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Old 01-19-2009, 06:58 PM   #1
Erin
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Blue Ridge Literary Agency (Dawn Dowdle)

I was solicited by Dawn Dowdle via email who indicated she just started the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. A Google search reveals she's a freelance editor at www.sleuthedit.com and a mystery book reviewer at www.mysteryloverscorner.com among other review sites. She doesn't appear to have any agent credits, nor is she listed on any of the agent search databases. P&E doesn't have info on her either. She asked to see the synopsis of both my available books (which I haven't sent).

Of course, I'm leery of new agents with no agent or publishing experience or a known house backing them up. Anyone else get solicited by her or know anything about her?
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Old 01-19-2009, 07:02 PM   #2
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Cool

I'm leery of agents who solicit clients - I think the business model is supposed to work the other way around. Sounds like someone with no contacts, no experience and yet another to add to the huge list of wannabe agents.
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Old 01-19-2009, 07:05 PM   #3
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I agree. I thought it strange to get solicited by an agent. That was a first for me.
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Old 01-19-2009, 07:10 PM   #4
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Which begs the next question: how did they find you? Eek!! Possibly... gasp, here?
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Old 01-20-2009, 03:22 AM   #5
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I think they're using Publisher's Marketplace--at least, that seems to be the case for others I know who are hearing from them.
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Old 01-22-2009, 10:31 PM   #6
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Blue Ridge Literary Agency

I am Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Yes, I found you through Publisher's Marketplace. I do have a Web site for my agency now, www.blueridgeagency.com

I am just starting out and I am upfront with every author I work with to that fact. I do have some publishing contacts and will be making many more as I go along.

I only contacted you because I saw your posting you were looking for an agency and since my agency is new, I am looking for some good fiction authors to represent.

Thanks.

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Old 01-22-2009, 11:02 PM   #7
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Pardon our skepticism, but:

1) Authors generally solicit agents, not the other way around.
2) An agency and a copyediting business under one roof operated by one person is another red flag, displaying potential for conflict of interest.
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Old 01-22-2009, 11:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
We will bill monthly for copying and mailing expenses.
Erm, if by some chance you run up extraordinary costs, such as for international mailing or an auction, then it could be justified to charge those costs to the client's advance. But to expect your clients to pay your monthly operating expenses out of pocket is ... irregular.
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Old 01-23-2009, 01:39 AM   #9
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I know of another writer who recently received an email from Blue Ridge via her PM page. She decided not to respond, given the agent's lack of experience. (The editing service also raises a red flag for me.)
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Old 01-23-2009, 01:53 AM   #10
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Wow, just checked out their website. It's terrible.
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Old 01-23-2009, 03:43 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CaoPaux View Post
Erm, if by some chance you run up extraordinary costs, such as for international mailing or an auction, then it could be justified to charge those costs to the client's advance. But to expect your clients to pay your monthly operating expenses out of pocket is ... irregular.
*nodding* Most sites that give "beware" advice regarding agents, warn against those that charge for ANYTHING other than their commission upon successful sales. Is this because it's a start up?
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Old 01-23-2009, 04:10 AM   #12
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Hi, mysterybks - thanks for coming by the thread.

Quote:
mysterybks:
I do have some publishing contacts and will be making many more as I go along.
I would presume that those publishing contacts are in the mystery/crime genre - is that the case? If so, might it not be sensible to begin by focusing on crime fiction rather than stating that you're prepared to look for "most types of fiction"? The market for fantasy or science fiction for example is different to the market for romance or children's. It's usually considered to be a warning sign when a new agent states that they'll take a look at almost anything.

In addition, are your publishing contacts at editorial level or in marketing? Although marketing will have a say in the purchase of a book, it's the editors who take the initial decision on whether to pass or try and take it forward.

Quote:
Blue Ridge Agency Website:
We will bill monthly for copying and mailing expenses.
Why? Like CaoPaux said, it's not usual for an agent to bill those to a client - the cost of copying, mailing etc is usually reflected in the 15% commission that you're already taking and that's what incentivises you to close the deal rather than making endless rounds of submissions that might not go anywhere.

Quote:
Blue Ridge Agency Website:
You will receive quarterly accounting of all inquiries made for your manuscript as well as responses received.
Why formalise this? Most agents notify their clients as and when they get a response from an editor rather than formalising it as a quarterly affair - I know that I certainly wouldn't want to wait three months to find out about a slew of rejections or any acceptances.

Quote:
Blue Ridge Agency Website:
If you have a finished fiction manuscript, please e-mail us a synopsis and some information about you and your manuscript.
Isn't the information about the manuscript already contained within the synopsis? Also, isn't it more usual to ask for a query letter or a query letter and the first 3 chapters? If you like the query then it means you can go straight to check out the writing and work out if you want to read more.

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Old 01-23-2009, 04:10 AM   #13
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Oh this agency was mentioned on one of my loops recently. The consensus was one to avoid.
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Old 01-23-2009, 06:14 AM   #14
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Her literary agency website has all of one page.

Granted, it is shiny-new, but hardly inspires confidence.

Quote:
Dawn Dowdle has been reviewing mysteries for years and has made many publishing contacts.
Reviewing books in one genre and making contacts might sell a book, but how does that qualify one to negotiate a literary contract?

Those are very complicated, tricky critters, and if you don't know what you're doing they can bite you in the arse.

My last contract ran to 11 pages of 10 pt. Times Roman fine print with a number of clauses possessing some very complicated wording.

My agent, who started out at Spectrum Literary Agency, was able to explain, in detail, anything I didn't understand fully.

She negotiated to add clauses that were in my favor.

She has contacts with European publishers and actively works to sell my books to those markets. Every year she's off to the European Book Fair, attends ABA conventions, and any number of other publishing-related conventions.

She calls up various editors to arrange new book deals for me. Because of this, there are several new anthologies in the stores with my name above the titles.

It is not enough to love to read and to know people, you have to know the business side inside out and be prepared to keep detailed meticulous records year in and year out.

You have to be able to understand a royalty statement. In 18 years I've still not figured out that one!

No mention is made of Ms. Dowdle apprenticing at a literary agency, which would be in her favor for such work.

The big red flag is, "We will bill monthly for copying and mailing expenses."

Once more with feeling--a legit agent takes those charges out of the author's payment AFTER a book is sold.

My agent has always done so, always informing me first. (Gill--there's 25.80 in copy expenses this time around, just giving you a heads up on that...")

She's likely a nice person, perhaps an honest, well-meaning person, but without practical experience in the industry, that just doesn't cut it in publishing.

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Old 01-31-2009, 08:39 PM   #15
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After reading the posts, I queried anyway. Dawn replied quickly and was very cordial, and asked for a full via snail mail. Later, she was prompt in letting me know she received it and would get back within a month with her response.

Blue Ridge may be brand new, and may have some unusual ideas of drumming up business, but hell, it only costed me some postage, not my soul.
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Old 01-31-2009, 08:51 PM   #16
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I am continually amazed that writers, who probably would not consider hiring, say, someone who'd never done any housepainting before to paint their house, are willing to consider hiring utterly unqualified people to represent their book manuscripts to publishers. What is it that makes so many writers imagine that agenting is a job for which specialized skills and training are so unnecessary that anyone can do it, as long as they're enthusiastic and have good ideas?

'Tain't so. If it were, why would you even need an agent? You could do as well yourself.

As has been so often before in this forum, agenting is not an entry-level job. Someone without the requisite skills probably isn't out to cheat or scam you--many, indeed, have the very best intentions--but they will waste your time and money just the same, and at the end of the process you'll have the same result: no sale.

- Victoria
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Old 01-31-2009, 08:54 PM   #17
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Victoria, you are a career-saving goddess and I shall follow your advice forever.

Trust me on this, folks.
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:11 PM   #18
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Whose talking about hiring? All I'm saying is it doesn't hurt to check things out now and again. I agree, Victoria, only a fool would blindly entrust their hard work in the hands of a novice. Sending a requested manuscript is hardly the same thing.
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:18 PM   #19
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But why would you even bother, if you weren't at least considering the possibility of hiring the agent?

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Old 01-31-2009, 09:41 PM   #20
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That's a good question. Perhaps, first and foremost, I appreciate the feedback. It's been my experience (which, admittedly, is limited), that newer agents often respond with more creative criticism and/or suggestions than just a form rejection. After a dozen or so query rejections, it's great when one finally wants to actually look at the manuscript.

The other reason is just pure curiousity. I really would like to know more about Blue Ridge's game plan and strategies than what's posted on their website.

If Blue Ridge expresses any interest at all, that's when I'll ask such questions.
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:47 PM   #21
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It's not easy to stay objective and ask questions when the agent makes an offer - writers are often too relieved and happy at that point. But I hope you'll prove me wrong. Best of luck.
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Old 01-31-2009, 10:02 PM   #22
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The other reason is just pure curiousity. I really would like to know more about Blue Ridge's game plan and strategies than what's posted on their website.

If Blue Ridge expresses any interest at all, that's when I'll ask such questions.
See, I don't get this. If they don't hold up, then you've just wasted your time querying someone which could have been better spent querying someone else. And from the sounds of things here, Blue Ridge doesn't hold up. So why waste your time querying someone people with experience have said isn't going to help your book?
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Old 01-31-2009, 10:10 PM   #23
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The other reason is just pure curiousity. I really would like to know more about Blue Ridge's game plan and strategies than what's posted on their website.

If Blue Ridge expresses any interest at all, that's when I'll ask such questions.
Though we all question this agent's ability to do a good job for her clients, is it fair to waste her time reading your manuscript when you don't intend to accept her offer if she makes one? She may not be ready for primetime, but it may not be fair to take advantage of her eagerness to find clients.
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Old 01-31-2009, 11:02 PM   #24
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Two address the two previous replies...first, I'm NOT wasting my time querying one agency. Like many of you, I query more than one agency at a time, big and small. Blue Ridge just happens to be one of them.

Second, I never said I had no intention of accepting an offer. Perhaps I worded it wrong, but what I meant I was I'd like to know what that offer would be...if she even makes one. For all I know, she'll hate my manuscript, but based on my correspondance with Dawn (which has been pretty pleasant), I got the impression she'd offer constructive feedback in either case. And, if she does like it enough to offer representation, and her strategy sounds reasonable, why not? Every new business venture begins somewhere, along with a big degree of uncertainty about its success, and Dawn is willing to read my entire manuscript when a dozen previous agents rejected me at the query/synopsis stage.

Yes, it is sometimes difficult to stay objective, especially when I haven't published a book yet, but I have no illusions, either. I also have no problem with hearing feedback or ideas regarding my career plans, no matter who offers them.
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Old 01-31-2009, 11:44 PM   #25
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Once more with feeling:

She has NO EXPERIENCE.

Nothing on her website indicates she understands how to negotiate a literary deal or navigate a convoluted contract.

It's not about selling just one book--it's about selling lots of books and giving knowledgeable advice about how to manage one's writing career. She hasn't got that kind of experience. Blind leading the blinder is in operation here.

Anyone can be nice and cordial if there's money at the end of it. All con artists are NICE.

That she is charging monthly costs before she's ever sold anything is one of those big red flags everyone needs to notice.


Stuff like that is used by scam agents to rake in a steady monthly income. These add up when one has a couple hundred hopefuls sending them 50-150 a month. Such "agents" have no reason to sell a book so long as a writer is already paying them something. You only have their word they're making copies and submitting them.

If you want free feedback, post on AW's Share Your Work, find a local workshop, get some beta readers. It will be just as valid a critique as this person might provide.

And suppose she does give a good crit, the writer tweaks the book, but takes it to a another agency? She's wasted her time and been used and discarded. Not a nice thing to do, but then I'm into that Kharma Thing.

Yes, indeed, everyone has to start someplace, and she should have started with an apprenticeship at a literary agency before hanging up her shingle.

Put this one into the "well-meaning, but clueless time-waster" box.
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