Sunday, March 21, 2010

#Askagent: The unvarnished truth.

As some of you who follow my Twitter feed know, I host a very impromptu, sort-of-monthly, sort-of-regular and always-unscheduled Twitter chat called #Askagent.

What is #Askagent? #Askagent is agent/editor/writer free-for-all, where a group of agents, editors and other book industry pros open themselves up to questions from writers for a couple of hours or until they drop from sheer exhaustion. It's a lot of fun, and always draws hundreds - sometimes thousands - of participants. And we can have as many as twenty agents and editors answering questions all at one time. Some of the regulars who join me in co-hosting #Askagent are agents Jennifer Laughran from the Andrea Brown Agency, Elana Roth from the Caren Johnson Agency, Jason Ashlock from Moveable Type and former Bantam editor Juliet Ulman. It's a great group!

When is #Askagent and why isn't it scheduled? Quite honestly, it isn't scheduled because those of us who co-host it never know when we are going to have a big enough chunk of uninterrupted free time every month. Also? The spontaneity of #Askagent is one of the things that makes it so much fun. When I have the time, I'll shoot an email off to my group of regulars (the agents, editors and other book industry pros who may be available to answer questions) and let them know when it will start (usually after 10:00 PM EST) and ask them to let me know if they be able to join us. And then I'll start throwing some tweets out into the wild to let the rest of the Twitter-verse know. I can always count on a handful of folks who read my Twitter feed to pass the message along at the speed of light, because most writers who have participated in #Askagent want to come back for more!

#Askagent moves fast, and sometimes questions need repeating because they move through the Twitter feed so quickly that we miss them, but we try to get to everyone as best we can. And not all of us have the same answers; one of the great things about #Askagent is that you get the feedback from more than one agent at a time, so that you can really start to understand just how subjective a business this is, and just how differently we operate. (By the way, we recommend using Tweetchat to follow #Askagent; much easier!)

There's only one rule at #Askagent: NO QUESTIONS ABOUT QUERY LETTERS!

Because, let's face it: one can only be asked "How can I write a better query letter?" so many times before one's head explodes in a Scanners-like organic veil of blood, brains and gore.

I admire agents who can repeatedly answer this question with grace and good humor. I, however, am not that agent.


I said it.

I don't want to talk about your query letters. I don't want to hear you to talk about your query letters. I don't care if anyone ever talks about query letters ever again in my lifetime. THAT'S how sick of the subject of query letters I am. My chat, my rules!

So... if you're going to join us in an #Askagent session - and I encourage you to do so! - please use that time to ask more productive questions of the book industry pros who are offering up their time for free. Ask about how coop works. Ask about marketing and publicity. Ask about non-fiction book proposals. Ask about platform building. Ask about how to build a relationship with your editor. Ask about the language in your contracts. Ask about anything other than query letters.

Because there's more to your writing career than your query letter.


shonagonchan said...

I love askagent. It's helped me a lot, even if I sometimes can't think of any questions to ask. ^_^

And somehow, I always come up with the question I want to ask as soon as I sign off.

It's a great forum; I always walk away from it totally daunted and inspired. Both. :)

clindsay said...

Glad you enjoy it! It's always a lot of fun and I learn just as much as the writers!

Mess In A Dress said...

I appreciate being told up front about what is irritating to agents (and also about what you like to see from writers). I'm new to this business, and I am constantly worried I will say or do something that screams, "She's new! She doesn't know what she's doing!"

Thank you for #askagent.

rissawrites said...

Askagent sessions are always helpful- even if you just read and don't ask any questions.

I have told my writers' group to get a twitter account if for no other reason than to be a part of that discussion.

Thanks Colleen for hosting it!

Christina Lee said...

I joined it for the first time last week! It was great and I learned alot. Thanks for doing it Colleen.

bqdell said...

There's a transcript of the last #AskAgent here:

Stacey Graham said...

I love #askagent. It's a fun way to connect with the business side of publishing without those nasty "stalker" labels. ;)

Denise said...

I recently discovered how to take part in ask agent and had my first experience with it last week. Sure it's extremely fast with a million tweets per second but after I got my tweetchat running I was in my groove. It was a wonderful and extremely helpful session and defintely not to be missed. Thank you Colleen and all the other people who donate their time and expertise to us. You guys rock.

Cheeky Wench said...

I'm always thankful for agents/editors helping with #askagent. I remember my first day on twitter was the #askagent DAY. I thought my brain would explode. Good stuff.

LilySea said...

Loves me some Ask Agent. Though I have most of my burning questions answered now and mostly stalk.

vbtremper said...

And thanks to whoever is responsible for the transcripts!

lsmurphy said...

I love #AskAgent as well as #AgentDay. They are fun and informative. Sometimes I toss a question out there, sometimes I just lurk and get answers to questions I never even thought about asking. I certainly hope that you continue it in the future!

Jan Rider Newman said...

"...there's more to your writing career than your query letter."
Thank you. I was beginning to wonder.

Malia Sutton said...

OMG! No query questions? The world is falling apart :))))

Susan Bradley said...

I just joined Twitter so I'm looking forward to the next one.