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Thread: Southeast Literary Agency (Debbie Fine)

  1. #1
    Zakk Lable Society
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    Arrow Southeast Literary Agency (Debbie Fine)

    Hi all,

    Just caveat, I did a search for these key words and came up blank, so I apologize if this particular agency has been discussed before.

    I did a shotgun blast of sending out my short story to many literary agents. After several rejections, I finally get one interested: Southeast Literary Agency of Sharpes, FL, represented by Ms. Debbie Fine.

    Their commission rate is only 10%, but they want a one-time fee of $175 up front for "expenses." I know everyone here is going to immediately chant: "Money should flow to the author, not from." However, I'm not against making a small investment. Is this $175 too much to ask?

    In their letter to me, the agency listed a few titles that they represented and got published. I looked them up on Amazon:

    Florida: The War Years
    The Girl in the Red Cadillac
    Your Turn in the Sun

    I have no idea how to tell if these books are successful or not, or if they're satisfied with thier representation. Can anyone offer a better way for me to research the agency?

    I also did some internet searches on the "authros beware" websites, and this particular agency was listed. Not because they are a scam, but simply because they charge a fee (the sites don't differentiate regarding the amount, they just put "beware" if any fee is requested). However, the more research I did, the more I discovered that many agencies do request a one-time up-front fee. Is this becoming less and less abnormal?

    Do I persue this at all? Do I at least call the agency and talk to Debbie Fine? Do I ask to hear her side of the story? "Why are you listed on the 'Stay Away!' sites, and what is your response/defense?"

    To be honest with you, I didn't write my story to become the next big children's author, or to become rich. I wrote it because I felt inspired, and I wanted to see it published (for real, not self-published), just to be able to say "Hey, look what I did!" If I pay $175 and it does get accepted by a publisher, thanks to this agency, maybe it's not too much to pay to say "Hey look, I'm published."

    I'd really appreciate some candid advice from y'all regarding this. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    If you pay $175 to this agent, and so do nine other writers this week, then she's made $1750 just from author fees. Who needs to actually sell books when you're collecting money off your clients? I'm sure if you asked her why she charges $175, she'd come up with any number of reasons as to why it's a worthy investment, and she'll probably pooh-pooh sites like Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors, saying that they're just trying to oppress good-hearted souls like herself, and that she wants to HELP authors....

    As Uncle Jim says, the only place a writer should sign a check is on the back.

    A better bet would be to find an agent who DOESN'T collect fees up front -- one who actually has an incentive to sell your work.

    Of the three books you listed, one was published in 1998 and one in 2000. The third, "Your Turn in the Sun" was published in 1999 by Northwest Publishing, which has had a number of legal issues: http://www.sfwa.org/beware/Northwest.html. I'd be concerned about any agent that placed a book with this publishing company.

    If this is her sales record, I'd run away. Fast. Bear in mind, she may not be a crook, but it's highly likely that she doesn't know what she's doing. You're way better off with no agent at all than a bad one. I know, I've been there.

    One note: many publishers will accept children's stories unagented. Have you tried that route at all, or are you going directly for agent representation? You may want to check out www.aar-online.com and search for agents who rep children's books.

  3. #3
    Zakk Lable Society
    Guest
    My apologies, I just discovered an important piece of information I missed during my first read-through of the contract. This $175 fee is for a 6-month contract. I imagine it would be the same if I were to renew the contract because publication hadn't happened yet. So I'll also assume that minimal effort will be put in during this 6-month period, but enough lures put out to make me want to re-up for at least another 6 months. Probably going to pass....

  4. #4
    Zakk Lable Society
    Guest
    Thanks, Patti. Sorry, I think my above response was written as you were posting yours. I think your advice is sound, and it makes sense the way you put it. I did try some direct-to-publishers submittals, but I kept hearing back "we don't accept new authors w/o literary agent representation." So, I backed off on going directly to publishers and tried the Agency route. I'll definitely check out the link you sent me. Wish me luck, and thanks again!

  5. #5
    Never Surrender AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    "Probably going to pass...." Oh, I'd hoped not to see the word 'probably' in your reply. This sounds like a real bad idea...

    Maryn, wringing her hands for you (it doesn't help the typing)
    Get to work. Success isn't built on the power of your dreams.


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  6. #6
    Zakk, you might try looking over this list: http://www.cbc-books.org/about/members.html. It's the Children's Book Council, and you can search their membership database. It includes a ton of publishing houses, and informaiton about where you can read their submission guidelines. You also might want to read some of the backposts on the Children's Writing board in the AW Forum.

  7. #7
    Zakk Lable Society
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Maryn
    "Probably going to pass...." Oh, I'd hoped not to see the word 'probably' in your reply. This sounds like a real bad idea...

    Maryn, wringing her hands for you (it doesn't help the typing)
    OK, OK, there's no more "probably" to it, I will 100% pass. But only because I want you to stop wringing your hands. I couldn't let my conscience continue to be weighed down by the thought of you unable to type.

  8. #8

  9. #9
    Gone
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zakk Lable Society
    I did a shotgun blast of sending out my short story to many literary agents. After several rejections, I finally get one interested: Southeast Literary Agency of Sharpes, FL, represented by Ms. Debbie Fine.
    Here, right off the bat, is a warning sign. Agents don't handle short stories (unless you're a Really Big Name Author and the agent's 15% commission on the sale of that story will be enough to cover the trouble of shopping the thing around). Agents handle books. Shotgunning subs is a bad way to try to get an agent; subbing your short story just clinches that anyone you do get a response from is not an effective, respectable agent. You really, really need to research better ways to conduct an agent hunt. The Index at the top of this page lists several threads on that topic.

    Their commission rate is only 10%, but they want a one-time fee of $175 up front for "expenses." I know everyone here is going to immediately chant: "Money should flow to the author, not from." However, I'm not against making a small investment. Is this $175 too much to ask?
    Yes, it is. The AAR doesn't allow this. Why would you even consider working with a fee-charging agent?

    Note that Yog's Law does not state, "Money should flow toward the author, unless it's just $175 or so, because, really, that's not all that much...." There's a reason for that.

    I also did some internet searches on the "authros beware" websites, and this particular agency was listed. Not because they are a scam, but simply because they charge a fee (the sites don't differentiate regarding the amount, they just put "beware" if any fee is requested). However, the more research I did, the more I discovered that many agencies do request a one-time up-front fee. Is this becoming less and less abnormal?
    While fee charging does not automatically mean the agency is a scam operation, the correlation between the two is very, very high. Sure, you'll see lots of agents who charge fees. You'll see lots of publishers who do, too. Publishing scams of all kinds are common.

    Do I persue this at all? Do I at least call the agency and talk to Debbie Fine? Do I ask to hear her side of the story? "Why are you listed on the 'Stay Away!' sites, and what is your response/defense?"
    Good grief, why? With all the red flags, why waste your time? Spend your energy researching better agents, learning more about publishing, writing your book, and crafting proper targeted query letters and submissions to reputable, effective agents.

    To be honest with you, I didn't write my story to become the next big children's author, or to become rich. I wrote it because I felt inspired, and I wanted to see it published (for real, not self-published), just to be able to say "Hey, look what I did!" If I pay $175 and it does get accepted by a publisher, thanks to this agency, maybe it's not too much to pay to say "Hey look, I'm published."
    If you want to play at being published, there are cheaper ways to do it. Check out lulu.com or cafepress.com, or go to your local Kinko's and have them bind a printout of your work. If you want to actually be published, you have to go about it the actually-being-published way, and that means you don't pay to do it. And don't assume that paying this agent means you'd get published, anyway: agents who make their money off fees aren't making money off sales commissions, so the odds of your work being sold to a publisher are slim.

    Forget this agent. Write more, write better, educate yourself about publishing, and move forward. Good luck.

  10. #10
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thumbs down Debbie Fine

    I wonder if this Debbie Fine with the Southeast Literary Agency located in Florida is related, or perhaps the same person, as the Sheila Fine with the New York Literary Agency? Which they also work out of Florida

    If this were me, I'd keep that $175 and keep writing and looking.

    Violet

  11. #11
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zakk Lable Society
    After several rejections, I finally get one interested: Southeast Literary Agency of Sharpes, FL, represented by Ms. Debbie Fine. Their commission rate is only 10%, but they want a one-time fee of $175 up front for "expenses."
    Writer Beware has been getting similar reports about Ms. Fine and her agency for as long as we've been around (we were established in 1998). The fee has crept upward over that time, but her M.O. (and her supporting materials) haven't changed.

    I know everyone here is going to immediately chant: "Money should flow to the author, not from." However, I'm not against making a small investment. Is this $175 too much to ask?
    Leaving aside the question of whether a fee-charger is dishonest or just incompetent (sometimes it's hard to tell), there's an overwhelming correlation between fee-charging and a small-to-nonexistent track record of commercial book sales. Writer Beware has nearly 400 files on agents who charge fees or otherwise extract money from their clients; of these, only 15-20 have anything approaching an actual track record.

    In their letter to me, the agency listed a few titles that they represented and got published. I looked them up on Amazon:

    Florida: The War Years
    The Girl in the Red Cadillac
    Your Turn in the Sun
    Did you check the publication dates? Ms. Fine has been claiming these same 3 "sales" for years. Even if these books had been sold to actual commercial publishers (which they weren't), this would be a pathetic track record for a midsize agency for just one year--never mind since 1998.

    However, the more research I did, the more I discovered that many agencies do request a one-time up-front fee. Is this becoming less and less abnormal?
    Not among agencies that are actually selling books to publishers. There's not a 100% correlation between fee-charging and dishonesty or incompetence (a few established agents do charge some sort of fee), but fee-charging is not the norm among successful agencies.

    Have a look at the Literary Agents page of Writer Beware. There's info there that should help you tell the difference between professional and nonprofessional practice among agents.

    - Victoria

  12. #12
    Zakk Lable Society
    Guest
    Thanks, y'all, lots and lots of good advice, and I very much appreciate it.

  13. #13
    FtnHillsGuy
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    Wink Debbie Fine

    Thanks for answering my questions about Debbie Fine. She had contacted me and I had been thinking about following up with her requests for sending her my MS and synopsis. I will check out any literary agent I send a query to, to save time and money in postage.
    FtnHillsGuy

  14. #14
    Writer Beware's Faithful Igor Richard White's Avatar
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    This definitely sounds like it's related to all the rest of Bobby's ventures.

    After all, if he's willing to pay for a mail drop in NYC, why not one in a neighboring Florida city?

  15. #15
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Debbie Fine was plying her trade long before ST Literary Agency was a gleam in Bobby Fletcher's eye. I'm confident there's no connection.

    - Victoria

  16. #16
    Writer Beware's Faithful Igor Richard White's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss
    Debbie Fine was plying her trade long before ST Literary Agency was a gleam in Bobby Fletcher's eye. I'm confident there's no connection.

    - Victoria

    Well, it did sound like something Bobby would try.

  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW blackbird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aconite
    Here, right off the bat, is a warning sign. Agents don't handle short stories (unless you're a Really Big Name Author and the agent's 15% commission on the sale of that story will be enough to cover the trouble of shopping the thing around). Agents handle books. Shotgunning subs is a bad way to try to get an agent; subbing your short story just clinches that anyone you do get a response from is not an effective, respectable agent. You really, really need to research better ways to conduct an agent hunt. The Index at the top of this page lists several threads on that topic.


    Yes, it is. The AAR doesn't allow this. Why would you even consider working with a fee-charging agent?

    Note that Yog's Law does not state, "Money should flow toward the author, unless it's just $175 or so, because, really, that's not all that much...." There's a reason for that.


    While fee charging does not automatically mean the agency is a scam operation, the correlation between the two is very, very high. Sure, you'll see lots of agents who charge fees. You'll see lots of publishers who do, too. Publishing scams of all kinds are common.


    Good grief, why? With all the red flags, why waste your time? Spend your energy researching better agents, learning more about publishing, writing your book, and crafting proper targeted query letters and submissions to reputable, effective agents.


    If you want to play at being published, there are cheaper ways to do it. Check out lulu.com or cafepress.com, or go to your local Kinko's and have them bind a printout of your work. If you want to actually be published, you have to go about it the actually-being-published way, and that means you don't pay to do it. And don't assume that paying this agent means you'd get published, anyway: agents who make their money off fees aren't making money off sales commissions, so the odds of your work being sold to a publisher are slim.

    Forget this agent. Write more, write better, educate yourself about publishing, and move forward. Good luck.
    My agent has agreed to represent some of my short fiction, but I think this is a different scenario, as she's already agreed to take on my novel. Is it customary for agents to sell short fiction for their clients if they are also representing a novel by said client? It would seem to me that having a few successful short stories in print could only increase my novel's chances of selling.

  18. #18
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    It isn't customary, though it's certainly possible.

    Usually you don't see agented short fiction because:

    A) Most short fiction venues don't require agents, and
    B) Most short fiction doesn't pay enough to be worth an agent's time.

  19. #19
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    Exclamation

    FYI: This agency has been named one of Writer Beware's 20 Worst Agents/Agencies.
    ICAO
    ---------
    Achievers strive for excellence. Perfectionists drive themselves to extinction. -- A Grapple A Day
    I've never known any trouble that an hour's reading didn't assuage. -- Charles DeSecondat

    II 2016: 2017:

  20. #20
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    Yanno (tm/pp), it's bleepin' difficult to find new info on these guys when the first zillion pages of hits are about them being on the 20 Worst list.

    So, any recent reports?
    ICAO
    ---------
    Achievers strive for excellence. Perfectionists drive themselves to extinction. -- A Grapple A Day
    I've never known any trouble that an hour's reading didn't assuage. -- Charles DeSecondat

    II 2016: 2017:

  21. #21
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    I haven't heard anything for a year or so. She may be out of business, but you never know--sometimes these people pop up again after a long hiatus.

    - Victoria

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