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Thread: About Words Agency

  1. #1
    Kazuir
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    About Words Agency

    Anyone know anything about this Roswell, Georgia agency? Preditors and Editors says they're receiving comments about it, but they don't say what kind of comments... Thanks in advance

  2. #2
    MThomas2003
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    Re: About Words Agency

    There are two pretty old posts about it on the Rumor Mill. www.speculations.com/rumormill/index.php

    Go to the bottom, and insert text "About Words."

    However, going to their website now gives me a sense of "Methinks they doth protest too much." They say Zebra communications ( an editing service) is their "first reader," but Zebra doesn't pay them anything, but About Words pays Zebra for editing services from time to time...There is some pretty iffy, circular wording there that makes me wonder. But, you can always submit and say no as soon as they ask you for money.

  3. #3
    Dave Kuzminski
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    About Words

    Preditors & Editors (tm) updated that listing yesterday after hearing more comments and completing a review of the agency's web site. The new rating was updated this morning in line with P&E's criteria. They're not recommended because they're sharing writers' information with an editing service.

  4. #4
    Victoria
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    About Words

    Through the late 1990's, Susan Graham of About Words was a working literary agent, with a small track record of commercial book sales. But then apparently she got sick, and stopped actively agenting. She appears at that point to have turned all her submissions over to Bobbie Christmas, a.k.a. Zebra Communications, a "book doctor" (IMO, an insufficiently qualified one) who recommended paid editing to everyone who submitted. Writer Beware got a lot of reports and complaints about these referrals. It wasn't revealed that Graham was ill and not working--Christmas just claimed that Graham had passed the writer's work on to her because it needed help. In addition to making editing recommendations to current submitters, Christmas also worked her way through Graham's backlist: in 2001 I heard from writers who'd queried Graham in the mid-'90's and suddenly received editing solicitations from Christmas.

    Graham recently appears to have gotten active again with About Words Agency. However, she's still involved with Bobbie Christmas and Zebra Communications. According to the agency's guidelines, everything submitted goes first through Christmas/Zebra, which acts as the agency's "clearinghouse". Based on past evidence, I suspect that most submissions receive a recommendation for paid editing. Even if a few do make it through to Graham, I'm not aware she's made any sales as yet.

    - Victoria
    Writer Beware
    www.sfwa.org/beware/

  5. #5
    Kazuir
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    About Words

    Thanks very much for the helpful replies -- I love this website! Agi

  6. #6
    Takyris
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    Re: About Words

    Hi, all, just got here through a websearch.

    I got the same runaround from About Words. They passed it to Zebra, and Zebra gave me a relatively scathing list of problems -- inadequate grasp of style, grammatical errors, etc. -- things that would definitely merit a book doctor.

    This would all have been a bit more convincing if my previous agent rejections hadn't said, to a person, "This is well-written and professionally polished -- we're not taking it because it crosses too many genres and we're not sure how to market it."

    So yeah -- About Words is off my list.

    -Tacky

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    About Words Agency - Susan Graham

    Does anyone out there have any recent news or dealings with About Words Agency? I have received an offer of representation from them, but I'm leary of signing becuase of what I've read about thier shady editing practices and association with the book doctor, Zebra Communications.

    I did not receive any heavy editing proposals from their editors when About Words sent me the contract, but I am left wondering if that will come after I sign the contract and lock myself in.

    As of last year, Victoria Strauss with Writer's Beware did not have any information about sales this agency has made.

    Anyone have recent news?

  8. #8
    wryter
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    aboutwords agency

    Has anybody heard about Susan L Graham or the aboutwords literary agency? thanks.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW J. Y. Moore's Avatar
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    I only know what I found about them on their web site. They are not listed in WritersMarket.com. I did query them but only recently so have had no reply. Their submission guidelines are pretty picky - not only the font but the number of lines/page, etc. Reputation: Unknown.


    I always figure you don't have to sign!

  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW J. Y. Moore's Avatar
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    Hi again!

    I just found the About Words Agency on the Predators and Editors site: http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/peala.htm . It's listed as "Not Recommended" but there is no explanation given. I guess I'll ignor any request they send (if they do ).

    Good luck!

  11. #11
    The Brunette She-Ra MDavis's Avatar
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    In October of last year (2005) I got a rejection back from About Words. Predictably (as I now see on this forum) they had given my sample chapters to Zebra Communications to edit.

    I'm no professional, but I do know a thing or two about editing, and while some of the comments made perfect (embarassing) sense, many of the others seemed to be almost scathingly nitpicky. It left me feeling "off" about the response.

    The biggest thing though was that they said my novel was too long for marketability. It (was) 220,000 words, and what do I know about the right length for first fantasy novels? I took them at their word and started trimming.

    Now, reading all this I wonder if that bit of their advice was accurate, or just another trumped up advertisement for Zebra.

  12. #12
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    With editing, you'll find that about 1/3 of the suggestions will leave you slapping your forehead and saying "Whoo! Good call!" about 1/3 will have you saying, "Okay, I can see it," and about 1/3 will have you saying "What are you smoking?"

    220,000 words is a heck of a long book, especially for a first-timer. The question is, will a first novel sell enough copies that they can get the cover price under $28.00 in trade cloth?

    Having them be exactly the right 220,000 words will help a lot. But, if you can't streamline it a bit, consider using that as your second or third book, after you've started building up a fan base.

  13. #13
    The Brunette She-Ra MDavis's Avatar
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    Good to know (about the editing, and the word count). I've been marginally successful at trimming, cutting it down to about 185,000 words. In the process I do think I've managed to winnow out parts that were either partially or totally uneccesary, so that's a very positive feeling to have. If I could ask a little more advice...is 185,000 any better for marketability?

  14. #14
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    This is a discussion that would be better to have in the Novels board, but the answer is yes. Can you get it down to 120,000?

    Are they the right words? Having every word be the right word, and an absolutely necessary word, is important.

  15. #15
    The Brunette She-Ra MDavis's Avatar
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    Dutifully moved to the Writing Novels forum. Again thank you!

  16. #16
    Recovering Gumshoe jpserra's Avatar
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    About Words, again.

    I too have been offered a contract. So, does this mean, after all these years, and the more recent involvement of Graham, that it is still Not Recomended. I see nothing here to change a reasonable and rational mind. No one recently has run into the issues previously posted.

    Did Susan Graham do a good job of representation, and will she do so in the present? These are questions I could ask about most agents.

    JPS
    Author, Kokopelli's Flute
    www.johnserra.com

    NOT getting rich, one sale at a time!

    Visit my AW Book post!



  17. #17
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    The information in my post above is still current. In the intervening time, Ms. Graham appears to have made just one small sale. That appears to be the sum total of the agency's track record since Ms. Graham opened About Words in 2002.

    - Victoria

  18. #18
    I heart Malamutes! :-) JerseyGirl1962's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpserra
    I too have been offered a contract. So, does this mean, after all these years, and the more recent involvement of Graham, that it is still Not Recomended. I see nothing here to change a reasonable and rational mind. No one recently has run into the issues previously posted.

    Did Susan Graham do a good job of representation, and will she do so in the present? These are questions I could ask about most agents.

    JPS
    JP,

    This is from Preditors & Editors:

    About Words Agency: Not recommended. "A free, no-obligation, personalized one-page analysis of your submission, and our professionalism are just a part of why you should query About Words Agency. Non-fee-charging agency means there are never any reading fees. All normal expenses are paid for by the agency. About Words Agency provides detailed monthly reports for each represented book to clients, including feedback from editors. The agency contract is a renewable term contract, with a 15% commission."


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  19. #19
    Preditors & Editors Requiescat In Pace DaveKuzminski's Avatar
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    I just performed an address search to see if any other businesses are sharing the same address as About Words Agency. Results were negative.

  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim
    Does anyone out there have any recent news or dealings with About Words Agency? I have received an offer of representation from them, but I'm leary of signing becuase of what I've read about thier shady editing practices and association with the book doctor, Zebra Communications.

    I did not receive any heavy editing proposals from their editors when About Words sent me the contract, but I am left wondering if that will come after I sign the contract and lock myself in.

    As of last year, Victoria Strauss with Writer's Beware did not have any information about sales this agency has made.

    Anyone have recent news?
    I queried them inadvertently a ways back, and about five months ago I got a couple of marked up pages of my manuscript from Zebra. The corrections were a total freaking howler, and I've gotten far better results from reliable critiquers on thread.

    I suspect that what they do is in some cases push for an editing contract. In others, they may sign up to represent you, but I suspect there will then be some trumped-up reason later why further editing is necessary.

    Think of this group as a sort of Ebola virus of the agent world, and act accordingly.

  21. #21
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    06-05-2006, 05:27 AM
    waylander
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    I just got the same response from the About Words Agency. A couple of pages returned covered in red ink disputing the construction of just about every second sentence. There was nothing that represented useful critique.
    06-06-2006, 09:42 AM
    jpserra
    Esteemed New Member

    Moving ahead

    I've not been asked to do anything but correct some structural complications in the early chapters of my manuscript. I've not heard or received anything from Mr. Christmas, and have had only meaningful discussions with Ms. Graham and the intern whom I've also been working with.

    JPS
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  22. #22
    MaryKaye
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    encounter with AboutWords

    Several months ago Susan posted a solicitation for writers to the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.composition. This led to a discussion of the agency's practices and its relationship to Zebra that may be of interest to readers here. The thread can be found on GoogleGroups by searching for "About Words" in that newsgroup.

    Susan said that a strength of her agency is providing an evaluation of each submission (something I would personally love to get). I posted saying that I would question the validity of an evaluation made by a pay-editing service, as there might be a conflict of interest. She responded that the only way to know was to submit something and see.

    I didn't want to be deceptive, so I asked her permission to submit a writing sample for evaluation, without asking for representation. To my surprise she agreed to this, and gave me permission to post the resulting evaluation if I chose. This seemed very reasonable, so I sent her ~30 pages of my novel. On July 5 I received a note from her saying that she had received the material and would do the evaluation that week. I was a bit surprised as I thought that she'd said that Zebra did her evaluations for her.

    I have not heard anything since. If I do, I'll write up a description.

    This is not a substantial degree of lateness in the publishing world; I am more concerned about the fact that she posted an ad to a group whose FAQ forbids them, which suggests that she might not do her groundwork before contacting publishers either. On the other hand, the offer to provide a sample evaluation for us to criticize was a brave one.

    MaryKaye

  23. #23
    Crypto-fascist Soccer Mom's Avatar
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    You can also post here in Share Your Work. People here will crit you for free and many of them are good at it too. We won't even make you wait longer than a day or two at the most.
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  24. #24
    Children's Writer
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    I am considering About Words--although having second thoughts now. Does anyone know what their phone number is? I have tried several searches, and they seem to have hidden it pretty well.

  25. #25
    Recovering Gumshoe jpserra's Avatar
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    Post Follow up on About Words

    I wanted to wait until I had a contract to post again. However, I've continued to receive questions regarding About Words, and Susan Graham.

    I've been informed that I am currently in the second rounds of reviews with Harper-Collins and Penguin for my second novel. Additionally, Harper-Collins has given interest in a multi-book (3) including a reprint of my first novel, Kokopelli's Flute. I will say that I believe Susan is taxed by work and at her client limit.

    I have heard nothing of Zebra or the other individuals mentioned, and am actively working with Susan and one of her editors. I have paid nothing, and from all appearances, it looks to be an honest and square agency.

    Please hold any questions regarding her of me until I see what comes of the relationship.

    JP

    p.s. When do I stop being an esteemed new member? I hate being that!
    Author, Kokopelli's Flute
    www.johnserra.com

    NOT getting rich, one sale at a time!

    Visit my AW Book post!



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