David Mocknick finally gave me a semi-lengthy and meaningful response...but only after I wrote to say that I would have to decline his contract offer because he was not providing the information I requested.
Below is his most recent message to me, plus my reply:
Dave Mocknick <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Hi, Justin. Hi Mr. Mocknick,
I know...I've seen all the stuff on the net. It seems that they attack agencies that will not join the AAR or Writer's Guild and accuse us of being scammers. The reason many of us refuse to join is because they have rules where they practically tell you how to run your business. And outsiders have no idea what expenses agents incur. If you break it down Justin.....$450. divided by 365....is $1.23 a day.
As far as coverage, I'm not sure what you mean. We review each manuscript and decide whether it's on a high enough professional level to be pitched to the publishers and if we have the contacts in that area. If we didn't know this, we would not offer a contract.
It's your call, Justin. All I can advise is that if you don't feel completely comfortable with us, then we aren't the agency for you. If a potential client has reservations or is leary of our integrity, we advise them to keep looking for representation. I wish you the very best in whatever you decide.
Thanks for the recent message - it was by far the longest and most detailed of all your correspondences.
Wanting to give you the benefit of the doubt, it still bothers me that you don't seem to know what "coverage" is - an evaluation report from your reader on the merits of the script, its worthiness as a literary product, it's marketablily, comments on the quality of writing, etc.
You keep saying that you "review each manuscript to decide if it's on a professional level," but that vague phrase doesn't really mean anything specific. For all I know, you just flipped through a few pages to check if their were 1" margins.
Did you read my manuscript? What is it about? Who are the main characters? What is the storyline? You've had several messages now to provide this information and assurance to me, yet until this most recent message, you've kept me in the dark and given only brief, oblique messages. And that has left me to rely on comments from other writers on the website I found - comments which have been far more detailed than you have been, and have said that your quarterly reports were not only unhelpful, but were the only communication they ever received from you after they signed the contract.
$450 is a lot of money to me (even though you break it down to $1.23 per day). And this breakdown does not really explain to me why you don't operate in the manner of standard literary agents and charge only the customary 10% fee, rather than this "contract fee," which is anything but standard. You've also failed to provide me with a client list or list of the books you've repped into publication. You also haven't told me what (if any) contacts you have in the field of gay fiction publishing, per the content of my book. This is a niche field, and I'd find it amazing if you had contacts there.
Your message said you wouldn't offer me a contract if you didn't have these contacts (which you haven't named). But for all I know, you're offering the contract to make an easy $450. I have no way of knowing.
So, following your advice in the most recent message . . . unless you can provide me solid information and answer my questions, I will have to decline your contract offer. If you are as confident as you say you are in your publishing industry connections and skills as an agent, I might consider entering into a 1-year agreement with you, minus the $450 "contract fee." I think the standard 10% should be enough for you for a first year of our writer-agent relationship.
I've done my share of the work in writing the manuscript. I don't feel I or any writer should then have to pay an agent to do his share of the work. So it's up to you, whether you want to represent my book on its merits for 10%, or pass.