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?