Question: On the issue of the reading fee, what is your point of view? Various Internet services commenting on agents oppose this fee.
Many agencies charge a fee, and many do not. A fee can be an effective way to open doors, but make sure it is buying you a real chance at publication.
Internet reference services on literary agents, like P&E, WritersBeware, Agent Gripes, etc. express a general opposition to the reading fee, although some of them are selling their own services quite aggressively with poor research behind them. Here is our view:
Getting a good agent to look at your work is difficult because of the sheer mass of manuscripts being submitted, and the highly variant quality of those manuscripts. At MSA we never charge a fee for the initial evaluation of your work (first 3 chapters). Once evaluated, we share with you the cost of a careful analysis of your entire book for representation – a time consuming, intensive process. The system has worked very well here since we began in 1992, and because of it we are able to give many more writers our undivided attention. A reading fee can be a good thing if it is not abused and the following conditions apply:
For over a decade we have been able to review and give excellent advice to many writers, and represent those who had enough ability and dedication present in their work. There have been numerous instances where we supported a writer for years because we believed in a book.
- Location: the agency must have real agenting power and strong contacts in New York City publishing (the undisputed hub of American publishing) -- meaning the ability to get your work in front of editors at the major houses who know and respect the agency. There are a few exceptions, but in general this is a good rule of thumb to follow regarding location and competence. [click here]
- The book must be read carefully, and a written evaluation proving the agency’s attention and effort should accompany a contract or a rejection, in either case. We provide this.
- The fee should be reasonable.
A reading fee can be an asset to both the writer and the agency, as long as the agency has established its network in the business and is sincere in trying hard to choose and sell books. A reading fee, when properly handled, gives more writers a chance at publication.