The askagent hashtag on Twitter is a wonderful and sometimes rare way for writers to directly connect with agents and get answers to their questions about manuscripts, genres, tastes, how agents work, policies, and the publishing industry in general. Late Tuesday night when I announced I’d be doing an #askagent session the next day, I had no idea the controversy that would arise from the session.
I don’t really want to talk about the controversy. We’ve been over it and it’s finished. But I will say, it became such an issue, #askagent lasted all day and night. And trended on Twitter. CRAZY!
You can read this article for all the details but what I want you to come away with is actually a comment left by an anonymous agent. It offers great advice (corrects false advice that was offered that day on Twitter) and clearly defines an agent’s job:
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.