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Agent Protocol & Questions When You Get an Offer

Agent Protocol - What is the standard protocol when dealing with agents?

Should you respond to a "no" from an agent with a polite thank you?
Although we want to be courteous to agents who take the time to look over our submission materials, you have to remember than they get a ton of emails a day and if everyone who got a no responded with a thank you or anything else then they would get inundated with more emails.

Can you respond by asking why or for more in depth feedback?

Agents aren't here to make us feel good or give us feedback-plain and simple. If feedback is what you are looking for then find a good beta reader or critique group, enter a contest or a Twitter pitch party. If you enter a Twitter pitch party and an agent favorites your pitch sometimes if they reject you, they will give you a little feedback. 

When should you nudge?

If an agent hasn't responded to your query and it is two weeks past their normal response time then I would say nudge. However if they say something like this on their website, "we only respond to those queries we are interested in," then it is safe to assume that no response is a response. When in doubt air on the professional side and respect their times and rules.

Agent Questions - What do you ask if you get lucky enough to get an offer?

  1. How many clients do you currently have?
  2. How do you balance working with existing clients and new clients?
  3. How long does it take you to respond to client? What is your preferred method of communication? 
  4. When was your last deal made? And with what publisher?
  5. What is your biggest deal - in figures in publishing terms? (nice, very nice, good, significant, major - all deal terms have a price range attached.*)
  6. How long have you been with your current agency?
  7. Do you have specialists at your agency that specialize in film, foreign, and audio rights? (Or do you specialize in any of these areas?)
  8. What happens if you don't sell this book?
  9. What kind of editing do you foresee for this book? Do you think it needs heavy or light changes? (Most likely they will skim over what they think needs editing because if they told you outright then you could say no to offer and go and fix your book.
  10. How close do you think book is ready for submission?
  11. What is your vision for book?
  12. What's your editorial style?
  13. Do you have publishers in mind?
  14. Is this offer for one book or open ended for other books I might write or have written already?
  15. Are you opposed to me working with another agent for different genre or other books?
  16. Also ask for two client references so that you can actually speak to someone they represent.

After your initial phone call slow your heart down and sideline your excitement in order to ask yourself how you felt about the agent. 

Did they seem honest and genuine? 

When they talked about your book did they seem excited about it? 

What vibe did you get from them? 

Did they ask interesting questions to get to know you and your writing style and habits? 

Did they know the publishing business well when you asked about business related questions?

Dig deep to evaluate the answers they gave to your questions and balance them with how you felt about the agent in order to make the best decision for you.

Good luck!

*From Publishers Marketplace - “Deals”:
“nice deal” $1 - $49,000
“very nice deal” $50,000 - $99,000
“good deal” $100,000 - $ 250,000
“significant deal” $251,000 - $499,000
“major deal” $500,000 and up


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