Author + Agent: Finding the Right Fit

Thanks to our friends Olivia Abtahi (2021 debut author of Perfectly Parvin) and Jim McCarthy (agent at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret), who join us March 4, 2021 for our Writing Paths Workshop, we've got this big list of questions for writers thinking about a new agent relationship!


(Haven't registered for the workshop yet? It's free! Join us by registering here.)


Unsure how to figure out if a prospective agent-author relationship feels right? Here's a big list of questions that writers might want to ask as they are working that out:


Ask about your book:

What about my book did you respond to?

Why do you want to represent me?

How do you collaborate with your clients in new projects? Are you involved in the manuscript development?

Do you have editorial feedback? How close is my book to submission?


Ask about working style:

What's your editorial style?

What's your communication style?

What is your typical response time to email/phone calls?

How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)? And how often do you communicate during a submission?


Ask about the agent's hopes and expectations:

How would you describe your dream client?

What do you expect of your clients in a given year?

Are you open to authors who work in multiple genres?

How many of your current clients make a living as full-time writers?


Ask what else the agent is up to:

How long have you been with your agency?

How many clients do you have?


Ask how the agent approaches the client relationship:

Do you represent clients book by book or on a career basis?

Are you confident that we have a great chance of making a career-long match?

Will you work with me on career planning and marketing?

Do you work with a publicist?

Do you have a plan for submission in mind already?

Which houses/editors do think will be a good fit for this project?

Will I be working solely with you, or will there be times I'll work with an associate or assistant? If so, please elaborate.


Ask what happens if things aren't going as hoped:

What happens if you don’t sell this book?

How many editors do you go to before giving up?

If for some reason we need to part ways, how will this be handled? Are there any stipulations I should be aware of?

For what reasons would you terminate a client?


Ask about the agent's past work:

What percentage of projects that you sign do you sell?

How long is your average client relationship?

Who do you work with to sell foreign/film rights?

What is the agency’s support staff? Do you handle contracts? Rights? If not, who does?

Can I speak to one or two of your clients about their experiences working with you? Including a client who hasn't sold yet?


Ask about the nitty-gritty:

Do you see potential for my manuscript in terms of foreign and film rights?

What does your agency agreement look like?

How much commission does your agency charge?

What are the terms of your contract (is it at-will?)

Will you bill me for any submission costs (supplies, etc)?


Remember, getting an offer by an agent isn't the end step! Taking time to find the right relationship may be the key to a long and happy writing career. Don't get scared to ask! Protect your writing with the love you put into creating it.


Thank you Olivia and Jim for these insights!!


Interested in learning more about what Jim is looking for: check out Jim's Manuscript Wish List


And read more about Olivia's book Perfectly Parvin at BuzzFeed, Book Riot, and Refinery29.