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Thread: The Gislason Agency (Barbara Gislason)

  1. #1
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    The Gislason Agency (Barbara Gislason)

    Would anyone be so kind as to comment -- pro or con -- on the Barbara Gislason Agency? P&E has nothing either bad or good to say about her, but on the other hand, I'm finding it hard to come up with much of a client list for this agency. It also triggers my suspicion sensors when I read that "Through the agency Ms. Gislason has been able to help new authors fulfill their dreams of becoming published..." Has anyone any personal knowledge of the Gislason Agency?

    Agency homepage:
    http://www.thegislasonagency.com/

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Moderation in All Things AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arkady
    Would anyone be so kind as to comment -- pro or con -- on the Barbara Gislason Agency? P&E has nothing either bad or good to say about her, but on the other hand, I'm finding it hard to come up with much of a client list for this agency. It also triggers my suspicion sensors when I read that "Through the agency Ms. Gislason has been able to help new authors fulfill their dreams of becoming published..." Has anyone any personal knowledge of the Gislason Agency?

    Agency homepage:
    http://www.thegislasonagency.com/

    Thanks.
    For what it's worth, she declined to represent my book. While this does cast some doubt about her judgment (vbg), she's probably a reputable agent.
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  3. #3
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    I have a vague memory of reading somewhere that Gislason charges a fee. I think it was on writers.net, but something seems to be wrong with their database so I can't check. Anyway, when you can, you might want to search the writers.net discussion forums for Gislason.

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    Author Waiting in the Wings Maprilynne's Avatar
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    Question Gislason Agency

    okay, there are three postings on this agency but not a ton of info in them. I am definitely leaning away from this agency because they charge some kind of a fee. What I am curious about is its listing on P&E (so I guess this question leans a bit toward Victoria and Dave.) It says
    "Gislason Agency: A literary agency. Charges fees held in a state-monitored trust account."




    But that doesn't make it "not recommended." I just am wondering what this means? Also, I am wondering about their sales records; do they have any? They sound pretty bogus to me, but I want there to be information in the index for them and right now there is not much.


    Thanks!

    Maprilynne
    Wings: the first of four from Harper Teen debuting May 5th, 2009.


    You can Pre-Order my book from Amazon!
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    practical experience, FTW Tilly's Avatar
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    If you can't find any sales and they charge a fee, I'd lean so hard away from them I'd topple over.

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    I second what Tilly said. Remember, it's not that an agency has to be bad enough to justify taking it off your list; it's that it has to be proven good enough to be on your list in the first place.

    The lack of the $ sign in the P&E listing indicates Dave's not aware of any sales.
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    I Heart Mac Absolute Sage Lauri B's Avatar
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    Doesn't the fact that her web site hasn't been updated since 2002 worry you at all?

  8. #8
    Now departed. Rest in peace, Scott, from all of us at AW Popeyesays's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maprilynne
    okay, there are three postings on this agency but not a ton of info in them. I am definitely leaning away from this agency because they charge some kind of a fee. What I am curious about is its listing on P&E (so I guess this question leans a bit toward Victoria and Dave.) It says
    "Gislason Agency: A literary agency. Charges fees held in a state-monitored trust account."




    But that doesn't make it "not recommended." I just am wondering what this means? Also, I am wondering about their sales records; do they have any? They sound pretty bogus to me, but I want there to be information in the index for them and right now there is not much.
    Thanks!

    Maprilynne
    -----------------------
    Dear Scott Saylors ,
    Thank you for contacting us. You have asked about an agent/agency not listed in the various groups of experienced literary agents on our web site, nor among the fifty or so new agents whose names would have generated a positive response.

    We have never found in the public record sources in the US, UK and Canada that we have been tracking since 1980 independent evidence of a sale made by this agent/agency.

    You should also know that better than 90% of the sales of books and the subsidiary rights to books made in the US, the UK and Canada are made by the agents WHO ARE listed on the AR&E site. Second, we are the only website supplying this kind of information where someone actually checks on the agents listed. We do not allow agents to enter their own data, nor do we use client lists supplied by the agent without third party verification. AR&E works for writers and we look at everything from the writer's point of view. If we show no sales the agent should be approached with caution.

    We have found that almost always request for agents without records in our database turn out to be agents the writer has found in one of the "agent books" that are out there. These, unfortunately, have a great many more pseudo agents than real ones listed. (Reality check - take a look at the list of agents in Dead Reckoning on our site and compare these names of the undisputed top agents in the business to those who are in the books. You will find very few in both places.) The books get their agent names from questionnaires they send out. At AR&E we insist upon third party verification and probe for specifics.

    Agent sites proliferating on the Internet also lack hard sales data. Sold to whom? Published when? How much was the advance? Any sub-rights sales? For claims of representation to be meaningful, at least some of this information should be included. Real agents tell you this stuff all the time. They can't wait to tell you. Hypi ng their clients and sales is part of their job.

    Just putting up a web page on your own site or someone else's and making general (unchecked) claims about authors represented or other accomplishments is not good enough for you the writer. Hard facts are required. Attendance at a writers' conference is not enough to attest to real sales made in the real marketplace. Neither is a listing in Literary MarketPlace, or even membership in one or another professional organization. Writers have the right to know what the agent is selling and to whom, and to make judgments about representation based on those facts.

    There are dozens if not hundreds of scammers out there making their money from upfront charges, not the sale of books. If the agent is asking for any amount of money before a sale is made, we strongly suggest you get a great deal of detailed and verifiable information about recent sales to major publishers or walk away. Real agents make their living from the sale of manuscripts and the sub-rights sales that follow. If you can write you can get a real agent.

    To learn more about agents read the free articles from our newsletter Talking Agents. You may even consider subscribing. You'll get a great deal of solid information about many legitimate and effective agents.

    Take a close look at our New Agent List as a way to acquaint yourself with forty plus legitimate agents, including objective reports about three or more of their deals - what book, sold to whom, often for how much, and what sub-rights sales. Knowing something about the agent's track record means you've got an idea of whether they have a proven record of responding to work that is like yours, and selling it to a legit publisher.

    Examine the possibility of using our Customized Fingerprint to specifically target real agents who are handling the kind of thing you're working on right now. Another possibility is the Standard Fingerprint.

    Good luck with whatever you decide. We have added your name to our mailing list, but don't hesitate to ask for further agent verifications.

    Bill Martin
    http://www.agentresearch.com
    Okay, damnit, I blog http://cscottsaylorsbooks.blogspot.com/
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    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Merging threads again to avoid proliferation. Maybe if I keep doing this, people will get the message to look in the Index first, and post to an existing thread rather than starting a new one.

    According to Writer Beware's most recent info, Gislason offers a nonstandard author-agent agreement (among other things, it gives the agency commission rights in "successor" works for a period of 5 years, whether or not the agency had anything to do with selling those works, and binds the author to undertake revisions suggested by any editor at any house if the revisions are a stipulation for further considering--not purchasing--the work), and asks for a $100 "deposit" on contract signing against submissions expenses. Additional expenses are billed, and payable within 30 days. There's a $300 expense cap during the contract term, which is one year.

    Ms. Gislason's main practice appears to be as a lawyer. Agenting seems to be a sideline. She claims to represent "nationally acclaimed authors" but I can only find two writers for whom she has made commercial sales. Gislason also runs a publishing company, Blue Raven Press. It appears to be a specialty publisher, but this still presents at least a potential conflict of interest. It's also worth noting that I first learned about the publisher more than two years ago, yet its current website lists no actual published books, only two projects "pending publication."

    - Victoria

  10. #10
    Grumpy writer and editor Absolute Sage Gillhoughly's Avatar
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    Thumbs down Do the Time Warp!

    The links on her agent's site are not all working. That's either neglect or she had a reason to take them down.

    Her page on a "Featured Author" is four years out of date.

    And does "featured" mean she actually sold those books or just read and liked them a lot?

    I'm thinking she began the literary agency thing as a money-generating sideline, then lost interest or got too busy practicing family & animal law.

    http://www.abanet.org/tips/animal/chair.html

    http://www.barbarajgislasonlawoffice.com/default.html

    How does being a lawyer (even one taking Arts & Entertainment cases) qualify one to be a literary agent? An agent is into sales.

    NEVER ever go with a fee charger of any stripe.

    Run away! RUN AWAY!!!!

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    Author Waiting in the Wings Maprilynne's Avatar
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    "Run away! RUN AWAY!!!! "

    Oh, I'm not sending stuff to her, I just tried to look her up and found very little. I wanted some more info so it could be of use to others.
    Sorry about starting a new thread; I didn't think about posting to the original thread so it would bump it to the top. <duh>

    Thank you all!

    Maprilynne
    Wings: the first of four from Harper Teen debuting May 5th, 2009.


    You can Pre-Order my book from Amazon!
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  12. #12
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Barbara Gislason isn't a new agent.

    I first heard about her from a friend of mine who sometimes helps organize and run SF conventions. I can't remember exactly which convention this was, but it was somewhere in the Midwest.

    Anyway, some time prior to the convention, BG had gotten in touch with the committee, represented herself as a literary agent, and asked to be given a function room and a sizeable chunk of convention program time so she could run a "workshop" for aspiring writers. My impression was that she was proposing to charge the writers for this workshop, but wasn't offering to share the proceeds with the convention: a sucker deal.

    My friend was trying to find out whether Barbara Gislason was a big-name agent. I checked around, then told her that while I couldn't speak for the industry as a whole, I hadn't been able to find anyone who'd done any deals with BG, or worked with her in any other capacity.

    That must have been six or seven years ago. If she hasn't made any detectable sales in all that time, what she's doing can't be legit agenting.
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    Grumpy writer and editor Absolute Sage Gillhoughly's Avatar
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    Wasn't it Shakespeare--another writer--who said something about first shoot all the lawyers?



    Just a thought. Nobody try this at home.

  14. #14
    Now departed. Rest in peace, Scott, from all of us at AW Popeyesays's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillhoughly
    Wasn't it Shakespeare--another writer--who said something about first shoot all the lawyers?



    Just a thought. Nobody try this at home.
    Yup! Henry IV part Two, I seem to recall

    Regards,
    Scott
    Okay, damnit, I blog http://cscottsaylorsbooks.blogspot.com/
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    06-19-2006, 07:50 PM
    buffoon
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    This is a fairly old thread, but I wanted to see if anyone has dredged up more info on the Gislason Agency.

    The previous posts in this thread suggest that Gislason falls into a gray area. One one hand there seem to be no cut-and-dried schemes of editing fees or scamming. On the other, there do not seem to be any verifiable sales. The limited information suggests a dilettante who has not had much success.

    I have read a few posts saying that Gislason has rejected the poster's submissions outright. Rejecting some submissions seems to be one important factor when determining if an agent is legit, as a scammer would welcome anyone.

    There is more. The web site is woefully out of date, suggesting a neglected hobby business. But on the other hand, the response to my query was quite prompt, and was addressed properly to me, and named my book (in other words it was not a complete form letter). As this agency has been listed in Writers Market and similar guides since time immemorial (and therefore must receive tons of slush), this at least suggests that someone is actively monitoring said slush -- diligently, even!

    I may at some point need to go with an agent that has question marks - such as Gislason - or none at all, at least for now. I have not exhausted my options yet - not by a long shot - but I am planning ahead. I'm just trying to get any more info that anyone might have, to help me make that potential decision. Obviously, if up-front payments or bizarre and restrictive contracts are involved, I would not sign. However, assuming that I could avoid those pitfalls, I am not sure what I think about taking representation from this agent.

    Obviously, the safe answer is to stay away. However, if it comes down to no agent or a long-shot agent, I am not sure what my inclination will be.

    But again -- I will never send money to an agent, or accept editing fees, or sign a contract with clauses that make me hesitate. So no need to warn me about that. I guess my question is more of a "What would you do in my shoes?", assuming that none of those huge red flags get waved during this process.

    Thanks

    Buffoon
    06-19-2006, 07:54 PM
    victoriastrauss
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    My last post about this agency was this past May. That's pretty updated.

    - Victoria
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    06-19-2006, 08:34 PM
    buffoon
    Esteemed New Member

    I guess you're right. Consider me put in my place.
    06-19-2006, 09:17 PM
    Aconite
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    buffoon, the question is never whether an agent is bad enough to be crossed off your list. It's whether an agent is good enough to be on your list in the first place.

    An agent who cannot get your book sold is simply no use. Having an agent simply for the sake of having an agent is pointless. There is just no reason to go with an agent who's been in business as long as this one has and still has no sales.

    If I were you, I'd work on my query letter and my manuscript to make them the best they could be. Then I'd write my next book while querying agents about the first, and I'd only query agents with proven track records. If I couldn't get one, I'd trunk the first book and try with the second.
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    06-19-2006, 09:23 PM
    buffoon
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    Excellent advice... which I will probably take. I find myself fascinated, however, that this agency/entity seems to have existed for many years, apparently neither being a full-out scam but also not succeeding in selling books. I was just hoping that someone lurking here (an ex-client, ex-employee, someone who signed with her, etc.) might see my post and add some info. If nothing else it would be of interest, particularly to me since I have had some minor correspondence with the agency.
    06-20-2006, 06:07 AM
    Tilly
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    Buffoon, some agents are not outright scams, but aren't successful agents either. They're clueless, and far more damaging than no agent at all .
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  16. #16
    I *am* Catwoman...and Gini Koch WPR Dominatrix JeanneTGC's Avatar
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    Experience with Gislason Agency

    I would avoid the Gislason agency. I met Barbara at an SSA conference. She had very good advice for improving my fantasy novel. Sent her a partial; received more good advice. Made changes, sent the whole thing. She then sent it through an edit -- note that the editor is listed on her NSSW entry as an AGENT, but was clearly NOT an agent and confirmed to me that she worked as a freelance editor for the actual agency. The edit came to me, asking me for an exclusive. I said yes via email, in a way that, frankly would not bind me in court, and then worked with the editor -- great experience, I must say -- and then it went to Barbara. 6 months later, it came back from Barbara, re-edited.

    Now my suspicions went through the roof. The woman is an attorney, but NEVER at any time did she ask for an actual signed contract. I work for Corporate America, and there is a point in any relationship -- right about where you're going to spend money -- that you ask for a contract. She didn't. Also, why use and editor if you, the agent, don't actually like or agree with HOW they edit? Okay, fine, I was uncomfortable, but not "unsold" yet.

    However, her suggested edits were not at the same level as the editor I'd worked with in the summer. They were odd in many cases, and some of her changes seemed downright stupid. I chose to hold off, because I was heading to a Romance Writers of America conference in a month.

    Went to the RWA conference and talked to a lot of agents and published authors about this. To a person, the agents had never heard of Gislason. The authors and most of the agents all said the same thing -- that as far as they could tell, I should have had a contract BEFORE the book went to edit -- I never agreed to that edit before the fact, and most professional agents will not spend the time or money to do a full novel edit without a contractual agreement. If not, a contract should have been discussed before Barbara re-edited the book. Finally, the authors all said that, to them, it sounded like she was stalling -- had no idea of where or how to sell my book, but didn't want to let it go.

    So, I let her go. Sent her a letter saying I didn't agree with any of her newly requested changes, was removing the exclusive, and would be shopping the book elsewhere. She has not responded.

    At BEST, she is merely unprofessional and, frankly, not too bright, because she spent a lot of money and time on my book for nothing, really. However, she also delayed my finding a real agent for this book for 18 months. As one author at the RWA put it to me, if my book had been with a "real" agent, it would have been on the shelves in that time.

    P.S. Barbara also openly sells herself as a pet pyschic. I found this out from the only agent I ran across who actually could recall meeting her (at the same conference where I'd met her). Apparently, Barbara is good at being a pet psychic. I sort of wanted a publishing psychic, though, if my agent was going to be psychic about anything.

  17. #17
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Jeanne, just to clarify--were you asked to pay for this edit?

    - Victoria

  18. #18
    I *am* Catwoman...and Gini Koch WPR Dominatrix JeanneTGC's Avatar
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    Hi Victoria -- no, I was NOT asked to pay for anything. So, it's not like she tried to take advantage of me in that way. On the other hand, she did not get an agreement from me before she sent my book to an editor -- bad business on her part, because if I'd objected to it, she'd have wasted all that time and money (and, in fact, did waste said time when I objected to her personal edit that came later).

    I'm saying stay away because I don't think she actually knows how to sell a book to a publishing company. She now owns a press, Blue Raven, I believe, and that, to me, meant that I knew exactly where my book would go.

    Also, I have older NSSW's and I compared her entry from 2004 and 2006. Two of the books listed as sold in 2004 were also listed as sold in 2006. SO, if it's even remotely accurate, she's sold a total of 4 books in 3 years. Not exactly speeding along.

    My concern isn't that she's necessarily shady, though she could be, I just didn't experience that -- it's that she does too many things, and doesn't seem to be in any kind of a rush to actually try to sell a book.

    Believe me, it was a hard decision to say "passing" to her, but when over 20 people in the industry (agents, editors and published authors) all said the same thing, I chose to listen to them and my own gut, which was saying that something was wrong.

  19. #19
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Right. She's a wanna-be with a hobby business. You'd be letting an amateur mess around with your work for her own amusement, while not doing anything to further your professional career.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

  20. #20
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    The Gislason Agency

    Word to the wise re Barbara Gislason, the Gislason Agency, Blue Raven Press, or any other literary venture she may undertake in the future:

    Do NOT submit work to her.

    Find a reputable agency/publisher with a professional, competent agent/publisher who has a proven track record, and who doesn't evade questions about his/her professional credentials.

    As some of you have surmised, agenting was a sideline for BG. She lost interest in it long ago, since she was not having success at it. I believe she made only two sales the entire 15 years the agency was open, and that was due more to luck than skill.

    Though the website says now that the agency is not accepting submissions (as if that's a temporary thing), take my word for it--the agency has, for all intents and purposes, closed--and has been closed in all but name for a couple of years now. Meaning that BG has neither the time, energy, or inclination to represent literary works, though she may have when she first opened the agency in 1992.

    As for why she even keeps a website, she seems to be trying to keep her options open. All I can do is warn you off her, in case at some point she decides to start accepting submissions again.

    I used to work at the place. I could tell you stories that would curl your hair. She's not all bad...but the kindest thing I can say about her as an agent is that she is incompetent.

  21. #21
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    The website does indeed now state:

    The Gislason Agency is no longer accepting submissions.

    Please, do not contact this agency unless you have received an invitation.
    Blue Raven Press has vanished entirely.
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  22. #22
    soup
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    So..... what's the dealio on this agency in 2011?

    I can't find jack squat anywhere in regards to recent sales, or..... anything, really.

  23. #23
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    Considering she no longer mentions agenting on her website (updated link: http://www.gislason-law.com/) there is nothing to suggest she is an active agent (if she ever was).
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