View Full Version : Agents using their website to sell things to authors

Kevin Nelson
10-27-2013, 02:15 PM
I recently ran across an agent who was using her website to sell tickets to webinars on such subjects as how to write query letters. That seemed like something of a red flag to me. It's certainly a case of an agent making money directly from aspiring authors who may or may not have produced publishable work. And that seems questionable.

I did some more research on this particular agent, and as it turns out she seems to be legitimate. Was my original feeling correct, or not? Is this sort of thing a red flag, or is it just standard practice?

Old Hack
10-27-2013, 06:42 PM
It can be either. But it's good to be cautious.

Agents see their slush pile filling up every day with inappropriate submissions and know that if those writers were better informed, they'd not waste their time sending their work out before it's ready, or sending it to agents who don't rep that genre. So they accept invitations to speak at conventions, or they blog, or they write books to help writers understand the publishing business.

If they then advertise on their website that they'll be speaking at a particular event, and that tickets can be bought, or if they link to their book, are they fleecing writers? Not necessarily.

If most of their time is spent representing their author-clients, and they have a history of making good sales, then they're probably worth listening to. If, however, they don't represent any writers you've ever heard of and they seem to be speaking at seminars every week, then they probably aren't worth paying to go to see.

10-27-2013, 07:20 PM
There are a couple of solid reputable agents who do webinars for Writers Digest. They're not getting rich but it is a more effective outreach than they might otherwise have in terms of educating authors.

Debbie V
10-29-2013, 03:37 AM
Three agents got together and created their own conference. I believe it was called Three Agents, Three Opinions. Attending was a valuable experience for me. Research the agent involved carefully.

10-29-2013, 08:21 PM
One of the most highly regarded children's agencies puts on its own workshops. I attended one, and it was quite wonderful.

I wouldn't say it's standard practice, but there are legit agents out there who do workshops or seminars.

11-04-2013, 03:47 AM
One of the most highly regarded children's agencies puts on its own workshops. I attended one, and it was quite wonderful.

I don't know if this refers to my agency, ABLA (if so, Thanks, WampusCat!) We do the Big Sur Children's Writers Workshop 2x per year. We talk about it online and always encourage people to sign up, and it does cost money for attendees, but I can tell you right now, WE don't make any money on this. The agents attend for three very intense days of leading workshops and get a grand total of $100 for gas. In fact, it costs me way more to get there as I live in NY! We give any proceeds that are left after paying for the venue, food, and paying the editors airfare and such to the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur.

However it is an extraordinarily rewarding conference, and a great opportunity for us to work closely with very talented writers -- we've had some AWESOME Big Sur success stories! So I am always happy to attend.

I can't consider that "fleecing" authors or "cashing in on newbies" or whatever. We provide an opportunity -- the people who are likely on our website are most likely to be interested in the opportunity, so it's obvious we'd advertise to them -- but nobody HAS to attend, nobody gets treated badly if they DON'T attend. . .

Similarly, I have run Writers Digest workshops. I get paid for them -- so in that sense I am making money -- and I advertise to the writers I see on twitter and on sites like this -- but again, attending is strictly optional, and I hope to think I am providing value, as I do the (HOPEFULLY useful) webinar, answer any and all questions from attendees, and provide a critique for every attendee, all of which ends up generally being 40+ hours of work. Sooo...

Old Hack
11-04-2013, 11:23 AM
Jennifer, I don't think it's inappropriate for you to get paid for spending time at conferences: if the organisers are charging the attendees, they should pay the talent which attracts those attendees too.

I have no problem with good agents getting paid for things like this: it's helpful for writers. Where I get worried is when I see people who have set themselves up as agents without the required experience or knowledge speaking at conferences and giving workshops. That's not good, and it happens far more than it should. There are conferences which are so keen to provide a lot of sessions that they invite people to speak without screening them appropriately, and that's not on.