I am in the throes of querying and have been corresponding with an agent who is in the process of reading my novel. They are very positive about it and have asked me questions which indicate we might be moving towards an offer. They asked if I have any questions for them - which of course I do, having done my homework on this and other blogs - but there's one essential question I'm not sure how to approach.
It's clear from the dates on this agent's LinkedIn page that they are already past the age of retirement. Of course no one should be sent off to the glue farm to play bridge against their will, but the agent's intentions in this area would affect me. Could you please suggest a way for me to gather information about their plans over the next 3-5 years without asking for their Social Security statement?
I understand your trepidation here but let me just say that the biggest discombobulation about agent's leaving the biz has, in my experience, come from younger agents.
When an agent retires, it's generally not abruptly. They slow down, stop taking new clients, wind up deals, make arrangements.
That said, you want to know his/her plans, and in fact, are entitled to know if you're being asked to sign on the dotted line.
So, ask! "I envision a long term relationship with an agent and agency. Do you plan to remain active for the next few years. If not, would someone else at the agency be stepping in?"
This is not a question you're going to ask before you're offered representation though. It's a difficult enough question to get without the burden of being seen as presumptuous.
Many agents keep working long past traditional retirement age.