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Metamorphosis Literary Agency

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eqb

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I agree with the others warning caution. The letter of acceptance sounds off in so many ways. The only client mentioned so far is one of their new agents, who by the way has no experience as an agent. And for an agency that wants to edit before they submit, they don't make a good impression with their website.
 

Feuilleton

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While it's nice they say they give everyone who submits helpful feedback, it also seems a little too good to be true that they have enough time to do so. I was excited about getting some interest from them, but I wouldn't want to work with an agency that can't or won't provide relevant information, aside from the other red flags mentioned.
 

sylkatz

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As someone who used to work at a literary agency, everything here is very odd. The complete lack of experience is definitely one thing; as mentioned by others, being a literary agent is just not an entry level job. The previously mentioned story of someone reaching out to a client of this agency only to find out that they are actually an employee of this agency is wild, especially when looking at their bio on the page. Where is her experience at an agency? Being a published poet simply does not make one a successful agent, and it is a little worrying that she somehow went from client to coworker for some unknown reason. Chances are, this is a VERY inexperienced agency made up of writers who decided on a whim to be agents. If they really want to continue running this business, it would be in their best interest to recruit someone seasoned in the agency world and hire them. That being said, anyone considering working with them runs the risk of something they've written and presumably put a lot of effort and time into being mishandled (probably on accident, but mishandled nonetheless).

Another strange thing about all this is that Lauren, who seems to be the head honcho of this operation, really isn't anywhere to be seen on the website except for as the author of the blog posts. She's not on the bio page, doesn't have any history or a picture up for herself, and when I checked google, I found next to nothing on her. The agencies I worked with in the past put everybody on their team page, even the interns, since it not only a) gave them recognition and a place to reference to as proof of their work in their literary world, but also b) it made the agency's team seem large, expansive, and diverse instead of small and unpopular, the latter sometimes creating the unfortunate illusion that the agency simply isn't in demand or well-known enough to require more than just a handful of people. The agency, from their blog posts, seems to attend events now and then - has anyone ever gone to one of these and met Lauren?

If I were looking to query a manuscript around, I probably wouldn't start here. This is an agency that in a few years could either be gaining momentum and actually finding their footing or the exact opposite and have completely vanished off of the face of the earth. I would wait and see in which direction they seem to be heading, but right now, there are some serious red flags that would turn me away from using them.
 

Emily Winslow

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These are the phrases that stood out to me as odd:

"To begin the process of a publishing house acceptance..."
"While we have a few publishers in mind for (manuscript title), there are a few items to cover first....Do you have certain publishers in mind?"
"Stephanie, the staff, and I understand (manuscript title)represents a significant part of your dream; we would feel honored if we can assist in its publishing."

Even really good manuscripts represented by agents with really good track records can fail to get picked up by a good publisher. The assumption of an inevitable sale in the above phrases could just be naive hubris, but equally it could be that the agency is aiming for publishers with a low hurdle required for acceptance, or perhaps even for vanity publishing.

The middle quote isn't as glaring as the other two; it's good for an agent to have ideas where your book would be a good fit, and asking for the writer's thoughts can be normal too. It just, in this context, sounds more like shopping to me than submitting a book. Like they're making choices from a menu of publishers instead of trying to sell a product to a publisher, which, again, makes me wonder if they're aiming low.

"We are a different agency in that we offer an assisted book tour with our team. Would you be interested in traveling with us and promoting your book along with our other representation? Metamorphosis has found higher enjoyment in public events as a group instead of sending authors out alone.
"

It always concerns me when agencies take on other publishing roles as well, such as here with publicity.

And if Metamorphosis "has found" enjoyment in public events as a group, there should be lots of books represented and sold that they can talk about. It's just a very confusing picture.

ETA: Oops! The last post is from this week, which is why I responded, but the rest of the discussion seems to be from summer. I suppose the OP has made their decision; I wish them good luck.
 
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ctripp

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One of the most recent blog posts seems odd. It's by Stephanie (the one of two Author/Agents) re her client Jennifer, Agent number 2. Agent 2's manuscript placed, but didn't win one of the top 3 spots, in a contest "Ink and Insights". Now, the contest itself looks fine, the Agents round contains some great industry names as judges but my question is... why would an Author, who HAS an Agent, sub to this contest (is it to get feed back on the manuscript, not clear you get this in the first round?) and why would their Agent be pleased about that? A couple of the other blogs leave me puzzled as well.

What is Ink & Insights?
Ink & Insights is a writing contest geared toward strengthening the skills of independent writers by focusing on critique and feedback from industry professionals. Each entry is assigned four judges who specialize in the genre of the manuscript. They read, score, and comment on specific aspects of the manuscript. (Characters, dialogue, style, pace, tension, etc. for novels.)
Once all four judges have finished, the four scoresheets with feedback are returned to the writer with a numerical score.
In August, or when all submissions have been read, we will announce the contest placements, and the top three manuscripts in the Master and Nonfiction categories will move on to the Agent Round.
 

Emily Winslow

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Ctripp, I agree.

I took a look at the website to see if they've sold any books in the six months since the OP was made an offer. I noticed that award, and thought, "Aha! They have sold something, and a book blog thinks highly of it. That's something, even if the publisher is small or the award is small." But it turns out it's an award for unpublished manuscripts. And, as you note, Ctripp, the purpose is to get it seen by agents. A strange contest for an already-agented author to enter. (Perhaps, to be fair, it was entered before the author signed with Metamorphosis.)

I also noticed some book covers in their sidebar. "Aha! Client books that have been published!" But no. These are "What I'm reading" and "Favorite books of 2016 so far." Books, I noted, which have been prestigiously published, and represented by agents not associated with Metamorphosis.

The blog post "Engaging with the community" is about "a wonderful time engaging with the community while representing some Metamorphosis Literary Agency author affiliates." (I have not before heard a literary agency refer to their authors as "affiliates" and I'm not sure if this is just quirky usage or if it means something other than authors represented by the agency.) It describes book sales as being "fun" and includes a pic of what appears to be a book sale table at a conference (or something like that) manned by a Metamorphosis agent. The text was not specific, but the pic has book titles and authors. Aha! But when I looked on Amazon, I found those books were written by authors who are not listed as Metamorphosis authors. Also, those books appear to be self-published/vanity published, and appear to predate Metamorphosis. The relationship between the books and the pictured Metamorphosis agent selling them is unclear. (I had a look at author photos and the authors don't appear to be the pen names of anyone currently listed on Metamorphosis's website.)

I circled back to the Ink & Insights contest. In their brief blurb about the win, the title is given but the author is not named. "How strange," I thought, and went off to Ink & Insights to have a look. Well. It turns out that the winner (one of ten) is one of Metamorphosis's two agents (as you noted above, Ctripp). Oof.

So, in sum, they have not sold any books to any publishers. At least one of their two agents is simultaneously a client (the blog post about the award specified that the winner is a "client"). They don't describe any agenting or book publishing experience in their bios (though one claims to be "an expert in the acquisitions process" with no further explanation). They list five authors, and I wish them all well, but I have no confidence in the ability of Metamorphosis to link them with major publishers.

Lastly, the tag line under the agency name in their header is "diamonds in the rough." A slogan like that may attract eager writers, who feel full of as-yet-undiscovered potential, but it doesn't seem like it would be appealing to publishers, who presumably want polished, ready work.
 
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Emily Winslow

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Wait, there's more!

Their blog post "Tips for Pitching to Literary Agents" begins: "First, are you looking for an agent who doesn't charge upfront costs or one that sends a bill right away. There is a difference."

WHAT? What, what, what???

Who are these "agents" who "send a bill right away"???

For those new to publishing: that is not how agenting works. NO ONE is "looking for" an agent who "sends a bill right away." That is a scam. Agents don't bill authors. They get 15% of any sales they make. That's it.

This blog post was written by someone who is not currently listed as associated with the agency, which I suppose is for the best, if that's how they think agenting works even some of the time. But the fact that the current agents at Metamorphosis have left this post up does not encourage me.

ETA: I think what's been created here is less an "agency" and more a writers' collective, where the founders have set themselves up as mentors. I think it's dishonest to market themselves as "agents" in the common understanding of the word. Going by their bios and track record, they don't have the experience or contacts with the Big 5 which to me are a significant part of the definition of literary agent. I'm not entirely sure I would want them as mentors, either; their level of experience seems more suited to "let's adventure together" than "let me lead you." But that would be a more accurate representation of what they're intending to offer, in my opinion.
 
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SaraC

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This agency came to my attention after Stephanie Hansen followed me on twitter. Their website made them look fairly new, and I've only had a few agents follow me, usually agents who requested material from me, so I came here to see if there was any information about them as I'm still learning what makes a good agency. I'm glad I read this thread.

After digging a little more, I did notice that they had made some changes to the website, including adding information about more of the people on their team as well as their clients. One of them has a writers digest new agent spotlight: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor...jennifer-haskin-metamorphosis-literary-agency

And google was sowing a couple dealmaker results from publisher's marketplace, but I don't have a subscription, so I could only read what google showed.

They seem to have made some progress since this thread started, but not enough to motivate me to query them yet...
 

slbynum3

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So since I first started this post, I had given up on this agency because it seemed so suspicious. They seem to be making some progress, although not very much. I saw their post on the Writer's Digest website, which I know is a reputable website. Also there's this interview done on the YAtopia blog, but it's weird because the agent only answered three questions and she didn't give very in-depth answers: http://yatopia.blogspot.com/2017/10/agentopia-stephanie-hansen.html
 

ctripp

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I saw their post on the Writer's Digest website, which I know is a reputable website.

Not a comment about the Agency but just to say don't look at the above as any sort of way to vet an Agent/Agency.
I've seen some questionable "new Agent's" in their "spotlight".
 

Filigree

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Same here. There was a time when WD was a reasonable source for publishing information. And still is, if you know how to look.

But they have a tendency to take ad money for just about anything. And their Features sections are not much better. Caveat emptor, and all that.
 

Polenth

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To answer a few questions, I was an author first, that is why I submitted to Ink & Insights. Because I was looking for an agent. I decided to sign with Stephanie, and that is why I was our first book. The website has grown, the clientele has grown. Sarah Rowlands now knows (because of her post here) that our issues could have been resolved if she had communicated with me. I had just signed another author and sent them both information at the same time. However, for privacy reasons (for their sake), I took the email addresses off. She was never on a mailing list. Do I send special offers I get to my clients when I get them? Absolutely. I want my authors to have inexpensive options for things they need, like editing or websites.
I don't remember the other issues about me personally, but I understand that without knowledge, there is only guessing. New agents often answer back quickly because they aren't swamped with queries yet, and they have time as they're growing their lists to answer back when they see something good. It's not always a bad thing.
I am not working for Metamorphosis anymore, so I cannot answer any questions about that business. She is doing well, though, and getting deals for her clients. There are 3 interns now to help her, and I can attest that Stephanie does her best when pitching authors to acquiring editors. She goes to writers conferences and tries to learn new things to help her authors. The company is small, but legit. Other than that, I don't have any more information for you. I wish you all the best on your publishing journeys!

Your clients should never need to pay for editing. Those services are for authors who intend to self-publish. However, I'm not surprised you think that based on a visit to the website. I checked out three books (from different authors) from those featured on the front page. Two were self-published. One was a publisher who allowed direct submissions.

This agency looks to be exactly what people have said in the thread. There's no sign of experience or understanding of the industry. The deals are with small presses that allow direct submissions anyway. So authors will either end up with a deal they could get anyway or self-published. It's really about cheerleading authors who are going it alone, rather than being agents.

This doesn't mean anyone here thinks it's a scam or the people involved don't have good intentions. But those things don't make an agent good at being an agent.
 

Barbara R.

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Okay, after sending the agency the first 75 pages of my novel at the end of May, I got this reply today (I have omitted my name and manuscript title from it):

....
I really want it to be real because I've been querying novels for nine years and I desperately want my big break. But I'm still skeptical. At the very least, maybe I could count this as an offer of representation and notify other literary agents who have my query. I've heard agents are more willing to give you an offer if another agent already has. Any opinions?

I'd love to say it sounds aboveboard, but in fact it sounds off to me. It's a long time since I was an agent, and many things have changed, but basic grammar and usage hasn't. This reads as if written by someone for whom English is not their native language. ("Higher enjoyment," etc.) The acceptance lacks any specificity, let alone the usual expression of enthusiasm, that would indicate a human being actually read the ms. and is writing to you. While they don't ask for money at this stage, they seem to be setting you up for solicitations down the road for marketing plans, like the book tour she mentions. She talks of assigning you an agent; but agents make their own picks, they don't get assigned books. And the person she mentions has no publishing experience except for editing a magazine--who knows in what capacity or for how long?

Those are a lot of red flags. Have a conversation if you like, in which you ask for references--other clients whose work they've sold, a list of sales, etc.) and whether or not they belong to AAR (I'm guessing not), which requires agents to adhere to ethical guidelines. But I'd be very wary.

I don't think other agents are more likely to make an offer if you say you have one already. It's too much a matter of personal taste and what each agent thinks they can sell. But it would nudge them to read faster. The downside is that they're likely to ask who made the offer, and if it's not a legitimate agency, your own credibility is thrown into question. On the whole I'd say not to unless you conclude that this offer is legit.

Sorry I can't offer a more optimistic take. But no agent is better than a predory or ineffective one.
 

Ms.rachel

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Has there been any change with this agency as it has had time to develop? Anyone know of any sales...to publishers that require an agent? They are not on query tracker, which I read 2 sales min were needed to be. Surely they've made two deals in this time?

Curiosity has gotten the best of me.
 

SaraC

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Has there been any change with this agency as it has had time to develop? Anyone know of any sales...to publishers that require an agent? They are not on query tracker, which I read 2 sales min were needed to be. Surely they've made two deals in this time?

Curiosity has gotten the best of me.

They are on query tracker now, but that is all I know.
 

writera

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Recently queried Patty Carothers. Saw some comments on QueryTracker. Any new updates? Are they legit or not?
 

ctripp

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Looking at the 4 children's picture books they represent, 3 have been sold to publishers I've never heard of (and I've been heavily involved in kid lit for over 20 yrs) like https://cardinalrulepress.com , http://ink-smith.com. The 4th pic book has been sold to an indie press I have heard of, Clearfork/Sprok but all 4 are open to Author submissions and am almost positive none pay advances.
When I think kid lit Agent, I think publishers like Random House, Harper Collins, S&S, etc. Publishers an un-agented Author can not access and that pay advances to both Authors and Illustrators.
 

IGLOOGREENHOUSE

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I want anyone who is considering an offer from Metamorphosis to go look at their represented author's page. Look at the faces you see there. Many of those faces have been there for years, mine was, for two years while I waited for Metamorphosis to make some sort of progress on my book. I waited, and at first they were optimistic, they thought that there was a niche for me to settle into. As time dragged by they started taking longer and longer to reply to my e-mails. This is my biggest complaint. Once they figured out that my book wasn't an easy sell, they lost motivation to sell it. They suggested that I get the manuscript published with a dude with a website that ran his press out of the garage of his Oregon house, for nothing but royalties. The kind of publisher that you you might make the mistake of publishing with on your own, but would never expect an agent to suggest to a client.

The contract expired, we went our separate ways, I'm back to square one with my book. I will give them the credit of their investment in a professional editor for my manuscript, which was a very nice thing for them to do out of their own pocket. Metamorphosis however isn't in the business of representing their clients adequately. They are in the business of finding as many clients as they can get their hands on, and hoping that some of them can actually get a book deal. Go look at the faces on their author page one more time. Do you want to be pasted on that page, smiling up, putting your faith in an agency that might or might not actually care about your work?
 
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NervousAnonymous

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As nervous as I am to be posting this, after months of watching this unfold, enough is enough. I strongly caution writers against submitting to this agency. To start at the beginning, I learned of Metamorphosis through the agency’s owner, Stephanie Hansen. Without doing proper research, I submitted to her and quickly received an offer of rep. My first red flag was that the offer was made via email without a phone call. The email basically said “I’d like to offer you rep. When you’re ready to sign I’ll send over a HelloSign request.”

It was then that I decided to do some digging. I asked Stephanie for a list of her clients. Her agency website claims she represents many authors, including NYT best sellers. However, the client names she gave me were a Picture Book writer and an author whose first book came out through a small press. I figured maybe her other clients weren’t comfortable with having their contact info given out, so I gave Stephanie the benefit of the doubt. As I did more digging, I found a Wattpad profile for Metamorphosis. This was very strange in itself, as Wattpad isn’t really considered a professional platform. On their profile there were interviews with Stephanie’s clients. There were around a dozen of them, so I searched each of those names. All of them were published with small presses that accept un-agented submissions, or through e-book only. This drove me to Publisher’s Marketplace, where Stephanie has not reported a single sale to a larger house except for a couple e-book-only sales. I searched high and low, and found no indication that this agency reps ANY best-selling authors, let alone several.

In my digging, I also found that all the agents at this agency are writers and they represent each other’s work. What this means to me is that none of their agents have many connections within the publishing industry. It’s not normal for agents to represent agents within the same agency. Yes, some agents are also writers, but they usually seek representation at other agencies (ex: Eric Smith and Rebecca Podos). Furthermore, this agency has a lot of interns, and those interns graduate to junior agent very quickly. One of their agents was just a Wattpad writer less than a year ago, and now she’s moved on to representing other writers? This particular agent may be well-intentioned and passionate about her client’s work, but my point is this isn’t a normal career progression.

The last thing I did before making my decision was reaching out to other writer’s on QueryTracker who recently received offers of rep from Stephanie. There were a few other YA writers that she offered rep to around the time she made me an offer. I reached out to them and they all had similar reservations, but one in particular managed to schedule a phone call with Stephanie. When this writer asked Stephanie about the submission process, Stephanie didn’t name any specific houses she wanted to submit to and also said the manuscript was ready for submission without any edits. This is NOT NORMAL.

With all this information, I ultimately declined the offer with the thought that this agency was well-intentioned but perhaps naïve and not established enough, but that they’d get there in the future. However, since rejecting Stephanie’s offer, I’m worried something a bit more deceptive may be going on at Metamorphosis.

To warn my fellow querying writers, I posted on QueryTracker about my experience. Shortly after I posted my comment, Stephanie posted a blog on Metamorphsis (a “year in review” style post highlighting all that the agency had accomplished in 2018). The post almost point-for-point responded to my comment on QueryTracker, signaling me that someone in the agency had likely seen my comment. THEN, someone on QueryTracker (thus dubbed “BB”) copied & pasted Metamorphosis’s blog post into the comments, as if purposely trying to make people second-guess what I’d posted.

Shortly after, I updated my comment on QueryTracker with new information I’d discovered (that all Metamorphosis’s big-5 sales are e-book only). If you’re unfamiliar with QT, the most recent comment appears at the top of the feed—including recently-updated comments. At this point, my negative comment was back at the top of Stephanie’s QT comment page. The very next day, BB updated their comment—however, they didn’t edit the content, which tells me they just wanted their comment to appear on top of mine. Figuring it was a fluke, I shrugged it off. However, a few days ago, a different user posted a negative comment on Stephanie’s QT profile. Again, BB updated their comment to make it move above the negative one. Suspicious of what was going on, I updated my comment again a couple days ago, making it move to the top. Yesterday, BB updated their comment again, making it appear first in the feed—someone is trying to bury negative comments about this agency.

Make of all this what you want, but writers need to know what they’re doing when they sign with this agency. Metamorphosis makes their clients sign a contract for one year that is automatically renewed unless prior notice is given in writing thirty days before the initial contract expires. In the publishing industry, a year can easily become a lifetime when you see the work you poured your heart and soul into is going nowhere. I’m not sure what this agency’s goal is, but something isn’t right here.

UPDATE: since I’ve typed this, people have been flooding Stephanie’s QT with positive comments. They all sound similar, as if written by the same person. One even states they signed with her back in October—so then why are they commenting NOW? It seems the agent may have requested her clients to post positive feedback on her behalf. Though my theory is purely speculation, it’s obvious something fishy is going on.
 

TheMontess

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I strongly caution writers against submitting to this agency.

Thanks for the update - I can understand why you're nervous! I have a query out with Jana Hanson at this agency at the moment after she liked one of my Tweets during a Twitter pitch party.
Reading her wishlist, I don't think she quite grasped what my story is about (she reps romance which mine is...not), but I sent a query anyway because it was the only interest I had. If she gets back to me, I will definitely consider your comments and will provide an update of my own if I hear anything.

UPDATE 9th Feb:

I received a response from Jana in a little over a week, it was a personalised response but there were a few red flags (to me) that I was right in my initial assessment that she thought the piece would be something it's not (i.e. she was trying to let me down gently rather than admitting her mistake). Take my words with a pinch of salt, from what NervousAnonymous said, I'm not too bothered to have missed the boat on this one.
 
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