Wondering whether or not you want to query a specific agent? You may have heard the advice – ask their clients. Hmm.
It’s questionable advice indeed. Why? Agents get thousands of queries every year. Imagine that each person that queried the agent first asked their clients about the agent. How do they work… what are they looking for… do they like…. the list of possible questions could go on and on. Would it be fair to expect an author to answer these questions at the query stage? I don’t think so.
Writers get paid when they sell a book. Agented writers are commonly working to get pieces ready to send to their agent, doing requested revisions, promoting their books, and doing all the myriad of things a writer has to keep up with. But does that even really matter? It’s not a client’s job to prescreen their agent for you.
Here’s another thing, if you ask a writer about their agent what do you think they’re likely to say? Probably something positive or neutral if they don’t know you. Many writers are very happy with their agent, that is why they’re working with them. But if they aren’t happy, why would they share anything that might jeopardize their agent-client relationship or has the possibility to make them look bad? Would you?
During the pre-query stage you need to do your own research. This means reading agent submission guidelines, Twitter feeds, blogs, interviews, #MSWL, agent discussions in forums, etc. You could even start a discussion in our private Sub It Club Facebook group and see if anyone has information they’re willing to share. There are so many ways to find out about agents online that you can almost always find enough information to help you make a decision as to whether or not you want to query. If you’re not sure, query anyway!
Querying an agent does not mean that you’re definitely going to work with them. When an agent is interested in your work you get to have conversations! You get to talk with them about how they work and find out what they’re like. You get to ask all the questions you want. When you get an offer, that is the time you can go to clients if you like, and ask about how they like working with the agent. With an offer in hand they may even be inclined to give you some information you can use.
Solid advice, Heather. And I agree that, with offer of representation in hand, you can, and should, reach out to writers for feedback about their agent/author relationship. Thanks for a great post!
I second Vivian’s comment. Thanks for a logical look at why it’s not the best idea to ask clients about their agents.
Great topic, Heather. Talking to clients can provide invaluable information at the offer stage. A reputable prospective agent should not have any qualms about these conversations or answering your questions. Sometimes, if an agent is newer, there is not a lot of info out there. A client might provide the few key details that you cannot find. If you come across an agent that is unwilling to answer your professional questions, think twice before signing. You’ll want to feel comfortable asking questions every step of your journey together.
I’ve always wondered about this piece of advice. I too think, what value will the client’s answer have to me? They might not be honest (because you do go around talking foul of your agent), they might be honest but also be a very different person from me, so what’s great for them might be just ok for me.
I don’t know. I think talking with the agent is the best thing. If I personally knew someone already working with the agent, I would ask, because I know the person I’m asking, but asking to a stranger?
I agree, Heather. Agented writers / illustrators should not be tasked with match making.
Amen. Great post.