royalties if something happens to the agent?  (This is a concern in small agencies)
  27. If you speak to an editor at a conference and they ask to see your work, will the agent send it out?
  28. Who pays for manuscripts copies? The agent or the author?
  29. Do you have problems if the author switches genres?
  30. How much work do you expect to get from me in a year?

Remember an agent need not be your friend.   This is a business relationship where both parties must work together to sell books. Your career depends on many factors and an agent can be an important one. You must trust her instincts and feel your agent is fighting for you. And most of all, remember, a bad agent is worse than no agent. So check them out. Do your homework. And good luck.



USA Today Bestselling author Susan Kearney used to set herself on fire four times a day. Now she does something really hot, she writes romantic suspense and paranormal futuristic romance for Tor. While she no longer performs her signature fire dive, she's busy plotting her way through her next novel. Kearney enjoys speaking to groups and making book videos which you can see on her website


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