By Heather Moore
Are bad agents for real?
You’ve probably submitted to them, you may have even been “accepted” and received a contract. Oh, the excitement. You are on the verge of all your dreams coming true? Right?
Wrong. Four years ago, I got an agent. I called my husband, I called my mom, and I called my sister. I had hit the big time. I signed the contract. But just before I mailed it, I decided to query a couple of the authors whom the agent represented. Just in case.
I googled like a private investigator and found four authors and their email addresses. In the next couple of days I received replies from all four. Unanimously, they said, “Don’t go with this agent.”
I was stunned. So I started doing more research. In the depths of the internet I found some complaints filed. One website (Preditors & Editors) listed them as: Not Recommended. After I recovered from my dreams being dashed by a few emails, I composed a letter back to the agency and politely declined their representation.
Most agents are part of fine, upstanding, accredited agencies. But how is it that the bad guys still creep through cracks? Miss Snark (anonymous NY agent) lists the 20 worst agents on her blog: http://www.sfwa.org/beware/twentyworst.html
Please pay attention to this list. But they aren’t the only ones. There are close to 400 questionable agencies operating. Before you query ANY agent, please, please, please check them out on Preditors & Editors: http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/
What makes an agency gain a spot on the Beware list? Here are just a few things:
1. Fee-charging: including reading fees, marketing or administrative fees, or any fee required for representation.
2. Paid editing or publishing referrals: some agencies are just fronts for editing services. If they tell you to get a professional edit before they can represent you, then they give you a referral to an editing company—be very suspicious. Some of these agencies are actually the editors, but use a front. An editor should always be independent of an agent.
3. Minimal track records (or none): Does the agency have a significant track record? Ask for a list of recent sales. This is common in the industry and should be no problem if the agency is valid. Sales to vanity presses are not legitimate.
4. Nonstandard contracts: If the agency asks for commissions on future work even if the agency doesn’t sell it, or bills you authors for normal business overhead such as travel and entertainment, etc., beware.
5. Unprofessional practices: If the agent bundles queries from several authors to one publisher, simultaneously submits, or adds unnecessary fluff with your submission such as photos, cover mockups or illustrations . . . it's a red flag.
Please do your research before submitting. Check out the agent’s website. Does anything look strange? Check out Preditors & Editors. Are they recommended or highly recommended? If an agency requests a partial or full and you’ve done your research, you still need to email some of their clients. Just to be sure.