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Thread: Excessive copying fees a possible scam?

  1. #1
    katdad
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    Excessive copying fees a possible scam?

    When I signed with my agency, the contract said that they would make copies of my novel for sending to publishers, and charge me. This is a legitimate up-front fee that most agencies charge.

    Their price was 7 cents per page which is fairly standard. Because I know someone in a document company I can however get copies much cheaper even if you include the FedEx charge for my sending them to the agency.

    When I asked the agency whether that was okay, they didn't blink. They said they really didn't care who made the copies, but many writers didn't want to go thru the hassle. So my contract has a small paragraph rider about copy making, saying that I will supply copies as an alternate.

    But if your prospective agency balks at this, or tries to charge a high per-page fee for copying, it may be another way to spot a scam.

  2. #2
    CaoPaux
    Guest

    Re: Excessive copying fees a possible scam?

    Shouldn't copying/postage be part of an agency's operating expenses/overhead/the cost of doing business?

  3. #3
    vstrauss
    Guest

    Re: Excessive copying fees a possible scam?

    >>When I signed with my agency, the contract said that they would make copies of my novel for sending to publishers, and charge me. This is a legitimate up-front fee that most agencies charge.<<

    Reputable agencies do often charge the expense of copying and postage back to clients, but they shouldn't ask for it upfront--they should let the expenses accrue and reimburse themselves out of the writer's income.

    - Victoria

  4. #4
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: Excessive copying fees a possible scam?

    How many copies were they making?

    Here, let's make this easier for all concerned: What's the name of the agency?

  5. #5
    SRHowen
    Guest

    Re: Excessive copying fees a possible scam?

    Many agencies do now charge you for copying and postage as they occur, or go over a certain amount. It does not mean they are a scam or not legit. (yes, some non-legit agencies do this--but most of them also have a blanket fee and other "scam" indicators) (Not just the copying postage fee)

    I've seen 25$ a ms, 50$ a ms--and a one time a year fee. I wouldn't go with a flat rate. The cost of carrying a ms to an editor in NYC--$0, while to mail to the UK 30 bucks.

    I went and looked through my statements from my agency. About 40 queries, and 30 complete ms sent out in one form or another. $280.00 Which comes out to $7 a ms/query for a 500 pg ms including postage. (thats a pretty small cost for copying and mailing)

    some things to consider:

    Do you get the actual rejection letters, which include the editor's name and contact info? If you just get a well, we contacted this many editors and no other info --I'd beware.

    Do you get an itemized statement? With what was spent on each query and submission broken down? Such as copy cost, if needed, postage, boxes etc? If not ask for one, if they won't give you one --run.

    And I wouldn't get on k for not posting who his agent is. Mine got all sorts of weird queries saying I Had recommended the writer and I got nasty e-mail about my agent as well.

    Shawn

  6. #6
    DaveKuzminski
    Guest

    Re: Excessive copying fees a possible scam?

    I agree with Victoria. P&E doesn't give bad recommendations to agencies that accrue expenses to be reimbursed upon making a sale of the author's manuscript. We do, however, balk as any flat upfront fees regardless of the amount.

  7. #7
    SRHowen
    Guest

    Re: Excessive copying fees a possible scam?

    That was my point as well, Dave, no flat amount across the board as each submission is different.

    Shawn

  8. #8
    katdad
    Guest

    Re: Excessive copying fees a possible scam?

    >>Shouldn't copying/postage be part of an agency's operating expenses/overhead/the cost of doing business?<<

    No. Standard writer's guild and AAR boilerplate contracts allow the agency to charge the writer for reasonable copying and postage that is involved specifically in preparing copies and sending them to the publishers for submission or review. The agency cannot charge for other postage or copying, like everyday office stuff. Of course I don't think they charge Stephen King or Tom Clancy. But everyday humans like us, yes.

  9. #9
    katdad
    Guest

    Re: Excessive copying fees a possible scam?

    >>Many agencies do now charge you for copying and postage as they occur, or go over a certain amount.<<

    Agreed. This is in the bylaws of any of the governing bodies as a legit fee.

    And I'm not at liberty to disclose the name of my agency. SR is correct about agencies getting goofy emails or letters.

    Suffice it to say that my agency is a member in good standing with the AAR and the Author's Guild.

  10. #10
    vstrauss
    Guest

    Re: Excessive copying fees a possible scam?

    >>Standard writer's guild and AAR boilerplate contracts allow the agency to charge the writer for reasonable copying and postage that is involved specifically in preparing copies and sending them to the publishers for submission or review.<<

    AAR doesn't tell its members when they can charge these amounts--so by AAR guidelines, an upfront fee for expenses is perfectly permissible. Even so, it's overwhelmingly the norm among successful agencies to accrue expenses and deduct them from the author's advance. Neither a flat fee upfront nor reimbursement-as-you-go are typical practice. Yes, I know that some agencies with track records--some with substantial track records--do insist on one or another of these practices. But they are in the minority. Out-of-pocket, pre-sale charges are not the norm.

    - Victoria

  11. #11
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Copying fees by agencies. Up front or after the sale?

    I'd say look for an agency that sells the book first.

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW blackbird's Avatar
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    I think that more and more agents these days are opting to send electronic submissions to prospective editors (not sure how widespread this practice is yet, but I do know it's occurring). Would this not then eliminate the need for excessive copying, as well as the expense thereof?

  13. #13
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by katdad
    ...I'm not at liberty to disclose the name of my agency. SR is correct about agencies getting goofy emails or letters.

    Suffice it to say that my agency is a member in good standing with the AAR and the Author's Guild.
    I'm very confused now. You can't disclose the name of your agency? How's that work? Being your public representative is part of the basic agent-nature.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

  14. #14
    Ruled by Dachshunds smallthunder's Avatar
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    Agents charging for photocopying, etc, upfront?

    When I searched the 2005 Guide to Literary Agents for representation for my novel, I didn't see so many agents listing under "terms" that they would charge for photocopying, faxes, messengers, express mail, long-distance phone calls, etc. Now I've gone back to the book to find an agent for my non-fiction work (an area my novel's agent doesn't cover), all I seem to find are agents listing those terms ... and more.

    I'd say that 90 percent of the agents I'm considering for my non-fiction work list photocopying charges at the very least.

    Huh?

    I thought that reputable agents don't charge authors for these things until/unless the manuscript is sold, and then these "cost of doing business" charges are deducted from the advance ... no?

    By listing these charges up front, does this mean that these agents expect to be reimbursed no matter whether the manuscript is sold to a publisher, or not?

    Examples include: Curtis Brown, Browne & Miller Literary Associates, Elaine Koster Literary Agency, Sandord J. Breenburger Associates, Graybill & English ...
    "'Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,' the Mock Turtle replied; 'and then the different branches of arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.'

  15. #15
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Most agents expect clients to bear some of the cost of submission. Just saying that they expect to charge costs back to you doesn't necessarily mean they will bill you. Whether they bill you for the expenses (in which case you pay no matter what) or deduct them from your advance (in which case you pay only if your ms. sells), they're charging the costs back to you.

    It used to be that billing submission expense was a warning sign, but over the past few years, more and more successful agents have shifted to this way of doing things. I don't like it (but who cares what I think, right?)--but it's a fact, and I think will only become more common.

    If they use a pay-as-you-go model, then yes, you will have to pay for submission expense whether or not your manuscript sells. Some agencies use a deduct-from-the-advance model, but reserve the right to bill you if it becomes apparent that the book isn't going to sell or if you terminate the relationship before the book sells.

    Exactly how it works should be clearly laid out in the author-agent agreement.

    - Victoria

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW
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    And there are still a number of agencies that work on the traditional model: a handshake (or, nowadays, a verbal agreement over the phone), no formal contract, and bill you for expenses only if and when your manuscript generates revenues.

    But, as Victoria notes, billing for expenses as they occur is on the rise. This is not a red flag. But their bills should come with receipts for the expenses they have incurred--this is a matter of basic courtesy, and you will need these for your tax records.

    If you receive bills for expenses without third-party receipts for outlays, it ought to make you very uneasy.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by UrsusMinor
    But, as Victoria notes, billing for expenses as they occur is on the rise. This is not a red flag. But their bills should come with receipts for the expenses they have incurred--this is a matter of basic courtesy, and you will need these for your tax records.

    If you receive bills for expenses without third-party receipts for outlays, it ought to make you very uneasy.
    It should also be added that such practices should be within reason, even when documented. If the total amount is too large, it becomes a red flag, even if it is accompanied by receipts that look convincing. In other words, nobody should be spending $2000 a year on photocopying.

    Also, the practice of billing for expenses as they arise should be considered a red flag if it is accompanied by any other practice that is certainly a red flag - such as providing kickbacks to book doctors or having a record that indicates only a tiny handful of sales to paying publishers.

  18. #18
    And, I forgot to add, watch out for the unreasonably large stack of manuscripts.

    A legitimate agency doesn't need to create 50 copies of your manuscript in one year. If they have a good ability to get publishers, they don't need to send out that many copies. Agents don't spam, they use connections.

    They might want to keep a couple of copies on hand for their own records, and an editor that likes the manuscript might possibly want more than one copy, but that still won't add up to an obscene amount. If it seems like they are making wayyyyy too many copies, make sure you get the original publisher's rejection slips in addition to the receipts for manuscript photocopying.

    And, if they are sending out manuscripts to a new place every week or two, then you know that they are unprofessional at best, scams at worst. You can personally do everything that an unprofessional agent can do, and you can do it much better and with less risk of unsavory legal entanglements. Which is why people say that a bad agent is worse than none at all.

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