Friday, June 09, 2006

From Writer to Reader: Literary Agents

At some point in every writer’s career thoughts must turn to securing the services of a literary agent to help market that incredibly good manuscript that is at present tucked securely away in a desk drawer. Apparently here, as in so many areas of commerce, the guiding rule is caveat emptor or buyer beware. The following excerpt is from an article entitled “Warnings and Cautions for Writers – Literary Agents” published online by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

“There are many successful literary agents who provide excellent representation to their client. Unfortunately, there are also many dishonest and incompetent ones, who relieve writers of money and waste their time – or even worse, damage their careers by squandering submission opportunities or placing them with bad publishers. A couple of decades ago, such agents weren’t terribly common. These days, due to changes in the publishing industry that have made agents the principal gatekeepers of the citadel of publishing, they are legion.

Dishonest agents prey on writers by charging fees, promoting their own paid services, engaging in kickback referral schemes, and misrepresenting their knowledge and expertise in order to obtain clients. These agents don’t earn their income from selling manuscripts to publishers, but from charging money to clients.

Dishonest agents may ‘represent’ hundreds of writers, turning them over twice a year with a six-month contact that requires $250 or more in upfront fees. Or they may be fronts for editing services, recommending editing to every writer who sends a query and charging thousands of dollars for critiques performed by unqualified minimum-wage employees. Or they may run pay-to-publish operations, into which clients are funneled once they’ve racked up enough rejections to become desparate.”

To read more of this valuable article, including several specific examples of “dishonest agenting practice drawn from Writer’s Beware files” please click here.

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