Thursday, October 18, 2007

Scams Upon Scams

When you expose a scammer, they don't learn their lesson unless they go to jail. They just find a new way to do it. Agencies that charge fees are now established to be evil thanks to the good people at Preditors and Editors and many other organizations, but that doesn't mean people aren't after your money and will find a way to get it.

Recently my agency received a letter that was a promotional pitch for a service by a company that would provide us with (for a very small fee, or no fee at all; I can't remember) rejection letters, or even stamps with our agency's name so we could just stamp the rejection line onto the author's query letter. It's essentially free paper and ink, but the catch was that all the rejections would include a link to their website, which coaches people on how to write novels (for $$$). Not only was this preposterous (no agency can't afford to type out one form rejection and photocopy it a bajillion times), it was also a scam - not for us, but the people who got rejected. We didn't dignify them with a reply.

Here's another one:

Rejector, I seek your opinion on:

1) having a freelance editor review/edit your book before sending it out to agents (I write non-fiction, so I'm usually in the "proposal" mode)

2) author representatives who "connect you with agents and publishers." (one i just stumbled on: isn't it just as effective to do research on your own, and submit to specific agents who represent your genre?

(1) Having a freelance editor review/edit your book is not a bad idea, provided they are legitimate. To an a normal eye, it is very hard to tell if people are legitimate, or if they are, if they're any good. Follow up on their references and see where that leads, first

(2) Instead of playing scam agents themselves, it seems the trend now is to pretend there's some kind of intermediary between you and an agent, like an agent is an intermediary between you and a publisher. Well, there isn't. We don't generally have people sending us stuff on behalf of new writers unless they are (a) our clients and friends or (b) other agents we know and trust and got drunk with at Frankfurt. I've never heard of Author One, which is bad enough sign that I would discourage having anything to do with it.


Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

Gosh. Even agencies aren't exempt from that crud, huh?

Dave Kuzminski said...

There's been a definite trend in the last couple of years by folks claiming to be intermediaries who can find you an agent while claiming not to be literary agents themselves. I suspect this is because Writer Beware and P&E have made it tougher for them to pass themselves off as literary agents with our lists and recommendations against those who charge fees up front. P&E's response has been to continue treating them as agents under our rating criteria. :)

Etiquette Bitch said...

Rejector, thank you!!!-MS

Anonymous said...

Something like this just came up for me recently. I recommended a friend who writes non-fiction to another friend who is an agent (in fifteen years of friendship with the agent this is the first time I've ever done that, and only because I believed in the writer's work...and I probably won't do it again for another fifteen years). My agent friend passed on the project, which was fine, but my writer friend was disappointed and told me she wanted to hire one of those "intermediaries" to help her write a query letter (you have to understand this is a woman who is fairly well known on the talk show circuit in radio and TV, but hasn't had a book published yet: she has a platform and knows how to get good PR; just not how to go about the publishing process). I spent about three days helping her write a decent query (free!), and just yesterday she reported to me that she'd been asked to sign with an agency that has an excellent reputation and a good sales record.

Now, my point here is that while publishing only continues to become more competitive and frustrating for so many new writers, and not everyone has a friend in the business who can assist them in writing a decent query letter, I don't necessarily believe hiring a service for help and advice with a query is the worst thing in the world. Of course this friend of mine may have been able to write the query on her own, but I must admit that from what I saw as a rough draft of her version of a query I doubt any agent would have considered it (it was five pages long!). It all would have worked out for her in the end, I have no doubt, with or without my help, but I think my writing the query for her simply saved a great deal of time and trouble.

But more than that, I also told her NOT to mention the fact that I'd helped her write the query, for fear the agencies she queried wouldn't take her seriously.

I do not own and operate a query service or editorial service or anything of that nature. And I don't intend to either.

StephB said...

Great topic. I think it is easier to determine the good from the scam, but you have to stay dilligent. You can't let that guard slip. I'm just surprised they tried to scam a agent/agency. There's no shame is there?

Anonymous said...

Blasted scammers! Reminds me of Elisabeth von Hullessem's record on SFWA's Writers Beware. What a freakish case...

Sandra Cormier said...

The internet is simply stuffed with agents, writers and editors who can help a writer hone his or her craft without having to pay for it.

Still, it's amazing how many new writers walk wide-eyed into the publishing world and make the same mistakes over and over again.

It may seem futile sometimes, but it's not. Eventually, commons sense sinks in and we have another jewel to read and enjoy because somebody did it right.

Keep offering your great advice.

Jeff Draper said...

I've actually thought, half in jest, that we'd eventually need some kind of agent to find us an agent. If agents only came about because editors were difficult to get, and now agents are just as difficult to get, it seems like the next natural progression. We could call this the Slush Pile Transference Effect.

writtenwyrdd said...

It can be so confusing to those who aren't really hooked into the writer-agent-editor connections and how that operates.

ORION said...

I think it's also important to know that an outside editor is not actually necessary- I didn't use one and neither did any of my author friends. It isn't a replacement for learning to do revisions yourself - also it can be just as valuable to have beta reader feedback. Editors don't often agree where a story should go...It's not the shortcut or guarantee that many writers think it is.
I have a writer friend (unpublished) that I couldn't convince otherwise and although he spent a fair bit of money - is no closer than he was.
Many writers are confused between copyediting (spelling, grammar, punctuation) and editing for plot arc, clarity, "sellabilty" sentence structure etc.-
Regardless it's a tip-off if everyone tells you not to let an agent know you paid for editing or query writing services.
Agents want you to be able to do it yourself.

Anonymous said...

Scam agents are almost as bad as spam agents who, otherwise legitimate, include spam in their rejection letters. Back in the day, I received rejection letters including advertising for their client's books. The worst was an agent pumping his own book. I was gratified to see it had a very low Amazon rank.