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Thread: Writers in the Sky Literary Agency (Mark Straley)

  1. #1
    Moderator In Name Only AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    Writers in the Sky Literary Agency (Mark Straley)

    I just received the following email:
    Literary Agency
    P.O. Box 308
    Clinton, IN 47842-0308
    Phone: (812) 878-4019
    Email: arvanaedwards@writersinthesky.net

    New Writer
    123 Published Lane
    Make Money, IN 00000-0000
    Dear New Writer,

    Allow me to introduce you to Writers in the Sky Literary Agency and share the exciting news. My name is Mark Straley, Literary Agent and founder. We are a new agency, established on March 1, 2006, and are actively seeking new and established writers to represent. It is my hope and dream to bring twenty to forty talented writers into our fold in 2006 alone and to greatly exceed those numbers in 2007. I sincerely hope that you are the next writer we represent.

    Like an artist’s painting, writing is an art form and the blank page of our medium is just as void as the artist’s canvas. The artist applies his paint to stimulate the eye with color, depth, and texture, and the writer spills words on his page to the same end. It is my belief that only writers can help other writers perfect their art, and this belief has led me to the personnel in this agency. The editors of this agency, our first readers, and yes, the founder too, are all writers.

    At this agency, we know, recognize, and appreciate the conventions of active writing, interesting plot devices, descriptive scenes, and the use of language in today’s writing that brings alive the stories for readers. We are sensitive to the passion the writer feels toward his/her literary works. We have had to cut and edit our own stories, and in the end, when we have taken the stubborn scene that we know needs to be there to add the depth the story needs and finally decide to discard it, we appreciate the tough decisions necessary to raise our work from good, to better, to great, to a published final text.

    We are seeking well-written, novel-length, interesting, compelling, descriptive, and character-driven works of literature. We will consider any genre, but will only consider short stories and poetry in collections of sufficient length to be published in book form.

    To have your work considered by Writers in the Sky, mail us a single page biography on you, the author, and the first three chapters of your novel, or email the same to arvanaedwards@writersinthesky.net. Allow 2 to 4 weeks response time for mailed submissions. Conformation of receipt of e-mail submissions may take up to 5 business days, but final approval or denial will also be 2 to 4 weeks.

    Writers in the Sky Literary Agency comply with The Association of Writers’ Representatives, Cannon of Ethics. Our policies do not guarantee acceptance – we are looking for talented writers with either a unique style or a proven track record of publication – however, we do guarantee every manuscript received will be read and if we decide NOT to represent the work, thoughtful, well meaning suggestions for manuscript improvement will be sent back with the manuscript. If we decide to offer representation to any literary property, a request for the entire manuscript will be made, and an editor will be assigned to work with the author until a complete manuscript is approved by our senior editor.

    To be completely clear and honest, I feel compelled to mention that we, the agency, will never ask for front money. If your manuscript is accepted in our system, copies to publishers, mailings, and other promotional expenses are, and will remain (without reimbursement), the responsibility of the agency, however, if long editing sessions are required to polish the manuscript, we reserve the right to ask for reimbursement of editing fees after the manuscript has been published. Let me be understood, if you, the author, don’t get paid, neither do we.

    If you have any questions, please feel free mail us or send an email to:

    arvanaedwards@writersinthesky.net

    Sincerely,

    Mark Straley
    Literary Agent
    Writers in the Sky Literary Agency.
    Comments?

    Oh, there's a website: www.writersinthesky.net
    --Roger J. Carlson

  2. #2
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    There's nothing in the biogs of the staff to suggest that they have the specialist inside knowledge of publishing necessary to be successful agents.

  3. #3
    Absolutely Fazed
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    Two things that stuck out:

    Writers in the Sky Literary Agency comply with The Association of Writers’ Representatives, Cannon of Ethics.
    It's the AAR, not the AWR. Though maybe they prefer the AWR since it must be an organization that likes to blast ethics through the air with their large, explosive weapon.

  4. #4
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Cool

    Just a tad leery of them accepting poetry and short stories. Almost no agency takes on this type of material. Shorts, only if you have established a large audience in the mag field, and even then, it is difficult. Now what about their mention of extra reimbursement should you need extra manuscript editing?

    This one is close to call, but I would be careful here, since they actually solicited you via email. Are they spamming for clients?

    Tri

  5. #5
    Moderator In Name Only AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by triceretops
    Are they spamming for clients? Tri
    Don't know how they got my email address. Possibly through PublishersMarketplace.com (although I can't find them there.)
    --Roger J. Carlson

  6. #6
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Cool

    Roger, I think you're right about that. I'm over there too.

    Tri

  7. #7
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Clueless. Clueless. Clueless. They should call themselves Pie in the Sky Literary Agency.

    To add to what others have already pointed out:

    - Adhering to the AAR Canon of Ethics, even if you spell it correctly, means exactly nothing, since you can hew to the letter of the Canon and still charge all kinds of fees and engage in all kinds of scummy business practices.

    - They solicited you. An agent may (rarely) directly solicit a writer, but if so it'll be a personal approach, not a mass email to "Dear New Writer" begging for clients.

    - Editing fees after the ms. has been published? I don't think so. If an agency chooses to work with a client to polish a manuscript (and a reputable agency isn't very likely to accept someone whose ms. needs "long editing sessions"), it's part of what the 15% commission will eventually pay for. Never, never, never hook up with anyone--agent or otherwise--who threatens to charge you unspecified fees at some future, unspecified date.

    - More warning signs, from the About Our Business page of the website: "If your manuscript still needs a little work prior to publication, we can also recommend professional editors who will work one-on-one with you until it is ready for submission." And: "Our publishers count on us to provide them with well written and professionally edited manuscripts." I also don't like what I see on the Writer Services page ("And with the proper professionalism added, your work and your career will benefit...") or on the Publisher Support page: "Great Writers + Great Editing + Great Publishers = Great Publications." This starts to sound unpleasantly like Bobby Fletcher's scheme.

    - Again from the website: "We at Writers in the Sky Literary Agency, being published writers ourselves..." Hmmm. I searched, and can find no sign of any publications for anyone named Mark Straley. The biographical info on the staff page is similarly void of any publication information. It's void of something else as well: any prior professional background in publishing or agenting.

    - The website includes verbiage about how hard things are for new writers with the cruel publishers and editors setting up all those nasty barriers. Usually a warning sign of inexperience (and also that the agency is run by frustrated writers--not good.)

    - From what's on the Publisher Support page, they seem to think that publishers are going to get in touch with them, rather than vice versa (I can just see a busy editor at Harper typing information into the automated contact form on their Contact page). More indication of their lack of publishing knowledge.

    In short, both clueless AND suspicious.

    - Victoria
    Last edited by victoriastrauss; 03-30-2006 at 09:23 PM.

  8. #8
    Moderator In Name Only AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    P&E Listing?

    Dave, based on the above, do you think they should have a "not recommended" in P&E?
    --Roger J. Carlson

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin june's Avatar
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    Question Writers In The Sky Literary Agency

    Has anyone heard anything about this agency out of Clinton, Indiana? Mark Straley is one on the agents. Let me know, thanks for the help

  10. #10
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    June, if you had checked the Index in this topic, you would have quickly found the answer to your question. I'm merging your question with the existing thread on this agency.

    - Victoria

  11. #11
    Retired and loving it! Puma's Avatar
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    More recent posts

    There was a lot of discussion about Writers in the Sky begun in the refuge camp and carried back over onto the board when it came back up. That page is apparently already out of the Goggle cache. If you can remember anything from the more recent posts, it might be a good idea to re-post it. Puma

  12. #12
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    A writin' man walked out one day in a caffeine-powered funk
    And by a postbox rested while he thought about his bunk
    When all at once a mighty crowd of hopeful authors came
    A-trailin' dreams of bylines and a bit of local fame.

    Paragraph change! Paragraph STET! Ghost writers in the sky.

    Their eyes were red, their hair uncombed, they all wore mismatched socks,
    They fixed their hungry eyes upon that silent letter box.
    Some had gone with Barb'ra Bauer, and others with ST,
    And one of them had even signed with the Robins Agency.

    Paragraph change! Paragraph STET! Ghost writers in the sky.

    The authors most ignored him, but one tried to engage:
    "If you want to save your soul from Hell a-scribblin' on a page,
    Then writer change your ways today or someday you will be
    Wond'ring why you never sold -- and why you paid a fee."

    Paragraph change! Paragraph STET! Ghost writers in the sky.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW
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    I have two important comments. First, it is very difficult to stay in meter on a parody of "Ghost Riders in the Sky." My hat is off to you. (Has anybody heard the California Guitar Trio instrumental version? They segue back and forth between "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "Riders on the Storm.")

    Second: Nikhil, I wouldn't go so far as to assert that this agency is a scam (although any time you hear about editing fees you have to wonder). But they certainly don't seem to have much in the way of credentials. Agents typically come out of a publishing background; those who don't usually sign on with an established agency. Anybody can be an agent, but declaring yourself to be so doesn't mean you can get editors to look at your submissions. If they haven't heard of an agent or their agency, the chances of getting something on their desk aren't much better than if your mom mails it in.

    Being based in Clinton, Indiana, is not a plus in terms of credibility. Ditto representing short stories and poetry. And the fact that they have been "editors" doesn't mean that they have been editors at publishing houses (if they had, you can bet they would have told you).

    I could tell people I'm a movie producer--you don't need a license to be one. And, in fact, I've even met moderately successful directors and screenwriters. And I've seen a lot of movies. But that doesn't mean I could get your screenplay made.

    This might be a scam. It might be some folks who are honestly trying to make a go of it--though it is hard for me to see how they can, any more than I could arrange to get a movie made.

    In any case, please keep us updated. This one is odd.
    Last edited by UrsusMinor; 07-07-2006 at 03:42 PM.

  14. #14
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    nikhilparekh, there's more to being a good agent than just not charging fees. Your main defense of this agency seems to be that they're not charging you. While that's a good start, it doesn't go nearly far enough. The real test of an agency is whether or not they're able to sell books in good deals to good publishers. This agency shows no signs of being able to do that. The people acting as agents have, as far as anyone can tell, no experience and no contacts. And no clue about how the business works.

    We've seen a lot of agencies like this. We recognize the signs. These guys aren't going to be able to pull off what they're hoping to. They probably mean well, but good intentions do not make one an effective agent.
    Winner of Uncle Jim's Whoo Hoo Super Writer Award and Nomad's Most Use of Vowels in a Screen Name Award as well as Maryn's Only Person on AW Whose Name Anagrams to "I, Octane," "Act I (One)" and "Nice tao" Award in addition to batgirl's Culpeper Award for Botanically Erudite Screen Name plus awatkins' AW's Most Creative Srounger [sic] of Rep Points Award not to mention azbikergirl's Arizona Most Awarded Writer Award and also Dawno's Most Interesting Signature Line Award

  15. #15
    Behaving SuperModerator
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    Unfairly or not, I'm always suspicious of agencies with cute names. I don't know a thing about Writers in the Sky however.

    ac

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW blackbird's Avatar
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    I know this may sound lame, but it seems to me you can almost smell a scammer just by the name alone. Legitimate agencies tend to have official-sounding, businesslike names, usually the name of the agent or a combination of the names of the agents working for them. I am very leery of catchy, clever names like...well, Ghost Writers in the Sky. Or Desert Rose Agency. They strike me as being smokescreens for people who don't want to use their real names, and also seem like a cheap ploy to hook the beginning, unsuspecting writer. That's just my two cents.

  17. #17
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Successful agencies with odd or catchy-sounding names:

    Sterling Lord Literistic
    JABberwocky (and check out the domain name)
    Serendipity Literary Agency
    Firebrand Literary
    BookEnds

    Stinky agencies with official-sounding names:

    The Literary Agency Group
    Wilson-Devereaux Literary Agency
    Hill and Hill Literary Agency
    Mocknick Productions Literary Agency

    Blackbird, I basically agree with you, but there are enough exceptions that a funny name--or an official one--shouldn't be taken as a sign of anything in particular.

    - Victoria

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW Tilly's Avatar
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    Except David Godwin had publishing experience. He was formerly with Jonathan Cape, which is an imprint of Random House. That experience is what Sky Literary is missing, and it's vitally important.

    A clueless agent is more damaging than no agent at all.

    I wish you all the best.
    Last edited by Tilly; 07-07-2006 at 08:56 PM.

  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by nikhilparekh
    You’re absolutely right , there’s nothing in a name. Analyzing an agent is a culmination-an amalgamation of so many factors combined together. The best of agencies out there have some or the other esoteric names, yet have achieved astronomical success. The parameters of success depend chiefly upon the sincerity and dedication of the agent in the markets he’s representing to, and the contacts he develops. Every agent into the business tries as hard as possible to perpetuate thru the best of publishers and the highest advance paying publishers, to build contacts amongst them, so that he/she can secure the best deal for his author. There are publishers out there who pay upto million dollar advances to first time authors too, if they see gold in an MS, be it poems or any genre. It shud interest them and they shud feel definite of it fetching tremendous success ahead. That’s just about it. Whether a fresher agent or an experienced one representing doesn’t matter that much. Its all in the convincing skills of the agent further, and how he represents you, his contacts, his shrewdness and technicalities of the whole matter.

    An astounding example. People here must be knowing of agent David Godwin who’s real bigtime in the world today. Way back in 1996 he’d just started his agency with himself as sole staff and some parsimonious other staff. But he had the confidence in himself to become bigtime and also the contacts. There was a first time writer/novice writer rather that time known as Arundhati Roy from India. Her MS of non-fiction christened “god of small things” was gathering dust since yrs. she’d never even dreamt of being an author. But after yrs. of an otherwise ordinary and mundane life, she was tempted to send her work to agents and publishers. In her quest down the line of searching, she came across David Godwin of UK (whose website now is of course at http://www.davidgodwinassociates.co.uk ) . This fresher agent of that time when he came across her MS he saw gold in it. On his gut feeling he represented the same to Random House and other top publishers of the US. Within few weeks she had offers of more than half a million dollars infront of her from Random House as well as some other bigtimers in the US-who apparently saw a bestseller in her MS. Shortly she was contracted for half million –the news spread like wild fire in India. Millions of her copies were sold subsequently to the big advance in all parts of the world, now more exaggerated with the hype of her getting such a large advance. The very next year she was nominate for the booker prize and won it in grand style for 1997. The name again, “Arundhati Roy” and the agent “David Godwin” . The agent of course never looked back since then. Just a few months into his business alone, he managed to secure a contract for his author which was perhaps impossible for anyone established in the field to seek. Now this agent of course is listed with the top organizations of the world and has a flurry of Internationally award winning authors.

    As we see here, its not the name, the size, the stature of the agency which counts. It all depends upon the individual who’s representing you forward. If he has the conviction to fetch you your true worth and the contacts, then with gods intervention you reach there. On the contrary there might be agents well established and listed with the best of organizations, but they might fetch you a thousand dollars at most for your MS worth millions. So the true worth of your MS ahead depends upon skills of a particular person, rather than a combination of many factors . One man , just one man at times is capable of doing much more than an entire team if the right dedication is behind him and he is sincere to his work.

    I therefore don’t go by names or reputations at all. Its all destiny. And yes as I’m saying above it takes a single person to bring a revolution , if he’s honest.

    Which I believe my agent at writersinthesky.net is. He’s a fresher, but as time passes I’m sure he’d create wonders. Just give him time. He has the confidence and the mantle upon him to take on the publishing industry by storm, just like David Godwin had all those years ago when he was a fresher and alone managing his agency.

    Best
    Nikhil Parekh
    http://www.nikhilparekh.com
    I don't mean to be unkind, but it's difficult to believe a legitimate agent would take on a writer who makes the kind of mistakes you make trhoughout your posts.

    Writer in the Sky has absolutely nothing to recommend it, and many, many things to suggest it is, at best, completely clueless, even if not dishonest. Clueless is just as bad, and sometimes worse, than dishonest.

    Agencies such as this one will sign on almost anyone, and take them absolutely nowhere. Except for a ride.

  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW Tilly's Avatar
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    Nikhil, I took a look at your website and you seem to write mostly poetry. We have a poetry board here that you might be interested in:

    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=14

  21. #21
    figuring it all out
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    I think it's well established that since there is no money in poetry, nobody legit represents it. Possibly one could dredge up an exception or two, but not for a no-name poet. I think this alone closes the book on WitS.

    And, sadly, I have to agree with James' first point as well.

  22. #22
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Cool

    Trying to sell a poetry chap book to a decent publisher is something that God might only be able to do. Poetry and short stories--name authors only. I suggest you do a survey and find out exactly what you're up against. That's unless you've published poems in major slicks and won awards, which MIGHT justify somebody taking you on for a poetry collection.

    This is not to say I'm not glad for you. I hope it works out, and I truly mean that.

    Tri

  23. #23
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    Poetry publishers take unagented submissions. They have to, since effective agents don't represent poetry. Publishing poetry is a labor of love more than profit. Advances are tiny, and you probably won't see much more in royalties, if you see anything at all. There simply isn't enough money in it to make it worth a good agent's time.

    In short, you don't need an agent for poetry, and any agent who can afford to take on an unknown poet isn't very busy and must have another source of income. That bears consideration.
    Winner of Uncle Jim's Whoo Hoo Super Writer Award and Nomad's Most Use of Vowels in a Screen Name Award as well as Maryn's Only Person on AW Whose Name Anagrams to "I, Octane," "Act I (One)" and "Nice tao" Award in addition to batgirl's Culpeper Award for Botanically Erudite Screen Name plus awatkins' AW's Most Creative Srounger [sic] of Rep Points Award not to mention azbikergirl's Arizona Most Awarded Writer Award and also Dawno's Most Interesting Signature Line Award

  24. #24
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Cool

    Well, I for one, Nikhil, am not in the bubble busting business, and I not refuting the validity or artistic merit of poetry. I happen to like it a lot and have had major poems published in very nice slicks. My observation (over 22-years) has been that poetry is a very hard sell, and does sell (granted) but under extraordinary circumstances. So let us get back to the agency.

    If your manuscript still needs a little work prior to publication, we can also recommend professional editors who will work one-on-one with you until it is ready for submission. We are here to assist you regardless of your current needs.

    The above sentence taken from their website set off a few warning bells. Conflict of interest. Also, this agency refers to their agents as "editors" over a half dozen times, instead of associates to the agent. I plainly see $$$$$ here.

    I'm alerted to page #1 of this post, wherein Roger Carlson explains that he got an email (out of the blue, I assume) from Writers in the Sky. This gives all indication of being a mass auto-generated business promotion, which is very "abnormal" for normal agency practice.

    Before we go any further, can you tell me how you hooked up with WITSL? Did you receive an email, or did you contact them?

    Tri
    Last edited by triceretops; 07-08-2006 at 11:06 AM.

  25. #25
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Smile

    Thanks for that reply. I am certainly happy and supportive of you. I have a new agent too, and he also aspires to abide by AAR with almost identical wording as your agent, and is fast approaching the number of sales in the timeline stipulated. I can only say that it is a relief to hear that you haven't been charged for anything. Certainly go with the flow and what you know. Just stay frosty, my good friend. I hope that you are not subjected to a fee...ever. None of us should be asked to participate in any fee services. It's just not fair to writers. And as you can tell by the many related threads in the BEWARE section, we're like fussy kittens that come out of the box scratching and hissing. So, so many of us have veered off the highway and hit the dirt road, accumulating major out-of-pocket expense from less than admirable agents. So please don't take it as a personal attack--it's not meant to be. What's inexplicable is the fact that AW probably harbors more writer's advocates than any other board I've ever attended. And there are some whopping big gun editors, agents, authors and others who appear on these boards, with the intention of taking bullets and arrows so that our new members and noobs won't have to. I hope you understand.

    And BTW, welcome to AW, and I hope you like our poetry section!

    Please let us know how it works out.

    Tri

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