Literary Agency Group Response
In my role as the VP of Corporate Affairs for the Literary Agency Group I am keen to respond to the postings on this message board. Some of you may know me in my other role, as the Senior Agent for our children's division (The Children's Literary Agency). Again, in our determination to minimize administration costs, one or two of the personnel within our organization are asked to wear more than one hat.
With that introduction, I apologize in advance for the length of this posting.
The Literary Agency Group is keenly aware of the negative messages on these boards and frankly we are concerned by them as well. Please allow me to give you our analysis of the situation and a suggestion about how to proceed.
There appear to be three categories of people on these boards.
1) The first category are the 'industry watchdogs'. These are people that derive some level of psychological benefits from 'exposing' fraud, scams, etc. WE HAVE CONTACTED THESE PEOPLE NUMEROUS TIMES AND OFFERED TO ANSWER THEIR QUESTIONS ON A PUBLIC FORUM FOR THE BEST INTEREST OF THE INDUSTRY AND THE WRITERS. They have refused or ignored our requests. What does that tell you? It tells me that they aren't interested in the truth, it tells me that they are interested in more visitors to their website. Also, they have blocked our rebuttal posts and deleted our prior posts. In short, a very one-sided message board!
2) The second category are people that have worked with us, for whom we haven't been successful, and they are blameful, pointing fingers, etc. Basically just jumping on the bandwagon because they would rather feel 'took' than acknowledge that their work wasn't good enough to sell. We call this the sour grapes crowd.
3) The third category, whom we feel the most sorry for, are authors who stumble into this mess. Many of these authors just decide not to continue, and may lose the one real chance that they ever had to secure representation.
So, what to do?....
First, go through the message board and try to find anything of substance. What we see is repeat, repeat, and each time something is repeated, it gets more and more outlandish. Our favorite was that "we steal work and sell it to China". ugh.
Go through the boards and send me SPECIFIC questions. Actually, I'll save some time here, and answer them now because we've heard them all before...
Q) You charge fees.. that sucks.. no one should charge a writer anything... you should get paid only if you sell something... and various flavors of this misconception.
A) We do not charge fees. We ask writers to improve their work and a critique and editing (sometimes) is part of that process. And, we ask for mailing expenses if it happens. The odds are so against new writers that we've learned that we can only invest our time with writers that are willing to pull their own weight. Writers that aren't willing to pull their weight, we call the "something for nothing" writer, who is regurgitating old mantras about how if an agent charges anything, they are bad. Guess what, if your name was President Clinton, we'd waive our fees too.
Q) You've never sold anything... the author sold it.. blah, blah
A) We now have 4 deals. The most recent is with an UK publisher. (Note: because of the vitriolic people on these boards we don't post our deals because the instant we post a name, the really creepy and scary people that hate us start sending this crap to the posted name. We've got the documents and if ever needed our lawyers can pull them out.) We assisted every author with the contract on those 4 deals. We actually have emails from the publisher complimenting us on the fair job we did for our author. Yes, in two of the deals the author found the relationship, and in two of them, we found the relationship. In all 4 deals we provided SIGNIFICANT value to the contract negotiation and the post-publishing support. The thing that is lost in all this is that very, very few literary agents have even one deal under their belt. Also, we did a measurement in April and we had 68 open and active discussions with buyers about our authors' work. We expect a few more deals by the end of the year. You might also be interested to note that we also find really bad contracts for our authors and we recommend that they don't accept them. We've seen more contracts than anyone you know and we bring that expertise to our clients.
Q) You use Form Letters and you are impersonal...
A) True or false, we have answered every email that that our authors send us? I know the answer is true. To me, that's personal service. Yes, we use form letters for billing, acquisitions, status reports, etc. Our lawyers like us to say it the same way, every time. Should that really be held against us? By using every method possible to keep our admin costs down, we can spend our money selling for our authors, it's that simple.
Q) The people who work at your company are scam artists, thieves, and have records... etc.
A) This is the grapevine at it's worst. We aren't, we aren't and we don't. You ever heard of miss-identity and identity theft. We have learned that it's impossible to curb this situation. Also, did you ever ask why writers have used pen names since time began, and why agents are so hard to get to? One reason is because some crazy writer has stalked every agent that we know at some time.
Q) Your office in New York, isn't listed on the sign.
A) Oh, this is a good one. Have you ever rented office space in New York? You don't get signs unless you take a floor. We have phones, desks, and a shared conference room, and if you want a big office to come feel comfortable in, go to an Agency that spills money like water. We'd prefer to save our money for marketing our writers.
Q) They say you take anyone... how can that be?
A) We take anyone that is willing to take the steps necessary to improve their work. That's why we use the critique to WEED OUT those authors that want something for nothing. If an author is willing to grow and improve, then we feel that they deserve a shot at success. We are one of the few agencies that will even talk to an unpublished author. The critique is an impartial, 3rd party analysis of the work. It shows us where the author is, and it also protects us from an overzealous agent.
Q) If all this is so untrue, why haven't you done anything about it?
A) We've tried. We're filing lawsuits against Victoria Strauss and a few other message board owners, but for the most part, anyone can say anything, so we have just learned to live with it, and to hope that the real authors, the ones we want as clients, can see it for what it is.
So, in conclusion, spend time looking for any real and substantive items on the boards, and let us try to answer the question as best we can. But first, please let me repeat our business model. We want writers who are willing to help themselves, we ask for defraying administrative expenses, we have sales, and we have detractors.
However, in the end, you the writer must be the one that decides what to do. If you are unwilling to spend any money to improve your writing, then please go away. If you are willing to take a small chance with us, then give us a try.
Either way, we wish everyone the best in their writing careers.
Georgina Orr, VP Corporate Affairs
Literary Agency Group