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Thread: Agents charging Fees

  1. #26


    Newsflash, just think of what you just said.

    If a manuscript sucks, then there is no way in hell pay an agent would make any difference. The agent isn't going to be able to sell it.

    If the agent does not read the book, even if he takes the fees, then he can not pitch it to the publishing houses!

  2. #27

    bravo, james!!!

    ...a well done and much needed/deserved riposte...

    love and hugs, maia

  3. #28

    lay it on me guys...

    Hey all,

    I gather I've stirred things up and maybe that's good but I really just want a discussion without hurling accusations or whatever.

    I don't know who Robert Fletcher is. He sounds like a scary dude. I'll watch out for him.

    For what it's worth, I'm reading a ms. this weekend for a large agency. The author is unpublished but it's a really good commercial novel and I will absolutely recommend it. I also know that the only reason the agent accepted the ms. is because the author got a best-selling client of the agent's to recommend it. The ms. I last read was by a very well known celebrity. An actor. It was terrible and that was apparent after just two or three pages but the agent wanted it and wanted it read and regardless of how awful I say it is, it's entirely possible the book will sell anyway.

    The point being, the big agencies seem have a lot of money to pay readers (in Los Angeles, reading is a union gig, in New York, readers set their own rates - I do okay for myself). And yeah, it's great if you can get a big agency to look at your manuscript but I don't see very many ms.'s that come in from unknowns without credentials or referrals. And I'll bet ya, most if not all the authors who access this site don't have access to a top-selling author for a referral.

    But I also know agents who don't have a budget to pay readers and yet they don't have time to read ms.'s precisely because they have to concentrate on contracts and encouraging their existing clients to meet a deadline and oversee royalties, etc., etc. to say nothing of everything else associated with trying to maintain a business in New York. And these guys are having a tough time.

    So my question here - the only question I've ever tried to raise here - is what about those guys? What about agencies who don't have a budget to pay for readers and who are too busy to sit down and read four hundred pages and/or offer helpful comments? And yet, these are the agents who are typically the most willing to look at the work of unheralded authors but can't we at least acknowledge that these guys are in a tough spot? And if we say that there can be no reading fees paid by authors to agents then how do the vast majority of writers get their foot into the door? Does asking an author to pay the reader fee necessarily mean the agent is a scam artist? I think it's a legitimate question and merits a discussion but I don't think it does any good to say absolutely not, ever, never.

    I mean, look at this way, you can submit your work to a contest but don't they charge reading fees? And aren't those fees used to pay a reader? But even writers who win contests have a hard time finding an agent? I don't pretend to know it all with regard to this topic, but I don't think I'm wrong about this.

    Anyway, can we tone down the us vs. them rhetoric and have a dialogue? If not, fine, I'll move on.


  4. #29

    Re: a professional ms. reader weighs in....

    When Newsflash first posted here, Jim Macdonald said, "'Newsflash' has just given some spectacularly bad advice. ... Pay no attention to him or her. He or she doesn't have your best interests at heart." Victoria Strauss said, "What Jim Said. ... This is B.S. on so many levels it's not even worth doing a point-by-point." My only disagreement with these two veteran scamhunters is the part about it not being worth a full rebuttal. This thing Newsflash has posted is a staggering piece of disinformation.

    (Note: just for convenience, I've flipped a coin and decided to refer to Newsflash as he and him.)

    If you're an aspiring writer who wants to learn more about how publishing and agents work, there's something you need to understand from the get-go. Newsflash here is a villain, the hard-to-find real thing, and I (who have seen many scammers) was genuinely shocked when I first read that post of his. It isn't just a little bit wrong. It's false in part and in whole. It paints a picture of agenting and publishing that has no resemblance to the real thing, and is meant to drive you into the arms of con men and thieves.

    I think Newsflash has ties to the movie industry, and has based this fantasia on movie industry practices. For all I know, there may well be people who make a good living reading slush screenplays for movie studios. I've often heard it said of that industry that few people in it want to actually have to read anything. (Also, it's a movie thing to refer to the material accompanying a submission as "coverage". I've never heard it called that in the book industry.)

    However, the same is not true of the book industry. The people who work there are readers, first and last. I once went to a cocktail party for a visiting big-name author at that author's agent's flossy Upper East Side apartment. I walked into her entry hall and was just about to ask where I could put my shoulderbag -- I was taking a manuscript home with me -- when I turned the corner and saw, piled in the center of the floor in the next room, a mountain of shoulderbags almost as tall as I was, and about two-thirds as wide as the room. Everyone at that party worked in publishing, and every one of them was toting books or manuscripts home with them to read. It made quite a heap.

    You can't make a living in the publishing industry as a manuscript reader because there's no substitute for reading a book. A screenplay is just the starting point for the movie it may become. A book is these words, set down on the paper in this order, and no description or synopsis can convey the experience of reading it. An agent who takes on a client, or an editor who buys their work, will have to sit down and read the book, all the way through, possibly more than once. And since the agents and editors know that that's what's going to happen anyway, what use could they have for a highly-paid "professional reader" rendering high-priced professional opinons? Agents and editors are the industry's professional readers. (Along with copyeditors and reviewers; but they don't come into this.)

    In the publishing industry, freelance manuscript readers are a gross screening device for books that look like they might have something going for them -- submissions from real agents of authors you've never heard of, the surviving fraction of books from the slushpile that look sort of promising, a book from an old pro who left writing twenty years ago and is now trying to resurrect his long-interred career -- that sort of thing.

    The pay is awful. Some houses and editors are still paying $25 for reading an entire book and writing a reasonably detailed report on it, though these days $50 is more common and $100 is not unheard-of. Still, that works out to a derisory hourly rate. Usually, manuscript reading is something youngsters with editorial ambitions do to get experience and bring themselves to the attention of the editorial community. I've only ever known one person who made their living just as a manuscript reader, and she was a Brit who led a poverty-stricken life in subsidized council housing, and was an incredibly fast reader. She was also young enough to have as much energy as any two or three other people. Needless to say, she's since moved on to other things.

    Here's the real newsflash: nobody works in publishing who doesn't love books. The pay is low, the hours are long, the employment uncertain. The following joke is a reliable laugh-getter around people in the industry:

    Q.Tell me again why we work in publishing?

    A. For the money, the power, and the glamour.

    As I said, the picture Newsflash paints has no resemblance to reality. It's audacious. I've never seen anyone try pull something quite like this before.

    I believe Newsflash is some variety of publishing scammer, and that he's presenting this false version of how agenting works to make his own business practices seem more reasonable. I can't prove it, but there aren't many other reasons for someone to cook up such an elaborate fraud and try to pass it off as reality. I also think that while he may be aware of the existence of professional manuscript readers in the movie industry, that doesn't necessarily mean he's one of them.

    Onward to the point-by-point commentary:
    a professional ms. reader weighs in....
    While it's always possible that there may be one or two people out there who've cut some kind of deal or found some kind of niche, in general there's no such job descrption as a professional freelance manuscript reader in the legitimate publishing industry.
    I read manuscripts for a lot of major agents in New York and they pay very well. I make my living at it.
    Hoo boy. If agents paid rates like that, they'd take all our freelance readers away, and the editorial assistants would be doing reading for them after hours. Needless to say, that's not happening. From this we can infer that agents aren't paying premium rates for fee reading, and thus that Newsflash can't be making a living at it, and thus that Newsflash lies like a rug.
    I read slush --
    Nope. No way. Nobody pays top rates to have their raw slush read. They won't even pay to have it shipped to readers.
    -- and I read their top, best-selling clients.
    Liar, liar, pants on fire.

    Agents and authors have relationships. They talk about stuff. Many agents do at least an initial edit on at least some of their manuscripts. Agents also need to be able to talk to editors about these books in detail. If they can't do that, they aren't earning their commission. No agent is going to risk a lucrative relationship with a top client by fobbing off their manuscripts on some nameless freelance reader.

    In short, this is further evidence that Newsflash is spinning his story out of thin air.
    So when writers log on to these forums and say, don't pay a reader's fee, ever --
    Here we get to the heart of the matter. Know what? You shouldn't pay reading fees, ever. There's a reason they're the mark of a scammer.
    and then say, you should only want an agent who's read your work and loves it,
    That's true too. You should. What that description amounts to is an agent who's doing his or her job, and who genuinely believes your work is good. If your agent doesn't believe your work is good, why should they expect it to sell? And if they don't expect it to sell, where do they expect to make their money? There's only one other answer to that question: by ripping off their authors. So yeah, it matters whether your agent loves your work.
    what they don't realize is that agents don't read. Nada. Period.
    This is calumny, and an outrageous lie. I've never, ever known a real agent who didn't read, in depth and in quantity. There may be some who go through spells where they perhaps don't read as much as they should, but that's a relative measure in a reading-saturated lifestyle. You can't work as an agent if you don't read.
    Most agents don't have a clue. They’re business people. They might read twenty or so pages of a manuscript and then turn to the "coverage" to tell them what to think.
    Agents are by definition businesspeople. Successful legitimate agents tend to be very clueful indeed. However, the bit about them getting their opinions from the "coverage" is simply bizarre. Again, that may be the way the movie industry does it.
    Come to think of it, I've never actually met an agent who was truly passionate about a book. Any book.
    Mark this: Newsflash is admitting he's never met a real agent, because I've never met one who wasn't passionate about their books. It's like asking a retiree about her grandkids. Newsflash has been hanging out with the Wrong Sort of Agents.
    They just want to believe they can sell it.
    They want to believe it's good enough to sell. If all they cared about was money, they'd be working in a different industry.
    And that's a very difficult thing to do these days. Especially with an unknown, uncelebrated writer.
    Scammers always play up the difficulty of getting published because they want writers to believe they're their only hope. How hard is it really? If you've written a publishable book, not that hard. If you haven't, it's unlikely you'll sell the book to a real publishing house, and paying a reading fee to some sleazebag isn't going to increase your chances.
    And publishers only seem to want to buy what they don't have to edit --
    Mendacious jerk. First, publishers don't edit. Editors edit. That's a stunningly basic error for someone to make who claims to know the industry.

    Second, editors do most assuredly edit -- it's part of the job -- and publishers buy books that their editors tell them will require editing. More than one buying decision has, near its end, a long conversation between the editor and the writer in which they figure out whether they can work together during the editing and rewriting process, and sort out what's going to be required of them both.

    Scammers are the single biggest source of the idea that editors don't edit, and they push it for the same reason they push the idea that it's impossible to sell a first novel: to make their own services and demands seem more reasonable.
    -- so that means agents are stuck with the job of helping writers achieve a professional level of craft.
    Many -- most? -- legitimate agents do help their authors learn their craft. Some put a great deal of work into it. And, just like professional editors, real agents do it for free.
    And that's an ongoing investment that few agents can afford and those who can are going to be highly selective on whom they spend that money on.
    Newsflash seems to have the idea that agents never do any work for which they don't directly and immediately get paid. This is another major falsehood. Real agents do that all the time. They read books by authors they don't wind up representing. Some do helpful critiques on books that may or may not wind up selling. They sort out tedious problems arising from books that are still in print for which they're the agent of record, even though the author has since moved on to another agent, and the commissions on what the book is earning would hardly buy lunch at McDonald's. Sure, they're selective about where they spend their time and other resources. Everyone is. But that doesn't mean you're obliged to go to scammers, and it doesn't make their services a benefit to you.

    I'm not going to say anything about that "on whom they spend that money on." Not not not.
    Anyway, I started out reading for so-called "reading fee agents" --
    Since I can tell from various remarks he makes that Newsflash didn't work for Scott Meredith, which was the only legit agency that ever did fee reading, the sole thing that sentence can mean is that Newsflash's "experience" consists of working with crooks. He got his training from scammers, and is a cheap con artist and a thief. He's trying to tell you that it's normal for authors to be robbed by people like him. It isn't. That's not the way the world works, and you'll do yourself no good by giving any credence to what he says.
    -- and the one big advantage for a writer to pay an agent a reading fee is that the author will get to see the report. And if you're book is good (well written, etc) and the reader recommends it, then there's a very good chance that the "reading fee agent" will take it on. Why wouldn't they?
    This is wholly irrelevant. If your book is good, you find out about it by having the agent agree to represent you. The primary benefit of doing business with an agent is not that they send you kindly book reports about how wonderful your manuscript is; you can get that from your mom. The point of an agent is that they sell your book to a publisher on a pure commission basis.

    Before I move on, there are a couple more implicit falsehoods here that I'd like to point out. One is that there's any necessary relationship between a laudatory fee-reading report and the quality of your work. These outfits always tell you that you show promise but you need their help. They say that to authors who are at the most optimistic estimate years away from being published, and they also say it to writers whose books are splendid just as they are, and should have no trouble finding a real agent and a real publisher.

    Fee-reading reports will say anything and mean nothing. They're written for a desperately vulnerable audience by professional liars who don't give a damn about the writers or their books. Some scam agents use very nearly the same letters for all their clients, good and bad, technothriller and bodice-ripper and pink-flannel squeakybook.

    Another implicit falsehood is that there's any connection between the results of the reader's report and the author's being accepted by for representation by the agent. If you're a big enough sucker to pay them reading fees, there's no question that they'll take you on. They never turn down anyone who pays. Getting people to give them money is the beginning and ending of their line of business.
    And frankly, the bigger agencies who don't charge reading fees are still paying reading fees --
    I've never heard of agents doing that; and as I noted above, if there were, they'd be taking the freelance readers away from the publishing houses. Besides, if publishing were competing with agents for freelance readers, publishers would undoubtedly be paying higher rates than they do.

    Newsflash doesn't know jack about real publishing and real agenting. He doesn't even know jack about freelance manuscript reading, which is an entry-level freelance gig. I have to wonder whether he's even in New York, as he claims.
    -- so they simply aren't going to accept a ms. from an unknown unless they have a very compelling reason to do so.
    The usual reason they accept a manuscript from an unknown, which is a thing that happens all the time, is that it's a good book.
    And the most compelling reason I know is that the author is a close friend of a client. Or, the author is a celebrity. Or the author is well connected to someone in the industry.
    Hoo boy. There's your Hollywood hanger-on talking.

    All those circumstances will get your manuscript looked at, but sending an agent a good manuscript will do it too. None of those circumstances will necessarily get you a contract, but writing a good book will. And while it's true that if a sufficiently big celebrity wants a book to happen, someone will give them a contract, that's no skin off your nose; you might be the author who gets hired to write it.
    Otherwise, good luck getting a large, non reading-fee agency to even offer to look at your manuscript.
    He lies, he lies, lord how he lies. And no marvel that he does; his stock in trade is the wonderfully mistaken idea that if your writing hasn't yet developed to the point where it will attract an agent, it will somehow fare better in the hands of an agency that never makes any sales, and whose only source of income is the fees they charge their authors.

    Real agents are constantly looking at manuscripts from unknowns. It's one of the things they do. Some agents are more open to slush submissions than others, but the only ones I know of who don't look at potential new clients are either full up and don't want to take on an assistant, or are looking to get out of the business or retire.

    Real agents may not be willing to do anything for you, but what ripoff agents will do is worse than nothing. They steal your money, tell you lies, and leave you dispirited and confused. Even if real agents were everything Newsflash says -- and I promise you they're not -- fee readers and scam agents should still be avoided like the plague that they are.
    Anyway, my point being, if you're going to pay a reading fee, don't immediately assume that you're being ripped off.
    That's exactly what you should assume; and you'll be right, too.
    Call the agent, ask them what you can expect for the fee --
    Uh, right. I can just imagine that conversation:
    "Hi! I just wanted to ask whether you were a cheap, heartless crook who's misrepresented himself and his services in order to pry a few hundred dollars out of me."

    "Why, sure! Never been anything else. Glad you asked. Anything else I can clear up for you while you're here?"

    "Do you have any real publishing contacts?"

    "Nope, not a one. Industry people wouldn't have a drink with me if someone else paid for it. Why should they waste their time and credibility on me? It's not like they can't tell exactly what kind of business I'm running. And for that matter, why should I bother talking to them? I'm not in the book business, I'm in the collecting money from naive authors business. I don't expect I'll ever get an offer on any of the books I send them, and I wouldn't know what to do if I did."

    "You don't make any sales?"

    "Not unless you count vanity presses and POD outfits, and that only counts as 'sold' in the sense of 'sold down the river' or 'sold into Egypt'. I wouldn't know a standard publishing contract from my momma's Sunday tablecloth."

    "Golly! That sure does clear things up. Thanks for your time!"

    "No problem, son. Call any time."
    Of course I'm making it up. A scam agent, making himself available to his clients? Pull the other one.

    --and ask for a list of their clients and recent sales.
    The beauty part about claiming to be a fee reader rather than a scam agent is that you don't have to explain how it happens that you don't have any pro clients or real sales.
    By paying the fee, you will get a report and a shot at being represented.
    See above. All you get for paying a fee to scam agents is that you'll have paid a fee to scam agents. The report has nothing to do with it. Scam agents will take on anybody who pays.
    But, by adamantly refusing to pay a fee, you may never get an agent to look at your work.
    A flat-out lie. Newsflash is trying intimidate naive writers. Prudently and sensibly refusing to pay a fee to crooks like Newsflash and his cronies will have absolutely no effect, ever, on your chances of getting a real agent to look at your work. He's just trying to play on your fears.

    Actually, come to think of it, refusing to pay reading fees to these parasites could marginally improve your chances with real agents. It means that if you do get real agents and publishers taking an interest in your work, there'll be no troublesome questions or ambiguities about who's agented what to whom when.

    I know of one case where a respectable publishing house was startled to read in an industry publication that they'd bought a first novel from a scam agency. The editor had in fact found the book in the slush pile, liked it, and ended up buying it. But some sample chapters had at one point been posted on the scammers' display site -- brand-new author, didn't know any better -- so they were claiming credit. Fortunately, the editor inadvertently demonstrated that she hadn't seen it there. How? By having no idea what a display site was. Which was good, because things could have gotten sticky. The joyful flush of your first real sale is not the moment when you want to have a bunch of sleazeballs popping up to claim that they've been representing you and are now the agents of record for your book.
    And consider the smaller agency who charges a fee.
    They're sleazeballs too.
    A reputable agent does so because they can't afford to charge off reading fees to their mega-sales clients because their break-thru mega-sales writers have all been vigorously courted and signed by the big agents.
    That misrepresentation isn't in the same ballpark on the same planet orbiting the same sun in the same arm of the galaxy as the real state of affairs. This man knows nothing, repeat nothing, in sum nothing, about agents, agenting, professional writers, or the publishing industry.
    Its a crummy situation all the way around but what are the alternatives?
    Publishing has its problems, just like any other business, but on the list of alternatives, "going to a scammer like Newsflash" occurs well below options like "Hope that the human race is telepathically taken over by intelligent bees from Venus."
    Signed, a reader by trade
    Translation: Signed, a man who came here under false pretenses for the sole purpose of telling you a bunch of carefully concocted lies.

    I see Newsflash has posted since I started writing this. No rest for the weary ...

  5. #30

    Re: lay it on me guys...

    Yeah uh-huh, Newsie. Tell me who you read for. If you don't want to name agencies, name publishing houses. There's no reason not to name publishers for whom you freelance.

    You're here solely to sell us on the idea that reading-fee agents are legit. They aren't.

    You say, what about the little agencies that aren't making much money yet? That's easy: they aren't making much money yet. An agent's income is like getting a ramscoop going. This is why it's a common pattern for a young agent to work for an established agent, earning a salary as well as commissions, while they get experience and pick up their own string of books and authors.

    I'm not going to excuse you or your practices. If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to be an agent. When a prospector is panning for gold, he doesn't expect the gravel to pay him for his trouble.

  6. #31


    OK, I am an editor. It has only been recently that I have landed a good agent. Go find a post where his name is posted in my sig and look him up. He has 40 some clients. I be a small fish fish in his big pool.

    Lets see--he didn't charge a reading fee. None. Nadda. He did have two other people working for him read my MS and offer suggestions. Both were interns and left his agency when their internship was up.

    Funny, when he started editing work--the detailed stuff with me, he knew details of my book. How does that equate with not reading?

    We bounced e-mails back and forth--sometimes 10 in a day, in the span of several hours talking about changes etc.

    We talked on the phone about them.

    He understood where I wanted to go with the plot. HE read, even commenting on the cheap ink I used as running when reading the bathtub.

    I e-mail with a question or a panic attack--he e-mails back--Shawn--stop over-thinking this! Blah blah blah--he handholds. Bits of non-writing related junk creeps in.

    He sends me updates, he writes personal notes on rejections, --

    I did NOT NOT NONE NADDA have a recommendation from a pro writer--though I know several. I didn't name drop--oh BTW I know Tracy Hickman or some such. I did not play the race card--BTW I am ndn (Native American, Indian, Red, whatever the hell--I am Cherokee BTW)--I landed an agent the old fashioned way--he read my query, he asked for sample pages, HE read my sample pages, he asked for the full MS, he read the full MS and offered me a contract.

    I used to read slush for an agency in Germany--paid?? ROFLMAO What? Have you been reading those make money quick reading MS adds?

    We read slush once a month, late at night and tanked up on German beer and American pizza.

    Get real.


  7. #32

    Los Angeles

    Agents in the film industry do not make money, just like publishing agents don't make money. Prettty much, a literary agent who works in the publishing world does exactly the same thing that an agent who works in the film business.

    In both Los Angeles and New York, remember James MacDonald's favorite phrase. Money is supposed to flow towards the writer. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just a plain fraudster.

    Lately, on the bewares board it appears a number of scam artists are posing as so called readers, or as so called writers. (each are attempting to promote fee charging agenciesor vanity presses)

  8. #33
    aka eraser

    Nice work Hapi

    That was a surgically precise evisceration.

  9. #34

    Re: a professional ms. reader weighs in....

    HapiSofi, thanks for that wonderful, detailed post. Everyone should read it. It tells it like it really is.

    - Victoria

  10. #35

    Re: a professional ms. reader weighs in....

    When your skin crawls and the hair on your neck
    stand up while reading the words of an entity
    like newsflash, that's a clue that you're dealing with
    a human lizard. If the entity had any shame, he would
    crawl away after HapiSofi's dismantling and never be
    heard from again, but these slimeolas are shameless.
    It is stunning to read the actual demonic rationale
    of such a soulless scumbucket as "newsflash".

  11. #36

    the passion of the reader

    Wow, you guys are like piranha.

    Now I know how the guy in Jonestown must have felt when he said, hey maybe Jim's not all there.

    Look, I'm not discounting anyone's experiences here, they're just not my experiences. My experience is that publishing has changed. It's become utterly and completely corporatized. Which is to say it's ruled by fear mongers. Editors are culled from sales and marketing and, if they're successful, they're recruited by the big agencies and paid very well but their instinct is for sales, nothing else.

    But I'm glad to hear there are agents and editors out there who still care deeply about books and who take the time to sratch out a heartfelt missive or two during their day so that a novice writer with promise might find their voice.

    But for me, I walk through an agency corridor and I can smell the fear. Granted, it's probably no different from any other corporate environment. But if we want to say that the bottom feeders are all scam artists, how likely is it that the top feeders are benevolent and kindly? Does anybody out there know what I'm saying? Hello? Hello? Hello? Wow, I can actually hear an echo in this strange portal of angry, self-righteous souls.

    So have at it boys, carve me and the next guy up and when you're done, pat yourselves on the back and go home happy that you've secured the illusion one more day.

    And as for those dogs that bay all night, just ignore them, they got nothing to do with you anyway.


  12. #37

    Consider this evidence

    Newsflash, I'm not going to call you a liar or wrong. Instead, I'll let all the writers who have ever been cheated do that.


    Just look at the topics in this site or many others for the names of the agencies that writers have complained about. You'll have to look long and hard to find any verified complaints about an agency that doesn't charge upfront fees. In nearly every site, you'll find complaints naming the agencies that do charge upfront fees.

    You know what's even worse? Even the forum over at PublishAmerica has some topics about agents and the results are the same. So, it's not just us. It's writers everywhere who are stating that you're full of it.

  13. #38

    Re: the passion of the reader

    >>Look, I'm not discounting anyone's experiences here<<

    But you are, Newsflash. You're assuming that no one here has any publishing industry experience, and therefore can't state with authority that you're wrong.

    You're wrong.

    - Victoria

  14. #39


    People like you, Newsflash, are the ones who use fear to manipulate totally inexperienced people. You use fear of rejection to con people into paying you or bosses major upfront fees. That's why you had to go one and say it is impossible for anyone to get sold to a major publishing house, because you wanted to take advantange of inexperience.

    In other words, cons like you try to tell people, give me your money and I'll do everything for you. Of course, you do nothing for them, nothing but pad your bank account. Look around on other threads, and see where some of these fee charging agents have landed up. Some are being prosecuted and others have been imprisoned. Perhaps you and your bosses will end up there. Bare in many anything you do on a computer can be traced by the government, and your posts here, though you're using a fake name, may one day end up as evidence!

  15. #40
    James D Macdonald

    Re: the passion of the reader

    Now I know how the guy in Jonestown must have felt when he said, hey maybe Jim's not all there.

    A bizarre thing to say, among the many bizarre things you've said, when one considers that you're the guy saying words to the effect of "The Kool-Aid is great!!" and the rest of us are saying, "Don't drink that stuff."

    Editors are culled from sales and marketing and, if they're successful, they're recruited by the big agencies and paid very well but their instinct is for sales, nothing else.

    This is just isn't true, either in whole and in part.

    But for me, I walk through an agency corridor and I can smell the fear.

    This doesn't square with what you've said in earlier posts. So I have to ask: Which agency exactly was that?

    Is it fear of being listed as "Not recommended" over at <A HREF="" target="_new"> Preditors & Editors</a> that you can smell? Fess up, Newsflash: You've never been inside a major legitimate agency in your life.

    Does anybody out there know what I'm saying?

    I know exactly what you're saying, Newsflash; so does Victoria, so does Ann, so does Dave. That makes four people who are willing to give their real names and stake their combined credibility built over the years. Against your credibility -- an anonymous person who shows up from nowhere saying things that people with verifiable experience instantly identify as nonsense.

    That's another reason why the halls of the ripoff reading-fee agencies are filled with fear. Not only do we know what you're saying, we tell younger, less experienced writers what you're saying.

    ...go home happy that you've secured the illusion one more day.

    Or, more accurately, that we've saved some newbie from making a thousand-dollar multi-year mistake.

    Sons of the the dogs, come here for your meat.


    Purely by coincidence, this post showed up on the Bewares Board today. That's the reality that you're trying to conceal with your artful stories, Newsflash.

    Here's the realistic, open, fair-minded truth: The only place a writer signs a check is on the back.


    P.S. HapiSofi described professional publishing as I understand it and have experienced it. I hope new writers read him and pay attention to him.

  16. #41

    Re: the passion of the reader: More fantasy from [Fletcher]

    Well, Newsflash. I see you haven't responded to anything; still just peddling the same old line of BS.

    I've been thinking about these claims you've made about how you make a comfortable living as a highly paid manuscript reader for NYC publishers and literary agencies.

    Now, you know and I know and Shawn knows that this is complete malarkey -- Shawn and I because we do work in publishing, and you because you're the one who made the story up. Essentially, what you've done is invent an entire new job category in my industry, one I've never so much as heard of before. That's hard to believe. I've done a lot of different jobs in a lot of different areas.

    Aside from all the different kinds of editors and agents, freelance and in-house both, I know professionals who translate underground comics, copyedit bubblegum fortunes, typeset equations, proofread Middle English texts, paste up word balloons, negotiate corrugation placements, check the size and quality of tiny black, yellow, magenta, and cyan dots, and devise intricate schemes for the care and feeding of inaccessible sales figures resident in other people's computers. But, more than anything else, what I know are people who, in one way or another, read for a living. We all talk. We compare notes. We tip each other off when we hear about opportunities. And in all my years, I've never heard anyone mention the existence of anyone like you.

    As I observed a while back, if agents were paying fee readers a living wage, we'd lose all our best readers to them and we'd be paying more than we do. I've never lost a freelancer, not even for a weekend, because they were doing fee reading for agencies.

    If you had any idea how little entry-level jobs pay in publishing, you'd have made up a different story. Baby editors and agents and fledgling production associates spend years just barely scraping by. Of course they take in freelance work -- I knew one editorial assistant who did freelance work straight through six weekends in a row -- but they're still poor, and we all know it. You're telling me that all along there's been this wonderfully lucrative gig doing fee reading for agencies and publishing houses, but none of the people handing out the assignments have seen fit to share them with the talented youngsters they work with every day, whose budgets and sorrows they know only too well, and who are going to grow up to be their professional colleagues a few years from now.

    Another group you have to consider are publishing professionals who are between in-house jobs. There's a more or less permanent pool of them, very talented people for the most part, out of work through no fault of their own. You hear about all these publishing mergers and buy-outs? The ones where the acquiring company invariably says they're going to leave the newly acquired subsidiary house just as it is? They never do, and next thing you know there's a bunch of editors and publicists and production assistants out on the street. Hey, happens to everyone. So they hang in there until the next in-house job comes along (it can take years), and in the meantime they all have two or three or four part-time gigs to make ends meet.

    This pool of highly skilled freelancers is one of the things that makes publishing work, because it means that if you have to hire serious expertise for one short project, it's there to be hired; but those guys are scuffling hard. It's a highly insecure lifestyle, and no one ever pays them when they say they will.

    Anyway, what you're telling me here is that this group, which includes former copy chiefs and senior editors and heads of lines, are getting passed over by their once-and-future in-house colleagues -- people they've known since they were assistants together, comrades in arms from many a long strange fight -- and these lovely lucrative reading assignments are being given to you instead.

    To you.


    Newsflash, you'd have to know a whole lot more than you do right now in order to even begin to grasp how obvious it is that you have no industry experience. It's why Shawn gets slightly incoherent when he tries to explain it to you. To the two of us, it's like you've showed up to a party with no clothes on.

    ...Time to get out the knives again. Guy, you are getting tiresome.
    Wow, you guys are like piranha.
    Well, yes, but only in print. If you can't deal with that, consider going into a different line of fraud. This one's full of writers.
    Now I know how the guy in Jonestown must have felt when he said, hey maybe Jim's not all there.
    Nonsense. If I had anything like that kind of power, far worse things would have happened to you by now.
    Look, I'm not discounting anyone's experiences here --
    Yes you are: mine, Shawn's, Jim's, Victoria's. This seems unfair, considering that our experience is real and yours isn't.
    -- they're just not my experiences.
    That's because your experiences aren't anybody's experiences.
    My experience is that publishing has changed.
    Can we establish a glyph for "Dude, you've just given yourself away, big time"? You do it so often that having an established glyph would save a lot of time and effort. In your case, I suggest using[*]. Let me know what you think.

    "Eeek, publishing has changed!" is the perpetual cry of people outside publishing who want to sound knowledgeable about it. Fact is, publishing is always changing. The funny thing is that the guys on the outside who're yelling "Eeeek!" about e-publishing, or the internet, or corporate mergers, or the new copyright laws, or whatever it is they're learned to yell "Eeeek!" about this week, never actually notice the big changes that really are transforming the industry.

    You're one of those -- and boy, are your cliches out of date. You should consider investing in some newer ones.
    It's become utterly and completely corporatized.
    (Snicker, whoop, roll around on the floor, send it to six friends in e-mail, post it to the Malibu list, offer it as a t-shirt on CafePress.)

    I'll admit, there are areas of the Warner offices where if you stand in just the right place and face in the correct direction, everything within your field of vision will look darn corporate. It'll help if you can't hear any of the conversations. On the other hand there's Baen, which has its editorial offices in a house in North Carolina, its production in a converted barn in New Hampshire, and half of its slushpile in cartons in Alabama. Tor, now, has gotten alarmingly flossy since they made all that money on giant fantasy novels; they've moved out of that semi-converted industrial loft into actual office space, and they've stopped building partitions out of duct tape and old foamcore displays. They've even replaced that computer that you had to beat on with a rock to get it to start -- though they've saved the rock, just in case they need it again. And SMP has gotten so ruthlessly well organized that any day now their production department will -- their production department will -- (Recommences laughing and whooping and rolling around on the floor.)

    The only thing that makes your average publishing house look corporate and impersonal is your average literary agency. You know what most agencies are? Small. The basic unit consists of one agent with a telephone. Next: one agent, one assistant, two telephones. Then: one agent, one assistant agent, two telephones, and a summer intern. It can stay that way for a very long time. Or, my god, it can balloon all the way up into two senior agents, one junior agent, and a notoriously aggressive foreign rights guy who's usually out of the country. There are a very few genuinely large agencies like Richard Curtis Associates or Writer's House, and they even look sort of corporate if you take your glasses off and stick your fingers in your ears, but at the essential level they're staffed by a bunch of (slightly better dressed) lit nerds who spend their lives reading.

    In all, publishing is some kind of utterly corporatized occupation, you betcha.

    The "utterly corporatized" song is so old that Bennet Cerf sang it when he was young, and he probably learned it from Max Perkins. Yeah, houses sometimes get traded around by big corporations. You know why that is? We're tiny. One of my favorite scary publishing quotes comes from an entertainment mogul at a cocktail party celebrating the acquisition of a long-established publishing house. I think this was maybe in the 70s. The exec was making all the usual noises: great acquisition, swell idea, bound to be successful all round. "Besides," he added, "if things don't work out, I can write the whole thing off for less than the cost of a B-movie that flops." He didn't mean he could sell it off and take a loss less than the cost of a B-movie flop; he meant he could write off the total value for less.

    Hint: if you're going to haul out the cliche about corporatization, figure out which wave you're talking about. The era of indiscriminate Engulf & Devour corporate conglomerates came and went. Funny thing; turns out randomly stringing together unrelated businesses doesn't generate any of that promised "synergy". ("Synergy" is the corporatespeak code word for "This plan is going to make pots of money, honest, only don't ask me how because I don't actually know.") The style now is more for integrated media empires, so we have Murdoch and Viacom and WarTime/AOL (the latter still recovering from shooting itself in both feet). Flightless Waterfowl is inscrutable most days. The two German mega-conglomerates, Bertelsmann and von Holtzbrinck, continue their conspiracy to tidily and conscientiously take over the world. Bertelsmann is bigger, but von Holtzbrinck is more laid back about making you clean up your office. They will however want you to account for everything you own, including weird old acquisitions you've had lurking in the inventory for years but haven't wanted to think about.
    Which is to say it's ruled by fear mongers.
    "You ever seen 'em, Chauncey?"
    "Seen what, Edgar?"
    "One of them fear-mongers."
    "'Fraid not, Edgar. 'Less you mean that blonde with the stripey eyeliner who was in here yesterday."
    "No, that was an art agent."
    "Sure don't see something like her every day."
    "That's for sure, Chauncey."
    "So what about this fear-monger thing?"
    "Near as I can make out, it goes around scaring people all day."
    "And it's not the managing editor."
    "You got me, then."
    Editors are culled from sales and marketing --
    The amazement never stops. As any ful kno, editors are raised from editorial assistants. And you don't have to cull anything to staff those positions, because there's no shortage of people who want to fill them.

    To borrow a schema from Teresa Nielson-Hayden, publishing is divided up into medicine lodges. Sales and marketing, production, and editorial are all different medicine lodges with different cultures, and if you're raised in one, it can be hard to cross over into another. One of the plagues of production is kids who're applying for a job in publishing -- any job in publishing -- not realizing that there's no career track that leads from "production assistant" to "editor". You do occasionally get editors migrating over from marketing, but that's because they really want to be editors.

    The thing about those different areas is that they all have their own deep technical expertise that takes a long time to learn. I'll tell you right now that I don't know a twentieth of what a good marketing department knows and does, and I respect the hell out of them. I also know that they don't know what-all editors and production people do, and I know that it takes years of experience to make a really good editor.
    -- and, if they're successful, they're recruited by the big agencies and paid very well --
    Oh man, that's so weird it makes me want to beat my head against a wall. The best editors are recruited by agencies? They're paid a salary by agencies? This is like something from another planet. Talk about your different medicine lodges.

    Occasionally one sees editors become agents. These are usually people who'd reached a high rung on the ladder, then lost their position to some kind of corporate shakeup. In spite of Newsflash's bizarre representations, there's not really enough high-end freelance work to keep all of them happy and busy, and in the meantime they have great contacts and a keen sense of what the field is up to at the moment. Becoming an agent is not an illogical move for them. But agencies seducing top editors away from their in-house positions? Never, never happens.

    I think this may be another one of Newsflash's movie things which he's ported over and ascribed to the publishing industry because he doesn't know any better. And by the way, he really is an astounding liar.
    -- but their instinct is for sales, nothing else.
    Anybody who's a good editor must by definition have an instinct for sales. Someone whose instinct is only for sales can't possibly be a good editor.
    But I'm glad to hear there are agents and editors out there who still care deeply about books and who take the time to sratch out a heartfelt missive or two during their day so that a novice writer with promise might find their voice.
    Wuv, sweet wuv.
    But for me, I walk through an agency corridor and I can smell the fear. Granted, it's probably no different from any other corporate environment.
    This is another one of the places where Newsflash so utterly and completely gives himself away that he might as well have come to the party naked.

    "I walk through an agency corridor --"

    Corridor. Big office. Lots of people. This is an image lifted from a Hollywood talent management agency -- CAA, or something along those lines. Those outfits really are big, and corporate, and by report can give Wolfram & Hart a run for their money.

    I don't think Newsflash has any real experience with the big Hollywood agencies. This is a b*llsh*t image, a cliche, derived from the same low-resolution visual images everyone else has: "I can smell the fear." Now, if he'd said he could hear it in people's voices, or if he'd said he could infer it, and thrown in a few small surprising concrete details to substantiate the inference, I'd more readily believe he's been past the front door security guards at an agency.. But this? This is the slightest and flimsiest of common cliches.

    And then: "Granted, it's probably no different from any other corporate environment." Remember what I said earlier about most literary agencies? What Newsflash is telling us here is that he's never been near them. But he knows about the existence of big Hollywood talent management agencies, most likely from TV and movies rather than direct personal experience; and since he has no other experience of agencies, he's cutting-and-pasting that model onto NYC publishing, and moaning and lamenting over how awful it is in hope that we'll believe he's actually been there.

    I do believe that this is Richard Fletcher, because Richard Fletcher is someone who's never made a legitimate sale. If in the future my critiques enable him to present a more convincing image of a man who really does deal with New York agents, pray do not believe him. We have him dead to rights as a liar right now, and that breed so seldom reforms itself.
    But if we want to say that the bottom feeders are all scam artists, --
    No. Believe it or not, there are some honest bottom feeders. If they stick with it and stay honest, they gradually accumulate better clients and stop being bottom feeders. More power to them.
    -- how likely is it that the top feeders are benevolent and kindly?
    Depends on what you're doing with them. Kirby McCauley is charming and Kay McCauley is even more so, but I wouldn't try to sneak anything past either of them. Same goes for Val Smith. Back when Virginia Kidd was alive, I wouldn't even have thought about trying to get something past her, if she and I were in the same room; I'm still convinced that she'd have known what I was thinking. If you're talking to Eleanor Wood about her kids, she'll whip out her photos and tell you all about what they've been up to. If you're negotiating a contract with her, that set of sharp teeth you can feel grating on your anklebones belongs to her, and it's not going to let up until the negotiations are finished.

    At least two-thirds to three-quarters of the agents I know of have a rep for kindliness and benevolence -- toward their authors. Which is as it should be. Most of the others are kind enough, and may be presumed benevolent, but are brisker about it. One of them's a natural-born jerk, but everybody knows that about him, so it matters less than it might.

    I think that what Newsflash is trying to say here is that top agents are all radially-puckered anal orifices like himself. He's wrong. They aren't. They're hardworking professionals, and they give good value for their clients' money.

    That's as opposed to Newsflash/Richard Fletcher, who is a complete loss and should be avoided by any author who wants a real career.
    Does anybody out there know what I'm saying? Hello? Hello? Hello? Wow, I can actually hear an echo in this strange portal of angry, self-righteous souls.
    I don't think I'm being self-righteous. I think I know what I'm talking about, and can see through Mr. Fletcher's fantasies.
    So have at it boys, carve me and the next guy up and when you're done, pat yourselves on the back and go home happy that you've secured the illusion one more day.

    And as for those dogs that bay all night, just ignore them, they got nothing to do with you anyway.
    Take notes, Richard. If you were a better writer, you might have said something wounding. If you get some practice, you might manage something in that line next time around.

    Meanwhile, why don't you go get a real job?

  17. #42
    James D Macdonald

    Re: the passion of the reader: More fantasy from [Fletcher]

    Thanks, Hapi.

    The moral of this story:

    There are two kinds of agents who charge reading fees: Those you don't want, and those you really don't want.

  18. #43

    oh my gosh...

    Hey HapiSoft (sounds like a derivative of Charmin...)
    Whoa! Watch out!
    Never mind - thought I saw Mr. Whipple sneaking up behind you.
    So what am I supposed to do with all this? Am I supposed to cower? Do you want to hear my teeth chatter? I mean, it looks impressive but when will I find the time to read it - hey, on second thought, I will definitely read it if you pay me. If you want, I'll even clean it up for you. You know, make it legible. Just kidding. Hey, you're obviously a smart cookie but I'll bet your mom keeps telling you, you need a hobby, get out of the house, take up life-size origami, change your underwear at least.
    I'll get back to you.
    Thanks though for caring,

    newbie-boy - kid-flash - rocking worlds.


  19. #44
    James D Macdonald

    Re: oh my gosh...

    No, "Newsflash."

    Hapi doesn't want to hear your teeth chatter. He wants to see you go out of business.

    If we get the word out to all the new writers that paying an agent is one way to make sure they don't get published, you'll go out of business.

    I'm certain, deep in my heart, that you personally are a scam agent.

    Hapi's proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that you aren't involved in any part of legitimate publishing. That you're utterly ignorant of legitimate publishing. That you're telling a series of shocking fibs.

    You can go away now. Your cover has been blown.


    P.S. To Hapi: You go! You've reduced him to incoherent gibbering!

  20. #45


    You didn't counter any of the points. Instead, you made personal attacks. That doesn't bode well for your side of the discussion.

    In the meantime, let's face some more facts. Aside from a very few legitimate agencies with verified track records of sales to legitimate royalty-paying publishers, the rest of the agencies with upfront fees are still in business only because they haven't racked up enough losses to interest a state attorney general in their area. They know they can stay in business until then because the amount that most of them defraud writers of is right at the level or below the level where a civil suit would make sense. In other words, you don't pay a lawyer X amount of dollars when the recovery is X or less. It's just not cost effective and it doesn't shut down the scammer.

    Consequently, based upon your endorsement of upfront fees which are charged 99% of the time by scammers, the odds are that you are a scammer co-conspirator.

    There, I've said it. You're a crook. Want to come after me? Just remember, you'll have to reveal your name and prove everything you said. In the meantime, don't forget that we'll eventually break your schemes now that the Internet makes it possible for writers to share information and warn each other about who's a scammer.

  21. #46

    Re: Agents charging Fees

    What does fear smell like and can you cover it up with deodorant?

    Nice post, Hapi. I've been duly entertained and educated on my lunch hour.

  22. #47
    AC Crispin

    Be Afraid...Be Very Afraid...

    News, switch over to selling aluminum siding or fake construction contracts. Your kind are on their way out, as surely as if you were an iguanadon or a stegosaurus.

    You don't believe me? Count up the scammers that have bitten the dust, either by being forced out of business by Writer Beware, P&E, and other watchdogs, or actually, in several cases, indicted by local for Federal authorities, prosecuted and then jailed.

    Edit Ink

    Woodside Literary Agency

    James van Treese (serving 30 years!)

    Dorothy and Charles Deering

    Kelly O'Donnell/Martha Ivery

    Melanie Mills

    Janet Kay/George Titsworth

    Writer Beware is actively tracking and furnishing information to the authorities on at least three other scammers at the present time. One of them might be YOU! (heh,heh)

    Mr. Fletcher, or whomever you are, you might want to consider a new line of work...

    -Ann C. Crispin
    Chair, SFWA Committee on Writing Scams
    Writer Beware

  23. #48

    Dang it--

    Wrote a coherent post, despite my recent car wreck ( I am now off pain drugs after 2 weeks) and working nights right now--and frigging internet ate it. Oh well--

    This says a lot: <a href="" target="_new">TOR</a

    Other than that--get a life and a real job.

    Hey, but unlike many other freelancers--you get paid big bucks--ROFLMAO Guess you are the only one out there who doesn't have to have a day job, err night job.

    And I shudder to think what your first reader's sheets look like--hmm, maybe that explains some of the crap that gets on the book shelves since it seems publishers and agents are so dependent on YOU. WOW--this one is filled with bad clichés -- lets take it.


  24. #49

    close out savings

    Hey all,

    This is fun. Sort of. I mean, in a barnyard kind of way - you're all a bunch a bantam roosters, everyone of you, you preen and ruffle and make a lot of noise in a bid to see who can squawk the longest or loudest but, I mean, so freaking what? I didn't come here to advocate fee for reading agencies - I only said I get paid to read - therefore, someone's paying that fee and its the agent who's paying it and... Oh, never mind. Anyway, it's okay with me if you want to tell me different, tell me I'm a liar or whatever. It won't change the fact that it's what do. I'll still get the work and I'll still get paid.

    Yo, Hapi, are you in New York? If you want, give me your e address and I'll write you. We could meet up. I'll buy you a beer. I'll do that. But I'm not comfortable giving you guys my name in this forum. This is like the scary writer forum. You guys have way loads too much free time and I seriously don't want to become one of yours's pet projects. I mean, yikes. Honestly gang, I really did just stumble onto this site and thought I'd share my ehem, experiences, cause I thought (stupidly - I'll freely admit that now) that my, ehem, experiences were in some fashion relevant.
    But you guys have it all worked out.
    Fine by me.
    I gotta get to work.
    Ah, @#%$ it. I think I'll see how Houston's doing.

    Go Knicks.

  25. #50

    Re: close out savings

    Better a live rooster than a thieving weazel.

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