Twitter has become a hub for authors, editors, literary agents, and other book publishing professionals to share industry insiders—not to mention the dozens of (amazing) Twitter contests for authors seeking literary representation for their unpublished manuscripts.
One of the hashtags that continues to increase in popularity is #AskAgent.
As I detailed in the first article in the series, FAAAQ: Frequently Asked #AskAgent Questions, this hashtag is a great resource for writers looking to gain insight into the world of book publishing. Literary agents will periodically announce when they’re hosting an #AskAgent session (and for how long)—during which time writers can use the hashtag to tweet questions and agents will then respond to them, time permitting.
To learn more about proper Twitter etiquette and gain a foundational background of what #AskAgent is, be sure to check out part one of my series on Savvy Authors. You can also read my other article, 18 Essential Etiquette Tips for Twitter Writing Contests, for more insiders about the weird world of Twitter.
After hosting a number of #AskAgent sessions myself, I’ve noticed there are questions many writers have and ask during these live Q&As.
First and foremost, it’s important to do your research. #AskAgent sessions aren’t a time to forego research. Instead, do some digging on your own and bring insightful questions to the hashtag.
Moreover, make sure your questions are timely. Take a look at what day/time an agent tweeted the #AskAgent session. Be sure to ask questions within the timeframe they specified and to list the #AskAgent hashtag in your tweet (vs. tweeting directly at them).
FAAAQ: Frequently Asked #AskAgent Questions
Q: I wrote a manuscript. Would you be interested in representing—?
A: Let me stop you right there. #AskAgent is not a time to pitch your manuscript to a literary agent. Save those pitches for Twitter contests, conferences, or when you query.
Q: Have you ever loved a book then met the author and not liked them? Did you represent them?
A: Literary representation is a close-knit partnership between an author and an agent. Ideally, this relationship will last throughout a writer’s career. Therefore, if an agent meets a writer in person or speaks with them over the phone and doesn’t connect with them (which happens all the time), that’s okay! You aren’t going to mesh with everyone. It’s important to make sure you’re compatible up front and have similar working styles and goals.
However, if an author is rude in person or online, that (in my mind) is grounds enough that the relationship isn’t a viable one.
Q: If an agent asks for a partial or a full, is it unusual for it to take more than a month to hear back? What’s the average?
A: I can’t speak for all agents, but for me personally, I tend to request many partials (in addition to the occasional full-manuscript request). Therefore, sometimes it can take several months for me to get back to an author. The short answer is it depends on that literary agent’s work load, what other agency tasks they have to do outside of reading submissions, and if they have other jobs they’re juggling (vs. being a full-time agent). When in doubt, check out an agency’s website to see if they detail what the turnaround time for submissions are. Three months is a fairly standard timeframe.
Q: What are some of the big submission mistakes that cause an instant rejection?
A: Unkindness toward myself, another agent, and/or our interns. Especially our interns.
Q: What are you looking for in a potential client?
A: First, I’m looking for someone who is kind, professional, patient, and a pleasure to work with. Talent—althoughimportant—isn’t everything. A writer-agent relationship is an intimate one. If a writer can show they’re not only a skilled writer but professional as well, I immediately get more excited about the prospect of working more closely with them. In addition, agents are always looking for writers who constantly strive to improve their stories and capabilities as a writer.
Q: How can you “best” personalize a query?
A: I’ve mentioned this before, but personalization isn’t always advantageous or necessary beyond the basics:
- Spell the agent’s name correctly.
- Double check that this agent represents in your age group and genre.
- Follow his/her submission guidelines (which are usually detailed on the individual agent bio pages on the agency website).
If you simply noticed a literary agent is open to queries in the age group and genre you write in, there’s no need to go too crazy on personalization.
However, if you met this agent at a conference or other event, interacted on social media, or follow their blog/YouTube channel/other digital outlet, definitely mention it at some point in your query.
Q: Do you see submissions you think aren’t publishable, or is it just a case of not being for you?
A: There are tons of manuscripts I see that aren’t for me—namely, ones that aren’t in the age groups and genres I represent. Though, it could also be a subject I’m not passionate about and therefore I wouldn’t be the agent to champion it. However, the majority of submissions I see tend to be writing I like but isn’t quite there yet. This could be because the writer still needs time to develop his/her writing style or work on craft, or it could be he/she is (technically) a very skilled writer but needs to tackle bigger picture concerns (such as have a high concept/stakes).