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What to ask a literary agent before you sign

The day has come – a literary agent has accepted you as a client and your career as a published writer is taking off.

It’s hugely exciting – and only too easy to forget that you are entering into a professional partnership where it’s worth asking a few questions of your own before you sign on the dotted line.

Commission: all agents will charge commission (it’s how they make their living) but it should be in line with industry standards – around 15%.  They will charge a little more on foreign deals and rights, but this is the standard.

What part of your work is being signed up with the agent? If you have written a novel but also write articles for your local paper, for example, then it’s important to make it clear that you don’t require help for those articles. In general, future writing would be covered by your agreement.

Does your work need editing before submission? You’ll want to give an honest reply on this.  Most work could do with a bit of a polish and your agent should know what needs improving.

What time table is your agent working to? How long before they envisage getting responses? Where do they see your work selling? How often do you need meetings or contact with them? For all these areas, make sure your expectations and theirs tally.

And most of all, enjoy! This should be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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