I have just been offered a contract with an Australian agent. Is it appropriate to ask this agent for their track record and a list of their clients before signing anything. How would you recommend that this be worded to prevent causing offence?
If the agent doesn't have a website which contains a client list (even a slightly out-of-date one) then he or she should have provided you with one when s/he started talking to you about representation. As that hasn't occurred, the best thing would be to remember that you're about to make a business decision - to have an agent - and be businesslike in your approach, but you can still word it carefully. Something along the lines of, 'Would you mind sending me a client list so I can see who else you represent?' Or call and honestly say, 'Oops - I should have asked you which other clients you have - would you mind sending me a list?' If the agent is new and without many clients (or a track record), they should at least be Google-able. If you can't find anything at all on them, call the Australian Literary Agents' Association (link is at right) and ask them if they know about this agent. Don't feel bad or awkward about asking for this information - your business as a writer is about to be in this person's hands. It's an important decision.