Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fake literary agents

Writer Beware’s latest blog post referenced this literary agent profile. It’s either hilarious or jawdropping or both.

I'm an hungry hunter... YES, but only of... bestsellers!!!

Maybe there’s so much merda taurorum on this page that even the greenest of newbies will steer clear. I’d like to believe that. I really would.

Our policy is FREE (for first reading!) and very different from other agents:
1. We accept to read all your book (the first 3 chapters, in my opinion, are not sufficient to judge the whole book! They are sufficient only to mock you!).

Scammers are usually consistent in telling writers what they want to hear. We’ll read your book from cover to cover. We’ll reply fast. We respect you. We believe in your dream. Sometimes they go further—hopeful clients were conned out of hundreds of thousands of pounds by Robin Price, who told them Johnny Depp and Martin Scorsese were among his contacts. He was convicted in 2011, not that that’ll help the retiree who mortgaged his house to pay Price.

I entered “fake literary agents” into Google, just to see what cropped up. One result was an article about the increasing number of literary scams in India, which was something new, so I read it with interest. Unfortunately, the advice it gave about how to avoid such scams was not very good.

Talk to them: All these agents have fancy websites and online profiles. However, a chat with them over the phone can be a revelation. It is very important to know about their intellectual level and the seriousness with which they are going to try and place your book.

Firstly, this may work with legitimate agencies in India. I can’t say how they operate. I really hope, though, that aspiring authors don’t try it with agencies in the States.

Secondly, it’s easy to say “talk to them”, but do writers know what kinds of questions to ask? If they’re inexperienced, scammers will find it easy to take them in. Anyone can make any kinds of promises over the phone, and some salespeople come off as very convincing.

Finally, “intellectual level”? An agent can have a PhD or be a member of Mensa, but this is irrelevant to the question of whether they’re experienced at selling books.

Talk to some of the authors these agents claim to have represented: A candid feedback from them can be invaluable.

Talking to authors is a step up from talking to agents, but again… what are the questions to ask?

“Hi, I was wondering if you’re happy with your agent.”

“Oh yes. I signed up with him last week and I couldn’t be more thrilled. He made my dream come true.”

This is certainly candid feedback, but it’s not going to help the first writer make an informed decision. Plus, some writers are honest about mistakes they’ve made and some aren’t. I know someone who signed with PublishAmerica because she asked two PA authors about their experiences—and they both provided glowing reports that failed to mention overpriced books, lack of availability, poor royalties and so on. New writers need better information than that, or at the very least, they need to know where to go to get such information if they want it.

This Is Nothing Like An Official FAQ – from Absolute Write’s Bewares and Background Checks forum.
Writer Beware.
Preditors and Editors
Publisher’s Lunch – a free ezine with the latest industry news and a weekly deal report. People who claim major publishers don’t sign unpublished writers have never seen one of these deal reports.


Matthew MacNish said...

That profile would be hilarious if it wasn't so scary. Predators and Editors is another good resource.

Maria Zannini said...

I'd like to think authors are more forthcoming nowadays. I've always tried to give the full skinny whenever someone asks for my opinion or advice. Anything less could be costly.

Majanka said...

I think this profile is probably a joke. If it's a joke, then it's hilarious. If it's not, well, then it's definitely scary. Thank god for the Absolute Write forums.

Advice to everyone looking for an agent/publisher: check the Absolute Write Forums.

Writing Blog

Marian Perera said...

Matthew - thanks for reminding me! I've added Preditors and Editors to the list.

Maria - You're definitely someone I'd go to for advice. :)

Majanka - What's also scary is that in the Writer Beware blog post, Victoria Strauss said she's received emails from writers asking about that "agent". I mean, everything about the page blares SCAM! RUN AWAY! and yet some writers aren't sure.

Though, of course, that's a whole lot better than not contacting Victoria and paying the scammer. As you said, AW is a great help in learning about all this.