Tracking Your Literary Agent’s Progress With Selling Your Book

Q: I signed a contract with a literary agency for representation of my first novel. Since then I have heard little from the agency in the way of letting me know of any progress. How can I be sure the agency is not taking advantage of me in ways I have no way to find out about i.e “overseas markets” or other venues? -Mark

Generally agents sell to U.S. markets before going to overseas markets – overseas publishers generally are more comfortable buying a book when there’s already a publisher’s imprimatur on it. So it wouldn’t be odd for your agent to hold off trying to get foreign rights sales, or dramatic rights sales, until after s/he’s sold U.S. book rights. That said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with emailing or writing or calling your agent (depending on how s/he prefers to be contacted) and asking for an update. When s/he sends out your novel, s/he should send you a list of the places (and hopefully editors) submitted to. You may or may not want to see the rejection notices at first, but s/he should be able to fax or mail them over to you when you do want to see them.

If your agent is dodging you and not giving you a straight answer, then it may make sense to be worried.

Hopefully you haven’t paid any money to the agent – except, perhaps, to reimburse clearly-incurred expenses from the manuscript submission. You haven’t paid him or her any “reading” or “evaluating” or “marketing” fees – that’s always something to steer clear of, when looking for a literary agent.

Jeff Kleinman, Literary Agent
Co-Founder of
Folio Literary Management