Pub Rants

Category: Agent Kristin

Scammers That Scam Together…

STATUS: TGIF! The week ended way better than it started. I have one project that’s garnering lots of editor attention. Love that.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FASCINATION STREET by The Cure

Of course I had to go and research David Kuzminski’s cryptic comment in yesterday’s comment thread to click here if I wanted a good laugh.

But nothing prepared me for the sheer hilarity of scammers and fee-charging agents banding together to pretend they’re legitimate.

I even love their new organizational title: The International Independent Literary Association and yet not one of the agencies listed there is international. Perhaps they are just being optimistic for new members?

But my favorite part? The link that says Retainer Fee—To Pay or Not to Pay.

There they clearly spell out that it is a common misconception that reputable agents do not charge fees.

Eyebrow raise.

But it gets even better, they admit that reading and evaluation fees are still a big NO but retainer fees are the new black. After all, you’d expect to pay one when hiring an attorney, so why not for hiring an agent? In fact, according to them, this is now the case for literary agents.

News to me!

They even outright say that it’s okay as long as the retainer fee is for a reasonable amount.

Right. I’d like to know what constitutes a reasonable amount.

Folks. Repeat after me. Legitimate agents sell books to make money. To publishers who pay advances and royalties for the privilege.

They don’t charge money upfront (call it retainer, reading, submission, evaluation or whatever).

Why? Because if you actually sell books, you make money. There’s no need to charge fees.

And I also want you to go to the Association of Authors’s Representatives web page right now (of which I am a member). Give it a good look.

Now click on the Canon of Ethics. A set of ethical guidelines agents must adhere to in order to be a member.

See item 8? It clearly states that charging clients is subject to serious abuse that reflects adversely on our profession. Now, the problem is that the AAR only highlights fees for reading and evaluating literary works.

Scammers and pseudo-agents are manipulating language by now calling it a retainer. See it’s not really a reading or evaluation fee (even though we don’t seem to have a sales record), honest.

Folks. A fee is a fee is a fee is a fee.

Technology Woes

STATUS: Network nightmares. You don’t want to talk to me right now. Despite being nice, I might actually snap at you.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Ray Charles piped in over the speaker. Can’t tell you the title of the song though. He’s awesome regardless of which song.

Sorry folks. It’s not going to be a real blog today. My office computer network went down this morning and it’s still not fixed. Of course that drives me insane since everything happens by email. Almost everything. I did actually pick up the phone today. Gasp. How old-fashioned.

Just kidding.

So you’re probably wondering how I’m making this entry happen? Via my happy local Starbucks. I actually wanted to use the free wifi on the 16th street mall in downtown Denver but my computer was being ornery and wouldn’t connect to that network.

As to what happens to editors over the age of 35? Lots of things.

Publishing is tough. Long hours. Low pay. Tons of reading, which can strain the eyes. Editors really have to be passionate to stick with it.

Lots leave after a couple of years in the trenches. Many are promoted to positions where acquiring still happens (such as an Editorial Director) but mostly the job entails management.

Some editors leave to flip over to the dark side known as agenting.

Big smile here.

Some become editors-at-large so they can take more control over their projects and their lives.

Some move into other aspects of publishing.

Some actually retire after many fab years in the business.

Don’t worry. We don’t put them down after 35.

Scammers At The Gate

STATUS: Fridays always make me happy.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? The line up begins again on Monday.

To give Publishers Weekly their due, they allowed the dubious purveyors of the Sobol Awards to air their opinions about their contest in the Soapbox section of the Oct. 9, 2006 issue of the magazine. It’s entitled Barbarians At The Gate? Scammers at the gate more like.

Here’s the link if you think it worth your time to peruse. I think your time could be better spent.

First, have you noticed that legitimate organizations and contests (those above approach because they actually are operating with a writer’s best interest in mind) have no need to defend themselves?

Second, I find it curious that Ms. Weeks actually didn’t address any of the issues raised by Miss Snark and others about why this contest is a scam.

In her 60 seconds Soapbox, Ms. Weeks basically says that the Sobol Awards provide manuscript critiques for so many writers who otherwise would never get any feedback at all. (Huge eyebrow raise here because really?)

It’s my understanding that there are lots of venues for writers to get wonderful feedback and critiques for their writing without paying a dime. They are called critique groups.

And there are other organizations with minor membership fees (fees that are then used to actually advocate for their members) where writers can join the various local chapters to get their manuscript read and critique. Organizations such as Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and that’s just to name a few.

And yet, according to Ms. Weeks, it’s the Sobol Awards who will raise those deserving writers out of the unknown by getting them representation by Sobol Literary Agency, which actually hasn’t sold anything. Sounds like some prize.

My favorite part is when she says, “You’ll notice they [the winners] are not locked in the dungeons of Castle Sobol for the balance of their careers. They take their checks, their published novels and then can pick among the many agents anxious to represent an author whose value has already been proven in the marketplace.”

That includes some interesting assumptions—such as any winner of the Award would actually get their book published to start. Considering the track record of the agency (which is nil) that will represent the winners…seems like a big IF to me.

And for better reading, check out what Preditors & Editors has to say about Sobol Literary Agency.

Basically, it still comes down to the fact that the only ones benefiting from the Sobol Awards are those who profit from the “registration” fee.