The Day #AskAgent Trended on Twitter and Evaluating Sources

If you are a writer, and more specifically an aspiring author, and you are also on Twitter, you may have noticed a few things yesterday.

The askagent hashtag was HOT all day and night. I mean, there were agents galore online, and they were answering questions about querying, the market, requests, genres, genre trends, and bunches more. I’ve been following this hashtag for many months now, and even though at this point I only glance at it from time to time (I sometimes seriously almost think *I* could answer a lot of these questions – except I’m still unagented, so clearly I cannot), I value this hashtag topic for the wide variety of writer questions and the broad range of agents who take the time to participate.

Why was this particular day on fire? I have no idea. The BEA 2012 (Book America Expo) occurred last week with hundreds of authors and agents attending, and like any conference or event like this (especially this one – it’s a biggie), people come away tired, but rejuvenated – a new fire for the industry in their souls. This in turn leads to looking for new ideas and wanting to give back.

Or maybe all the stars just aligned themselves exactly right. It doesn’t matter. A lot of writers both new to the game and not new were able to learn a lot on the spot, and because of the hashtag, if you missed it, you can go back to it today and catch up.

Here’s the next part where things got really interesting, though. A self-identified author business manager jumped in at the end of the day and began re-answering all of the questions. This person… let’s just call him DR (without the period, of course)… does this frequently. It can be confusing for a new follower of the hashtag because while he seems to have publishing experience (his profile lists him as a publisher first, but he always touts himself as an author business manager – hence the first confusing part), he is not actually a literary agent. Are his answers useful? Hard to say. At least two agents initially called DR out last night about hijacking the #askagent topic. They indicated that he frequently gave conflicting or even incorrect advice to writers and that he should cease since he was not an agent. Other agents joined in with this concern and also helped lead another #askagent session.

Writers hopped on the bandwagon with the universal “Get Out” message to DR. I confess that it felt like it could get ugly. Well, uglier than it already was with people coming out of the woodwork, including myself, to challenge this user. He backed out and backed out pretty gracefully, I think.

Was there another way to go about this? Probably. The question it then poses for me is how do you approach your research as you move into the publishing business? How do you prepare for that query? The askagent hashtag is random… one can never guess which agent or agents will jump in to answer questions. Sometimes they will be ones who don’t represent your genre at all. Sometimes it will be ones you’ve never heard of. Sometimes it will be ones it seems like EVERYONE has heard of because either we know they are successful, or simply because they are active on Twitter.

Whose advice do you listen to? Whom do you trust? While it is true that DR may not be the one I ultimately look to for answers, does that mean everything he says is wrong? Not necessarily. But this business is subjective, and admittedly so by the majority of agents that I follow or have read about. So the agent who represents young adult and middle grade fiction might not always have the most useful answers when my genre is commercial women’s fiction – and vice versa. On the other hand, that same agent still has experience and may have valid opinions and advice for many of your questions.

Like any Internet research, we must be thorough and balance our information and evaluate our sources. As one who hopes to publish one (or more, of course!) of my novels some day, I have done exhaustive research to get the most well-rounded advice I can. This means that yes, I discovered that DR is not my go-to person to get accurate information, and while I don’t want “newbies” to the process to be misled, I also believe that those same newbies must learn that they must be just as thorough in this research as in anything other serious inquiry. When they do this research, they will likely discover that you can learn what the general consensus is on how to query, when to query, what agents are looking for in a query or a manuscript, what are common word counts, what are acceptable protocols, and more.

Will you weigh certain agent responses heavier than others? Probably, and that’s okay. We all have our go-to sources, right?

What are your go-to sources for publishing research? How do you balance the plethora of information – some of which can be conflicting?

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9 Responses to The Day #AskAgent Trended on Twitter and Evaluating Sources

  1. My name is David Rozansky and I am the author’s business manager in question. I appreciate your balanced viewpoint.

    I’m not new to this. I’ve been at this game since 1988. I am a professional writer, a journalist, a public relations writer, a newspaper editor, a magazine publisher, and a book publisher. I’ve seen a lot of my peers and friends get burned by literary agents, so much so that it seemed the normal way of literary agents. I have often helped these peers polish their work and find publication on my own time and my own dime. It was they who recommended I do so professionally.

    I provide all the services a literary agent provides, just not as an agent, but as a manager. And I provide a great deal more service than typical agents. I do it because I want to help others make a career of writing, drawing on the 25 years of experience in this business. I’ve never wanted for work, never received a rejection letter, and I’ve helped others reach that level in their own careers.

    My advice often runs contrary to established wisdom. That is because there have been drastic changes in publishing in the last five years, changes that too few agents have kept up with. I give advice based on my own experience and research. While my ways won’t work for everyone, they work for me and mine.

    I don’t know why the old guard suddenly rose up against me last night. It hurt. It hurt a lot. I’ve kept #askagent on my Tweetdeck for about a year now, answering most any question posed as best I could. In all that time, I have received almost nothing but gratitude for my insights. To suddenly be called a hijacker and a poseur by so many, including unpublished authors who simply echoed what their ivory idols told them, caught me off guard. I’m different, but hardly a “newbie.”

    You can bet I won’t be offering my wisdom in an online forum ever again. From now on, only my friends and clients will benefit from what I have learned. To answer questions for authors I don’t know has only resulted in pain. I have forever removed myself from #askagent. I’m not sure yet if I will keep working the #askeditor and #askpub tags. I will continue to moderate #BookPro and #SciFiChat, and I continue to work on my writer’s guide to book marketing and speaking at writer’s conferences. But I’ve given up on #askagent.

    –David Rozansky
    Publisher, Flying Pen Press
    Professional Writer
    and Author’s Business Manager.

    Like

    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      Hi David, I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Hopefully, at day’s end we can all give and take within the information sharing venues that work best for each of us. I hope that you continue to land on what works best for you and your clients.

      Like

    • Linda B. says:

      “Never received a rejection letter”? since 1988? That tells me you aren’t taking enough chances. Heck, I even got a rejection letter recently FROM MY OWN AGENT. This is a tough business.

      David, for all I know, you, your company and your business model may be the wave of the future in publishing. I certainly wish you the best in it. But I think the “old guard” was justified in calling you out. If your advice goes against what traditional agents would typically advise, and it is posted under #askagent, it is simply going to confuse writers who want that “traditional” advice. You should either include a disclaimer or maybe start a different hashtag.

      Like

  2. Anon says:

    1. There’s no such thing as an Author’s Manager. That’s a made-up title apparently modeled after a position often required in the music industry. It shows a lack of understanding of the publishing industry.

    2. What an agent does for a client is use their industry connections to get an author’s book in front of the big-6 publishers and vet/negotiate the contract with a publisher. As a “publisher,” which Mr. Rozansky claims to be, he cannot also be the “agent.” That’s skeevy and a conflict of interest. Also, his claims to do “much more” for his “clients” than an agent are false, as he has shown contempt for large publishers publicly in the past and has not shown that he has the connections to represent an author’s work in that arena. The #askagent tag is for aspiring authors to ask questions of ACTUAL agents.

    3. The advice he offered under the #askagent tag was FALSE, or, at the very least, misleading. For example:

    * “Rejection from agent on agency letterhead is rejection from the agency.” FALSE. The only time it’s not okay to query other agents within an agency is if the agency submission guidelines indicate that “a No from one of us is a No from all.” Also, in this era of e-queries, letterhead is used only by a select few who require communication to go via snail mail, anyway. And its presence or lack there of indicates exactly nothing when it comes to agency policy in this area.
    * The question was asked “Uncommon for an agent to rep both adult & kids books? Hard to manage diff editors, markets, fairs etc?” and Mr. Rozansky answered: “You are correct. Juvenile and adult trade are two different worlds.” FALSE. There are many, MANY agents who represent both adult and children’s books. While they are two different worlds, many top agents find no problem in representing both effectively and with great success.
    * Q: “When excited about a new client/ms do you always have someone else read it or just contact them asap?” DR answers, “Once I get excited, I’ll usually interview author. If that works out, I’ll do market research and use test readers.” This is not okay for an agent to do. Ever. Test readers and market research when an author has not signed with someone? NOT. OKAY. That is the author’s property for the sole eyes of the agent and the agency. The agent does not have the right to put it before the public in any shape or form.
    * Q: “Is anyone really hunting for commercial fiction with a LGBT love story?” DR answers, “There are many piblishing houses with LGBT imprints. Check with LGBT bookstores to find them.” FALSE. Most major house imprints publish books with LGBT characters and love stories all the time. LGBT is not necessarily a segregated market. While there are small presses, anthologies, and magazines that ONLY publish LGBT stories, having an LGBT love story in your novel does not keep your book off of the shelves of all bookstores or off the the lists of any traditional publisher. If DR truly were an agent, with contacts within the publishing industry, he would know this.

    I could go on and point to other glaring inaccuracies in his other answers, but I think this is enough to show why a legit agent would be concerned that someone is giving bad advice on a hashtag to authors who follow the tag to learn–especially when that person is not, in fact, an AGENT.

    There is a lot of misinformation in the internet, and it is important to research and figure out who you trust. I’m sorry DR’s feelings were hurt by last night’s controversy, but I can’t be sad that he’ll no longer populate that tag with misinformation. It’s hard enough for new writers as it is.

    Like

    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      I will not presume to defend nor accuse Mr. Rozansky. I don’t really know him, and he has already spoken on his own behalf.

      However, I will pull this line from your comment: “There is a lot of misinformation in the internet, and it is important to research and figure out who you trust.” < — This, of course, is the point of my post. I'm glad you did come away with that.

      Like

    • kyoske says:

      I’d like to thank Anon whoever he/she is. I’m the one who asked the LGBT question.
      I’d already been warned of DR, and therefore didn’t really pay much attention to his advice.

      Like

  3. I just wanted to say thanks for posting this, as I had never heard of #AskAgent before, and as someone currently in the process of sending their book to agents, this could come in handy. Luckily, as someone who’s read around a lot before, I’d hope that I can spot when advice doesn’t ring true and do extra research, but I’m sure there’s lots I can learn by having a look. Thanks Janet 🙂

    Like

    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      The #askagent feed can be tremendously useful, and what I like best about it is that for the most part, a wide variety of agents will run a “session” at any given time. I consider it to be one of the most up-to-date ways of getting information. I also like that often there are questions from other writers that I don’t always think to ask.

      Like

  4. Pingback: “The Day #AskAgent Trended on Twitter…” | this literary life

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