Monday, February 19, 2007

Agents and Charges

I've been reading the Street-Smart Writer, Self-Defense Against Sharks and Scams in the Writing World by Jenna Glatzer and Daniel Steven. This book is loaded with wise advice. Glatzer is the creator of Absolutewrite.com and has been around the writing world for many years.

Unfortunately a number of people have figured out how to scam and profit tapping into the intense desire that writers have to get published. Because of the numerous rejections along the journey to get published, writers tend to gravitate toward anyone who gives them hope. Yet some of these people are only dispensing this hope to get into their pocketbook.

The first chapter is called Agents and Managers: Hone Your Shark-Spotting Skills. It tackles questions like Do You Need an Agent?, What a Good Agent Can Do for You, How a Bad Agent Can Hurt You, Deadbeat Agent Warning Signs and How to Research an Agent.

One of those telling signs to sound off internal warning signals relates to agent charges. When an agent charges a reading fee, this expense should make the writer turn and run. The Association of Author's Representatives has strong statements about these fees in their ethical guidelines and membership rules. Also understand not every good agent is a member of the AAR.

It's not a black and white rule like, "No agent should charge anything." That's not true because depending on your agency/ author agreement, the agent can invoice and recover standard business expenses--provided you’ve agreed to this process in the beginning of your relationship.

I loved the simple chart Glatzer and Stevens have included in their book because it helps writers sort through the hard-working legitimate literary agents from the scam artists. I've scanned this chart from page 12 and included it here.

The agent's relationship with their authors is based on trust and good business practices. While the writers can be fooled with these scam artists, the publishers and editors are not. Glatzer and Stevens include discussions about screenwriting as well as books in this chapter and write, "The thing is, publishers and producers aren't fooled by bad agents. They know which ones send them garbage or, at best, completely inappropriate submissions. And having that bad agent attached to your name can only hurt you, because it looks like that's the best you could do." Ouch.

It should give you something to think about in this area of the marketplace.

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5 Comment:

At 11:31 AM, Blogger MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA Left a note...

Thanks for dealing with this important matter, Terry. Too many writers, in their eagerness to see their byline, fall for these scams.

I've been a subscriber to Absolutewrite.com for a long time. Kudos to both you and Jenna Glatzer for alerting writers, especially newbies, to this very real threat.


MaryAnn Diorio
Novelist & Poet

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Bonnie S. Calhoun Left a note...

Great report Terry. I'm going to include that book in our CFBA Amazon store!

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Unknown Left a note...

Years ago I fell for a website that "allowed" me to post my entire manuscript for $70, where publishers would shop for it and, of course, I'd be discovered. I'm embarassed to admit that I was ever that gullible, but I'm sure it happens to writers who get frustrated and overwhelmed with the process. For me, it was more a matter of not understanding how to submit proposals and write query letters. If I could direct every new writer to websites like this one, I'm sure I could put the scam artists out of business.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Catherine West Left a note...

I wish all new writers could automatically be given books like this one when starting out. Unfortunately, there are just not nice people out there, and some of us have learned from experience that you can't trust everybody. It's amazing to me how these so-called agents remain in business.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Unknown Left a note...

Ron mentions a site for posting manuscripts for $70. Hopefully he is not referring to the ECPA site called Christian Manuscript Submissions - formerly known as First Edition.


This is not a scam. It is simply a publisher's electronic slush pile. I know of a half dozen publishers that do troll those submissions and know of a couple authors who are now contracted because of that service.

When I worked at Bethany House I perused the site and appreciated the one-stop shop format. The problem was that almost 90% of the submission were poorly formatted and poorly presented. That is why ECPA has a link to Terry Whalin's book right on their "Getting Started" part of their service. (see the above link)

So I caution anyone of putting a service like that under the heading of a scam.

The Steve Laube Agency


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