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Thread: The old Fisher Scale

  1. #1
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    The old Fisher Scale

    Does anyone here have the text of the old Fisher Scale? The one Jim Fisher currently has up on his website is missing material I remember being in the version I saw years ago.

    If there's something touchy about this issue, please write to me c/o Uncle Jim.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

  2. #2
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Here's the old Fisher Scale:

    1. If the agency is not located in New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles. (1 demerit)

    2. Is not a member of the Association of Authors Representatives (AAR). (1 demerit)

    3. Is not currently listed in Literary Marketplace. (1 demerit)

    4. Has a post office box for an address. (1 demerit)

    5. Advertises in writer's magazines for clients. (3 demerits)

    6. Charges reading or evaluation fees. (3 demerits)

    7. Treats its recent sales (and client) list as confidential. (3 demerits)

    8. Solicits manuscripts by direct mail or e-mail. (3 demerits)

    9. Charges marketing, contract, representation, handling, processing, retainer, or circulation fees. (3 demerits)

    10. Lists as recent sales books published by firms that require authors to pay part or all of the publishing costs or to buy a large number of their own books. (4 demerits)

    11. Offers line editing services for a fee. (5 demerits)

    12. Refers rejected manuscripts to freelance book doctors. (5 demerits)

    13. Owns or has a financial interest in a subsidy publishing company. (6 demerits)

  3. #3
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Cool

    What about sales and track record? Oh, my bad...it looks like #2 takes that into consideration. 10 sales in the last 18 months. Okay.

    My agent has 3 demerits.

    Now watch him come riding in here and draw down on me. Actually, he's quite wonderful.

    Tri

  4. #4
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Three points could be nothing more than cause for concern. It's hard to calibrate these systems. For instance, Val Smith, an unquestionably legitimate agent, lives in the very small upstate town of Modena, NY. That's one demerit. But Val learned her chops working for the redoubtable Virginia Kidd, who in the SF and fantasy field had an absolutely stellar client list: Ursula Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, Anne McCaffrey ... to name but a few. And since Val has no other demerit-worthy habits that I know of, she come out with a score of 1.

    George Harrison Titsworth and Janet Kay Titsworth also get one demerit, in their case for being in San Angelo, Texas. However, they also get festooned with demerits for other causes, to such an extent that I can't begin to calculate their final score. Let's say it's way off into "do not touch with a ten-foot pole" territory, and leave it at that.

    Maybe there should be extra points for being under indictment.

    I like the Fisher Scale. It doesn't say that anyone is a crook. All it does is measure the extent to which a given agent shares characteristics that have been observed in scam agents.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Berry's Avatar
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    The "new" Fisher scale, at Jim Fisher's website (http://www.edinboro.edu/cwis/polisci...ams/scale.html) says that if the agent gets 4-6 points "Be careful" and 8 or more is "Avoid". (Jim doesn't say what to do about 7 pointers. Throw them back until they're big enough, I guess.)

    So 3 points is fine. A perfectly competent and ethical agent might live in, oh, San Francisco or Atlanta, not be listed in Writers Marketplace because their list is full, and have a post office box to avoid stalkers. That's three points right there, but it's not enough to trigger a full-on scam alert.

    Add those up with other warning signs, though, and watch out.

  6. #6
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Cool

    Yeah, not AAR yet, but hitting the stride and almost there. Has post office box, and lives in Philadelphia. I thought, hmmmm....maybe only a half point for Philly, so that would be 2 1/2 points? Okay, okay, three! But I still wub him.

    Tri

  7. #7
    Still Here! Alan Yee's Avatar
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    Jim Fisher's favorite scam, the Deering Literary Agency, under the Fisher Scale, would receive 39 points. In other words, the highest score possible or possibly slightly less (but I doubt it). They seemed to fit all the characteristics listed.

    If you don't know about the Deerings, go buy Ten Percent of Nothing by Jim Fisher to get the full story. It's really fascinating.

  8. #8
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Trouble is, there are some three-pointers I can't overlook so easily. Treats their client list as confidential? I know of exactly one legit agent who does that, and a dozen outright scammers who do. Charges reading or evaluation fees? That's hard to forgive. Charges marketing, contract, representation, handling, processing, retainer, or circulation fees? I can't see that that's legitimate at all.

    The next jump up, listing sales to vanity or subsidy publishers, is only one point more -- but as far as I'm concerned, if there's a bright line, it's on the other side of it.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

  9. #9
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Red face

    They ought to have demerit points for agencies who are so bloated and high profile that they don't have time for their clients, and make a half-azzed attempt at selling material, and NEVER get in touch with you. Your book ends up a doorstop.

    Tri

  10. #10
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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