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Bleecker Street Associates (Agnes Birnbaum)

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smallthunder

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Back again, guys --
I've been reading many posts here today about scams, poor representation, writer-agent relationships that have gone bad ... so, I'm now VERY paranoid.
I received a request today for chapters from Bleecker Street Associates -- one Agnes Birnbaum, to be exact. Anyone ever hear of this agency or agent?
 

smallthunder

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Questionable Response Letter

Thanks, Zizban -- anybody else know anything about this agent/agency?

:confused:I'm slightly suspicious because she replied to my query on letterhead that is clearly Xeroxed, and she* mispelled the name of my novel (typo).

*or her assistant -- there's "AB:pm" typed at the bottom.
 

dragonjax

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smallthunder said:
Thanks, Zizban -- anybody else know anything about this agent/agency?

:confused:I'm slightly suspicious because she replied to my query on letterhead that is clearly Xeroxed, and she* mispelled the name of my novel (typo).

*or her assistant -- there's "AB:pm" typed at the bottom.

So her assistant was having a "bad spelling" day. I wouldn't sweat that, as long as P&E (on Another Realm) says "legit," with sales to boot. Of course, Google is your friend; do a search for that particular agent (name in quotes) and that agency (again, name in quotes), and see what comes up.

Good for you to have your eyes wide open. Next time, you'll get all this guesswork out of the way before you send the query out...and that way, when you get a request for a partial or a full, you'll be nice and excited, instead of paranoid! ;)

And, of course, good luck!
 

smallthunder

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Roger that

I found this agent/agency in the 2005 Guide to Literary Agents (from the editors of Writer's Market) -- at the time, I naively thought the guide was all I needed for finding an agent. The possibility of having to research further who is/is not 'legit' never even crossed my mind ...

Seems like ages ago -- now my eyes are WIDE open. Perhaps even too wide open, as you've noted. Checking the quality of the letterhead, and all.

I guess I just cannot believe my good luck in having so many (11) positive responses to my query letter -- I keep thinking I'm being set up.

I did try to Google this agent/agency, by the way -- didn't get much except listed info. I'll try again.

Thanks -- appreciate your respnse, as always!
 

dragonjax

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smallthunder said:
I guess I just cannot believe my good luck in having so many (11) positive responses to my query letter -- I keep thinking I'm being set up.
WOW! That's fabulous, smallthunder! It sounds like you've got a spot-on query letter! Terrific work--God knows, the only thing I hate more than writing a query is writing a synopsis! Best of luck to you; if your MS is as strong as your query, I'm guessing you'll be getting an offer of representation in the not-too-distant future...
 

Maryn

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The typo isn't a major concern to me. After all, it's not my title they messed up! But...

Am I the only person whose hackles are raised at the Xeroxed letterhead? The fact that they're interested--but not enough to run proper stationery through the printer--makes me quite wary. I wouldn't run away quite yet, but I'd go forward with considerable concern about their financial stability.

Maryn
 

J. Y. Moore

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Hackles raised? Absolutely!!

I can't imagine sending out a professional request letter in Xerox form. I would certainly think 4-5 times about this agent and research the agency thoroughly before signing anything. Any contract offer should be gone over with a fine toothed comb by someone well versed in contract language if not by a lawyer. I have a manuscript ready for a publisher/agent and nearly got caught up in PublishAmerica's clutches. Had I not had a background in reading legalese, I would not have caught the very subtle language in their sample contract that indicates they are a POD publisher. That led me to finding the Washington Post article about them. I declined the offer to publish (disappointed is an understatement!) and requested that they destroy all my documents they had in any form. To boot it off, I had wasted 4 weeks waiting for them to review the manuscript, thinking I had a good chance at getting it to the presses and on bookshelves in a relatively short time.

Anyway, the point being (sorry, I got carried away), I would certainly recommend great caution with this. If they are that schlock with letters, how contientious will they be with your manuscript? Whether the sect'y sent it or not, the agent should be responsible for anything that goes out under her/his name.

J. Y. Moore
 

DaveKuzminski

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Some businesses have yet to join the computer age, let alone the Internet. I still encounter regularly some businesses that operate the same now as they did decades ago. I recall last year that one still used an AB Dick machine. I hadn't seen one of those in almost 30 years.

It's really hard for me to keep in mind sometimes that they're still responsible businesses despite the disparity in how they present themselves. However, some are operating on profit margins so slim that they really don't have the resources to spare on modernizing, especially when their old ways still work perfectly well for their operational scale.
 

HapiSofi

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If all the other indications say they're legit, don't worry about the xeroxed stationery.
 

dragonjax

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From Agnes Birnbaum

The following is from Agnes Birnbaum, of Bleecker Street Associates. (Please note: she is not my agent, but she is a very cordial person; I'm happy to post this for her. I didn't change a thing; the following is from her email to me today, verbatim, and with her permission.)

--

I am Agnes Birnbaum of Bleecker Street Associates. In view of various comments about this agency and about me from people at Absolute Writer, I believe it very worthwhile to learn that....

Bleecker has been in business since 1984, with a pristine record. We belong to AAR, the Association of Author Representatives, the national agents group that requires its members to follow a strict code of ethics---among other things, never charge a reading fee. AAR is much respected by publishing professionals; please check its web site.

Before I became an agent, I was senior editor at S&S/Pocket Books, Dutton/Signet, Dell; also, editor-in-chief of Award Books, a house acquired by Putnam. As a former editor, I am in excellent position to provide editorial input to clients.

The agency has a particularly good track record with first time authors. Sara Shandler's OPHELIA SPEAKS (Harper) spent five months on The N.Y.Times' bestseller list. Kim Wong Keltner's THE DIM SUM OF ALL THINGS (Avon) was on the San Francisco Chronicle list. Andrew Mishkin's SOJOURNER (Berkley hardcover and trade paperback) hit the L.A. Times list. And David Grafton's THE SISTERS (Random House) appeared on the Chicago Tribune bestseller list.

As for client relationships, I'm including Acknowledgments from a sampling of Bleecker books:

From The N.Y. Times' bestselling Sara Shandler: "Agnes Birnbaum, my incredible agent at Bleecker Street Associates, nurtured my proposal and launched it into the publishing world. I am grateful for her sweetness, her ability to play hardball, and her thoughtfulness."

From Simon and Schuster's STORM ON THE HORIZON by David Morris: "I wish to express my sincerest gratitude to my literary agent, the estimable Agnes Birnbaum of Bleecker Street, whose wise counsel has been beyond measure."

From McGraw-Hill's THE BLOODSTAINED SEA by Michael Waller: "Without the great good fortune of finding Agnes Birnbaum of Bleecker Street Associates, the work would not have made it to publication. Her faith and mentoring has been and still is invaluable to me. She is a literary agent beyond compare."

From Kensington's hardcover title, THE FACE BEHIND THE VEIL by Pulitzer Prize winner Donna Gehrke-White: "This book simply would not exist without my agent, Agnes Birnbaum. Everyone should have an Agnes in their lives. Thanks, Agnes, for always inspiring me."

From Dell's THE WOMEN'S PHARMACY by Julie Catalano: "Many thanks to Agnes Birnbaum, the most patient, understanding and persevering literary agent in the world. Without her, this book would not exist."

There are many more but I believe the point has been made. Please note that all of the above (with the exception of Sara Shandler -- recommended by another Bleecker client -- but including every writer whose work hit major bestseller lists) came to us via unsolicited query.

Bleecker receives over a hundred unsolicited (I.e unrequested) submissions by regular mail each week. As a time-saver, we use a pre-printed form letter to respond when there is any interest, although the letter is personalized. We've used the form for over 10 years with never a complaint. Like many agents, we do not accept submissions, including queries, by e-mail; even so, about forty of these show up weekly. Otherwise we function via 21st century technology.
 

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dragonjax said:
The following is from Agnes Birnbaum, of Bleecker Street Associates. (Please note: she is not my agent, but she is a very cordial person; I'm happy to post this for her. I didn't change a thing; the following is from her email to me today, verbatim, and with her permission.)

--

I am Agnes Birnbaum of Bleecker Street Associates. In view of various comments about this agency and about me from people at Absolute Writer, I believe it very worthwhile to learn that....

Bleecker has been in business since 1984, with a pristine record. We belong to AAR, the Association of Author Representatives, the national agents group that requires its members to follow a strict code of ethics---among other things, never charge a reading fee. AAR is much respected by publishing professionals; please check its web site...
I'm sorry, but I don't really see what prompted this unsolicited press release. Can someone point me to the "various comments" that have been posted about this agency? All I see is Small Thunder asking a legitimate question and only two responses (YA Moore and Maryn) that urged caution. Both Dave and Hapisofi said positive things. "Where's the beef?"
 

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Perhaps it was the observation that a (badly?) Xeroxed form letter complete with typos sends a dismissive message. Form letters are par for the course, of course, but to not exert quality control on professional correspondence leaves a poor impression.

Yes, quick 'n' dirty letters are mere nits in the hair of life, but they still itch. :poke:
 

JennaGlatzer

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Hi folks,

I'm going to close this thread for now. Agnes Birnbaum has been sending me threatening e-mails in which she says she's going to blacklist me and every member of Absolute Write from attaining representation with an AAR member agent; she's going to get Google to stop indexing us; she's going to contact the NY Attorney General, the state Ombudsman, law enforcement to "smoke me out," etc.-- all because she does not like this thread.

It disturbs me that she's now contacting members off-board to manipulate them into posting positive PR for her.
I've contacted the AAR and will reopen this thread after they respond, if appropriate. I'm also seeking legal advice.

I am choosing not to respond to Agnes directly anymore because her e-mails are increasingly threatening and outrageous.
 

JennaGlatzer

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Forgot to reopen this with the conclusion. I filed a formal complaint with the AAR. They told me that the ethics committee contacted Ms. Birnbaum, "who has acknowledged that it was inappropriate for her to invoke the name of the AAR as she did in her communications with you. In fact, Ms. Birnbaum is not an officer or director of the AAR and was in no position to suggest consequences on the part of AAR or its members in her dispute with your website."

That's where it stands.
 

DamaNegra

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Well, she just ruined her reputation in my eyes. I wouldn't want to sign with her if she freaks out like that over nothing.
 

JennaGlatzer

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Nah, John, I waited more than three months for the AAR to come to their conclusion! ;) So I was really just a bit late posting the result.
 

smallthunder

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my own conclusion

Since I'm the one who started this thread, I thought I ought to follow up and tell you what happened in my case ...

... that would be ...

absolutely nothing.

Ms. Birnbaum never sent me anything after I sent her the manuscript she requested -- not even a form rejection letter on poorly-Xeroxed-letterhead paper.

Maybe she figured out that I was actually AW's "smallthunder"?

Or maybe she just runs a very sloppy operation ...
 

allenparker

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Jenna

Of Jenna, Gravity wrote:


Gravity said:
But only because you're preggers, and know not what ye do. :D

<Donning his groucho nose, glasses, and eyebrows, Allen taps his cigar and steps up to the camera>

Well, apparently, she does. She got it roght at least once.

<Seeing the flying rolling pin exit Jenna's hand, Allen ducks and exits stage right>

sorry, couldn't resist. awp
 

Maryn

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I'm researching agents some more (because who could write with painters sanding four feet from her head?) and her name popped up on a genre-specific search. After rereading this thread, I'm making use of my strikeout key on my list.

Whether Ms. Birnbaum is able to sell manuscripts to good houses is not the heart of it, for me. She behaved most unprofessionally, and in my eyes, causing her reputation irreparable harm. Life's too short to get my life and writing entangled with someone who'd get as upset as she did over criticism, much less make the threats that she did.

Maryn, far more serene than Ms. Birnbaum
 

SJWangsness

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At the risk of picking open a very old scab, I'm not too worked up over the fact that she evidently had an, uhm, extreme reaction to people urging "caution" about her -- all too common these days when people (myself included) whip off an e-mail instead of taking the time to think about what they're doing.

In any event, since she's a long-established, successful, AAR agent who happens to represent my genre (mystery/thriller/suspense), I'm wondering if anyone has had dealings with her lately, positive or negative...

I see from QT, by the way, that she's still using xeroxed rejections (to which I say, so what?).
 

Eirin

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I see from QT, by the way, that she's still using xeroxed rejections (to which I say, so what?).

The xeroxed stationary isn't a big deal in my opinion. I'd be much more concerned that she tried to chill authors sharing information.
That's...really not good.
 

EgyptianGoddess

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Anything new here

Is there anything new to add to this thread? Does she still only accept queries via post and not email? I see an email address on her 1000 Literary Agents http://www.1000literaryagents.com/literary-agent.php?id=1145

But at the bottom of the page says submissions via post....does anyone know if this is up to date? I hate doing postal queries, it's a waste of paper, stamp money, etc.

Thanks.
 

lcwrite

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Near as I could tell she only accepts queries by snail mail. I sent one in earlier this week.

Is there anything new to add to this thread? Does she still only accept queries via post and not email? I see an email address on her 1000 Literary Agents http://www.1000literaryagents.com/literary-agent.php?id=1145

But at the bottom of the page says submissions via post....does anyone know if this is up to date? I hate doing postal queries, it's a waste of paper, stamp money, etc.

Thanks.
 

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