Before you hire a literary agent, what are some essential questions you need to ask, and why?
What chances do you have to place my book. How much will you and the publisher rip me off in fees?
I don't bother with agents, nor do I bother with traditional publishers. I self-publish by using the best deal I can find among the "print on demand" publishers. I have so far published two books, one is still selling after 9 years from publication. The second, published in 2011, has been selected by a large University as part of their required curriculum, and I need not say has been selling extremely well.
Read my HUB, Anatomy of a Book. It will give you helpful hints on what to do or not to do.
I would want to know what successes they have had with other books/clients, how much they charge and how they plan to place your book. I'd also want to have a meeting with them to see if we are going to gel well together as personalities. There are probably a lot of other questions that need to be asked that I haven't thought of just yet. Good luck!
I think the two most important questions are "How much do you charge?" and "What authors have you represented in the past?" The first question will tell you whether or not it's a scam. If they charge up front, it's probably a scam or just a thinly veiled self publishing method with an extra middle man. For legitimate literary agents, I believe they usually charge 15% - 20% of your profits. But that's only due if the book actually sells. They will work for you because they believe the book can sell well enough to make both of you profitable.
The second question will tell you whether or not the agent is capable of marketing your book. Do you recognize the authors they represent? Can you find them in a book store? It never hurts to track the author down and read some of their work. If the agent doesn't have a good track record, then they probably won't be good for you either.
Other than those questions, I would recommend the same thing as Lisa Wilton. Talk to the agent, either on the phone or in person. Get a feel for what they're like. You can probably tell pretty quick whether or not you will fit well together. Being comfortable with your agent will go a long way for communication and collaboration.
Don't give the leeches ammo, as far as I know it's 10%-15%, and as Orson Scott Card said, 'They need you more at 10%, than you need them at 15%'.
You're probably right. I was writing that off of memory and got the numbers confused. I think the Guide to Literary Agents has all that info in it.
I think this is a good response. Thanks much.
Before you even approach (or send a query letter to) an agent, you should do your homework. You should already know some of the authors the agent represents and what genres the agent feels most comfortable selling. For example, you wouldn't send a romance to an agent who mainly sells sci-fi.
You should also already know what percentage of your advances/sales/royalties the agent will take, usually 15% of books and 20% of movies/TV. Most guides to literary agents state this up front.
Because I did my homework, these are the only questions I asked my agent in 2000:
1) Where are you sending the manuscript first?
2) What is the best way to reach you? Email? Phone?
3) How do you prefer I send you my work? Email attachment? Snail mail manuscript?
I also asked, "Why did you choose me out of all the writers in the world?"
This is a business relationship, so keep your questions business-like.
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