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Thread: This is nothing like an official FAQ

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  1. #4
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Q. A couple of years back, when I was a naive newbie, I accepted an agent's offer of representation. He charged me $650 a quarter plus $14 per submission he made. That was an extra $700 - $812 per quarter. Imagine my shock when I ran across his name on the Twenty Worst Agents List.

    I started checking up on him. I found he hasn't made a sale since 1996, and in that case the author did all the work. I couldn't get him to tell me where he'd submitted my book, so I phoned a bunch of publishing houses, told them I was his assistant, and asked about the status of my book. Every one of them said they'd never heard of him or of my book. I don't think he ever submitted it to any of them.

    So here's my problem: I wrote about all this on my Live Journal, naming names and dates and amounts. I said he was a liar and a crook. Now he's sent me a letter threatening to sue the pants off me for libeling him.

    Where the hell does he get off, and can he actually do anything to me?

    A. Where the hell he gets off is that he's been a scammer for years. He's lost track of honest ways to make money, and has forgotten what it's like to work for a living. Outing him online as a scammer has to have taken a big bite out of his income. Naturally, he resents that.

    Also, he hasn't been in the habit of thinking of himself as a con artist and crook. He resents that too.

    You know what? Tough. He's spent years taking money for work he didn't do. At some point that stops being situational nonperformance and starts being a scam.

    As for the question of what he can do to you: Until such time as he actually brings a lawsuit against you, the answer is "not bloody much." He can huff and puff and threaten to blow your house down, but your house won't fall down; and in the meantime, the huffing and puffing will amuse your friends.

    Very few scam publishers and agents are so stupid that they want to go to court and have their business practices and sales figures made a matter of public record. If yours actually goes that far, try not to worry. The fact is, standard industry practice calls for agents to submit books, make sales, and derive their income from commissions. Your former agent manifestly did none of these things, while claiming to be an active and effective agent. He collected substantial sums from authors while doing nothing on behalf of their books. The per-submission charge is especially indefensible, since it was levied for specific tasks which were not carried out.

    The same goes for scam publishers, by the way; and that includes the ones that have their employees sign dubiously legal non-disclosure agreements at the time they're hired. Again: as long as all they're doing is huffing and puffing, they can't make your house fall down.

    UPDATE: Some of these slime molds have actually started filing lawsuits, most likely because the Twenty Worst Agents List has gotten enough exposure for them to be losing business. If you're seriously worried, either use a pseudonym, or limit your remarks about them to observations rather than inferences. "He's a scammer" is an inference. "He's been in business as an agent for fifteen years, and has yet to make a legitimate sale" is an observation.
    Last edited by HapiSofi; 03-09-2008 at 01:38 AM. Reason: corrected my math; added update
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

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