Monday, March 11, 2013

The CALL Questions & Etiquette

I've had quite a few people ask me about what to do when an agent offers, what questions to ask during the call, the proper etiquette on contacting other agents, etc. So I thought I'd share some of those answers here with you today.

Okay, so you get an email from an agent about your manuscript that says how much he or she loved it and that they want to set a time up with you to talk about representation. (Some agents may just call you without warning, but that doesn't happen very often.)

Cat running around in a circleSTEP ONE: BREATHE. This is it. It's what you've been waiting for. Jump up and down or run around the house if you need to.... 

After you've done something like this, email the fantastic agent back and set up a time to chat.

STEP TWO: The Call. Again....breathe! Agents are people too and they may be just as nervous to talk to you as you are to them. This call is supposed to tell you what it would be like to work with them as your agent. 

I couldn't not use this, it called to my aviation nerdness. 

You certainly don't have to ask every question below, but they're a good start. And some of these questions may be answered naturally in conversation without you having to ask. 
  • What are your thoughts about the book? How ready is it?
  • What are the MS’s strengths/weaknesses?
  • Are you an editorial agent? What are you thinking in terms of revision?
  • Do you see series potential?
  • How many clients do you have? How many clients do you intend to have?
  • What are your recent sales?
  • After I sign on, what happens next? What's the expected process? 
  •  Do you have a plan for submission in mind already?  Which houses/editors do think will be a good fit for this project?  How many editors do you plan to submit to initially, and how many do you plan to submit to overall if it does not sell as soon as hoped? How do you feel about small presses? (<--These questions are need to make sure you and your agent have the same vision/goals.)
  • Will you keep me updated as rejections and offers come in?  Will I see the rejection letters?
  • What happens if you leave the agency?
  • Would you still support and represent me if at some point I wrote outside of my current genre? 
  • What are the terms of the representation being offered? Is there a time limit? Is it for one book, or is it open-ended?
  • What are your commission rates?  Are they the standard 15% domestic and 20% foreign/film?
  • What is your preferred method of communication? How often are you in contact with your clients? How soon can I expect an answer to any given e-mail?
  • What happens if either the agent or client wants to end the relationship? If the relationship is terminated, what is the policy for unsold works the agent has represented?
  • Would you allow me to contact a couple of your clients? And more specifically, can I talk to a client of yours that hasn't sold? (****This is a question I don't see asked often enough! We want to know how an agent treats their unsold clients!)
  • Will you be billing me for any submission costs (supplies, etc)? If so, what should I expect? <----I see this question everywhere for suggested THE CALL questions and I'm not sure why. In this day and age everything is done digitally, meaning there should be NO COSTS to you.

STEP THREE: You need to contact all the other agents who have your manuscript and those you've queried. Your email to these agents should look something like this:


I just wanted to let you know that I received an offer of representation for MS NAME and that I told the offering agent I’d get back to him/her by DATE (typically 7-10 days after offer of rep). If you are interested in the manuscript, please feel free to get in touch.

Best Regards,

STEP FOUR: You'll probably get a bunch of responses from agents after this email is sent. It's a crazy fun week. You may get a few passes or others asking to talk to you as well. So you just might repeat THE CALL all over again...

STEP FIVE: Determine if the agent(s) you spoke to are the right agent for you. I think you'll know it in your gut after having spoken to the agent(s) on the phone. After you've decided, email/call the agent to let them know you'd like to accept their offer of representation.

STEP SIX: Email any competing agents about your decision. May look something like this:

Thank you so much for taking the time to read MS NAME and for sharing your thoughts with me. I wanted to let you know that I've accepted another offer for representation.

Your enthusiasm and notes on the story were wonderful and I am truly honored to have received an offer from you. (or some sort of personal note) Ultimately, I went with what I felt was the best fit.

Thanks again.

And voila, you have an agent! Now it's time to dance!

I know that was a lot of info, so feel free to drop any specific questions you may have in the comment section below and I'll do my best to answer.


  1. Very helpful and informative post. Thank you!

  2. I love posts like this because it makes me hopeful that enough people get The Call that there's a lot of great advice about it.

    (and your gifs are awesome!)

  3. Oh I have a good question--one I'm trying to figure out.

    I have 2 R&Rs out, but it's been a while and I wanted to test the waters with my new shiny ms.

    I get a full request for my new ms, and then shortly after get a request to talk about ms #1 from the R&R agent.

    So, if I do get an offer on ms #1, what on earth do I say to the agent with ms #2??? She does rep the genre of ms #1. Should I ask if she wants to read ms #1?

    Was it bad manners to query 2 mss?

    1. Hey Amber,

      Great question. The answer is a little lengthy and complicated though! ;)

      First of all, congrats on the R&R's. That's a big step in the right direction. And the fact that you've received an email back from one of the R&R agents wanting to talk is fantastic.

      The first thing I would do would be to set up a time to talk with the agent. Keep in mind that the call might not turn into an actual offer, but the agent wanting to talk with you is certainly a great sign. The agent may offer rep or may only discuss further revisions.

      I can't tell you what to do next without knowing what actually transpires during that call, but here's two scenarios:

      The agent offers...I would tell her about your second MS and that another agent has it. Usually when an agent offers you talk about your other work anyway, so this wouldn't be an awkward issue to bring up. Explain your situation and ask the agent's advice/opinion on what to do.

      Agent may want to read MS #2. Agent may want you to pull MS #2 from other agent. (I know someone who had an MG MS out at the same time as a YA MS. For the sake of privacy, I'll call this person XX. When XX received an offer, it was for the YA only. Agent would consider the MG later on. XX ended up signing for the YA MS only and pulling MG from other agents. XX's MG will only be added for representation if XX's new agent loves it and thinks it will sell.)

      If the agent doesn't offer, then it doesn't really matter that you have MS #1 and MS #2 out with different agents. That being said, I would be VERY careful with this type of situation. You want to make sure you do not send the same agent both of your manuscripts b/c that usually makes them mad. (Query Tracker is a great place to keep track of this stuff) I'm not sure if I'd call it bad manners to have two manuscripts out, but it can certainly make the query process a little trickier. So just be careful.

      There's my advice for what it's worth.

      Hope it helps!

  4. Thanks for putting this together. I've seen a few of these, and it's always helpful to see them more than once just to remind you (me) that you do actually need to ask questions and not just be stunned and happy.

  5. I'm bookmarking this for if/when/I hope/please get the call.