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erich v
11-27-2003, 03:15 PM
What's the problem with agents charging fees?

I would be glad to pay an agent a (reasonable, affordable) fee if he gets my book published!

absolutewrite
11-27-2003, 03:44 PM
Erich,

An up-front fee is different from a commission. IF an agent sells your work, THEN he/she gets paid-- by taking a commission (usually 10-15% domestic) from all of your earnings from that book. Up-front fees generally signal unscrupulous agents who make their money from author fees because they can't make any actual sales, and thus, don't earn money on commissions. An agent is supposed to take on your work because he/she loves it and thinks it will sell (and earn money from a publisher), not because you're paying him/her to shop it around for you.

James D Macdonald
11-27-2003, 10:26 PM
It's unlikely that a fee-charging agent will sell your book.

All of the agents that I know of who are on automatic-reject lists are fee-chargers.

Fee charging violates the AAR canon of ethics.

The testimony of thousands of sadder-but-wiser writers might perhaps be added to the balance.

Agents charge fees of authors because they can't earn commissions from sales.

SRHowen
11-27-2003, 10:56 PM
Not to be confused with the things that you get charged for, such as postage, copies, labels, and ms boxes. You will get charged for those, but often they come out of your advance, unless it's a first book then you may get a quarterly invoice or a yearly one--depends on your contract.

Be prepared for sticker shock. Those costs add up fast, but if the bill is itemized, and it should be, then you know exactly what you are being charged for each thing.

Someone said hey 15 bucks a ms is too much to send the thing out. I wonder if they added up the cost of copies, the box, the postage?

A 600 page ms at about 6 cents a page for copying is 35 bucks. If it goes to the UK --well that alone can cost 35 bucks. Courier service in NY? WOW, didn't know it was so much.

Anyway, some fees are normal. Reading fee's, processing fees etc are not.

Shawn

vstrauss
11-28-2003, 01:37 AM
Fee-charging violates the basic principle of the author-agent relationship: a shared financial interest in the sale of the author's book. An agent who gets paid only if you do is not only highly motivated to sell your book, but to get the best deal possible. An agent who's gotten money upfront has already made a profit, so the incentive to sell your work is diminished.

Real estate agents works more or less the same way. The commission-on-sale thing is a strong motivator.

I feel that an agent should front the expense of submissions, and reimburse herself out of the author's advance. I don't agree that expenses should be billed, even if it's after the expense is incurred--I don't think the author should pay anything out of pocket before a sale is made. Nor do I think there should be a double standard for new vs. established authors. Unfortunately, though, practices like this do seem to be increasing, especially among newer agents, though I believe they are still in the minority.

In the end, the bottom line is always track record.

- Victoria
Writer Beware
www.writerbeware.com/ (http://www.writerbeware.com/)

erich v
11-28-2003, 09:27 AM
Thanks to all the replies. All of that makes sense.

But to me the most compelling reason to be wary of agents who charge up-front fees is that one never knows before-hand whether they will be successful; and furthermore, there is the high likelihood, apparently (as you all agree), that up-front fee-charging agents will not be successful.

Again, if I KNEW that an agent was going to successfully get my book published with a good publisher, of course I would pay the fee. But not being able to KNOW...

James D Macdonald
11-28-2003, 10:44 AM
Not having an agent is a stumbling block.

Having a bad agent is an unmitigated disaster.

Even if the agent isn't an active scammer, an incompetent agent will make your works less likely to sell than if you'd just sent them in yourself.

RottenLuckWillie
11-28-2003, 11:42 AM
erich,
James is right on. Read the thread on Melanie Mills and you'll see what can happen in a really-bad case scenario. I went down that road with Mills and learned the hardway. Good luck to you!
rlw

SRHowen
11-28-2003, 12:17 PM
ask ask ask ask ask--a lot of questions. So many writers I have talked to wondered at the fact that I asked potential agents a lot of questions when they said they wanted to rep me. "Weren't you afraid they'd change their mind?"

Well, if you have to afraid of that, then they are not an agent you want.

No upfront fees.

They share their list of clients and success stories.

They allow you to contact some of their clients, those who have published works.

They are honest, open, and stay in contact with you every step of that way.

Their answers to your questions are real answerers--not the because I'm the agent and I said so.

They don't waste a lot of time and words telling you how great your book is only to tell you that it needs editing by so and so for so much money.

Yes, they like your work or they would not take you on--but they tell you like it is--this scene sucks, rewrite it so it has more flow with the rest of the story it feels crow barred in. Yeah--and they give you step by step help if you need it without making you feel like a fool.

Beware any upfront fees, or promises that seem too good to be true.

My 2 cents worth,
Shawn

riverbedsky
11-29-2003, 04:05 AM
Don't ever pay a reading fee. Period. Reputable agents do not charge them. If you are so ready to give away money, I suggest a good charity. It will make you feel good.

vstrauss
11-29-2003, 07:19 AM
Reading fees are pretty rare these days. They've been so completely discredited, and authors are so aware of their illegitimacy, that even bad agents don't usually charge them. The most common kind of fee now is the "marketing" fee--I'd guess that 90% or better of agents who charge fees charge marketing fees.

- Victoria
Writer Beware
www.writerbeware.com/ (http://www.writerbeware.com/)

HRSeher
01-31-2004, 10:30 PM
What about editing fees?

DaveKuzminski
01-31-2004, 11:31 PM
It doesn't matter what the fee is for. It's a bad idea if the agent wants you to pay him/her for that before selling your manuscript. If your manuscript is in that much need of editing, then find an independent editing service with a verified track record. In other words, they can point to some books they edited that were actually published by legitimate royalty-paying publishers. If you have one, your agent should not point you to anyone, but should steer you away from the known scammers if you believe your manuscript needs editing.

vstrauss
02-01-2004, 08:34 AM
>> What about editing fees?<<

Conflict of interest. If the person recommending the editing stands to gain financially from the recommendation, how can you trust that the recommendation is really being made for your benefit?

- Victoria

RealityChuck
02-03-2004, 01:12 AM
It's always a good idea to follow this ironclad rule:

Never, under any circumstances whatsoever, pay money to an agent.

A legitimate agent sends you checks from your sales. If there are extraordinary expenses, they'll deduct that from your check. They will not ask you to pay them anything for any reason.

allion
02-13-2004, 11:21 AM
I found something out today that bothered me.

I live in Canada, so I thought I would do research on Canadian literary agents (found through the LMP and other sources).

Lo and behold - with the exception of very few agencies, most charge fees. And not $20 for a read fees, either. :grr ...Disappointing.

So much for trying to get an agent in the Great White North. I'll stick with the AAR people below the 49th parallel and submit to agents that do not charge fees.

I saw a lot of "we'll recommend editing services if your manuscript requires it" language as well. Gave me the creeps.

emeraldcite
02-13-2004, 12:22 PM
you're better off trying to find an agent that has an office near publishing centers.

newsflash
03-13-2004, 08:19 AM
I read manuscripts for a lot of major agents in New York and they pay very well. I make my living at it. I read slush and I read their top, best-selling clients. So when writers log on to these forums and say, don't pay a reader's fee, ever and then say, you should only want an agent who's read your work and loves it, what they don't realize is that agents don't read. Nada. Period. 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.

Come to think of it, I've never actually met an agent who was truly passionate about a book. Any book. They just want to believe they can sell it. And that's a very difficult thing to do these days. Especially with an unknown, uncelebrated writer. And publishers only seem to want to buy what they don't have to edit so that means agents are stuck with the job of helping writers achieve a professional level of craft. 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.

Anyway, I started out reading for so-called "reading fee agents" 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?

And frankly, the bigger agencies who don't charge reading fees are still paying reading fees so they simply aren't going to accept a ms. from an unknown unless they have a very compelling reason to do so. 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. Otherwise, good luck getting a large, non reading-fee agency to even offer to look at your manuscript.

Anyway, my point being, if you're going to pay a reading fee, don't immediately assume that you're being ripped off. Call the agent, ask them what you can expect for the fee and ask for a list of their clients and recent sales. By paying the fee, you will get a report and a shot at being represented. But, by adamantly refusing to pay a fee, you may never get an agent to look at your work.

And consider the smaller agency who charges a fee. 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. It’s a crummy situation all the way around but what are the alternatives?

Signed,

a reader by trade

James D Macdonald
03-13-2004, 08:43 AM
But, by adamantly refusing to pay a fee, you may never get an agent to look at your work.

"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.

vstrauss
03-13-2004, 09:07 AM
What Jim Said.

This is B.S. on so many levels it's not even worth doing a point-by-point.

- Victoria

SRHowen
03-13-2004, 11:13 AM
My agent, with a good track record and some top name clients--reads. HE READS. HE does not charge a fee. HE worked with me for months getting the novel into commercial fiction shape. He feels about my book the same way I do.

Sad, that once again there are those who wish to prey on a new writer's dreams.

Shawn

JustinoIV
03-13-2004, 11:38 AM
"Come to think of it, I've never actually met an agent who was truly passionate about a book. Any book. They just want to believe they can sell it. And that's a very difficult thing to do these days. Especially with an unknown, uncelebrated writer. And publishers only seem to want to buy what they don't have to edit so that means agents are stuck with the job of helping writers achieve a professional level of craft. 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."

Those are the agents who end not making any sales, because they never read or new anything about the business. They then set up scams, like Melanie Mills. They keep on and on until they end up in prison.

newsflash
03-13-2004, 09:51 PM
I'm not adding these comments to perpetuate the unfortunate fact that writers are being preyed upon nor am I knowingly dispensing b.s., I'm just offering my insights from my experience as a "professional" manuscript reader here in New York and I thought these insights might be useful.

I haven't worked for any so-called reading fee agents in a long, long time but, when I did, those agents were legitimate. They charged a fee but once they accepted a manuscript, they tried to sell it. I know for a fact that Colleen McCullough's (sp?) first book, I think it was called TIM, came in through an agent's fee-reading service. And the report was positive and the agent accepted the ms. and placed the book. And yeah, I'll admit that paying reading fees encourages unscrupulous types who are not legitimate agents, but then, what is a small but legitimate agent to do? They're overwhelmed with queries. Overwhelmed. How do they know what to ask for? They have to make a judgment call based on a writer's credentials and a synopsis but it's still a crap shoot. But are they expected to spend an entire day reading a speculative piece of fiction that, in the end, falls apart? And then spend another day assessing the work and offering detailed comments and then another day to re-read the draft that may or may not work and even if they feel the novel is salable, the prospect of selling even a really good novel in today's marketplace is doubtful. A lot of really good books don't get published. That's the reality. I see it all the time.

Look, writers are victimized and that sucks but the argument that book agents are like real estate agents is absurd. Manuscripts aren't houses and if you think otherwise, take your latest unpublished manuscript to a bank and ask for a loan.

Anyway, rather than cop an attitude, I would ask the writers who monitor this site to discuss this issue in a way that's realistic and open and even, if possible, fair-minded. It's an important issue. I’m simply offering my opinion here but it’s based on my experience and, for my part, I'm willing to listen to all sides.

newsflash

emeraldcite
03-13-2004, 10:45 PM
if you read through the many posts on these boards, we have several professionals (writers who have been published traditionally and those who run watchdog groups) that very few legitimate agents charge reading fees since they have been so looked down upon in recent years. Many legitimate agents have dropped the fees in order to be a part of organizations. Overall, the safest bet is to avoid all fees, unless you know the agent has a solid track record.

it's the track record that counts, not so much the fees. but scam agents never give out sales, but usually this isn't apparent until after someone has been involved with the scammers. so statistically speaking, agents who charge fees are bogus. the number of legitimate agents who charge fees is so small that it's not worth taking the chance.

James D Macdonald
03-14-2004, 12:16 AM
I'm just offering my insights from my experience as a "professional" manuscript reader here in New York and I thought these insights might be useful.

I doubt that "newsflash" is now or ever has been a professional manuscript reader. There are entirely too many things that don't add up in his/her posts. There are entirely too many things that are contrary to fact. There are entirely too many things that, if believed, would cause new writers a great deal of expense and pain for no results.

But let's see if we can figure out who "newsflash" really is, okay?

Compare:
<blockquote>
Most agents don't have a clue. They’re business people.
-- Newsflash

Anyway, A LITERARY AGENT must be an AGGRESSIVE BUSINESSMAN, tha'ts why you hire one.
-- <a href="http://pub43.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm11.showMessageRange?topicID=210.t opic&start=1&stop=20" target="_new">Robert Fletcher</a> (President of ST Literary Agency)


I've never actually met an agent who was truly passionate about a book. Any book. They just want to believe they can sell it.
-- Newsflash


I don't want to love you, I don't want to love your work, I want to sell it for money for you and for me.
-- Robert Fletcher

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.
-- Newsflash

80% of all books published last year were from previously published authors, 10% were from celebrities, and 5% were from journalists.
-- Robert Fletcher

</blockquote>

How're you doing, Robert? Haven't seen you around here in a while. Sold any manuscripts lately? Sold any manuscripts ever? Don't forget to write if you do!

Now let's compare newsflash's two posts:

<blockquote>
I read manuscripts for a lot of major agents in New York and they pay very well. I make my living at it. I read slush and I read their top, best-selling clients.
-- Newsflash, yesterday

I haven't worked for any so-called reading fee agents in a long, long time but, when I did, those agents were legitimate.
-- Newsflash, today
</blockquote>

So which is it, "newsflash"? That's how you make your living today, or you haven't done it in a long, long time?

As far as "they pay very well," don't try to bullshit me, guy. I know what manuscript reading pays.

There was one legitimate reading-fee agency, once. That was Scott Meredith. They had two sides of the house: one where they kept the big name published authors (who weren't charged fees, by the way), and the other side of the house where they read manuscripts for a fee, holding out the possiblity of being represented by Scott Meredith.

In all the years that Scott was in business (he's dead now), I think that one, perhaps two, authors who came in the reading-fee side wound up getting represented. The rest were cash cows. The agents who worked on the legitimate side weren't the same guys as the ones who worked on the fee side.

Listen, everyone. Do not pay a fee to an agent. Period. End of sentence.

There are worse things than not getting an agent. Getting a bad agent is one of those things.

An agent who charges a fee is saying up front that he or she isn't making enough money off selling manuscripts to keep the doors open. That's either a not-very-good agent or a scam agent.

"Newsflash" has not been helpful.

JustinoIV
03-14-2004, 12:20 AM
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!

mammamaia
03-14-2004, 12:32 AM
...a well done and much needed/deserved riposte...

love and hugs, maia

newsflash
03-14-2004, 03:42 AM
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.

newsflash

HapiSofi
03-14-2004, 05:14 AM
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.

Onward.
--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 tradeTranslation: 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 ...

HapiSofi
03-14-2004, 05:48 AM
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.

SRHowen
03-14-2004, 06:02 AM
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.

Shawn

JustinoIV
03-14-2004, 06:18 AM
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)

aka eraser
03-14-2004, 07:26 AM
That was a surgically precise evisceration.

vstrauss
03-14-2004, 07:34 AM
HapiSofi, thanks for that wonderful, detailed post. Everyone should read it. It tells it like it really is.

- Victoria

richardmartin555
03-14-2004, 02:19 PM
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".

newsflash
03-14-2004, 07:13 PM
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.

N.

DaveKuzminski
03-14-2004, 07:59 PM
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.

How?

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.

vstrauss
03-14-2004, 11:24 PM
>>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

JustinoIV
03-14-2004, 11:34 PM
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!

James D Macdonald
03-15-2004, 08:40 AM
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="http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/" 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.

<hr>

Purely by coincidence, this post (http://pub43.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm11.showMessage?topicID=302.topic) 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.

<hr>

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.

HapiSofi
03-15-2004, 12:52 PM
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.

GMFB.

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."
"Yeah?"
"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?

James D Macdonald
03-15-2004, 10:05 PM
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.

newsflash
03-15-2004, 10:37 PM
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.
Moms....
I'll get back to you.
Thanks though for caring,

newbie-boy - kid-flash - rocking worlds.

Woo-hooooo!

James D Macdonald
03-15-2004, 11:20 PM
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.

<hr>

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

DaveKuzminski
03-15-2004, 11:28 PM
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.

PixelFish
03-16-2004, 01:20 AM
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.

AC Crispin
03-16-2004, 06:56 AM
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
www.writerbeware.com

SRHowen
03-16-2004, 08:10 AM
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="http://www.sfrevu.com/ISSUES/2002/0208/Event%20-%20Tor/Page.html" 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.

Shawn

newsflash
03-16-2004, 09:24 AM
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.
Adios.

Go Knicks.

DaveKuzminski
03-16-2004, 10:52 AM
Better a live rooster than a thieving weazel.

HConn
03-16-2004, 11:09 AM
Yesterday I sent an email to the Absolute Write folks that suggested they create a read-only FAQ forum where informative threads could be archived. That way, as each new person turns up asking questions/making claims they won't have to be answered or refuted all over again. Folks here could just say "Check the FAQ."

I nominate this thread for the first slot in that forum. Hapi's posts are worth saving and sharing with everyone that ventures here.

HapiSofi
03-16-2004, 11:34 AM
Hi, Newsflash. Bored now.

James D Macdonald
03-16-2004, 12:50 PM
Okay, "Newsflash," you're on.

Saturday, March 20th 2004, 2:30 pm. In the bar at the Rye Town Hilton (Rye Brook, NY). That's the bar closest to the indoor pool.

I look like I do in the picture at the left; to make it easy for you I'll even wear the same jacket.

If your bona fides check out I might even introduce you to some publishing people.

I wonder what excuse you'll have for not showing up?

newsflash
03-16-2004, 08:17 PM
Hi Mr. McDonald,

I take it the Beav, er, I mean, Hapi, has got chores to do this weekend. I'm glad.
He really needs that.

Just kidding. Actually, sure, I'm game.

But hey now, it's my invite - I said I'd spring for the suds therefore, I think, protocal has it I gets to call the watering hole. So what are you, on the New Haven Line? What say we meet up at GCT? Or nearabouts? Ever been to Rudy's? Me, I like old man geezer bars. Pickled eggs, whores with bellies and bud on tap. You should be prepared though, you might actually like me. Anyway, weekdays are generally better for me.

But I ain't going to post my email address so how do we firm this up?

btw, are the comic book writer?

newsie

James D Macdonald
03-16-2004, 09:09 PM
I told you where to be, "Newsflash." See you there.

Bring picture ID, a manuscript you've worked on, and a couple of your reader's reports.

James D Macdonald
03-21-2004, 10:09 AM
Well! Guess who was a no-show?

Big surprise there....

HapiSofi
03-21-2004, 08:33 PM
Gad! I'm shocked!

I suspect that Newsflash/Richard Fletcher either lives in Florida with his moll the real-estate agent, or in Southern California. But really, he could be anywhere. What we know for sure is that in spite of his offer, he didn't turn up this weekend to have a drink with Jim Macdonald.

James D. Macdonald
07-14-2005, 04:14 AM
And with that Newsie vanished, never to be seen again.

I don't know who he really was and don't suppose I ever will. Paul Anderson? Robert Fletcher? Janet Kay? Someone else?

Since then I've visited the spot where Fletcher's agency supposedly has its New York offices, only to find that they aren't located in that building. What is in that building is a mail-forwarding service.

Oh, well. Newsie, if you're out there, the offer's still open. Let me know how to get in touch with you and I'll buy you a beer in New York City.

For everyone else: Real agents (the kind who make sales to real publishers) don't charge up-front fees. Not for reading, not for critiques, not for editing. Agents make their money off commissions on works they've sold.

Honest information about agents and publishers (http://www.freewebs.com/truthaboutpa/thestraightdope.htm)

JerseyGirl1962
07-14-2005, 08:02 PM
HapiSofi's reply to that newsflash person really opened my eyes as to what goes on in the publishing business.

As I have a character in my current WIP working at a publshing house (albeit many decades ago), I'm going to rethink a few things. Not that I have that particular character raking in the dough (far from it), but I'm going to take a few things from that in-depth reply and possibly rework parts of the story that are located at that house.

I'm glad this thread was brought back to the top! This should be required reading for all of us who are either still plugging away at our first novel or who are beginning to shop it around. Thanks, thanks, thanks! :)

~Nancy

Tiaga
07-14-2005, 09:36 PM
Wow! Kudos to our senior board members. What a remarkable exchange. This thread should be required reading by all. Thanks to Hapi, James, Victoria, Shawn and Ann.

Dhewco
07-15-2005, 12:06 AM
I would have killed for a chance to sit with UJ...I don't drink but I would've bought him one. Maybe when I sell this silly ms, I can take a trip to NY. Heh, ah, but to dream.


David

Higgins
09-12-2006, 10:07 PM
I would have killed for a chance to sit with UJ...I don't drink but I would've bought him one. Maybe when I sell this silly ms, I can take a trip to NY. Heh, ah, but to dream.


David

Wow, this is an amazing thread. Maybe we need an amazing thread area.

1.0
07-06-2007, 01:53 PM
First post virgin peeps, so bear with me.

Firstly, a little about me. I'm currently an unpublished writer. I started writing when I was 24 and finished my first novel when I was 25. It took me a lot of effort and a lot of planning, but it was worth it. I had moved to a foreign country to take advantage of the writer's tax advantages there, had slaved away over a cheap-a$$ laptop that my parents had bought me for approximately $100, and spent the best part of nine months writing. And writing. And writing. My girlfriend at the time (now wife, thankfully) said: "the only thing I get to ever see of you is your back". It was a camera angle I had never thought existed. It certainly made me think, but it never made me stop my single-mindedness.

I moved to London, once the book was finished, intent on getting it published and "making it". I quit my job in the Auld Country, said farewell to my new-found friends, then headed to London. I had 246 quid in my pocket; the remainder I had spent on taking my mother around the country in a small Volkswagen Polo. Since she had let the place of her birth approximately 30 years earlier - and had never been back - I figured it was the least I could do. So, with my 246 quid, I moved into my aunt's house in London, and, amongst the seven cats and smell of cat's piss, started to mail literary agents.

I spent a lot of time choosing the right stationery. I spent a lot of time choosing (what I thought) was the right literary agent. And finally, on a rainy day in London, I went to the post office and mailed my magnum opus, registered post.

I never received a response. Three weeks later and feeling disheartened, I tried again. This time, I had more luck. At least this time I got something back for my efforts, albeit a rejection letter. It was short, succinct; to the point. I checked the manuscript - looked closely at the stamp hinges I had glued on various pages. None of them had been touched. The book, it appeared, had never been read. Thoroughly rejected, I sat down with my book and began to read. Critically. Carefully. I didn't have much money left and no money means no time. I only had one last attempt at this before I would have to start working again, so I had to make it good.

I spent my last remaining pounds on a huge, fifty pound bag of rice and a catering size tin of powdered chicken soup. Once my supplies were in, I settled down and began to wield the literary version of a battle-axe. In four weeks, I shaved 70,000 words off a 250,000 page book. The end result was a much tighter and better manuscript, and I was pleased. I couldn't stand the sight (or smell) of chicken soup of course, but the book was better. Much better.

I re-submitted it, this time to a very well known literary / talent agency in London. The agency was one of the biggest, so grandiose were my plans (or ego - you pick). Unbelievably, I even got a chance to meet Kate Winslet in the office (fresh out of her Titanic days, which was a huge - yet secret - thrill). Yes indeedy, there were signs of stardom everywhere, even from the literary agent who appeared to be promising great things. As he said, as he shuffled the papers of *my* book, he had "loads of publishers lined up" saying "this is really a great book".

After that meeting, I almost floated home. About a week later, the floating stopped. No word from the agent. I held on. Another week went past. No word. And another week. And another. Eventually I rang *him* (something I had been strictly told *not* to do by his assistant) and was told he now had "no further interest in my book". When I asked why, he stated "because I can't bond with it". With images of superglue in my mind to *make* him bond with it, I slowly put the phone down then, right there and then, refused to ever write again.

Sadly around four years later (two years ago) I broke my promise and wrote another book. I had tried to avoid writing as much as possible. I had become a drunk (not *officially* - I never joined the AA or ever got accused of being an alcoholic), but when you're drinking eight pints a night with mates, one cannot be called a model of sobriety. I travelled extensively. I switched jobs numerous times. I got into fights. I did "interesting" things. And throughout every one of them, the little imp - the same imp that had been created as a result of a scuba diving accident all those years ago - sat on my shoulder saying "you should be writing, you should be writing, you should...". Sadly, even to this day he still does the same thing.

Nowadays, I sit at a crossroads. I am 34 years old. I am a reasonably successful IT Project Manager. I earn a lot of money. And yet, the laugh of it is - I hate IT. I hate my moral position, which I currently equate to that of a corporate prostitute. I hate automation. I hate technology, even though it fascinates me. I like quills and parchment. I like horses and candlelight. I am a romantic stuck in an increasingly technological world.

And now, to the crux of the matter: would *I* pay for a literary agent to read my book?

If I could go back in time and rest in my twenty-five year old's body for a moment to consider the question, the answer would be an emphatic "yes". I *would* pay for consideration by an agent. And agent, like anyone else, has to turn a coin. If he can turn a coin easier - and thus have more chance to pick up a winning novel - by charging fees, then by all means. When I was twenty-five, I would have done anything - *anything* to have been published. A fee would have been the last of my worries (after all, I had my rice and my chicken soup!).

Nowadays, I am slightly more jaded and perhaps more cynical. Having owned three businesses, I know how the system works. I know that, for their fee, I would have to be assured that the agent was actually *doing* something and not just taking me for a ride. However, if I knew they were, I would gladly pay. I would have then, and I would continue to do so, now. After all, I am a corporate prostitute. I have seen commercial schemes that would make a footpad blush with shame. Agents charging money to read submissions? Small change. Distributors making 40% / Booksellers making 50% / authors making 4%? Now *that's* a crime worth discussing.

I don't know if this answers anyone's question, but it may give a different perspective on things. Those agents that take money to read may - or may not - be charlatans. However, I think pre-judging them on this fact alone is a little foolhardy. Like any business venture, the only advice I have is: do a little research. Are you getting value for money? If the answer is yes, go for it. The investment might reap dividends. If not, look elsewhere; you may just save your cash. Whatever your decision might be, fortune favours the bold.

Best to all,

1.0

eqb
07-06-2007, 03:43 PM
Those agents that take money to read may - or may not - be charlatans. However, I think pre-judging them on this fact alone is a little foolhardy. Like any business venture, the only advice I have is: do a little research. Are you getting value for money? If the answer is yes, go for it. The investment might reap dividends. If not, look elsewhere; you may just save your cash. Whatever your decision might be, fortune favours the bold.

Welcome to AW. You might want to read more of this thread and others in the Bewares and Background Checks forum to see why writers should avoid fee-charging agents. (Short version: professional agents do not charge fees, they earn a commission on sales made.)

And I would venture to say that fortune, in publishing, favors the persistent writer who learns the craft and the business.

LloydBrown
07-06-2007, 04:21 PM
1.0, your post made for some entertaining reading. I imagine that, with a little polish and a little better understanding of how the publishing industry works (it doesn't work with 250,000-word behemoths from first-time novelists, for example), you'd have made it if you had kept trying. You gave up too easily. Two rounds of rejections is nothing. Publishers reject books for a litany of reasons, only one of which is "Your book's not good enough for me."

waylander
07-06-2007, 04:44 PM
What you don't mention is whether you are interacting with other writers, swapping critiques and improving each other's writing. If you are not doing this then I strongly urge you to seek out a writing group suitable for your genre. If you are in London still then there will be plenty of groups

JerseyGirl1962
07-06-2007, 06:16 PM
What you don't mention is whether you are interacting with other writers, swapping critiques and improving each other's writing. If you are not doing this then I strongly urge you to seek out a writing group suitable for your genre. If you are in London still then there will be plenty of groups

Or 1.0 can try one of the online crit groups.

JerseyGirl1962
07-06-2007, 06:36 PM
After that meeting, I almost floated home. About a week later, the floating stopped. No word from the agent. I held on. Another week went past. No word. And another week. And another. Eventually I rang *him* (something I had been strictly told *not* to do by his assistant) and was told he now had "no further interest in my book". When I asked why, he stated "because I can't bond with it". With images of superglue in my mind to *make* him bond with it, I slowly put the phone down then, right there and then, refused to ever write again.

As you unfortunately found out, waiting on one agent takes way too long; you could grow gray hairs by waiting on one agent. Best thing is to send out a bunch of queries at a time, say 5 one week, 5 the next. That is, after culling your agent list down to only those that rep your genre.


Nowadays, I sit at a crossroads. I am 34 years old. I am a reasonably successful IT Project Manager. I earn a lot of money. And yet, the laugh of it is - I hate IT. I hate my moral position, which I currently equate to that of a corporate prostitute. I hate automation. I hate technology, even though it fascinates me. I like quills and parchment. I like horses and candlelight. I am a romantic stuck in an increasingly technological world.

You sound like my husband. :)


If I could go back in time and rest in my twenty-five year old's body for a moment to consider the question, the answer would be an emphatic "yes". I *would* pay for consideration by an agent. And agent, like anyone else, has to turn a coin. If he can turn a coin easier - and thus have more chance to pick up a winning novel - by charging fees, then by all means. When I was twenty-five, I would have done anything - *anything* to have been published. A fee would have been the last of my worries (after all, I had my rice and my chicken soup!).

Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work that way. As someone else suggested, go through the other threads here in the Bewares section. Time after time, those fee-charging agents will take your money...and do nothing. Oh, some might send stuff out to publishers, but it'll be the wrong publishers.

These scam agents already have your money, so where's the incentive for them to send stuff out at all? That's how they perpetuate their scams, that's how they stay business, year after year.

Don't get taken. Take the time to go through the threads. Educate yourself before you lose your money, before you lose a significant chunk of your life to such charlatans. If all you want to do is see your book bound so you can hand it to your wife and friends, then do it on the cheap: Go to Lulu.com and set it up there.

But if you'd like to see your story commercially published, take the time to get better, to have fresh eyes look over your ms., the whole nine yards. It might take a while, but you can go through threads here and see that there are plenty of first timers who've been published. (Of course, even the best sellers were once first timers.)

Please, please, please rethink your position on this. Don't throw your money away.

Oh, and :welcome:. I hope you enjoy your stay here.

~Nancy

DeadlyAccurate
07-06-2007, 08:37 PM
Welcome to AW, 1.0. I hope you stick around, because you will find a lot to learn about how publishing works. Did I read you correctly that you gave up after two rejections? Just two? Not two hundred, but two? Go read the Rejections and Dejections threads. See the people who have gotten six in one day.

As for paying agents to read your stuff: why should they? Read it, that is. They already have your money. They can cash the check and then give you vague, yet promising compliments about what a terrific book you wrote and how they're sure to make it a bestseller. I can do that for you, and I won't even charge you.

victoriastrauss
07-06-2007, 08:52 PM
I spent a lot of time choosing the right stationery. I spent a lot of time choosing (what I thought) was the right literary agent. And finally, on a rainy day in London, I went to the post office and mailed my magnum opus, registered post.

I never received a response. Three weeks later and feeling disheartened, I tried again. This time, I had more luck. At least this time I got something back for my efforts, albeit a rejection letter. It was short, succinct; to the point. I checked the manuscript - looked closely at the stamp hinges I had glued on various pages. None of them had been touched. The book, it appeared, had never been read. The reason, I suspect, is that you sent the full manuscript without contacting the agent first. Agents generally want to look at a smaller sample of your work first, in order to evaluate whether it's worth their time to ask for more. If you send the whole ms. without an invitation to do so, it's pretty much an automatic reject.

- Victoria

DaveKuzminski
07-06-2007, 10:29 PM
One reason why it's bad for writers to pay reading fees is that the number of so-called "literary agents" would multiply ten-fold almost overnight if it wasn't against AAR rules and discouraged by all of the watchdog sites. Then think about how difficult it would be finding a "real" literary agent in that kind of mess. The scams would be creating false publishing companies so they could claim they'd sold books that hadn't actually been sold. Okay, so there's already some of that going on, but it would be much worse. In fact, even some of the legitimate companies would find it difficult to resist easy money for reading just a page of each submitted manuscript.

Reading fees are bad for writers. Writers are responsible for creating the product that agents sell and make a commission upon. Writers are responsible for creating the product that publishers sell to readers. Reading is how agents and publishers determine what products they want to resell. They are your customers and your manuscript is your catalog. In other industries, businesses don't pay customers to read their catalogues, so why should you pay a reading fee for someone to read yours?

1.0
07-11-2007, 02:21 PM
...and couldn't resist a post. This is how addictions start. :)

Despite being conversant in IT, I still haven't figured out how to use the forums properly. In other words, I haven't figured out how to paraphrase correctly. I *could* learn, but the dinner is burning and the cat is fighting outside. So, I'll try and round-up what answers I can and answer in turn. Old-tech, but then you already know I'm a neo-luddite, right?

Okay, starting from the top:

Read some other threads and ensure you're not swimming with sharks: good advice, and I may do. However, I'm not to bad on detecting horse sh*te when it's being shovelled and I tend to think: "if they're going to screw me, I'll know it". That said, if I bother trying to sell my stuff like I did before, I'll do my homework. Promise.

250,000 words and the first time novelist:
Sure, but a good book is a good book, right? It shouldn't matter if it's 250,000 words or 25,000....
Sadly, that's how I *used* to think until I found about the horrible (and deadly boring) world of accountancy (apologies to anyone crafted in that particular...(black?) "art", btw). Thankfully, a wee bit of sense managed to penetrate my early years of writing and I shaved the first book down to 170,000 words. Still it seems sad that a book that *is* 250,000 words has to be considered more unsaleable than a mere 120,000 worder. A good thing there weren't any publishers around when the bible was written, then...(and thanks for the compliment Lloyd - much appreciated).

Birds of a feather flock together...:
I'm not mingling with other writers, nor, to be honest, do I feel like I....should. This sounds egotistical, and that's the last way it's meant to be portrayed. Instead, I think it's closely linked to how my siblings and I were brought up: "Do it on your own, or don't do it at all". I like listening to other people and I love helping others. It's partly what makes me tick. But help...*me*? I don't know. I really don't. It almost seems like...well, cheating. (I know this sounds highly illogical, but I can't find any other way to put it. It's almost like there's a reset button being pushed whenever I think of the idea. I think, if I'm honest, that when you're the son of immigrant, working-class parents, it's almost programmed into you: no-one owes you anything, sunshine. So get out there and do it yourself). Lastly, on this subject: where I live today, literary culture takes a large backseat to sport. Yeah, I know. It's awful.

Try online crit groups...if you've got the bollix for it:
Thanks, JerseyGirl. I almost feel stupid on some of these answers. It would never occur to try them. I still find it hard to believe that total strangers would actually act neutrally about one of my efforts and not tear it to shreds like it probably deserves. But I'll have a look. Promise.

Use the shotgun approach when it comes to mailing your stuff to agents:
If I ever send my first two - and any other books I write - out for publishing, I will. I obviously received some bad advice years ago (waaaay back in '98 from a British agent that specialised in non-fiction, bizarrely enough): "don't send your book to more than one agent at a time. It's poor manners." I think I took this to heart at the time and sadly, there wasn't really a Net as full of information about cracking it as a writer as there obviously is now. Just empty, rain sodden streets of London and the warm, exotic receptions of the big publishing houses that one was never invited into to. However, again, good advice. Cheers!

You sound like my other half...:

Gawd. Poor you.

Take your time, learn the ropes, don't throw yer money away...:

Again, good advice. However, you know what? I like writing *books*. No disrespect meant, but it seems to be an awfully sh*tty time when to even get recognised for what you've written, you've got to become a:

- Salesman (or "Salesperson" if you prefer non-gender specific references)
- Editor (who's going to buy your book if it isn't at least coherent?)
- Webmaster (yeah, I know - get someone else to build it. But people do that and their site invariably ends up looking like something Pablo Picasso would whip up on LSD; i.e. something ugly. With web design, unless you pay someone decent, you don't get the results).
- PR ('nuff said)

Earn enough of those badges and you start to move away from writing. In fact, earn enough of those trades and yeah, suddenly you'll be more marketable at your day job (look at me, I'm an unqualified consultant!), but your writing will suffer. Why? Because you'll have become a market trader, not a writer. I know there's little I can do about this situation, but I just find it a miserable place for writers today to find themselves in. "Being able to write ain't enough, pal; you'd better get with the program and figure out how to sell that baby or you'll spend the rest of your life living in a tenement block! Mwahaha!". A sad situation, folks.

Contact the agent first, bugsy, goddit?:
...and I did. And they asked for the full manuscript. And then I had fun receiving it back with stamp hinges intact. I had even more fun burning the rejection letter, though.

Agents - real or otherwise- multiply when you add money AND if you pay an agent, why should they work any harder?:
Yes, I agree: if agents started charging again, they'd multiply like fleas. Every Tom, Dick or Harry would be jumping on the bandwagon; it'd be the new real estate boom. However, I still have my position, as untenable as it may appear: if a professional agent charged me a reading fee for a fast and professional acceptance or rejection, I would pay it.
I would, too. If I could have back in '98, I definitely would have. It might have made me stop grinding my teeth at having to become a corporate prostitute in the wonderful world of IT. Sure, I might have been slightly poorer, but at least I would have *known*. As it was, I got a response from the first agent I sent my book to (but they didn't read the book), the second agent went a whole lot further but ended up not biting (or should I say "not bonding"), and the third agent I sent my second book to was as communicative as the Sphinx (in other words, I never got a response).

As for whether or not an agent would have any reason to work hard after they take your reading fee, of course they would. Anyone who cared about their craft, would. Apart from the financial incentive to work harder for extra commission, there would also be the professional pride in helping a writer to become a master of their craft. And that, my friends, is what we *really* play for. Plasma televisions and bigger cars have their allure, but nothing is as attractive as accomplishment. The same rule applies for a teacher watching a pupil accomplish their first sums as it does to a writer finishing the last sentence of a great book.

I suppose my final position would be this: you pay a plumber or a tradesman (tradesperson) to come out to to your home when you have a problem. Even if they find that yes, your cistern *is* perfectly functional, Mr 1.0, they'll still charge you a call-out fee. Like a plumber or a sparky, agents have to rent premises, too. They also have utility bills to pay, as well as heating and telephone bills. Of course there's a few thousand shysters out there willing to take coin for doing nothing. But there's always going to be those types of individuals. Always have and always will. So, if we take the tradesperson analogy, why should writing be any different (and if you're thinking that I'm equating writing with shovelling faeces, then...lol. Yeah. I'm not *really*)?

Again, apologies for the long diatribe. A fascinating subject and I look forward to defending my position a little more concisely next time.

Slan go foill,

1.0

Tilly
07-11-2007, 05:26 PM
I suppose my final position would be this: you pay a plumber or a tradesman (tradesperson) to come out to to your home when you have a problem. Even if they find that yes, your cistern *is* perfectly functional, Mr 1.0, they'll still charge you a call-out fee. Like a plumber or a sparky, agents have to rent premises, too. They also have utility bills to pay, as well as heating and telephone bills. Of course there's a few thousand shysters out there willing to take coin for doing nothing. But there's always going to be those types of individuals. Always have and always will. So, if we take the tradesperson analogy, why should writing be any different (and if you're thinking that I'm equating writing with shovelling faeces, then...lol. Yeah. I'm not *really*)?


I can see your logic, but that's how successful agents work. They make their money by selling books to publishers. They don't need to charge writers. The agents who need to charge writers are the ones who can't sell books to publishers. They're not the sort of agent you want.

These are a couple of good articles on researching and finding agents:

http://www.sff.net/people/victoriastrauss/agentsearch.html
http://www.sff.net/people/victoriastrauss/trackrecord.html

James D. Macdonald
07-11-2007, 05:43 PM
Thing is, there are two groups in the world of agenting:

The people who charge fees. The people who sell books. No crossover.*.

For the purposes of education, please read: Slushkiller (http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html) and On the Getting of Agents (http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004772.html).




Now about that 250,000 word (or 170,000 word) book. Maybe not the best book for a first timer (though you can find examples (Jonathan Strange) where it worked). Here's why:

There's a cost to printing, and that cost goes up with the number of pages in the book. The cost goes down with the number of copies printed. There's a price above which the readers won't pay (even for a book by an author they know and like), and there's an expected number of copies a first novel by an unknown is likely to sell. Please note that readers drive publishing. The number of copies they're willing to buy, and the prices they're willing to pay, are the limiting factors.

The question is, can your 250,000 word book be printed in the numbers it's likely to sell, at a cost that will allow the publisher to put it in stores at a price the public will pay? Answer, generally, is no.

A writer later in his career, with higher expected sales, can get the larger print run that will take the cost of printing low enough to allow the higher page length with a cover price that's under what Joe Reader is willing to pay.

If a publisher can't sell a book at a profit he's not going to buy it. If a publisher isn't going to buy a book, even the best agent in the world can't sell it. More, the best agent in the world isn't even going to try. Therefore, no very long first novels.

Your 250,000 (or 170,000) word book might make a lovely second or third novel in your career as a writer.


(And just as a by-the-way, I didn't sell my first novel until I was 35.)

-------------
*Not actually 100% true: Andy Zack (for a while at least) would expedite reading your manuscript if you paid him to. He'd still reject it if he didn't like it, but he'd get to it sooner. And for years and years Scott Meredith (rest his soul) had two sides to his agency: the side that represented writers like Norman Mailer (where he didn't charge fees) and the side that charged fees (but didn't accept anyone). For your money you'd get rejected by (a nameless intern hired by an assistant to ) the same agent who represented Norman Mailer! Now that Scott has gone on to that great slushpile in the sky, scammers can no longer point to him when they charge their fees and say "We're just like Scott Meredith, one of the biggest agents in America!"

Dave.C.Robinson
07-11-2007, 05:56 PM
The problem is that selling books is hard work and sitting back and charging reading fees isn't. If you have bills to pay you're going to focus on whatever brings in the money or you will go out of business. So agencies that charge fees are going to be rewarded for focusing on getting fees from writers, and all the time spent doing that is time they aren't spending on selling books. Because it's a revenue stream, they'll also be less selective, which means they'll accept more clients which will mean less time spent selling each book. It's not good for writers or for publishers.

In theory, there could be agents that do charge fees and also sell books. However, a universal fee-charging model in the industry would make those who do sell books much harder to distinguish from those who only collect fees. It's a slippery slope and given the size of the industry, the only way to handle it is with a flat out ban on charging fees.

spike
07-12-2007, 12:57 PM
concisely[/I] next time.

Slan go foill,

1.0

I'm afraid you're comparing apples to aardvarks. A literary agent should be compared to a real estate agent. All money is made on commission.

Dave.C.Robinson
07-12-2007, 02:07 PM
(Snipped for brevity)

I suppose my final position would be this: you pay a plumber or a tradesman (tradesperson) to come out to to your home when you have a problem. Even if they find that yes, your cistern *is* perfectly functional, Mr 1.0, they'll still charge you a call-out fee. Like a plumber or a sparky, agents have to rent premises, too. They also have utility bills to pay, as well as heating and telephone bills. Of course there's a few thousand shysters out there willing to take coin for doing nothing. But there's always going to be those types of individuals. Always have and always will. So, if we take the tradesperson analogy, why should writing be any different (and if you're thinking that I'm equating writing with shovelling faeces, then...lol. Yeah. I'm not *really*)?

Again, apologies for the long diatribe. A fascinating subject and I look forward to defending my position a little more concisely next time.

Slan go foill,

1.0

I see your point, but think it's a false analogy. The rule of business is anyone who pays you is a customer, and anyone you pay is a supplier. When you bring a plumber out to your house to fix your cistern, you are their customer. But for an agent you're the supplier. Agents exist to sell books, publishers are their customers. Writers are agents' suppliers, providing the product for them to sell.

LloydBrown
07-12-2007, 06:24 PM
Yep, and plumbers don't turn jobs down. They take every one. If they could review your problem from their home before they sold it to another company...wait--this analogy isn't making any sense.

1.0
07-13-2007, 10:01 AM
Yep, and plumbers don't turn jobs down. They take every one. If they could review your problem from their home before they sold it to another company...wait--this analogy isn't making any sense.

It's an entertaining analogy, Lloyd. It's not to be a comparison written in stone: "omigod, literary agents and tradesmen are identical" sort-of-thing. C'mon, take it as it was meant, rather than using it in extremis to score points. If everyone wrote literally, then t'would be a boring world, indeed.

And now onto fresher fields. Perhaps things are different in the States (not that they're brilliant in the UK), but a (professional) agent taking a reading fee *then* attempting to bag a writer's commission by working his or her buttocks off is fine by me. Is there such a compulsion for the agent to work as hard? No there certainly isn't if the agent is unethical. However, I'm figuring your spider sense can pick those rogues up. Are there benefits for giving money to an agent? Of course. It might make him or her give you a faster - and more comprehensive and detailed - response. Rather than waiting six months for a reply, you might be able to get an answer within a month. Faster if they're not busy.

My apologies, but I can't see any compelling arguments so far that have made me think that, in the right circumstances, agents should charge a fee. As usual with any commercial transaction, caveat emptor applies. You wouldn't hand your money over to a complete stranger without doing some background checks, so do the same with an agent. If they seem okay, then take a chance if it's right for you. If it feels dodgy or "not right", then hold onto your money.

I think that everyone's fingers appear to have been burnt on this one and understandably so. However, the situation for writers, as it is today, is almost purely based on commerce. There are very little emotive elements within a publishing deal. Therefore, if a publishing deal is an economic one, then surely it should be an option for writers to use economics for their *own* gain? Agents, if they charge, need to be able to justify their charge. If they can't, sayonara. If they *can* justify it, then perhaps they might have a compelling reason *why* they are charging. If this is the case (and tbh, I can think of a few good reasons why a reading fee might be beneficial to the writer), then I believe shutting out the option is a wee bit short-sighted.

Lastly, allow me to qualify this viewpoint: my thoughts are based on pure theory. If others have cautionary - real world - tales to tell, knock themselves out. I'd be fascinated to hear.

Best,

1.0.

DeadlyAccurate
07-13-2007, 10:36 AM
Lastly, allow me to qualify this viewpoint: my thoughts are based on pure theory. If others have cautionary - real world - tales to tell, knock themselves out. I'd be fascinated to hear.

This entire forum is based on real world cautionary tales. If you want specifics, just go to Preditors & Editors (http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/pubagent.htm), find any agents listed as Not Recommended, and then cross-reference them with the threads found in the Index stickied at the top of this forum. Do that with a few dozen Not Recommended agents and see why the experts repeatedly say not to pay out of pocket.

If your writing is good enough to be published, you don't have to pay people to read it.

Tilly
07-13-2007, 11:53 AM
You want a real world example? How about from the UK - Christopher Hill and the Hill and Hill agency:

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12420

Writer Beware covered this in 4 blog posts:

http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2006/09/victoria-strauss-hill-hill-literary.html

http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2006/09/victoria-strauss-hill-hill-literary_24.html

http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2006/09/victoria-strauss-hill-hill-literary_25.html

http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2006/09/victoria-strauss-hill-hill-literary.html

Scary stuff.

I understand you'd be happy to pay if it meant helping your career. But paying upfront fees to agents won't help your career. It will send you careering down an expensive, and sometimes emotionally painful, dead end.

Article in the Times highlighting the problem:
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article605481.ece

This is a book I'd highly, highly recommend:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ten-Percent-Nothing-Literary-Agent/dp/0809325756/ref=sr_1_3/026-6371545-6330049?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1184313645&sr=8-3

You think that you'd be able to sense if an agent wasn't on the up and up. Well, the people I've seen post here who were caught in the web of scammers weren't stupid or ignorant people. In an area where they had more knowledge, I doubt they'd have been caught out. But they didn't know that successful agents don't charge fees. The scam and clueless agents can come up with all kinds of reasonable sounding reasons for charging fees. That's why they have victims.

DaveKuzminski
07-13-2007, 04:32 PM
Keep in mind that prior to Writer Beware and P&E, there weren't any sites (not that I found back then) spelling out who to trust and who to be wary of. Sure, there were sites, books, and even magazine articles spelling out the general warning signs, but they didn't name names. It was that lack of specific warning that brought about P&E and then mere months later Writer Beware.

LloydBrown
07-13-2007, 05:17 PM
It's an entertaining analogy, Lloyd. It's not to be a comparison written in stone: "omigod, literary agents and tradesmen are identical" sort-of-thing.

I understand that. I use analogy all the time.

However, I write business plans. If the business models are different, then the revenue streams are necessarily different. It doesn't make sense to compare how the two industries charge or earn their pay. Pointing out that you always pay a service charge in another industry doesn't mean anything when it comes to a literary agent.

Let's put it this way: what if your agent got kickbacks from the market he sells to? He'd have a financial interest in selling your work (in whatever field we're talking about) to a lower offer, if his kickback made up for the lower fees he collected, right? You might find yourself with a worse publishing deal, but you don't mind, right? Whatever the agent needs to do to stay in business, right?

Somehow, I don't think so.

It's a clear conflict of interest--as is collecting fees from writers.

As I'm sure has been stated before, an agent who collects fees has no incentive to sell your work. It's much harder to sell a manuscript than it is to sit back and collect fees. There's at least one scam agency that has set up an auto-responder to accept manuscripts and collect fees--and it has done so for years without ever talking to a writer or selling a book. It's just free money for them that keeps coming in without any effort.

JulieB
07-13-2007, 06:49 PM
Agents who live on commissions are hungry folks. They're also picky about which writers they take on because if they can't make sales they don't make a living. This also gives them an incentive to be aggressive in getting the best deals for their writers. In the end it benefits them and YOU.

LloydBrown
07-13-2007, 10:30 PM
Agents who live on commissions are hungry folks.

Except for the ones who are successful. Of course, that applies to everyone who works on commission.

Toothpaste
07-13-2007, 11:13 PM
It is fine to talk theory, but the danger comes in expounding theory as real world practical behaviour. There are rarely any absolutes of course, but 9 times out of 10 the agents you find out there charging fees are scammers. As such it is wise I think to advise a first timer to simply "never submit to fee charging agents". There are hundreds of excellent non-fee charging agents out there (far more than the ones who are legit and charge fees), possibly when the new author has exhausted all of those, then they can sit down and carefully analyse the fee charging ones. But it's a dangerous world out there, and it is not only the very stupid who are conned, these days cons are extremely sophisticated. The whole "money flows towards the author" is simply a very sound practice to live by.

In theory yes, an agent could be able to charge fees and still be legit. And in theory I could keep my door unlocked at night and not get robbed. I still like the added security of my deadbolt however.

James D. Macdonald
07-13-2007, 11:41 PM
Agents, if they charge, need to be able to justify their charge. If they can't, sayonara. If they *can* justify it, then perhaps they might have a compelling reason *why* they are charging.

The fee-charging agents are fully capable of justifying their charges. They're past-masters of supplying reasonable explanations. Utterly compelling stuff.

And all hogwash.

Theory's fine. Experience tells a different story. But go with the theory if you must.

Here's one thing I'd like you to do: Before you write that first check to a fee-charger, ask him or her for the titles/authors/publishers of all the books he or she has sold in the past twelve months.

If the agent, despite reading fees, hasn't been able to place any books (or has only placed them with vanity presses), ask yourself what makes you think that the agent will be able to place your book with a commercial press.

"Because my book is different!" is not the answer.

victoriastrauss
07-14-2007, 02:31 AM
And now onto fresher fields. Perhaps things are different in the States (not that they're brilliant in the UK), but a (professional) agent taking a reading fee *then* attempting to bag a writer's commission by working his or her buttocks off is fine by me. Is there such a compulsion for the agent to work as hard? No there certainly isn't if the agent is unethical. However, I'm figuring your spider sense can pick those rogues up. Are there benefits for giving money to an agent? Of course. It might make him or her give you a faster - and more comprehensive and detailed - response. Rather than waiting six months for a reply, you might be able to get an answer within a month. Faster if they're not busy.Why would a reading fee make the agent respond faster? He's charging the same fee to everyone, so it's not as if you're paying for any special privileges. What you're paying for is what reputable agents currently provide for free.

It's worth noting that both the AAR, the American trade group for agents, and the Australian Literary Agents' Association, forbid their members to charge reading and evaluation fees. (The AAA, the UK agents' trade group, also prohibits reading fees, but provides a loophole.) From the AAR's Canon of Ethics: The AAR believes that the practice of literary agents charging clients or potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works (including outlines, proposals, and partial or complete manuscripts) is subject to serious abuse that reflects adversely on our profession. For that reason, members may not charge clients or potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works and may not benefit, directly or indirectly, from the charging for such services by any other person or entity.

What abuse, you may ask? Here are some examples from Writer Beware's files.

- One agent with a fairly sizeable track record charges a reading fee of $35 (the agency calls it a processing fee, but a duck is a duck). This may not seem like a lot of money. But there's substantial evidence to indicate that the agency invites everyone who queries to submit a partial, whether or not the agency is interested. Since successful agencies get hundreds of queries a week, that $35 probably adds up to a major source of supplemental income.

- One agent charges a reading fee of $150. This agent has been in business since before Writer Beware was founded (1998) and in that time has never sold a book to a commercial publisher. The agency is just a front for collecting reading fees. Given how desperate aspiriing writers can become, it's easy money--even though most writers now know that reading fees are not legit.

- One agent charges a $250 reading fee and rationalizes it by promising a written evaluation. The evaluations consist of a a couple of paragraphs mentioning the writer's work in very general terms, suggesting that the manuscript has been cursorily skimmed; and several pages of generic how-to advice (the kind of thing you might find in a how-to-write book), the same for everyone.

These are just three examples of the kinds of abuse invited by reading and evaluation fees. We've got many more in our files. Hopefully this will shed some light on why the AAR and the ALAA are concerned enough about abuse to prohibit reading and evaluation fees for their members.

- Victoria

JerseyGirl1962
07-16-2007, 04:52 PM
Here's one thing I'd like you to do: Before you write that first check to a fee-charger, ask him or her for the titles/authors/publishers of all the books he or she has sold in the past twelve months.

If the agent, despite reading fees, hasn't been able to place any books (or has only placed them with vanity presses), ask yourself what makes you think that the agent will be able to place your book with a commercial press.

"Because my book is different!" is not the answer.


1.0,

What Uncle Jim said.

If the fee-charger gives you a list, fine, then research the heck out of that list. Don't be surprised if most or all of those books the agent has placed are with vanity publishers. If so, cross them off your list, because I'm sure you know at this point that vanities will take anything you give them.

But don't be surprised if said fee-charger doesn't give you a list; they'll come up with pathetic stuff like, "Oh, that's privileged information," or "I don't give that out because I don't want others to know." Baloney. Legit agents practically scream from the rooftops to let people know when they've placed their authors. Why not? They went through a lot in order to make that sale, so why shouldn't they let the public at large know?

Look, I can't give you a real-world example, as I'm not pubbed yet (I had one short published, but that was years ago), but I came into the publishing cold; I didn't know jack. Because of this board, P&E, Writer Beware, and the Rumor Mill, I've educated myself as to how the wacky world of publishing really works. People who've been legitimately published give of their time and knowledge so the rest of us don't get taken by the out-and-out scam agents and the clueless wannabe agents. Before jumping into anything, esp. something as weird as publishing, educate yourself, so you'll be less likely to have a lighter wallet.

Will it take longer for you to get published by doing all this friggin' research? Hell yeah. But at least you'll be confident that someone isn't just taking you to the bank.

Good luck.

~Nancy

Donna Pudick
07-30-2007, 05:18 PM
Not so fast, Shawn

The cost of running a small agency isn't all that much. It's less than a membership in a mid-sized golf club. As for postage, it can add up, but also not that much. Most large publishers accept email transmissions. That's free. Most manuscript boxes can be reused, and rejections often come back with the return postage still in the box. Many publishers prefer padded envelopes and will send back a manuscript in your box, in a padded envelope, or sometimes leave out the box. So using a box isn't necessary.

Copies are much cheaper on a work-horse lazer printer, so a smart agent will use one instead of going to a commercial copier.

A good telephone service allows for unlimited calls and emails take care of most communications between editors and agents. Same thing between agents and authors.

A membership in a unishipper's service saves a bundle on the few hard copies an agent must mail out, and the bills are never much over $40 per month.

To Newsflash

Ditto what Victoria said. And Dave. And James

Carolina
07-30-2007, 08:49 PM
anyone have any experience with an agent wanting the project under the condition you bring in another writer to come in and clean things up - provide an outside prospective? someone mentioned it earlier but no one replied.

JCT
07-30-2007, 08:57 PM
anyone have any experience with an agent wanting the project under the condition you bring in another writer to come in and clean things up - provide an outside prospective? someone mentioned it earlier but no one replied.

A book doctor? Not unheard of but is the agent pointing you toward a specific one from whom they may get kickbacks from or referral fees? Or does the agent think your book needs more work in general to be saleable?

Carolina
07-30-2007, 09:06 PM
more saleable, he says. no money. they know each other and it seems very transparent. no money between them, he says.

James D. Macdonald
07-30-2007, 09:07 PM
Could also be a non-fiction where the top billed expert can't write worth beans and a co-writer has to come aboard for a "with" by-line. Depends on the case.

JCT
07-30-2007, 09:19 PM
more saleable, he says. no money. they know each other and it seems very transparent. no money between them, he says.

I'd tread very carefully. For instance, I recently got hired by an agent to book doctor/edit a book by a well known author who is old and slowing down but wants to go out with a bang. He hasn't published anything in a decade or so.

My aunt and the agent were talking and my aunt referred me. This agent usually doesn't do this kind of stuff but this author has been his client for thirty years and he really wants to see the book done.

So in my case, it's all on the up and up. But like I said, tread carefully.

Carolina
07-30-2007, 09:34 PM
thanks. the downside is losing $? and time? correct?

JCT
07-30-2007, 09:45 PM
thanks. the downside is losing $? and time? correct?

Yup.

James D. Macdonald
07-31-2007, 02:10 AM
Money, time, rights, reputation ... all those things.

Carolina
07-31-2007, 04:39 AM
would you mind expanding on the rights and reputation aspects? thanks!

James D. Macdonald
07-31-2007, 05:52 AM
Not in this thread.

Donna Pudick
08-01-2007, 10:31 PM
There are so many great manuscripts out there, it seems an awful waste of time to wait for major repairs on an inferior book.

My partner and I do most of the reading. We offer editorial advice, but do very little editing. We don't have the time. My extra readers work for free. Most of them are retired published writers and/or publishers/editors who feel privileged to be reading original works. Sometimes I use an expert in firearms or police procedure, or such, to check out sections of a book. They work for free, too, also for the privilege of seeing new material.

Of course, I'm living in a place that's replete with folks like that, so it's easy for me to find willing readers. If I can't find a reader for a specific genre, I won't consider the book.

The only free-lance editors/readers I know who work for money, work for publishing companies and are paid by the company, not the author. I worked in that capacity myself for several years. Many big houses use in-house copy editors these days.

If an author's book needs paid work, s/he should take it back and do it over.

MyTorchIsBroken
09-30-2007, 05:55 PM
I have a theory about why the number of fee charging agents are on the increase and it's all to do with Bill Gates. I have a couple of questions:

1. Do you have a PC?
Of course you do. You're reading this forum and participating it. This means you have at least an operating system and an Internet browser.

2. Do you have a word processor?
If you are using Windows, then you do. Even Linux systems come with a basic word processor.

With this in mind, and the old saying that everyone has a book in them (although not a very good one on the whole), it is now very easy to get a correctly formatted MSS into a PC in under a year. This has grossly overburdened the agent system, which is still stuck in the pre-PC era. Not many agents accept e-mail queries, and very few will accept e-mail submissions.

This means that with the typical agent not giving feedback on an MSS for up to 12 months, people are being tempted away to these fee-paying agents, who will give a quick response, who accept e-mail queries, and will seem to pander to the whims of very fragile new writers.

And there's more.... A typical agent could work for a year with a new writer, for that writer to just give it up. That means a lot of effort has been invested by the agent and now they have nothing. If you think about it, who wants to work for nothing?

Enter the fee-charging agent. They will get back to you very quickly. Is that a bad thing? Many fee-charging agents do have books on the shelves and movies in the theatres. Those who don't are scammers and should be avoided, I agree. But what of the rest? Why shouldn't the writer pay for their initial representation and therefore invest in their future career? This will make the writer think twice about dumping the project. If you have invented a widget (book) then it will cost you something to have it built and that would cost you (fee-charging agent). Afterall, they don't know if you're going to drop the project, do they?

New writers should change their attitude towards writing in the 21st century. If you're lucky, you'll find a non-charging agent and get published. If you can afford it, self-publish. The mid-way is to pay some small fee upfront for the inital representation. NEVER pay for reading or reports. These are scams.

Just to add that I am not an agent, I have never been published, have been turned down by five fee-charging agents (not all of them take on work "just for the money"), and I am not represented. These are just my thoughts as to why the number of fee-charging agents are on the rise.

DaveKuzminski
09-30-2007, 08:50 PM
Many fee-charging agents do have books on the shelves and movies in the theatres.

New writers should change their attitude towards writing in the 21st century. If you're lucky, you'll find a non-charging agent and get published. If you can afford it, self-publish. The mid-way is to pay some small fee upfront for the inital representation. NEVER pay for reading or reports. These are scams.


Many? In retrospect, I think the true answer to that is few. On top of that, a number of scam fee-chargers have claimed to have sales. However, when investigated carefully, those sales often turn out to be to vanity publishers or entirely false claims. Some have even turned out to be books published by authors before the agency was established.

As it stands, writers have changed their attitude towards writing in the 21st century. They've wised up to the scams and they're avoiding fee-chargers because there's no incentive for an upfront fee charger to sell their work to a commercial trade publishing house when the agent already has the author's money.

Also, self-publishing is not the best route for many books. It's suitable only for limited categories.

The best way to be published is to submit only to non-upfront fee chargers and commercial trade publishing houses. If neither of those shows any interest in the author's work, then the author should reevaluate the work being offered. There's a good chance it's not ready for publication. In rare instances, that's not the case, but the odds of that are very slim.

Saundra Julian
09-30-2007, 09:00 PM
Amen. Dave!

victoriastrauss
09-30-2007, 09:16 PM
Many fee-charging agents do have books on the shelves and movies in the theatres. The more than 400 agent files in Writer Beware's file cabinet conclusively prove otherwise. There's an overwhelming correlation betwee upfront fee-charging of ANY kind and a lousy to nonexistent track record.

Of those 400 files, I'm pretty sure I could count the number of fee chargers with a genuine and RECENT track record on the fingers of both hands.

- Victoria

MyTorchIsBroken
09-30-2007, 10:50 PM
I can see I've hit a raw nerve here. So, if fee-charging agents are such a boil on the face of agents, why isn't there more action to get rid of them? Why is the publishing industry happy for them to carry on? Why is it that all people do is whinge about them in these forums?

If these agents are so bad, why has no one approached BBC's Rogue Traders and exposed them? After all, they are as bad as a plumber charging you £1,000 for fitting a tap washer.

I know that bad publicity might drive them out of business, but surely it is time for the industry to wise up to these people. Maybe one way would be to speed up the query-request/refusal process. 12 months to hear back from an agency in the 21st century is totally unacceptable. After all, you wouldn't wait 12 months for an on-line order from Tesco would you?

JulieB
09-30-2007, 10:54 PM
Bill Gates? We had good word processors available long before MS-DOS. Made it easy for anyone to format a manuscript. If MS-DOS/Windows hadn't become dominant, another OS would have. Then we could conveniently lay the blame for all bad things at the feet of someone else.

(I'm not the biggest fan of Microsoft's business practices, but this isn't a target. Sorry.)

JulieB
09-30-2007, 10:56 PM
Twelve months is way out of the ordinary. A friend of mine is querying agents, and she's had responses to her e-mail queries within hours in some cases. And yes, she's been sending her queries to AAR member agencies.

MyTorchIsBroken
09-30-2007, 10:58 PM
I wasn't blaming Bill Gates directly for the rise of fee-charging agents, however, with the proliforation of PCs, writing a book has perceived to have become easier, and quicker, making agents groan under the number of modern-day submissions.

So, you had a wordprocessor 20 years ago did you? I have been in the IT industry for over 20 years, and back when I started, "personal computers" were the size of desks, £15,000, and were worse than useless. You must have been very rich to own one of those.

MyTorchIsBroken
09-30-2007, 11:01 PM
The problem is different over here in the UK. Only a very small number of agents accept e-mail queries, and only the fee-charging ones accept submissions vie e-mail. And there in lies the problem. If more UK agents switched on to IT and responded faster (6 months is the norm over here) then the fee-chargers would quickly go out of business. It is very expensive to post in the UK and e-mail would make things a lot easier, but the UK is about 5 years behind everyone else.

DeadlyAccurate
09-30-2007, 11:28 PM
I can see I've hit a raw nerve here. So, if fee-charging agents are such a boil on the face of agents, why isn't there more action to get rid of them? Why is the publishing industry happy for them to carry on? Why is it that all people do is whinge about them in these forums?

May I suggest you read Preditors & Editors (http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/) and Writer Beware (http://www.sfwa.org/beware/) and its blog (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/) in their entirety and then decide if you want to continue supporting these statements?

victoriastrauss
09-30-2007, 11:44 PM
I can see I've hit a raw nerve here. So, if fee-charging agents are such a boil on the face of agents, why isn't there more action to get rid of them? Why is the publishing industry happy for them to carry on? Why is it that all people do is whinge about them in these forums?

If these agents are so bad, why has no one approached BBC's Rogue Traders and exposed them? After all, they are as bad as a plumber charging you £1,000 for fitting a tap washer.I suggest answers to some of these questions in my blog post from last year, Why Scammers Are Hard to Put Away (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2006/12/victoria-strauss-why-scammers-are-hard.html).

The publishing industry isn't "happy" for fee-chargers to carry on. The AAR, the agents' professional trade group in the USA, prohibited reading and referral fees for its members years ago, because these practices were being so widely abused. And many publishing people actively speak out against literary scams and schemes, on their blogs, at conferences, or elsewhere.

On the other hand, fee-charging agents really are not a part of the publishing industry. They comprise their own industry, which is devoted to making money directly from clients, rather than from selling clients' work. The only point of connection between the real publishing industry and the shadow-industry of fee-charging agents is the writers the fee-chargers entrap.

- Victoria

JulieB
10-01-2007, 12:14 AM
So, you had a wordprocessor 20 years ago did you? I have been in the IT industry for over 20 years, and back when I started, "personal computers" were the size of desks, £15,000, and were worse than useless. You must have been very rich to own one of those.

25 years ago I had a Timex (Sinclair to you in the UK) 1000. I did word processing on it. That was a $100 computer. Yeah, I was filthy rich. </sarcasm>

ResearchGuy
10-01-2007, 12:35 AM
If I may comment . . .

It seems to me that the other side of the coin is that a writer has to accept that a legitimate, non-fee-charging agent cannot jump through hoops to put the writer's manuscript on the fast track. It will go into the queue, possibly with dozens or more from equally hopeful writers.

Likewise, the writer has to accept that his or her manuscript might be rejected with only a sentence or two. The agent cannot invest more time than that in commenting (let alone a more comprehensive critique), as the agent makes money only from selling manuscripts to publishers and has to focus on the highest-value possibilities available, not on unsalable manuscripts. Also, any comment beyond "Your manuscript does not meet our present needs," or words to that effect, is inviting an angry response from the writer. The exception might be where the agent sees promise if the manuscript is revised, or for a better targeted future manuscript. Without at least that future potential, the only reasonable response is to reject the manuscript in a few (preferably inoffensive) words.

IMHO, reflecting my observations in recent years, FWIW.

--Ken

Popeyesays
10-01-2007, 12:46 AM
You know Torch, there is nothing keeping you from submitting to U.S. agents via e-mail.

Regards,
Scott

JulieB
10-01-2007, 01:07 AM
Ken, you're spot on.

ETA: MyTorchIsBroken: My first "real" PC 20 years ago cost under $500 because I built it myself. It was a fast 286 with two floppy drives. I used PC-Write. Word wasn't an option yet.

MyTorchIsBroken
10-01-2007, 01:13 AM
Just for the record, I don't agree with fee-charging agents and they should be shut down. It seems to me now after spending 7 years unsuccessfully trying to get published that the only people actually making money out of writing are fee-charging agents, software manufacturers, and these so-called book doctors.

JulieB
10-01-2007, 01:51 AM
Software manufacturers? When OpenOffice is free?

James D. Macdonald
10-01-2007, 08:35 AM
Many fee-charging agents do have books on the shelves and movies in the theatres....

Name three.


Why is the publishing industry happy for them to carry on?

The publishing industry ignores the fee chargers. From the point of view of the editors, the fee-chargers don't exist. They don't interact with 'em.

Twenty years ago I had an Atari 800. Wrote my first half-dozen novels on it. (I'd still be using it, but it broke and I couldn't get it repaired.)

aruna
10-01-2007, 09:50 AM
The problem is different over here in the UK. Only a very small number of agents accept e-mail queries, and only the fee-charging ones accept submissions vie e-mail. And there in lies the problem. If more UK agents switched on to IT and responded faster (6 months is the norm over here) then the fee-chargers would quickly go out of business. It is very expensive to post in the UK and e-mail would make things a lot easier, but the UK is about 5 years behind everyone else.

This does not correlate with my own experience. I have sent in many email queries to UK agents and have received answers and manuscript e-submission requests within a day. These agents include Eugenie Furniss of William Morris and Vivienne Schuster of Curtis Brown. Jane Gregory's agency, Andrew Lownie, and several other top agencies also accept equeries AND e-submissions. I know of at least one UK agency that ONLY accepts e-submissions.

Or this, from Robin Wade's Agency (http://www.rwla.com/):

Submission Guidelines

New proposals for full length adult and children's books are always welcome. We much prefer to receive queries and submissions by email, although we do, of course, accept proposals by post. There is no need to telephone in advance.

.......
We aim to respond to email submissions within seven days of receipt. If we subsequently request a full typescript, we aim to respond within thirty days. . (my bold)

(And yes, they do respond within seven/thirty days)

When I sent in manuscripts, I have had responses mostly within two weeks.

waylander
10-01-2007, 12:33 PM
Just for the record, I don't agree with fee-charging agents and they should be shut down. It seems to me now after spending 7 years unsuccessfully trying to get published that the only people actually making money out of writing are fee-charging agents, software manufacturers, and these so-called book doctors.

It took me 3 days to go from initial query to offer of representation with my London-based agent. All done by e-mail.
If you have spent 7 unsuccesful years trying to get published and not had any encouraging replies from editors/agents, then I suggest that the answer lies in the quality of the work you are offering them.

Momento Mori
10-01-2007, 06:22 PM
MyTorchIsBroken:
If these agents are so bad, why has no one approached BBC's Rogue Traders and exposed them? After all, they are as bad as a plumber charging you £1,000 for fitting a tap washer.

How do you know that people haven't tried approaching these programmes? I know people who work at the BBC and most of the time, consumer affairs programmes like Rogue Traders and Watchdog focus on the kind of crimes that (a) they can get co-operation from local Trading Standards for and (b) are likely to affect a large number of people. The number of people who've been ripped off by dodgy plumbers is likely to exceed the number of people who've been ripped off by fee-charging agents - at least, insofar as the United Kingdom is concerned.

You also need to consider the fact that in the UK, it's very difficult to get Trading Standards interested in dodgy agents in the first place. I'm having one of those mental spasm days so I can't remember the name of the agency, but earlier this year one of the AW threads here helped bring to light a rogue agent trading in Scotland who had taken dozens of people for a ride, albeit for little cash. One of the victims did contact their local Trading Standards and got told it was a contractual matter for them to take to their local court. There's no legal aid for doing something like that, which is why many people didn't want to risk throwing away good money after bad.

I do seem to remember that Watchdog highlighted a scam scriptwriter agent a few years ago - again, this was highlighted on one of the threads in this Forum, but in that case people had been taken for thousands of pounds, which made it of particular newsworthy interest.


MyTorchIsBroken:
Only a very small number of agents accept e-mail queries, and only the fee-charging ones accept submissions vie e-mail. And there in lies the problem. If more UK agents switched on to IT and responded faster (6 months is the norm over here) then the fee-chargers would quickly go out of business. It is very expensive to post in the UK and e-mail would make things a lot easier, but the UK is about 5 years behind everyone else.

A quick look in this year's Writers' and Artists' Year Book says that this isn't the case - it lists agencies that are willing to accept email submissions.

In any event, it sounds to me is that the 'problem' is that there are some writers who are impatient to get on, which means they're looking for shortcuts when there are no shortcuts to publication. The second problem is that some people who write a book are simply unwilling to do their research into who to submit their manuscript to and what the process entails. The number of UK agents who've spoken about receiving manuscripts for a genre they don't represent or people who submit query letters written on pink paper with a picture of their cat attached is truly depressing. Anyone who is serious about being an author needs to do their research and see what it is that they're getting into. If more people did that, then there wouldn't be anyone for these scammers to feed on.

MM

LloydBrown
10-01-2007, 06:38 PM
So, you had a wordprocessor 20 years ago did you? I have been in the IT industry for over 20 years, and back when I started, "personal computers" were the size of desks, £15,000, and were worse than useless. You must have been very rich to own one of those.

Huh? You've worked in IT for 20 years and never heard of the Apple II, released 30 years ago? It cost around $2,000 and sold several million copies. We had a Kaypro that cost a bit less, and it worked just fine. The TRS-80 was available in 1979. In fact, it's likely that there were over over half a million PCs a year being sold 20 years ago.

All of these fit quite comfortably on desktops, and nobody had to be rich to buy them.

Diandra
09-07-2008, 08:58 PM
I am new for this type of industry. Can someone please tell me what types of fees or charges should I be aware of if I publish a book?

MadScientistMatt
09-07-2008, 10:29 PM
I am new for this type of industry. Can someone please tell me what types of fees or charges should I be aware of if I publish a book?

There aren't many besides your investment in time. You'll need a servicable computer and printer, and may need to pay Kinko's to print out your manuscript if your home printer isn't up to snuff. And you have to pay the postage when you mail it in.

A publisher should not charge you any fee or charges - period. They should pay you at least a couple thousand for the book, unless it's some very specialized niche work.

Agents also should not charge up front fees. They're like real estage agents - they sell manuscripts and take a cut of the sale price. Some agents may take an extra cut for things like postage and copying, but this isn't very much and ideally should be deducted from your advance.

James D. Macdonald
09-08-2008, 01:39 AM
Can someone please tell me what types of fees or charges should I be aware of if I publish a book?

There are no fees or charges.

Yog's Law:
In the natural order of things money flows toward the writer. The only place a writer signs a check is on the back.

You will create your manuscript at your own expense. Postage costs are yours. Everything else (representation, editing, publishing) is at no cost to you, and should net you money that you can use for groceries.

Donna Pudick
09-10-2008, 09:32 PM
I think I'm on this thread up high somewhere. I'll repeat, I still don't know why an agent needs to charge fees, unless they never had any start-up cash and decided to fleece it from clients. Running an agency is no more expensive yearly than a golf membership at a nice club. Maybe s/he plays golf, too, and can't afford to run an agency. With computers, mailings are mostly e-mail and so are queries. Sell a few books and the commissions cover any costs nicely.

DP

j.s.cutler
09-21-2008, 03:56 AM
Huh? You've worked in IT for 20 years and never heard of the Apple II, released 30 years ago? It cost around $2,000 and sold several million copies. We had a Kaypro that cost a bit less, and it worked just fine. The TRS-80 was available in 1979. In fact, it's likely that there were over over half a million PCs a year being sold 20 years ago.

All of these fit quite comfortably on desktops, and nobody had to be rich to buy them.

Ah, the Kaypro! That brings back memories. One of the first portable computers if memory serves. The keyboard snapped over the monitor and it was ready to pick up and go...

ejket
09-21-2008, 07:40 AM
The IBM PC is more than 20 years old. It was released in 1981, I think (the initial offering came with a whopping 16K RAM). I had an Apple II+ running CP/M more than 20 years ago.

James D. Macdonald
09-21-2008, 04:54 PM
Heck, twenty years ago when I went full-time freelance, I was writing on an Atari 800.

Let's not forget Lois McMaster Bujold who wrote her first published novel on a Coleco Adam.

LeslieB
09-21-2008, 07:56 PM
I got my first computer in roughly 83-84. It was the TI-99/4A, the computer famous for not having a question mark on the keyboard. Word processing was a challenge, needless to say. Of course, I didn't have a choice since the reason I had it was my mother worked for Texas Instruments and could get a refurb cheap out of the company store.

JulieB
09-21-2008, 08:35 PM
My first computer was a Timex/Sinclair 1000. But before that, in college, a group of us put out a fanzine using punch cards and an IBM 1620. When I married in 1980, we had a terminal and a dedicated phone line to a friend's apartment where they shared a PDP/11. I used to write on that.

LeslieB - at least you had the 99/4A. I had a friend who had the original 99/4, with the nasty Shift-Q bug.

Dang, I feel old.

ejket
09-21-2008, 10:47 PM
When I married in 1980, we had a terminal and a dedicated phone line to a friend's apartment where they shared a PDP/11. I used to write on that.
I learned C on a PDP-11/34 at university from 1979-83. All I had for writing was a line editor, lol.

DreamWeaver
09-22-2008, 03:10 AM
Geez...and I bet you all walked to school seven miles in the snow, uphill both ways...:D

EDIT: barefoot

DaveKuzminski
09-22-2008, 05:05 AM
I remember and worked on all but the Coleco Adam. You're making me feel old. I'm not going to list all the others I also worked on.

Donna Pudick
09-23-2008, 04:46 PM
An agent's biggest investment in the business is time. That can be cut shorter by using this philosophy: If a book isn't ready for a publisher, it's not ready for an agent.

Unless an agent is a retired editor (which I am) and has time on her hands (which I don't), there's no use trying to "doctor" or copy edit a manuscript, even if the basic story is terrific. Standard size of a fiction book is about 300-400 pages. Without interruptions, it can be read in one day. That never happens, so it takes at least a week to get through it, even without penciling the margins. Non-fiction, especially technical books, can be much larger.

If a manuscript needs any serious editing, back it goes with a kind letter (mostly) and (sometimes) an invitation to re-submit after the problems are solved.

Rob Brown
09-29-2008, 05:42 AM
If a manuscript has serious problems, it's rejected--period. We don't have time for return runs. There's more to getting published these day than having a good read. With fiction markets falling, each percentage point ups acceptable quality, plus with so many people writing these days there's always a huge supply of fresh writing waiting. To me, it's a shame what gets rejected these days--not from agents but from publishers. Then there's genre glut to deal with. . .

Donna Pudick
10-01-2008, 11:44 PM
Re: The genre glut--The editors are jaded. Unless you can wake them up before they take off their walking shoes, your manuscript is dead.

I'm glad I re-read a few manuscripts, because I ended up selling them. That was early in the game. No time for that anymore (mostly).

I did my first computer writing on a Bic-20. It made a lot of noise. The keyboard was also the computer, and you could hook it up to a TV set. The backup text went on a regular audio tape. The keys were five-sided. You could use them to play music. My first printer was an Epson LQ-570 impact. It still works and makes nice looking envelopes and labels.

playdatemom
11-07-2008, 03:00 AM
This is all good to know. Thanks y'all.

HarrisLiteraryscamsu
11-12-2008, 06:19 AM
It’s been said a million times, and may it be said a million more: never, ever, ever give an agency a nickel up front (and good job outing newsflash, James). If they’re moving your material, and can document their office’s expenses, sure, reimburse them. They use the identical litany: underpaid, overworked, underappreciated. But never inspired. In my personal opinion, agents without track records are just Tupperware salesmen with second jobs. They should be interested in your hard work, not your hard cash. Smiley face here.

mathewferguson
10-11-2009, 04:04 PM
The fee-charging agent exists because it's just so damn easy to do it. Desperation causes people to do stupid things like handing over chunks of cash to charlatans (I do love some alliteration).

When I was working as a freelancer writer and editor I had someone contact me about editing their fiction manuscript. They had been rejected many times and thought that if they hired a professional editor then they would be published. I read part of their manuscript and then had to write back with the bad news: this will never ever be published no matter what happens. No editing would be able to make this story sell. The grammar could be polished until it shone but that meant nothing when the entire story was terrible. I told the writer the bad news as nicely as I could and turned them down. Then they wrote back offering more money.

More money after I've already told them to give it up!

I again turned them down but I have no doubt this writer eventually handed over their money for no return.

Unfortunately the only way you can fight this kind of desperation is with education ... but sometimes the desperate will avoid this education.

If I were King ... fee-charging faux-agents would go to prison.

rbuckley9104
03-27-2010, 01:17 AM
I myself made the mistake of paying a fee to an agent, Cambridge Literary Associates to be exact. I was rewarded with only three telephone calls over a lengthy period of time. Cambridge Literary Associates have been the focus of much derision lately. In a separate thread, I was informed that these fee charging agents no longer even answer telephone calls or emails. They now solicit manuscipts from "well-published" authors only.

I am convinced that they, and most agents, actually do read submissions. I hold this belief if only as a result of one conversation with Cambridge Literary Associates. In the conversation, a particular agent, Michael Valentino, referenced my manuscipt to a degree that he would have been unable to do if he had simply not read the same. An agent must read a manuscript if he or she is going to intelligently represent a writer. Publishing houses are curious as to the content of manuscipts, and agents who have not read manuscipts they portend to have read will quickly gain adverse reputations.

An agent's reading a submission does not guarantee publication, which is obviously due in part to that agent's reputation with the publishing houses. If an agent cannot afford a particular writer some hope of publication through the agent's contacts, a fee prior to publication is more likely to be the result. Agents who cannot to some degree assure publication are more likely to have little to no income and therefore are more disposed to charging a writer a fee. If an agent has any confidence or success, he or she will not have to charge a fee. Consequently, an agent charging a fee should be a warning alarm to any prospective writer.

I made the mistake of not listening to such a warning alarm and received very little in return for my upfront fee. For what it is worth, I offer this thread as first hand experience with paying an agent a fee and the consequences.

Jill Karg
08-04-2010, 10:30 PM
alot of food for thought. ty everyone. When the children's book is through the last edit job (with an editor) and had a target audience read (have three/four families with kids that read my work) then and only then will i be looking for an agent. Which I am just now researching. My sci-fi series will be placed on back burner until I finish the childrens book series...will give it a cool down stage since I too made the mistake of going with PA. :Shrug:I don't want to rehash that story right now but we live and learn and maybe in a year I will try to get rights back to book.

Jill Karg
08-04-2010, 10:34 PM
oh first machine i used was a tandy 1000. had to save to 5 1/2 diskette and take it to the university to print out the book on a dot matrix printer using a leading edge machine. Yes I'm that old.

Calla Lily
08-04-2010, 11:42 PM
I got you beat. Typed on a manual typewriter and then mimeographed on a SpiritMaster--the kind with the purple ink that all the kids in school used to sniff like it was a drug. :D

*checks hair dye*

JulieB
08-04-2010, 11:44 PM
I got you beat. Typed on a manual typewriter and then mimeographed on a SpiritMaster--the kind with the purple ink that all the kids in school used to sniff like it was a drug. :D

*checks hair dye*

Same here. And the first computer I got to use was an IBM 1620. Punch cards!

(I still have a mimeo machine in the garage.)

Intern1
09-21-2010, 09:53 PM
Hi, I'm new to AW and I'm a freelance editor and writer who is almost done with her first book :). I have an important question.

I work for my sister (lawyer with contract experience, experienced teacher, and writer) at the literary agency she just started. We're trying to get off the ground while adhering to the AAR canon of ethics. The dream of the agency is to offer a "one-stop shop", where a writer can find consulting, lawyer services, and representation in the form of an agent. We are only two people--two writers--who are capable of offering those services, but worry about conflicts of interest.

One of our issues is that most reputable sources on the Internet don't want to promote agents who haven't gotten even one book published--for the good of writers. We understand that, but then how should a new agency get clients?

Our main issue stems from that: consulting and acting as a literary agent are seen as having conflicting interests. Since clients are few and far between, we've considered consulting or other important, non-agent fields in the writing and publishing process to keep our business going. But, how much of a conflict of interest can offering consulting services that clients pay for before publishing their book cause? Could we avoid this conflict if we had two contracts? Would this be seen as legitimate by the writing community?

I put this question to AW because the last thing our agency wants is create a bad reputation. After reading this thread, I understand much more fully why the majority of agents who charge fees prior to publication are not respected. However, is it ever possible for a person who is an agent to offer consulting (or act in another role in the writing/publishing field) and receive pay without being viewed as somewhat shifty by the writing community? What if they offer these services to the same person? Could it be avoided by only fulfilling one of those roles with a client?

Thank you,
Sierra
(Intern1)

Old Hack
09-21-2010, 10:08 PM
Charging fees for such consultancy work is always going to be a conflict of interests as far as I'm concerned. And while I do think you're doing your best to be fair to your clients, I cannot see anything in your backgrounds which qualifies you or your sister to be literary agents. Have either of you ever worked in publishing? Being a writer, teacher and lawyer doesn't do it, I'm afraid, no matter how good your intentions are.

If you're determined to become literary agents then your best bet would be to get jobs in the business, and get a good five years' or more experience first. I'm not trying to be rude: I have just seen SO many people without experience have a go at being agents and not only have none of them lasted, they've all caused some damage to their clients' careers because of their lack of experience.

Intern1
09-21-2010, 10:28 PM
Thank you for the honest advice, Old Hack.

Ludens
09-21-2010, 11:44 PM
One of our issues is that most reputable sources on the Internet don't want to promote agents who haven't gotten even one book published--for the good of writers. We understand that, but then how should a new agency get clients?

Good literary agents almost never started as independents. They worked for other agents or as an editor; and that's where they usually found the clients for their new agency.

There is more to an agent's job than getting the writer a contract. That is the most important hurdle, but you are also expected to help make the book a success and market the rights you haven't signed over. And, obviously, it helps if editors know you, either personally or by reputation, as someone with a track-record and an eye for interesting material. It's great that you want to help new writers, but there is simply no substitute for that kind of experience.

victoriastrauss
09-22-2010, 04:19 AM
I'm always concerned by the potential conflict of interest when an agent offers other paid services. However, you can address this concern by raising an impenetrable wall between those two aspects of your business--i.e., never provide consultation services to clients, and never take as clients anyone who has used your consultation services.

Like Old Hack, I'm most concerned by your and your sister's lack of agenting and publishing experience. In addition to the personal contacts and practical skills an agent needs--understanding publishing contract terms (which are different from other contract terms), knowing foreign markets, understanding subrights, and so on--a good agent needs to be able to spot salable manuscripts. This is a lot harder than you might think. One of the things that trips inexperienced agents up is that they can (often) distinguish a good manuscript from a bad one, but they can't necessarily distinguish a merely good manuscript from one that's also marketable--in part because they haven't worked in publishing, and haven't observed or participated in the selection process.

I agree that you should try to work in the industry and gain some experience before striking out on your own. People who come to agenting from non-publishing-related backgrounds are at a significant disadvantage--and if things go wrong, their clients pay the price. I apologize for being blunt, but like Old Hack, I've just seen too many failed agenting ventures.

- Victoria

James D. Macdonald
09-22-2010, 05:13 AM
We understand that, but then how should a new agency get clients?



"Literary Agent" is not an entry-level position.

miamyselfandi
09-22-2010, 05:35 AM
However, is it ever possible for a person who is an agent to offer consulting (or act in another role in the writing/publishing field) and receive pay without being viewed as somewhat shifty by the writing community? What if they offer these services to the same person? Could it be avoided by only fulfilling one of those roles with a client?

Thank you,
Sierra
(Intern1)

I'm concerned by the utter lack of agenting knowledge you are exposing here, since many agents do the things you're talking about doing simply as part of being an agent. Not all, but many.

You don't know what you're doing. But you're wanting to take other writers' careers into your inexperienced hands. The sad thing is, there will always be desperate new writers who will bite.

And yeah, blunt. Sorry about that. But publishing contracts are minefields and I've seen a writer get screwed because she thought her buddy who was lawyer with experience in contracts could handle it. That bad contract had a domino effect that almost destroyed her career. The only thing that saved her was when a legitimate agent took her on five books later and the publishers backed off of some of the more nefarious clauses because they didn't to alienate her new agent.

Donna Pudick
09-23-2010, 08:18 PM
Separate contracts don't cut it. It's under the same roof, same employees, etc. It's a conflict of interest. Yes, there are agents AND publishers who offer editorial and consulting services for money, but savvy authors will avoid them.

Dave.C.Robinson
09-24-2010, 12:08 AM
I know of one publisher that also charges for editorial services that doesn't send me running and screaming. That's because it's an either-or. They will not accept you as an editorial client if you have ever submitted to them - and anyone they edit is not allowed to submit to them later.

That's about the only way it can work.

Intern1
09-28-2010, 06:14 PM
My sister and I have definitely reconsidered our endeavor. Thank you everyone for your advice and honesty.

Scott Treimel
10-27-2010, 05:14 AM
i am afraid to post here— b/c my experience on writers' boards (where no one knows me) is. . . well, horrible: i get beat up. i do not know why.

ANYWAY: i was directed here to see the bad stuff said about S©ott Treimel NY. ouch! the ire refers to our former practice of charging clients for copying and messenger services— a common, even standard way of operating. we no longer have those expenses b/c now we submit ms electronically. still, there is nothing unethical about passing these costs to authors. what, does anyone think we make revenue that way? good grief!

now be nice, folks. i am only here to explain a misconception. i see one of my authors stuck up for our agency already.

Maddie
10-27-2010, 06:10 AM
...what, does anyone think we make revenue that way? good grief!


I think if you were in the business of making revenue off of unsuspecting authors, you would 1.) accept everyone, and 2.) charge an outrageous "reading fee" of $350.00. It's my understanding that charging the author back for copying, etc., has become acceptable, and often done when the manuscript is sold (e.g., taken from the advance). Totally legitimate.

However, I too am very relieved that submissions can be made electronically. It saves paper, space, time and money. But I'm certain the Postal Service is disappointed.

James D. Macdonald
03-31-2011, 12:57 AM
Literary agent jailed for cheating would-be authors out of thousands (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/30/literary-agent-conman-jailed)

Robin Price in Great Britain.

Shrouded
03-31-2011, 01:38 AM
Defending, Stephen Mooney said Price was "a broken, destitute, rather sad individual" who lived on £4 a day in a bedsit with his pet cat and dog. He said he had not spent the money on trappings of a successful high life.


As usual, Price is presented as the 'real' victim to the scam. The list continues to grow, Price(gotcha!), Fletcher, Larry, Miranda,........

Winterturn
03-31-2011, 07:21 PM
As usual, Price is presented as the 'real' victim to the scam. The list continues to grow, Price(gotcha!), Fletcher, Larry, Miranda,........

Well, it was the defence attorney portraying him as a victim...

...good to see the jury didn't agree, though!

authorgirl1485
04-20-2011, 06:09 PM
I would never pay an agent to just read my work. It has nothing to do with confidence in my work. They get paid when you do, and there is something respectable about that.

Jonathan Dalar
04-22-2011, 02:06 AM
"Literary Agent" is not an entry-level position.

Bingo!

Sorry, I'm a little late to the party here, but I'd like to add that I've never seen any agent I'd be willing to send my stuff to that charges. It's not necessarily a scam, it's simply not necessary.

The proper way to become a literary agent is by coming in at the entry level as an intern, or better yet, switching over from the publishing or editing side of the house after working up through the ranks. Even if you're a newbie agent in a well established house, you'll have the credentials of that agency on your side, and you'll probably have already been an agent's or a rights agent for a while.

You should be able to vet an agent in a well established agency, even a boutique agency. Even if they do not have a long list of established credentials, you know they're a viable agent with viable connections and resources.

James D. Macdonald
04-22-2011, 02:11 AM
I would never pay an agent to just read my work. It has nothing to do with confidence in my work. They get paid when you do, and there is something respectable about that.

An old-time prospector panning for gold didn't ask the gravel to pay him a Panning Fee.

GothamGal
04-29-2011, 03:19 AM
Thank you so much for this long-running and much-needed discussion. I was under the impression you weren't supposed to pay before, but had no idea how to further back up my belief. Now I have the knowledge. Thanks, again!

AC Crispin
05-30-2011, 08:06 PM
For a soup to nuts discussion of "How to Get a (Real) Literary Agent," find the article on Writer Beware's site.

www.writerbeware.com (http://www.writerbeware.com)

-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware
www.writerbeware.com (http://www.writerbeware.com)

A.C. Crispin
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom
Disney Editions

Bonnie Ferrante
06-16-2011, 01:58 AM
Fee-charging violates the basic principle of the author-agent relationship: a shared financial interest in the sale of the author's book. An agent who gets paid only if you do is not only highly motivated to sell your book, but to get the best deal possible. An agent who's gotten money upfront has already made a profit, so the incentive to sell your work is diminished.

Real estate agents works more or less the same way. The commission-on-sale thing is a strong motivator.

I feel that an agent should front the expense of submissions, and reimburse herself out of the author's advance. I don't agree that expenses should be billed, even if it's after the expense is incurred--I don't think the author should pay anything out of pocket before a sale is made. Nor do I think there should be a double standard for new vs. established authors. Unfortunately, though, practices like this do seem to be increasing, especially among newer agents, though I believe they are still in the minority.

In the end, the bottom line is always track record.

- Victoria
Writer Beware
www.writerbeware.com/ (http://www.writerbeware.com/)

I thought this was standard but the Bradford Literary Agency says this on their site "Most reputable agents take a 15% commission on the revenue of your book, which includes, advances, royalties, subsidiary rights etc. You will also typically be expected to reimburse the direct expenses the agent incurs on your behalf (photocopying of proposals and manuscripts, shipping/postage etc.)." Does that mean you pay up front?

C.J.
06-19-2011, 07:23 PM
I thought this was standard but the Bradford Literary Agency says this on their site "Most reputable agents take a 15% commission on the revenue of your book, which includes, advances, royalties, subsidiary rights etc. You will also typically be expected to reimburse the direct expenses the agent incurs on your behalf (photocopying of proposals and manuscripts, shipping/postage etc.)." Does that mean you pay up front?

Hi Bonnie, you have the answer to your question in what you have quoted.
He is saying that an agent will take a 15% commission on the revenue of your book........you will also typically be expected to reimburse the direct expenses.

Meaning the direct expenses also come out of the revenue of your book.

shaldna
06-19-2011, 07:51 PM
I thought this was standard but the Bradford Literary Agency says this on their site "Most reputable agents take a 15% commission on the revenue of your book, which includes, advances, royalties, subsidiary rights etc. You will also typically be expected to reimburse the direct expenses the agent incurs on your behalf (photocopying of proposals and manuscripts, shipping/postage etc.)." Does that mean you pay up front?

You should never pay up front. Any 'costs' incurred, such as photocopying, postage etc, will come out at the point the agent gets their cut. not before.

PVish
09-11-2011, 08:59 PM
. . . an agent will take a 15% commission on the revenue of your book........you will also typically be expected to reimburse the direct expenses.

Meaning the direct expenses also come out of the revenue of your book.

If authors order books from their publishers (using authors' discount) and resell the books themselves, the agent shouldn't request that the authors pay her 15% on these sales, right?

priceless1
09-11-2011, 09:14 PM
If authors order books from their publishers (using authors' discount) and resell the books themselves, the agent shouldn't request that the authors pay her 15% on these sales, right?
Agents would have a hard time making a case for that because authors don't get royalties on books they purchase from their publishers. Some publishers stipulate that authors aren't allowed to resell their books, but I've seen that rule broken a lot.

James D. Macdonald
09-11-2011, 11:26 PM
If authors order books from their publishers (using authors' discount) and resell the books themselves, the agent shouldn't request that the authors pay her 15% on these sales, right?

Right.

Steven Hutson
05-29-2013, 12:56 AM
Agents would have a hard time making a case for that because authors don't get royalties on books they purchase from their publishers.

Depending on the discount rate, authors can actually make MUCH MORE money than they would through a royalty.

Old Hack
05-29-2013, 12:20 PM
They would. But as most of the contracts that I've seen prohibit authors from buying their own books from their publishers and then selling them on, and as it's much harder and more time-consuming for writers to sell their own books than it is for their publishers to do so, it's not a good plan.

Steven Hutson
07-01-2013, 01:58 AM
1- most of the contracts that I've seen prohibit authors from buying their own books from their publishers and then selling them

2- and as it's much harder and more time-consuming for writers to sell their own books than it is for their publishers to do so, it's not a good plan.

1- Really? I've negotiated dozens of contracts, and I have never seen such a clause. It actually works in the pub's favor, for the author to sell books on his own, because the author then assumes the cost and effort of marketing and individual distribution.

2- If you're not willing to participate in the marketing of your own book, then you chose the wrong business.

Steven Hutson
07-01-2013, 02:05 AM
You should never pay up front. Any 'costs' incurred, such as photocopying, postage etc, will come out at the point the agent gets their cut. not before.

Nope.

When you hire an agent, you're renting his experience, knowledge, and Rolodex. He works for free, until he sells your book, which could take a year or more, or possibly never sell at all.

If an agent spends his own money on you, that changes the nature of the relationship. (Or would you rather he NOT send off your manuscript to an editor who asks for it?)

cornflake
07-01-2013, 02:08 AM
Nope.

When you hire an agent, you're renting his experience, knowledge, and Rolodex. He works for free, until he sells your book, which could take a year or more, or possibly never sell at all.

If an agent spends his own money on you, that changes the nature of the relationship. (Or would you rather he NOT send off your manuscript to an editor who asks for it?)

I'm confused - what're you implying?

How does that change the relationship? That is the relationship. The agent/agency spends time and money shopping books, talking to and advising authors, and is rewarded by a cut if and when the books sell.

Cathy C
07-01-2013, 02:18 AM
Nope.

When you hire an agent, you're renting his experience, knowledge, and Rolodex. He works for free, until he sells your book, which could take a year or more, or possibly never sell at all.

If an agent spends his own money on you, that changes the nature of the relationship. (Or would you rather he NOT send off your manuscript to an editor who asks for it?)

Sorry, but I strongly disagree. The only thing I've ever paid on top of commission to my agent is postage/overnight fees to send books overseas for translation rights offers. Those fees are accumulated and deducted the next time I get an on pub or D&A check.

Everything else is the cost of doing business for the agent. Salaries, equipment leases, photocopies, faxes, ISPs, phones, paper, pens, etc. None of that is (or should be) the responsibility of the author.

LKSebastian
07-01-2013, 02:46 AM
I just signed a contract with an agency and there was a section of the contract where it discussed extra fees on top of commission for expenses incurred. My contract specified that any costs would come out of royalties, not be paid up front. There was also a cap put on the amount they could cite.

Different agencies have different terms, though. But I would expenses should never be paid by the author up front.

Steven Hutson
07-01-2013, 03:21 AM
Anyone who objects to investing in their own career, can turn down those offers from agents. But most agents will expect to be reimbursed for expenses they pay on your behalf. It's nice to imagine that those costs will be deducted from your royalties, but what if your book never sells? Even the best and most experienced agents take on risky projects that never pay off.

cornflake
07-01-2013, 03:28 AM
Anyone who objects to investing in their own career, can turn down those offers from agents. But most agents will expect to be reimbursed for expenses they pay on your behalf.

Bull. Real agents don't go after clients for the cost of sending stuff out before anything has ever sold, any more than real estate agents go after clients for the cost of shopping a property or taking them around to see properties. That's the cost of doing business.

A real estate agent can spend a ton of time and money taking photos, creating listings, hosting open houses, putting out food, balloons, brochures, ads, etc., looking for properties, sending stuff to clients, copying listing sheets and taking clients around to see dozens of places. Those agents all know that those clients may back out, the places may never sell, the clients may never buy - that's the price of doing business. No agent has to take a listing; they bet they can sell it and try to, to make their commission.

A literary agent does the same thing - choose what to rep on the basis of betting he or she can sell it and make money. If it doesn't sell, well, then that's time and money spent for no return, which is how it goes.

Medievalist
07-01-2013, 03:29 AM
Anyone who objects to investing in their own career, can turn down those offers from agents. But most agents will expect to be reimbursed for expenses they pay on your behalf.

No, in fact they won't. It's non-standard. There used to be a standard clause about postage/Fed Ex fees for sending hardcopy overseas, but it tended to have a fixed limit and required approval in advance—and it came out of the advance or the next royalty check. Now, even that clause isn't standard because so much of the transmission of mss. is digital.

Normal expenses are the agent's cost of doing business, and the agent absorbs the cost until the book receives an advance or the next royalty payment.

Stacia Kane
07-01-2013, 03:49 AM
1- Really? I've negotiated dozens of contracts, and I have never seen such a clause. It actually works in the pub's favor, for the author to sell books on his own, because the author then assumes the cost and effort of marketing and individual distribution.

I've never seen a contract without such a clause; they are indeed standard. Occasionally exceptions are made, like books for speaking engagements or signing where a bookstore isn't sponsoring the event or isn't available to partner for it, but...I sign the right to sell my book over to my publishers. If I sell it myself that's actually NOT good for them; who's to say I won't essentially use them as a cheap printer, and undersell them from my website or something like that? I wouldn't personally do such a thing, but that doesn't mean others won't.

There is no "cost of marketing" for individual books, at least not that I'm aware of. Nor is there usually a cost for "individual distribution." Marketing and distribution both generally involve bulk, not lone copies. Marketing and distribution for books tend to involve getting those books into stores, which is something authors can't really do on a widespread basis, and again doesn't involve individual costs.



2- If you're not willing to participate in the marketing of your own book, then you chose the wrong business.

I don't participate in the marketing of my books at all, and I've been doing just fine in this business for about seven years now.

I do promotion, sure. But not marketing.


You should never pay up front. Any 'costs' incurred, such as photocopying, postage etc, will come out at the point the agent gets their cut. not before.


Nope.

When you hire an agent, you're renting his experience, knowledge, and Rolodex. He works for free, until he sells your book, which could take a year or more, or possibly never sell at all.

Sorry, but how is that different from what Shaldna said? (Also, while it could indeed take a year or more, it usually doesn't.)




If an agent spends his own money on you, that changes the nature of the relationship. (Or would you rather he NOT send off your manuscript to an editor who asks for it?)

How does it change the nature of the relationship? It's my agent's job to submit to editors and handle my contracts and royalty statements etc. For him to charge me for things like his email (I guess that's what you mean when you say the agent would not send off a requested ms without being specifically paid to do so?) would be no different, really, from me charging my publishers for my internet or updated software or whatever else. That's my expense, not theirs; it's a cost of doing business.

FWIW, when I meet up with my agent he buys the drinks and food, too. Cost of doing business. I don't get charged for four vodka tonics at the back end; he's spent his own money on me, and it changes our relationship not one whit. (It doesn't change our relationship when I send him a box of Godiva at Christmas, either.)



Anyone who objects to investing in their own career, can turn down those offers from agents. But most agents will expect to be reimbursed for expenses they pay on your behalf. It's nice to imagine that those costs will be deducted from your royalties, but what if your book never sells? Even the best and most experienced agents take on risky projects that never pay off.

I have never heard of a writer whose book failed to sell who then got a bill for expenses from their agent, or rather, I haven't heard of anything like that from a legitimate agent. It may have happened, but I haven't heard of it. Sure, agents take on projects they fail to sell, but if they're any good they don't have too many of those.

That's why part of being a good agent is having the knowledge and experience necessary to select and represent only those books that have a real shot at publication. If they know they'll get paid for their expenses either way, the incentive to be selective is reduced (that's not the only reason they're selective, of course, but it's there just the same).

Being an agent isn't a risk-free business. Nothing in publishing is. That's how it goes.

Medievalist
07-01-2013, 04:00 AM
2- If you're not willing to participate in the marketing of your own book, then you chose the wrong business.

I think you've confused marketing (an activity in which the sales department of a publisher engages) with promotion/public relations.

Publishers do not want amateurs engaged in marketing.

The most I've ever been asked to do in the way of PR/promotions is to attend conferences and speak (at my publisher's arranging and expense, or in return for an honorarium) and to let publishers know if I spotted a review.

Mr Flibble
07-01-2013, 04:06 AM
I have never heard of a writer whose book failed to sell who then got a bill for expenses from their agent, or rather, I haven't heard of anything like that from a legitimate agent.

Word

My agent has taken exactly what he said - a set % of what he has earned me (I would also question most postage/photocopying etc expenditure in these internet days)

IF an agent wants to charge for that (and one or two good agents used to, but are vanishingly rare these days of email) you need to get stuff stated up front

as for selling on copies -- yeah, I've seen that with small pubs, which is fair enough -- at a small pub a writer will need to promo more, but it shouldn't be your only income...(this is one way vanities get you. A small press will ask you to do stuff but your major sales should not be from you)

CAWriter
07-01-2013, 05:57 AM
No, in fact they won't. It's non-standard. There used to be a standard clause about postage/Fed Ex fees for sending hardcopy overseas, but it tended to have a fixed limit and required approval in advance—and it came out of the advance or the next royalty check. Now, even that clause isn't standard because so much of the transmission of mss. is digital.

Normal expenses are the agent's cost of doing business, and the agent absorbs the cost until the book receives an advance or the next royalty payment.

Honestly, it's not as non-standard as you might believe.I turned down an agent (now large, successful agency) who had a clause that included being reimbursed for phone calls (back when everyone paid for long distance), postage, printing and travel (to conferences, trade shows, etc). Clients were billed quarterly. I can't remember if those expense would be reimbursed upon advance/royalty payments; I saw that (absolutely non-negotiable) clause and turned down the representation. I understand the agent no longer has that policy, but they did for a number of years.

There are others as well, and I've seen where agents reserve the right to be reimbursed for Fedex, printing, etc, but they don't necessary put it into practice regularly.

Medievalist
07-01-2013, 06:21 AM
Honestly, it's not as non-standard as you might believe.I turned down an agent (now large, successful agency) who had a clause that included being reimbursed for phone calls (back when everyone paid for long distance), postage, printing and travel (to conferences, trade shows, etc). Clients were billed quarterly. I can't remember if those expense would be reimbursed upon advance/royalty payments; I saw that (absolutely non-negotiable) clause and turned down the representation. I understand the agent no longer has that policy, but they did for a number of years.

You just agreed with me; re-read the post you quoted. That wasn't unusual twenty years ago; it is unusual now.

Now, even then, travel reimbursement, especially to conferences, would have raised eyebrows. That's a cost of doing business. It should not be passed on to clients.

James D. Macdonald
07-01-2013, 07:44 AM
It's nice to imagine that those costs will be deducted from your royalties, but what if your book never sells?

They eat those expenses. Agents have to speculate in order to accumulate.


1- Really? I've negotiated dozens of contracts, and I have never seen such a clause. It actually works in the pub's favor, for the author to sell books on his own, because the author then assumes the cost and effort of marketing and individual distribution.


Just to be clear, what size publishers are you talking about here?

amergina
07-01-2013, 07:55 AM
The agency contract I signed recently clearly states that they pay for the day-to-day cost of business out of their 15%.

Filigree
07-01-2013, 09:19 AM
So does my literary agent. So do my art publishing agents in a completely different field. They all earn their commission off royalties, not up front.

As for the marketing/promotion confusion, it is true that lots of authors do self-promotion. Unless they are really high up on the food chain, their efforts are not going to sell enough to match the bulk campaigns of their publishers. And if they are outselling their publishers, maybe that should be a sign to consider a more effective publisher.

Steven Hutson
07-01-2013, 07:32 PM
Just to be clear, what size publishers are you talking about here?

I've worked with Mom-and-Pop operations, and I have one book with Dutton, plus a few mid-size pubs in-between. All of them allow their authors to buy at a steep discount, anywhere from 45 to 60% off cover.

A novel with a cover price of $15 will typically wholesale at 40% off cover, or about $9. Say the royalty is 10% of net (common these days), the author earns about 90c per book.

If the same author obtains books with his author discount, he will pay maybe $7.50 each. The publisher might or might not require the author to pay for shipping, but even if so, He could still earn several times the 90c royalty when he sells said books.

Many authors use their book as a part of a broader business. If you travel the country giving speeches because you're the world's foremost authority on building better mousetraps, then you bring the books along and sell them in the back of the room. At that point it's not really a book tour, it's a regular part of your business.

Steven Hutson
07-01-2013, 07:36 PM
Now, even then, travel reimbursement, especially to conferences, would have raised eyebrows.

Reimbursement for travel? I've never heard of an agent attending a conference for the benefit of an individual client.

Old Hack
07-02-2013, 12:45 AM
They would. But as most of the contracts that I've seen prohibit authors from buying their own books from their publishers and then selling them on, and as it's much harder and more time-consuming for writers to sell their own books than it is for their publishers to do so, it's not a good plan.


1- Really? I've negotiated dozens of contracts, and I have never seen such a clause.

I've worked for several rather good publishers (HarperCollins, Ebury Press, Chronicle Books, and plenty more), and all of the contracts I issued contained such a clause: I wouldn't have issued one without it. I've had a few books of my own published (over thirty), and all of my contracts contained such a clause.


I've worked with Mom-and-Pop operations, and I have one book with Dutton, plus a few mid-size pubs in-between. All of them allow their authors to buy at a steep discount, anywhere from 45 to 60% off cover.

I agree that most publishers allow their authors to buy their own books at a discount. The issue here is that publishers don't then want their authors to sell the books on.

Steven, I can see from some of your posts elsewhere at AW that you have a view of publishing which differs strongly from my own. I've already named a few of the publishers I've worked for: there have been several more over the thirty years or so that I've worked in the business. I say this not to try to pull rank on you, but to show that I do have some experience in this field.

I've read elsewhere that you've published a couple of books with Tate Publishing. Tate is a notorious vanity press, and its websites and blogs are full of the sort of misinformation that you've been repeating here. I think you could learn a lot from AbsoluteWrite, if you'd give us a chance and listen to what we have to say.

MandyHubbard
07-02-2013, 09:06 PM
Reimbursement for travel? I've never heard of an agent attending a conference for the benefit of an individual client.

I've seen this several times. I was on the faculty at a local conference in which Garth Stein- -Author of THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN (who is also local) was the keynote. His agent flew in from NYC and was part of the faculty as well. Most conferences fly in faculty anyway, so they may as well ask the agents who rep the key note authors, as often that provides opportunities for specific sessions that pair the author and agent. Many agents are happy to do this.


A novel with a cover price of $15 will typically wholesale at 40% off cover, or about $9. Say the royalty is 10% of net (common these days), the author earns about 90c per book.

If the same author obtains books with his author discount, he will pay maybe $7.50 each. The publisher might or might not require the author to pay for shipping, but even if so, He could still earn several times the 90c royalty when he sells said books.

Many authors use their book as a part of a broader business.

If you've only sold ONE book to a big publisher, perhaps you should preface your posts with, "In my experiences with small and mid-sized publishers."

The royalty rate you cite is not at all the industry norm for big publishers, and the second bit is unequivocally false, in fact would be a breach of contract for most authors.

Edited to add: And to be clear, I'm talking about in my experiences with contracts I've done with Disney-Hyperion, Penguin, Macmillan (2 imprints), bloomsbury, Harper Collins (2 imprints), and Simon & Schuster (3 different imprints). The ONLY contract I have that allows resale is with a smaller independent publisher.

FluffBunny
07-02-2013, 10:03 PM
I've worked with Mom-and-Pop operations, and I have one book with Dutton, plus a few mid-size pubs in-between. All of them allow their authors to buy at a steep discount, anywhere from 45 to 60% off cover.

Wasn't the Dutton publication from their Guilt Edged Mysteries line? A digital-only line? The cost of the book, from either Amazon or direct from Dutton/Penguin, is $3.99. There was a "steep discount" offered to the author on that? And how does an author re-sell digital books? *seriously confused*

ETA: I just rechecked Dutton's GEM page to be sure and, in spite of this in their FAQ:


If your eBook catches on in a major way there is money to be made (and we might even publish a physical book).

none of the books in that line have reached that magical threshold. So...I remain confuzzled about how "steep discounts" apply to e-books.

As for agents getting paid in advance: I don't get paid in advance. My employers have always expected I'll do the work and then get paid. The fact that it cost me money for gas, car maintenance, insurance, etc. matters not a whit. I work, I get paid and thereby reimbursed for the expenses I accrued while waiting for my paycheck. It should work the same way for an agent.

Medievalist
07-02-2013, 10:18 PM
I have never signed a contract on "net." I want list or cover price as a base.

See Writer Beware on Net Profit Royalty Clauses (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2011/05/contract-red-flag-net-profit-royalties.html).

Moreover, not only do my contracts forbid me to re-sell books I purchase at author discount, it strikes me as unethical to do that at a signing or a conference; that's how the hosting vendor/retailer makes a profit.

Tate and publishers who depend on authors buying their books tend to encourage authors to buy their own books and sell them. That's not my job; that's my publishers' job.

I write books; my publishers make and sell them.

My publishers write checks; I sign them on the back (or lately, accept direct deposit).

MandyHubbard
07-02-2013, 11:41 PM
I have never signed a contract on "net." I want list or cover price as a base.

Moreover, not only do my contracts forbid me to re-sell books I purchase at author discount, it strikes me as unethical to do that at a signing or a conference; that's how the hosting vendor/retailer makes a profit.



These days almost every contract from a large pub is going to base ebook royalties on net. It's the current standard.

Payment on net is definitely a slippery slope, but I do still see it from some reputable indies. If you can get higher royalty rates and escalation clauses, it's not a guaranteed bad deal, it's just hard to monitor.

MandyHubbard
07-02-2013, 11:48 PM
Agents have to speculate in order to accumulate.





I think I may love this line, and use it as my next pick up line at a conference. In the bar, naturally. PNWA, WATCH OUT.

NoblinGoblin
07-03-2013, 07:55 AM
I'm pretty new to having an agent. I mean, within the last few weeks new. But when I spoke with my agent on the phone, one of the first things she said was, "I don't get paid until you do," and "I will never ask you for money." And her contract reflected that.

eqb
07-03-2013, 03:05 PM
These days almost every contract from a large pub is going to base ebook royalties on net. It's the current standard.

For e-books, yes, but not for print. And certainly not the royalty rate Steve quoted.

MandyHubbard
07-03-2013, 09:18 PM
For e-books, yes, but not for print. And certainly not the royalty rate Steve quoted.

Right. Which is what I stated a few posts above.

I was just replying directly to the "I have never signed a contract on net"... becuase they may actually have done so as far as the ebooks were concerned.

MatthewDBrammer
03-31-2014, 11:29 AM
*raises hand*

Forgive me for being naive or possibly ignorant to boot, but it seems there is more controversy and conflict over agents, what they should do, and what they should charge, than is genuinely worth it. How many of you guys truly recommend having an agent?

I ask this because the majority of my experience in the entertainment business is in music. I'm a musician and an audio engineer/producer, and most of my close friends are involved in the music scene as well. The vast majority of us in recent times, in this scene, have gone completely away from the notion of managers, agents, labels (the music equivalent to publishers), etc. Everything has transitioned to nearly 100% DIY; indie has all but taken over the rock, metal, and jazz scenes.

Is having an agent or a publisher really worth it in literature still?

I also ask because I took the same approach to my first book (eBook, actually), [which I just released]....all DIY, I haven't gone agent shopping or anything, and I haven't the first clue of how to attract a major publisher (and don't even know that I would want to). There's a totally negative thought process regarding things like that in the music scene now.

cornflake
03-31-2014, 11:43 AM
*raises hand*

Forgive me for being naive or possibly ignorant to boot, but it seems there is more controversy and conflict over agents, what they should do, and what they should charge, than is genuinely worth it. How many of you guys truly recommend having an agent?

I ask this because the majority of my experience in the entertainment business is in music. I'm a musician and an audio engineer/producer, and most of my close friends are involved in the music scene as well. The vast majority of us in recent times, in this scene, have gone completely away from the notion of managers, agents, labels (the music equivalent to publishers), etc. Everything has transitioned to nearly 100% DIY; indie has all but taken over the rock, metal, and jazz scenes.

Is having an agent or a publisher really worth it in literature still?

I also ask because I took the same approach to my first book (eBook, actually), [which I just released]....all DIY, I haven't gone agent shopping or anything, and I haven't the first clue of how to attract a major publisher (and don't even know that I would want to). There's a totally negative thought process regarding things like that in the music scene now.

There are plenty of people on AW who decided, for a variety of reasons, to self-publish. Many of them would probably explain the value of agents. Just because someone chooses a particular path doesn't mean that person believes the others to be worthless.

There's a lot of value in agents if you're interested in trade publishing.

Same as in music - if you're interested in signing with a label, there's value in management. I'm not involved in the music business, but I know some people who are, who don't at all seem to have the outlook you do. Nor do most actors I've ever known, but it's all about making the decision right for you.

Agents have significant experience with navigating the business they're in, advising, negotiating, networking, contacting those potentially interested in your craft, etc.

mccardey
03-31-2014, 11:49 AM
How many of you guys truly recommend having an agent?

It's an individual choice. For me - yes, it works. But people who have skills that I don't have might well decide they don't really need one. It's not a moral imperative or anything. ;)

MatthewDBrammer
03-31-2014, 11:55 AM
Fair enough. I was just kind of taken aback by the emphasis on discussion of agents and full publishers here; I kinda figured with the movement to digital and social media and everything else that DIY was THE way to go in literature as well. Kinda like , "Oh, crap, do I need to run out and frantically search for an agent?" Lol. It was starting to seem, throughout my browsing of AW, that publishers and agents and such were somehow a prerequisite for being a writer, and that didn't make sense to me. Lol

mccardey
03-31-2014, 12:06 PM
Fair enough. I was just kind of taken aback by the emphasis on discussion of agents and full publishers here; I kinda figured with the movement to digital and social media and everything else that DIY was THE way to go in literature as well. Kinda like , "Oh, crap, do I need to run out and frantically search for an agent?" Lol. It was starting to seem, throughout my browsing of AW, that publishers and agents and such were somehow a prerequisite for being a writer, and that didn't make sense to me. Lol

There's a huge amount of info here on self-publishing as well. Check out the forums. We've got it covered...

MatthewDBrammer
03-31-2014, 12:08 PM
Will do. I've browsed a bit, but AW is pretty vast. Haha. Part of why I chose this site to get involved with.

waylander
03-31-2014, 01:42 PM
Seems to me there's a fundamental difference between music and literature at work here. Many kids seem to delight in trawling YouTube and other media searching for new bands/musicians that their friends don't know about. This can lead to the successes we've all heard about and is a viable way for a musician to be successful. This is far less of a phenomenon in literature. Self-published work really struggles to get noticed and most self-published authors sell only a few dozen copies.

Cathy C
03-31-2014, 03:07 PM
Not every author is interested in marketing either. Even though I'm capable of reading and negotiating my own legal documents with printers and publishers, and I'm actually quite good at marketing, I don't really enjoy that part. I prefer the way that trade publishing works, where the publisher pays a moderate or large up-front amount of money to me so that I can afford to write the next book in reasonable comfort, and then takes on the work of selling the current book to the public. Since they have taken on the out-of-pocket to me, they have a vested interest in getting it back. :)

aruna
03-31-2014, 04:46 PM
I have absolutely NO interest in the business side of publishing. The "control" that SP authors are so keen to have? Don't care. I prefer to put everything in the hands of trustworthy experts and say "you do it". And that's exactly what I have done.
As for control: once your book is "out there" you have absolutely no control over who buys it, likes it (or not!), reviews it (or not). You can work your ass of in promotion, but in the end you can't control readers.

I have a small publisher and an agent works with him. She is taking my book, and the next one as well, to the London Book Fair next week to try and get some foreign sales. That's another thing you can't do on your own.

Old Hack
03-31-2014, 05:07 PM
Agents can get translation deals, foreign rights deals, large print deals, audio deals, and all sorts of other deals for the authors they represent.

They can also get writers contracts with publishers which will get their books into bookshops nationwide, which few self-publishers manage to do. And this makes a huge difference to sales.

It's hard to find a good literary agent. But if you do want to look for trade publication, having an agent is one of those essential things you have to do.

Ann_Mayburn
03-31-2014, 05:39 PM
I would have to throw in a cautionary here for those that focus on ebooks: In my most humble and limited experience in talking with romance authors that have agents, and having over the last three years watched what has happened with author friends and their agents, I've seen a glut of 'ebook' agents who really haven't done crap for their clients. Just remember, anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves an agent, but that doesn't mean they are going to actually do anything for you.

Ask yourself before you sign with anyone what you want out of this, what you expect your agent to do, and if your contract reflects that. Then also consider if you can do any/all of the things you want your agent to do on your own. Yes, trade is a whole different animal from eBook agents, but if you-for whatever reason- have your hat set on getting an agent make sure you're informed.

Personally, an agent wasn't for me so I can't tell you first hand what it is like to work with one, only from the outside looking in.

Filigree
03-31-2014, 05:59 PM
For me, an agent potentially saved me from giving away three decades' worth of work, to a publisher that is great in one genre (but would not want my whole story arc.) I might have been able to hammer out those details on my own, but I like outsourcing expertise. My agent more than earns her commission.

In the art field, I have art representatives who charge a high but industry-normal commission. In return they pay for their gallery space, online stores, prestigious trade show fees, and travel costs for seven to nine month presentation circuits (per year!) to universities, museums, and private collector contacts I could never reach on my own. I am one of several hundred artists they represent, but I benefit incredibly from all that shared experience.

I sell directly to some markets my reps and agents don't bother with. I cut my own deals with some art publishers. And I'm also getting ready to self-publish some novellas.

But for any complex deal within a large industry (the Big Five NY pubs, Hollywood, major players in the art world), I would get an agent right away.

ETA: Seconding what Ann cautioned about 'e-book' agents. You want an agent with proven skills, track records, a great reputation, and a solid agency (to back up and train newer agents). I have seen several 'e-book agents' over the last four years who were at best ineffectual cheerleaders for their clients.

Old Hack
03-31-2014, 09:51 PM
I agree about approaching e-book agents with caution. I'm not sure that they are much use to writers, as there's little they can do that authors can't do for themselves; and why would writers limit their careers in this way? It doesn't make sense.

Good agents are worth having. Poor agents are not. Simple.

MatthewDBrammer
03-31-2014, 10:52 PM
Seems to me there's a fundamental difference between music and literature at work here. Many kids seem to delight in trawling YouTube and other media searching for new bands/musicians that their friends don't know about. This can lead to the successes we've all heard about and is a viable way for a musician to be successful. This far less of a phenomenon in literature. Self-published work really struggles to get noticed and most self-published authors sell only a few dozen copies.

That's why I joined this site; I knew there'd be differences in this industry and I'm definitely grateful for the input from all of you guys and everything I'm reading on here. :)




I have absolutely NO interest in the business side of publishing. The "control" that SP authors are so keen to have? Don't care. I prefer to put everything in the hands of trustworthy experts and say "you do it".

Oh, I can totally understand and respect that. I just prefer to be heavily involved in the business and marketing side of things mainly because a) I own and operate my own transportation company [as my "day job"], in which I'm in charge of virtually everything and carry all that responsibility, b) part of my college education was in music business, and c) I come from a very business-minded household, where my stepfather ended up working for a large business consulting firm that basically analyzes and saves failing businesses. I've been groomed, as it were, to be involved in that. Add that to the experiences I've had, and have seen, in the music industry, the other side of it was a bit surprising to me.

rick_scott79
06-14-2014, 12:52 AM
What's the problem with agents charging fees?

I would be glad to pay an agent a (reasonable, affordable) fee if he gets my book published!

If they charge then they aren't the real deal and make their money off slamming people in instead of usual biz.
I'd never pay to publish

JuBe
06-22-2014, 07:02 PM
If they charge then they aren't the real deal and make their money off slamming people in instead of usual biz.
I'd never pay to publish

I would say that all this is changing. What was true 10 or even 5 years ago or even 1 is no longer true. There is a lot more diversity in pathways to publication these days.

I'd also ask anyone who says they would not pay to publish (in other words, have not paid an agent, not paid a publicist, have not paid to SP), how many books they currently have published and how many sales...

Old Hack
06-22-2014, 07:10 PM
I would say that all this is changing. What was true 10 or even 5 years ago or even 1 is no longer true. There is a lot more diversity in pathways to publication these days.

I'd also ask anyone who says they would not pay to publish (in other words, have not paid an agent, not paid a publicist, have not paid to SP), how many books they currently have published and how many sales...

Things are definitely changing in publishing. But then, they always have done.

One thing that hasn't changed, however, is that agents who charge fees are to be avoided.

Becca C.
06-22-2014, 09:10 PM
I'd also ask anyone who says they would not pay to publish (in other words, have not paid an agent, not paid a publicist, have not paid to SP), how many books they currently have published and how many sales...

An agent charging a fee and an agent being paid their commission are very different things.

Never pay an agent to read, review, or represent your work.

An agent who takes you on and sells your book gets paid their 15% commission. They make money when you make money.

Big difference.

JuBe
06-23-2014, 10:45 PM
An agent charging a fee and an agent being paid their commission are very different things.

Never pay an agent to read, review, or represent your work.

An agent who takes you on and sells your book gets paid their 15% commission. They make money when you make money.

Big difference.

I am aware of that difference. (I've been in this business since the 1980s.) By point is simply that these old, hard and fast rules are changing. I think it behooves authors to be aware of that.

amergina
06-23-2014, 10:51 PM
I am aware of that difference. (I've been in this business since the 1980s.) By point is simply that these old, hard and fast rules are changing. I think it behooves authors to be aware of that.

Why do you think it's good thing (or an acceptable thing) for agents to charge writers fees?

I'm curious to the thought process behind this...other than "times are changing!"

Times are always changing in publishing. So? Why is an agent charging a fee (rather than taking a commission) acceptable? How do you see the changes in publishing making this practice okay?

Dave.C.Robinson
06-24-2014, 12:48 AM
I am aware of that difference. (I've been in this business since the 1980s.) By point is simply that these old, hard and fast rules are changing. I think it behooves authors to be aware of that.

Speaking purely for myself, I can see perfectly valid reasons for an author paying a publicist, especially when they are self-publishing, but none of those reasons justify paying an agent an upfront fee.

Debeucci
06-24-2014, 01:31 AM
Just curious. Have you been an agent since the 80s? An author? What part of the business have you been in, and what part of these changing times do you think makes agents charging fees an ethical business practice?

The agency model has always frowned upon pay to play, be it publishing, acting, modeling...etc. Almost all reputable industries that use agents for representation do not charge fees to their clients, only commission.

Filigree
06-24-2014, 05:50 AM
The fee game is deadly because it frontloads risk on the author. In theory - as well as proven practice from many documented scammers - it removes the agent's incentive for selling the project. Get enough fees in per month, and it won't matter if the agent can't sell the project. Any sales that do happen are gravy.

This is completely different than paying by-the-project for editing, cover design, and other self-publishing services.

Publishing IS changing. That doesn't suddenly make reading fees and other upfront pay to play schemes a better deal for authors.

gingerwoman
06-24-2014, 06:34 AM
I would say that all this is changing. What was true 10 or even 5 years ago or even 1 is no longer true. There is a lot more diversity in pathways to publication these days.

I'd also ask anyone who says they would not pay to publish (in other words, have not paid an agent, not paid a publicist, have not paid to SP), how many books they currently have published and how many sales...
I am aware of that difference. (I've been in this business since the 1980s.) By point is simply that these old, hard and fast rules are changing. I think it behooves authors to be aware of that.
I know a LOT of authors, and the only ones spending money to successfully make money, are those paying independent editors and artists, before they use the new FREE self publishing at places like Smashwords.

No one is making money by paying some scammy agent an upfront fee, or paying for a "package deal" with a scammy vanity press. The writers that do that, end up in situations like this. http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/directory/author-solutions

What's changed is that paying independent editors for quality editing, and independent artists for attractive covers, before uploading to the new free self publishing platforms like Smashwords etc...is working, for some people who are making good money self publishing that way. That's about all that's changed as far as I can see.

There are two very different business models, corporations use, one is bleeding money from writers as the vanity presses or fake agents do, the other is making money selling books.

Smashwords and KDP can work for authors, because they make money when books sell, rather than asking authors for money. They take a percentage of sales, the way agents and trade publishes do, and give the author the rest. Consequently the author is not scammed.



edited to add- I admit that I don't know much of anything about publicists, or what they can do. But I think you'd have to already be pretty wealthy to hire one, and if you didn't have a project that had considerable market appeal in itself then I doubt much could be done for you at any price. The odds of ending up out of pocket seem pretty high to me.

eqb
06-24-2014, 06:36 AM
I am aware of that difference. (I've been in this business since the 1980s.) By point is simply that these old, hard and fast rules are changing. I think it behooves authors to be aware of that.

Could you name these agencies that charge upfront, instead of taking a commission?

Marian Perera
06-24-2014, 06:52 AM
I'd also ask anyone who says they would not pay to publish (in other words, have not paid an agent, not paid a publicist, have not paid to SP), how many books they currently have published and how many sales...

What would that prove? An author could have one book which sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Or several books which sold perhaps a few hundred copies each. That depends on a lot of factors, including the type of book (e.g. poetry collection vs. YA dystopian romance). What would the number of books and number of sales have to do with paying agents up front?

gingerwoman
06-24-2014, 07:00 AM
I agree about approaching e-book agents with caution. I'm not sure that they are much use to writers, as there's little they can do that authors can't do for themselves; and why would writers limit their careers in this way? It doesn't make sense.

Good agents are worth having. Poor agents are not. Simple.
Old Hack, just as an aside, I've seen a lot of very highly respected agents, who do not call themselves ebook agents, getting a lot of digital only and digital first deals for romance authors in recent years.

I've seen that just from going to their websites.

Old Hack
06-24-2014, 10:26 AM
Ginger, I agree. Good agents get their clients good deals, no matter what the format.

I struggle with agents who only sell to e-publishers, though, because I see no reason for writers to be restricted in that way.

Filigree
06-24-2014, 04:48 PM
That's my take on the issue, too. My agent handles digital sales. She also handles print and subsidiary rights, in multiple genres. More importantly to me, she has years of experience and contacts at many publishers.

With a digital-only agent, I'd worry my work was limited to only those platforms. I have firsthand evidence that at least one digital-only agent was so clueless (even about her chosen genre) that she probably harmed more than helped one of her clients.

JuBe
07-04-2014, 08:48 PM
Why do you think it's good thing (or an acceptable thing) for agents to charge writers fees?

I'm curious to the thought process behind this...other than "times are changing!"

Times are always changing in publishing. So? Why is an agent charging a fee (rather than taking a commission) acceptable? How do you see the changes in publishing making this practice okay?

Sorry it has taken so long to get back here to respond, and I see that in the meantime some others have made the same points I would make.

While I am a writer, I earn my living as an editor, so I also see from "the other side" how authors are getting published these days. One route is self-publishing, which is typically not that successful without professional editing and promotion. Editors don't cost much, but publicists are expensive. Another other route is via an agent. But these routes are overlapping now more than they used to. For example, it is not uncommon for publishers to obtain books from publicists the way they previously did from agents. They want to see the track record of the writer--not just how they write but how they self-promote. I know agents who have left the business because they can no longer compete in this environment. My sense is that this is the direction things are headed. Not to say that I personally like any of this--just that it is a reality!

JuBe
07-04-2014, 08:54 PM
What would that prove? An author could have one book which sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Or several books which sold perhaps a few hundred copies each. That depends on a lot of factors, including the type of book (e.g. poetry collection vs. YA dystopian romance). What would the number of books and number of sales have to do with paying agents up front?

Sorry, you took my words literally. It was my way of asking how successful authors who did not put any money into their books were.

Old Hack
07-04-2014, 09:08 PM
Editors don't cost much, but publicists are expensive.

Good editors are expensive.


Another other route is via an agent. But these routes are overlapping now more than they used to. For example, it is not uncommon for publishers to obtain books from publicists the way they previously did from agents.

I've never heard of a publisher acquiring a book from a publicist. Do you have a few concrete examples you could share?

Book scouts are a different matter, of course. Might this be a difference of terminology rather than opinion?


They want to see the track record of the writer--not just how they write but how they self-promote.

Every week, probably every day, good publishers sign up writers who have no clue about how to self-promote. Publishers want good books: an author who can also self-promote is a bonus, but it's not essential.


I know agents who have left the business because they can no longer compete in this environment.

So do I. They were mostly not very good at being agents, though.


My sense is that this is the direction things are headed. Not to say that I personally like any of this--just that it is a reality!

I--and many of the literary agents I know--feel that things in publishing are changing, but then again, they always have. I think many agents will offer more services to their author-clients as time passes: but I don't think that any reputable agents will start charging fees to their clients just for representing them. That is a direct conflict of interests, and I can't see any good agent working in that way.

Marian Perera
07-04-2014, 09:24 PM
Sorry, you took my words literally. It was my way of asking how successful authors who did not put any money into their books were.

Well, yeah. I assumed this was a serious discussion, and therefore I took what people said literally.

And I'm not sure the number of books someone currently has published is an indicator of how successful they are (this was part of your original question, "how many books they currently have published").

If an author releases five books through an amateur micropress which allows them to sink out of sight despite the author paying for publicity, that author is not likely to be more successful than, say, a debut author whose book came out with a splash from Penguin Random House. Even though, in terms of the number of titles published, Author 1 wins hands down.

eqb
07-04-2014, 09:50 PM
Sorry it has taken so long to get back here to respond, and I see that in the meantime some others have made the same points I would make.

To repeat my question from before:

Could you name these agencies that charge upfront, instead of taking a commission?

Filigree
07-05-2014, 02:08 AM
Yes, we'd like to know those fee-charging agencies.

In answer to another comment, I'd rather pay a great editor than a publicist. Solid editing gives my work its best foundation. The editors I am considering for a self-publishing venture charge between $70 and $200 per hour, but they have the skills and track record to merit it.

Whereas, hiring a publicist to hype an already inferior manuscript seems to be self-defeating in the long run.

JuBe
07-05-2014, 02:26 AM
Well, yeah. I assumed this was a serious discussion, and therefore I took what people said literally....



I would never say "literal" equates with "serious." Presumably people who come here with serious intentions can engage in abstract thinking and use metaphorical language.

That said, I did not expect this level of snark. I personally find it stultifying, so I will be going elsewhere for more open-minded discussions...

BenPanced
07-05-2014, 03:02 AM
:Wha:

Marian Perera
07-05-2014, 03:55 AM
I would never say "literal" equates with "serious." Presumably people who come here with serious intentions can engage in abstract thinking and use metaphorical language.

If anyone can tell me what's metaphorical about "I'd also ask anyone who says they would not pay to publish (in other words, have not paid an agent, not paid a publicist, have not paid to SP), how many books they currently have published and how many sales..." I would appreciate it.


That said, I did not expect this level of snark.

What can I say? I wasn't even trying.


I personally find it stultifying, so I will be going elsewhere for more open-minded discussions...

Make sure it's some place where people will swallow unsupported claims and vague statements.

eqb
07-05-2014, 04:16 AM
That said, I did not expect this level of snark. I personally find it stultifying, so I will be going elsewhere for more open-minded discussions...

Hey, what about answering my question? A simple link to the fee-charging agencies you mentioned would be helpful.

Filigree
07-05-2014, 06:28 AM
Especially after six posts in nine years.

There. There's some snark.

Discussions of 'literal' and 'metaphorical' aside, I don't see a problem in researching the different ways the publishing industry works - in all its confusing glory. There may be a few rare occasions when paying upfront fees to a literary agent may be a good decision. Sometimes paying a vanity publisher may be the best thing an author can do for their work.

But in general, with the weight of history and lots of negative testimonials - neither path is considered particularly safe for inexperienced authors.

This is what AW has been about for me: getting a lot of solid information about writing and publishing, from people who have already learned it. Maybe not the safe, happy, self-empowering misinformation I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear.

Jason E
08-07-2014, 05:14 AM
What's the problem with agents charging fees?

I would be glad to pay an agent a (reasonable, affordable) fee if he gets my book published!

I've yet to be published but I've done extensive research on the industry. One of the biggest no no's is going with an agent who charges service fees. Agents are paid on commission. When they land you a publishing contract, they get a cut of your royalties. Any agent who wants money from you up front... :evil ..RUN!!!! Nine times out of ten it's a scam. You pay their "service fee" and then they just can't find you a publisher. They'll keep hitting you up for that fee though.

Same rule goes for publishers. You skip getting an agent and submit your work to a publisher directly, you pay nothing out of pocket. They pay you. They make their money from sales and give you a percentage. If they ask for a service fee....RUN!!! :evil

Thomas Vail
10-22-2014, 11:41 PM
Agents can get translation deals, foreign rights deals, large print deals, audio deals, and all sorts of other deals for the authors they represent.

They can also get writers contracts with publishers which will get their books into bookshops nationwide, which few self-publishers manage to do. And this makes a huge difference to sales.

It's hard to find a good literary agent. But if you do want to look for trade publication, having an agent is one of those essential things you have to do.
There's nothing an agent does that a writer can't do for themselves, but their raison d'etre is that they handle a lot of the major responsibilities for getting a book to market that would otherwise consume a great deal of a writer's time, tasks that writers may not have the experience, ability, or time to be able to handle the way they need to be.

It's rather how like someone might decide to install a nice home theater, buy the components, and then hire an electrician to do the wiring, while another has the skillset to do it all themselves. There's nothing wrong with the first person doing it that way, especially if it's in recognition that they don't have the ability to do it themselves, and trying is probably going to make a terrible hash of it all.:D

blacbird
10-23-2014, 12:12 AM
There's nothing an agent does that a writer can't do for themselves,

All kinds of publishers, in particular the BIG HOUSES, won't even look at unagented manuscripts.

caw

Old Hack
10-23-2014, 12:51 AM
There's nothing an agent does that a writer can't do for themselves, but their raison d'etre is that they handle a lot of the major responsibilities for getting a book to market that would otherwise consume a great deal of a writer's time, tasks that writers may not have the experience, ability, or time to be able to handle the way they need to be.

Agents do all sorts of things that writers can't do for themselves.

They get books looked at by editors at the top houses and they sell foreign and subsidiary rights; and authors with good representation routinely earn more than authors without. Those are the most significant differences, but there are plenty more.

And they don't get books to market. That's the publisher's job.

waylander
10-23-2014, 01:05 AM
There's nothing an agent does that a writer can't do for themselves

Technically just about true, but how many writers can find their way through a royalties report or find and negotiate a foreign market deal?

Thomas Vail
10-23-2014, 01:16 AM
Technically just about true, but how many writers can find their way through a royalties report or find and negotiate a foreign market deal?
Point. I should have made it much clearer that I meant a very qualified, 'technically speaking.'

I should have come up with a better analogy, like how a master chef _could_ raise a cow from birth, slaughter it himself, grow and grind his own spices, etc, just to ensure that he delivers the most perfect steak possible, but there's a reason why one who actually did that would be considered an amazing oddity.

Filigree
10-23-2014, 04:29 AM
Not even that. Farm-to-table chefs are not a fad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farm-to-table) anymore.

Digression aside, a capable agent can do things that a lot of writers cannot - or don't have the time or contacts to do. It's not easy to get an agent's attention. But it can be worth trying, for the advantages.

I like Dean Wesley Smith's blog, and celebrate that he's opened a lot of discussions on authors controlling every aspect of their career. But that is informed self-publishing, and it's hard work if you do it right. So many people don't, and it shows.

I'm invoking a Libra's privilege to waffle a bit: I'm neither firmly in the Must Be Agented, or Must Be Lone Wolf camp. There are merits to both, hence the need to do proper research.

Thomas Vail
11-09-2014, 06:15 AM
Dang it, I'm going to beat this analogy until it means what I'm trying to say! :D

So, when I say that 'there's nothing an agent can do that a writer can't do for themselves,' I mean it in pretty much the same way that, 'there's nothing a contractor can do when building a house that a person can't do for themselves,' but there's a reason why nobody looks askance at someone who hired someone who was a professional at building homes to build them a house, instead of picking up a shovel and doing it themselves - not just the physical parts of it, but knowing codes and regulations and all of the detail work.

Or maybe I should just reduce it down to the non-analogy components and say, 'There's a lot of hard work in getting something published, and a very good reason why so many people work with someone whose job is doing that work."

There. No more cows.

AW Admin
11-09-2014, 08:37 AM
A good agent is a blessing.

A bad agent is a curse.

There may be a middle ground; I've not found it. Yes, you can do without an agent, but a good agent has close personal relationships with editors and knows what they like and can call them up and get your ms. put in the editor's own hands.

A good agent knows what your book will fetch as an advance, and has an idea of the potential future sales and rights worth in terms of money in your hands.

A good agent will sell your book while you write another one.

A good agent is like a top-notch defensive goalie, and protects you from the hockey puck of fate, so that you can go on writing.