Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Questions to Ask Before Signing with an Agent

If you didn’t pick up on it yesterday, I want to remind you today: You are hiring an agent. This person works for you and you pay her. Therefore she should be the person you feel the most comfortable with and who you trust with your money and your work.

So what can you ask and how should you interview an agent. That’s up to you. While I definitely suggest you take the time to talk with each interested agent on the phone, it’s also perfectly acceptable to email your questions. This way she can either reply via email, or has the questions in front of her during your phone call and you won’t feel like you’re peppering her with a million different questions.

The first place to go for questions is The Association of Artists’ Representatives. They have a good list of questions that will get you started. Not every question needs to be asked, but this will give you an idea of what is important to you.

And the rest is personal. What do you want in an agent? What’s important to you? Are you an email or phone person? Do you need hand-holding or editing or are you a loner? Do you need someone with a strong personality who can put you in your place or are you afraid of overly aggressive people?

Here’s a list of the questions I think are most important when interviewing an agent. But you are the only person who can decide what’s important to you.

* How does your agency handle subsidiary rights, including film and foreign rights? (Most agencies use co-agents for this. As long as an agency has experience and contacts in this area you are in good hands.)

* Who in your agency will actually be handling my work? Will the other staff members be familiar with my work and the status of my business at your agency? Will you oversee or at least keep me apprised of the work that your agency is doing on my behalf?

* Do you issue an agent-author agreement? May I review the language of the agency clause that appears in contracts you negotiate for your clients?

* How do you keep your clients informed of your activities on their behalf?

* Do you consult with your clients on any and all offers?

* What are your commission rates? What are your procedures and time-frames for processing and disbursing client funds? Do you keep different bank accounts separating author funds from agency revenue? What are your policies about charging clients for expenses incurred by your agency?

* When you issue 1099 tax forms at the end of each year, do you also furnish clients upon request with a detailed account of their financial activity, such as gross income, commissions and other deductions, and net income, for the past year?

* How do you handle submissions? Will you stop submitting my work after a certain time or number of rejections?

* Do you want to represent just this book or are you interested in my other work?

* Do you place a minimum time requirement on our relationship? Can either of us terminate the agreement at any time?

* How would our relationship be terminated if I’m not happy?

* If we part company, what happens to any outstanding subsidiary rights?

* How do you help your clients with career planning?

* How frequently do you update your clients or keep them informed of the work you’re doing? How do you prefer me to communicate with you?

So, what questions have you asked or would you ask any potential agents?