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THE CALL--Questions to ask the agent

Started by olmue, November 24, 2010, 12:37 PM

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stephanie-lucianovic

QuoteI know of no agent who will sit through an interview as exhaustive as some in here suggest.

My current agent did and so did the other offering agent I spoke with.

As for relying on website information to answer various questions: websites can be/often are out-of-date.

I have never run into an agent who thought it was awkward or weird for me to contact their other clients and I have been told by multiple authors and agents that it's 100% expected and part of the process.

QuoteMy agent is editorial, and I'm continually blown away at her insight and expertise. She brings a lot to our relationship, not only professionally (handling sub lists, contracts, and answering my questions), but also in terms of craft. Yes, she's busy--she's the vice president of her agency and she has a large client list. But she's also smart and capable and efficient.

Ditto. Having an editorial agent was important to me because I could get my mss in the best shape possible, workshop it, run it through critique partners, and but still not be aware of various nuances that an agent or editor would be.

Not everyone wants an editorial agent and not every agent is editorial but for those of us who do want that, it's a vital question to ask.

QuoteI think most of us have meet at least a few of the top Agents at the various regional (usually 1 Agent at these) and international SCBWI conferences but absolutely not ALL the kid lit Agents!

Also, have you tried to meet agents at the SCBWI conferences outside of the paid 15 minutes of face-to-face? It's not easy. They are overwhelmed by people wanting to meet them and be remembered by them so they can query them.

I got to know various agents by following them on social media, interacting with them there on topics other than WILL YOU REP ME?, and reading any blog posts/interviews they have.

I also got to know my current agent in that first, offering phone call. Those 1-2 hours of conversation gave me an incredible amount of insight and she was ready for every question I had, including her vision for my career.

It is true that it might not be possible to ask every question listed by Olmue, but that's why they are "possible" questions and everyone can look at them and decide which are the answers they personally need from an agent.
The End of Something Wonderful (Sterling 2019)
Hello, Star (Little Brown 2021)
The League of Picky Eaters (Clarion 2021)
@grubreport

Wordwise

Quote from: stephanie-lucianovic on May 13, 2017, 11:19 AM
Having an editorial agent was important to me because I could get my mss in the best shape possible
Which most agents will expect you to do, before you call them. Many authors squander their opportunities that way. They might have a great book, but I will never know, because they expected an agent to do that work for them.

Quote from: stephanie-lucianovic on May 13, 2017, 11:19 AM
Also, have you tried to meet agents at the SCBWI conferences outside of the paid 15 minutes of face-to-face?
I speak at a dozen events or more every  year, big and small, around the country. If I'm not teaching, I'm talking to writers. If someone goes home after 3-4 days, disappointed because they didn't get to see me, it's not because I didn't make myself available.


literaticat

If I offer for a client, we've usually had a bit of correspondence and they have done their due diligence -- so they will certainly have many of their questions answered via the website, etc -- but I also have a "spiel" in which I preemptively answer a LOT of questions (the FAQ, if you will) -- and I fully expect us to talk for an hour or more on the phone to answer any FURTHER questions. I personally LOVE LOVE LOVE answering questions. I am an open book, and DELIGHT in bragging about my clients, so why not submit to as much question-asking as possible?  They should feel comfortable asking me anything -- even "obvious" questions -- because my ability to clearly answer questions and "translate" for them will be VITAL in our communications throughout their career.  I don't want any potential client to feel like they are being a pain by wanting to know things.

As to having met clients before -- this is pretty rare, in my experience. There are some clients I have repped for years and STILL never met. Of course it is nice when it happens - but it usually happens AFTER I've been repping them. The idea that going to conferences is an expected or required element to gaining representation is simply false.
twitter: @literaticat
ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask

dewsanddamps

Quote from: literaticat on May 13, 2017, 12:13 PM
The idea that going to conferences is an expected or required element to gaining representation is simply false.

Yep. And thanks for making that clear, Lit.  :thankyou

Also, I'm uncomfortable with all this "cost of admission" talk. That's the kind of idea that insinuates itself. If any newer folks are reading this thread, please know that I have never been to a conference and I have never met an agent--although I've had two--and I've never met an editor, and I was picked up through the slush.

I think it's great to go to conferences if you can--but you don't have to. I'm going to one this summer and I'm jumpy with excitement.  :bunnyshake

Learning to Swear in America, 2016
What Goes Up, 2017
The Constitution Decoded, 2020
The Presidents Decoded, 2023
Hearts on Thin Ice, 2024

Wordwise

Quote from: literaticat on May 13, 2017, 12:13 PM
The idea that going to conferences is an expected or required element to gaining representation is simply false.
Required? No. But it's a great idea, where you can make a lot of connections. You'll never know what you're missing if you don't go.

stephanie-lucianovic

QuoteWhich most agents will expect you to do, before you call them. Many authors squander their opportunities that way. They might have a great book, but I will never know, because they expected an agent to do that work for them.

So, I've never expected an agent to "do that work for" me. Quite the contrary, it is possible for writers to take their ms as far as they are able to take it and, in fact, get it "perfect" in their eyes and yet still have an agent or editor come up with ideas to tweak it or suggest changes they think are necessary.

And I will say again, plenty of agents in the children's field are editorial -- may even run the gamut from line editing to editorial development -- and perhaps you are not one of them, but it is a pertinent question for authors. And it is important for authors to know they are out there and get that question answered in the beginning, especially if there are authors who want zero editorial input from an agent.

I sent my agent a PB ms that had been edited over and over by me, workshopped, and critiqued, over several years, but she still helped by suggesting I fix a line beat here and there. And that's the kind of input I value from an agent before the PB goes out to editors.

QuoteI'm going to one this summer and I'm jumpy with excitement

You will have a blast! I went to my first SCBWI conference in LA last summer and it was overwhelming as my first SCBWI conference but I learned so much. And I continue to learn from the local/regional SCBWIs I attend as well.

The End of Something Wonderful (Sterling 2019)
Hello, Star (Little Brown 2021)
The League of Picky Eaters (Clarion 2021)
@grubreport

Wordwise

Quote from: stephanie-lucianovic on May 13, 2017, 01:28 PM
So, I've never expected an agent to "do that work for" me.
That's good, Stephanie. But many do.


Schriscoe

Steve, I go back to the same comment of being careful on your advice. As mentioned many times, some of our members are new to writing. With you being an agent, I am sure you don't want them confused or guided wrong.
We also have the most well rounded community of new writers, seasoned writers, agents, and editors on here. Our professionals and veterans are very protective of our newer members and want to see them get steered right. Not confused.
Vehicle Dreams Series-RPKids '16 -'18
(Fire Truck, Bulldozer, Race Car)
Rainy Day Picnic-Read Your Story '18
The Sparrow and The Trees- Arbordale '15

mrh

Quote from: dewsanddamps on May 13, 2017, 12:32 PMIf any newer folks are reading this thread, please know that I have never been to a conference and I have never met an agent--although I've had two--and I've never met an editor, and I was picked up through the slush.

This, and I'll take the other side of the coin here: I've been to plenty of conferences, have presented at several, and have met a handful of agents (and even more editors). Did any of them become *my* agent? No. Did any of the others attending these conferences end up signing with any of these agents? Yes, *one* did. I'm currently repped by my third agent. The only agent of mine that I've ever met, thus far, was my second, and that was well after he'd signed me. I got all three of my agents by sending them the specific sub materials they'd asked for. My point is that though getting a good agent is extremely tough, getting a *specific* agent is even tougher. What are the chances you're going to be the right match with any of those few agents at your upcoming conference, when there are for any given type of writing probably 100+ agents in the sea? Not good. Querying carefully researched agents who rep what you write is overwhelmingly more cost-effective than spending hundreds of dollars each for multiple conferences where you will be exposed to a very limited agent pool. Go to a conference for the craft content; the industry knowledge;  the general networking with other writers, agents, and editors; and the great time you'll have with other bookish folk. But if you go expecting to walk off with agent rep, you'll likely be disappointed.

stephanie-lucianovic

QuoteBut if you go expecting to walk off with agent rep, you'll likely be disappointed.

In fact, I'm pretty sure this is what they tell us in the materials for every SCBWI conference I've attended!

QuoteGo to a conference for the craft content; the industry knowledge;  the general networking with other writers, agents, and editors; and the great time you'll have with other bookish folk.

Yes, yes, yes!
The End of Something Wonderful (Sterling 2019)
Hello, Star (Little Brown 2021)
The League of Picky Eaters (Clarion 2021)
@grubreport

Wordwise

My motivation for attending conferences, is to meet new prospective clients. Without that, I wouldn't be there. Yes, most conf's pay a small honorarium, but it barely covers expenses.

This is an investment in your career, but be careful with your expectations. The benefits of a conference can be huge, but they won't happen right away. No agent or publisher will sign you on the spot.

Mindy Alyse Weiss

Thank you for chiming in, Jennifer. You always give fantastic advice. I've seen so many authors switch agents because of communication issues, but being able to have the type of conversation you described can help make communication and other important aspects of the agent/author relationship clear ahead of time.
Quote from: literaticat on May 13, 2017, 12:13 PM
If I offer for a client, we've usually had a bit of correspondence and they have done their due diligence -- so they will certainly have many of their questions answered via the website, etc -- but I also have a "spiel" in which I preemptively answer a LOT of questions (the FAQ, if you will) -- and I fully expect us to talk for an hour or more on the phone to answer any FURTHER questions. I personally LOVE LOVE LOVE answering questions. I am an open book, and DELIGHT in bragging about my clients, so why not submit to as much question-asking as possible?  They should feel comfortable asking me anything -- even "obvious" questions -- because my ability to clearly answer questions and "translate" for them will be VITAL in our communications throughout their career.  I don't want any potential client to feel like they are being a pain by wanting to know things.

As to having met clients before -- this is pretty rare, in my experience. There are some clients I have repped for years and STILL never met. Of course it is nice when it happens - but it usually happens AFTER I've been repping them. The idea that going to conferences is an expected or required element to gaining representation is simply false.

I also agree with Marcia--conferences are awesome for improving craft and surrounding yourself with others who love children's lit as much as you do (which can be an incredible way to find support, information, critique groups, etc.) It's always great to meet agents and editors there, and I've seen magical connections happen--but only for one or maybe even a few people per conference...out of hundreds of participants.

Yay that you're going to your first conference soon, Katie! Hopefully, we'll get the chance to meet at one in the future.  I can't wait to hear all about it. :)

dewsanddamps

Quote from: Mindy Alyse Weiss on May 13, 2017, 02:35 PM
Yay that you're going to your first conference soon, Katie! Hopefully, we'll get the chance to meet at one in the future. 

I would love that, Mindy!  :stars3

Learning to Swear in America, 2016
What Goes Up, 2017
The Constitution Decoded, 2020
The Presidents Decoded, 2023
Hearts on Thin Ice, 2024

rab

Since the title of this thread is about questions to ask a prospective agent, here's a link to agent Jim McCarthy's Twitter feed, which begins with a post on that very topic: https://twitter.com/JimMcCarthy528

dewsanddamps

Thanks, Rebecca! That's a great list.
Learning to Swear in America, 2016
What Goes Up, 2017
The Constitution Decoded, 2020
The Presidents Decoded, 2023
Hearts on Thin Ice, 2024

Ev

Yes, a wonderful list, Rebecca! Thank you for sharing.

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