Questions to Ask A Literary Agent and What to Expect During the Call

Hello to whoever is reading this! Congratulations! The GLORIOUS day has finally come! You have received that amazing email that reads, “I would like to talk to you further about your manuscript, when are you available to chat?” Now – we’re on a high note here so let’s assume this is an agent that is calling to offer you representation not submit an R&R (revise and resubmit). You first of all, are beaming with excitement I hope and second, you’re a little anxious and nervous as you’re not sure what to expect nor what to ask, so, let’s break it down.

Part One – What to Expect

First of all, expect that all calls are different. No two meetings will ever be the same just like no two querying journey’s will ever be the same. All I can do here is share the similarities that I experience within my two calls and hope that it calms your nerves a little bit.

Call 1 – First Offer

Obviously I was down right giddy with happiness and felt like I was going to throw up. In fact I was doing exactly what you were doing, googling what the hell I’m supposed to ask (which I will get to and I will also link a few amazing other blog posts to the bottom of this for other examples), and what I could expect. I had received that amazing email on October 1st from a very kind and amazing agent who asked if I was available either that day or the next to talk about my manuscript. It didn’t matter if I was having surgery that day, I would make myself available because DUH, the light was finally creeping in on my dreams!

We spoke on the phone and I was very anxious! This literary agent again was incredibly kind and calmed my nerves, making me realize, they’re just people too and not like unicorns or any other mythical creature – though they may as well be because they’re so rare to get/find.

– Now, this conversation went differently than my current agents as this agent wanted to change a lot about my manuscript which was understandable as most of you know, I wrote this in a week so I knew it needed some tweaking. –

So, when this chat first started I was asked if I was open to revisions which obviously I was! I listened to everything this agent had to say in terms of the amount of work she felt was needed. I agreed with most of what she was saying though of course I was a little disheartened but it comes with the territory and truly, I was ready to dive right into revisions! She spoke in length about her goals for her clients and how she would want to start revisions immediately.

Then, due to the fact that she was a newer agent she explained her background in the editing/publishing industry. She then opened up the platform for me to ask her as many questions as my little heart desired. From that point I pretty much had the floor of all of the different questions I had drafted up prior to our meeting and was able to gauge her personality, what she would do for my career, her visions, goals, the whole nine yards. Fast-forward about a half hour and then I was asked about my writing career i.e. why I wanted to become a writer. Once I explained and we spoke on it for a couple of minutes we quickly departed from the phone and we agreed on a weeks time to speak again (don’t do this, learn from me, go for two weeks to allow anyone else in the playing field a chance to read and enjoy your manuscript)

Call 2 – Second Offer

This phone call was like night and day compared to my first one. From the moment I hopped on the call with (REDACTED) and (REDACTED) immediately came the interview process but not for me to them, it was them interviewing me. I was asked questions such as what my plans were for future projects, my career plan/vision for myself, why I started writing/how long have I been writing, and loads more. Then came time for the discussion of my book which to this day I still can’t get over how much (REDACTED) enjoyed my book, especially after knowing I had only wrote it in a weeks time. I won’t get into the full details about what was said/how it was said as that’s something I want you all to have your own experiences for. Then came the end of the call which was held for around forty-five minutes or so and it was time for my questions…I was SPEECHLESS. (REDACTED) and (REDACTED) had legitimately answered all of my questions with such ease without me even asking anything. I was blown away and in awe. On top of their passion for my two stories, I was blown away by their game plan, excitement, and our connection.

Summary of Expectations

Expect that every single phone call is going to be different and yet the same in so many different ways.

Expect the following

  • That you will be interviewed by your potential agent – the questions will vary from person to person but remember, this is a partnership. Think of this as a job interview, you could be well qualified for a position but if you tank your interview, you may not get the job. An agent could be in love with your story, writing, and want to see what else you may bring to the table, they want to get that go-getter passion for writing drive from you! Most agents don’t just want a one-hit wonder, sell yourself just like them.
  • That they will go over your manuscript – an agent will do one of two things – either gush over everything they love and make mention of things they’d change (without diving into too much detail) or an agent may tell you they think the story has potential as well as your writing and want to work with you on it. There are also many other comments an agent could make of course but typically from what I’ve heard from other writers and experienced myself, this is the top two.
  • Agents will sell themselves – obviously when an agent is in LOVE with your manuscript they want to be out all other candidate possibilities and prove to you that they are the ones who will champion your book! Remember as much as they sell themselves, be sure to sell yourselves so they know too you are ready to work just as hard as they are!
  • Agents will allow you time to decide – don’t be like me. Learn from my mistakes, please. Two weeks is a standard time to say to an agent that you will get back to them as you still have your manuscript out with other agents and want to allow them time. Don’t freeze or anything like me, remember, two weeks!

So, What Questions Should I Ask?

Great question. As I said every “call” is different but the questions asked should be about the same as they are important for your future career! Below is my list of questions that I asked during my “call” and I will also provide links to other helpful sources that may word the questions far differently than I may have:

  • What is your vision for this book? – This is important for you to know! You need to see if your visions match.
  • Why my book? Why do you want to represent me?
  • What is your submission strategy for this book? Or what publishers do you have in mind for this book – Is the agent going to shoot for the big 5 first? Do they plan on going for smaller publishers?
  • What happens if this book doesn’t sell? – obviously good for you to know.
  • Once I sign with you, can you tell me what our next steps would be?
  • Are you open to me writing other genres? – This is something a writer needs to know ahead of time, if you have other genres/books you enjoy writing, you need to make sure your agent is open to it/excited about it.
  • How much work do you feel this book needs before we send it out on submission?
  • How many clients do you represent?
  • How will we work together after my book has been sold?
  • Once we get an offer from a publisher, what can I expect?
  • Are there any authors/clients of yours I may be able to speak with?
  • What co-agents do you work with for foreign rights, film rights, and other sub-rights?
  • Can you tell me of a few recent sales you’ve made?

This is just a small list of questions I had scattered in my notebook, the first agent to offer me representation was a boutique literary agency with just herself as an agent, hence the over-detailed questions. For (REDACTED) and (REDACTED), they had answered all of these questions before I could even ask and I didn’t feel it was necessary to speak with their clients.

Here are some links to a bunch of other great questions to ask – some may be repeat questions!

I will continue to update this list as well with more links as time goes on, but this is a great start! I wish you all the very best of luck and success in your querying journey’s and I hope this helps you to land the agent of your dreams! If you have any other questions related to “the call” or just querying in general please don’t hesitate to reach out!

My Fiverr:

Query Letter Critique

Opening Pages Critique‘Support Me on Ko-fi’, ‘#29abe0’, ‘U7U13DB1Z’);kofiwidget2.draw();


Amanda Badillo

Leave a Reply