Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 7, 2010

Before Accepting Agent Representation

The other day I was surfing the Internet and I found some great advice on what to do when an agent wants to sign you by author Sarah Okler.  Her book, TWENTY BOY SUMMER, came out in June of 2009 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers . 

Her second book FIXING DELILAH HANNAFORD is expected hit the bookshelves this fall.

Here is just a snippet of what Sarah had to say.

Before accepting representation from an agent:

  • Thank him for the interest in your work.
  • Let him know that you’re excited about the opportunity to work together.
  • Tell him that you’d like to take a few days to think things over and prepare your questions.

Don’t skip this crucial step because you’re worried that questions will scare him off, or that the offer won’t last. This isn’t a TV promo, it’s a potential business partnership. His offer is on the table, waiting patiently for your consideration and ultimate response. It’s not going anywhere unless the offer or the agent isn’t legitimate, in which case, that’s not the person you want representing your work.

Questions to Ask Literary Agents

Craft questions to help you learn about the following:

1. Working and communication style. Some agents offer more personal attention and career development than others. Some are heavily involved in the editorial and revision process, while others are more interested in selling and contract negotiation and will not spend a lot of time reviewing your work. Certain agents encourage you to call them informally and often, while others will rely more on email communications or scheduled appointments. What do you prefer? Don’t enter a relationship with someone whose working and communication style will overwhelm you, confuse you, or leave you wanting more.

2. Ideal clients. Ask the agent to describe her ideal client. Of course it will be you, but beyond that, get specifics. This will give you another perspective on her working style and help you determine whether you’ll be a good fit. If the agent likes clients who are highly involved in brainstorming ideas for their next projects and career path, but you’d prefer someone who just focuses on contracts and managing the author/editor relationship, this agent isn’t for you. Similarly, if you’re looking for a lot of hand-holding and the agent tells you she likes clients who leave her alone to do her job, that’s not a match.

3. Client load. The number of clients an agent has and wants will impact his time. Some have as many as 60 (or more!) clients to manage. If you want an agent who can provide personal attention and a more hands-on approach, look for agents with fewer clients.

4. References. Ask the agent to put you in touch with some of his current clients. You can ask them for firsthand accounts on what it’s like to work with the agent before and after the sale. You can also look at the blogs and Web sites of the agent’s clients to see if they’ve said anything about their agent experience. If an agent is reluctant to provide you with at least one client reference, be wary!

Finding an agent who you click with and also loves your writing and is willing to work hard for you is a daunting task, so don’t miss the next 4 steps and other advice from Sara, click here.

You can read my bio today on David  L Harrison’s Blog.  If you get a minute you might like to read it. 



  1. Great post. Hope to use it someday! Thanks, Kathy


  2. Good post Kathy – helpful in my search for the right agent.


    • Jeannine,

      Boy, things have been pretty messed up around here lately. First the teeth and then the electric and computers blowing up and this week the agent that was scheduled for the Mentoring Workshop on Sunday got sick and I had to find someone to take her place – three days before the workshop. Hope things are better on your end.



  3. Wow – I’ve never thought about asking for references or what an agent’s client load is like. These are great suggestions and something I’ll be be keeping in mind. Thanks Kathy.


  4. Hey, Kathy 🙂
    I have lots of info on this kind of stuff, but with every new article, I always find another helpful hint as I did with this one! Thanks! And I really hope that it won’t be much longer before I actually can put these tips into action!


  5. Great advice, thanks.


    • Tony,

      You’re welcome. Thanks for visiting. Hope you stop back.



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