Miss Snark Hopes This Is A Joke

Dear Ms. Snark,

I am confused - I give up - can’t take it anymore. I feel the need to jump off the writers bridge any moment. I appreciate your advice on my early question. Now I have another problem. Gee, am I allowed to have two in one month…I will dwell on this issue later.

After reviewing several of the posts on your site, I crammed my nerves together and wrote to my agent asking what publishers had seen my MS over the last six months. She had never offered before and I had not asked before, this was the first. I know it is a huge no-no to ask what person but I thought it was okay to ask what publisher. I was gentle in my question as to not come across mean. Can you say BIG MISTAKE? I can. The response I received basically ripped out my heart. I was told it was none of my business. Her comment was that I was no different from every other author, it was all about me. She then revealed she had a more then serious lead and would follow-up on it as it was in her contract to do so. Who knew – not me as she never shared this tasty morsel before. I sent her an apology e-mail because I felt terrible after her two page attack response. She never responded. After four boxes of Kleenex and a bucket of gin I don’t know what to think.

I know agents are riddled with work. I also know agents work their tails off for their clients. Yet I don’t believe I have crossed any lines. Or have I? (1) If I had been mean that would be one thing, but my e-mail was also filled with how much I appreciated all her hard work. Do I run for the hills (2) or start looking for a new agent? (3) Needless to say, my confidence level fell under the carpet somewhere. Miss Snark, I humbly ask for your guidance.

One last tid bit - This person was my editor first – after I paid $5,000.00 to have her edit my fictional novel (80,000 words) she became my agent. Do I smell Idiot of the Year award? (4) Or is this typical?(5)

1. No
2. Yes
3. Yes
4. Yes
5. No

Miss Snark truly hopes this is a joke. Really. She hopes you're pulling her delicately shod left foot with a big yuk yuk yuk to be enjoyed by all.

If not, you've been scammed.

"Agents" who yell at you for asking where your work is are to be avoided at all costs. It's one of the Seven Red Flags of Scam Artists. Any legitimate agent who does so is an idiot. No exceptions.

"Agents" who charge you money to edit your novels are scamming you. No exceptions.

"Agents" who tell you that they have one lead to follow up and they'll do so cause it's in their contract are scamming you.

If you signed with her without checking the P&E list, yes you are a nitwit.
If she's not ON the P&E list, please email them post haste, tell them Miss Snark sent you, and please report this.

And if you're pulling Miss Snark's leg about this situation, Killer Yapp will track you down and explain why you are "not quite right".


Eileen said...

"After four boxes of Kleenex and a bucket of gin I don’t know what to think."

I know what to think... sounds like your agent is a complete and utter cow. She is not even poodle piddle worthy. Run for it.

Anonymous said...

Make sure the agent isn't one of this lot Lots of posts on AW about each and every one.

Kendall said...

Also, check with Writer Beware (beware at sfwa.org)...although they're part of SFWA, I don't think they only track SF/F/H scam agents -- I think they try to track all scammers.

Stijn Hommes said...

Also, $5000 is entirely too much for an edit job. You can easily have a good edit done for under $1000, probably even less.

Agents are supposed to sell your work. Editing is for editors to do.

December Quinn said...

Oh, dear. This is so awful I can't even fathom the awfulness.

It's not your fault, OP, if you're telling the truth. Just hie thee to P&E.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

$5K? and a 2-page nasty email?


Yes, yes, tell P&E right away!!!

Kat said...

Gah. I just feel bad for this poor author. At least she figured out something was wrong. (Go you! Now dump that so-called agent and go on to better things.)

I wonder how many people are in the same boat, being ripped off and bullied by their fake agent and thinking that this is how publishing works. It makes the heart hurt.

Please, everyone, check Preditors and Editors. Email Writer Beware. Check the AAR listings. Read the handbooks. Don't fall for it.

Anonymous said...

*please* help us all avoid this "agent" in the future, please please report her to all of the above mentioned groups that monitor such shit.

Thank You,

aruna said...

And, just to make things easier for you, here are the links:
P&E: http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/

Writer Beware:

Absolute Write Bewares and Backgroud check:

(Would be good if you'd post the name of this "agent" (read: scammer) there)

Bernita said...

This is tragic.

Janny said...

If this isn't a joke, this is truly scary, only because there are still people out there who will accept treatment like this. (!)

This reminds me of a person I met a couple of years ago who had "representation" by a supposedly reputable agency...for eighteen months, at $100 per month for "expenses." (As she put it, "My agent says it takes a lot of money to mail copies out." I said, "At $100 a month, sweetie, you should have saturated the known publishing world with copies by now.")

Needless to say, the book hadn't sold in those eighteen months. Even worse, however, was when I offered to look at some of the manuscript and critique it for this woman, the stuff I looked at was really, really weak--in fact, it was not in salable condition. Yet (of course) this agent had told the author that the book was "great" and that it should be only a matter of time before it sold, since the agent was taking it to "book fairs" and publishing conventions to "find publishers" for it. And this girl reassured me her agent was really trying, because she was showing it at all these writers' conferences to lots of publishers at one time!

It took me a couple of strongly worded e-mails, but I think I may have actually persuaded her to stop paying this "agent." She did tell me she'd told the "agent" to stop sending copies out temporarily until she did some revision work on the manuscript.

I haven't been in touch with this girl of late, so I wonder. But although this isn't as extreme a case as posted here, it's in the same ballpark, and the endless variations on this kind of scam never cease to amaze me!


Nell Dixon said...

Wow what a scam!

PaulaO said...

$5000 for editing 80,000 words?!?!

Holy Gin Pail!

I recently had my first novel edited/proofed/whatever by a pro. The 80K manuscript cost me just over $600. The editor did a freakin' good job of it and I learned a lot about my writing style and about editing. The $600 was a great investment.

But $5000? I agree with the others. You've been scammed. Report this. Someone else may see it and report the same. Then someone else, then someone else....

Delilah said...

I don't know who this "agent" is, but I have just put Sarah Flannigan's curse on her (in honor of St. Patrick's Day.) There's no fate too terrible for people who steal other's dreams and confidence for monetary gain.

I feel so badly for this writer. I hope they at least got a halfway decent edit out of the process. My advice, put it behind you and treat it as an expensive life's lesson.

Anonymous said...

Terrible story. Pick yourself up, dust off, and move on.

Allison Brennan said...

Anonymous: Listen to Miss Snark.

But I think you have another situation you need to deal with, and that is your self-esteem. This is YOUR career. This is YOUR book. The fact that you felt too nervous to discuss any of the details with your agent tells me that you are probably super nice, introverted, and put her on a pedestal.

Definitely report them, definitely run away from them, but DON'T hide in a hole and lick your wounds and think you're unworthy. Start researching agents and start the submission process again. You'll be must wiser in the process.

Some other suggestions: join a writers group that has bone fide legitimate authors as part of their membership. I write romantic suspense, so I'm a member of Romance Writers of America as well as International Thriller Writers. There are some local independent writers groups out there to (avoid those full of self-published people). Find a critique group (easier through a writers club, but there are some on-line groups that are free.)

Don't let this scamming bitch (can I say that?) destroy your love of writing. Keep the faith and next time research better.

a writer said...

As janny said, there are a lot of people who will convince themselves to accept this kind of treatment.

The poster here has obviously read Miss Snark before (she's asked two questions in one month) but has apparently missed any of the many references to not paying agents for their services, "editing" or otherwise.

This sort of thing is way too common. Smart people, who have educated themseves about the industry and KNOW that certain practices are scams are somehow able to convince themselves that *their* situation is different, just because the scam agent or publisher is the only one who will take them on.

Dave Kuzminski said...

If you do report that "editor/agent" to P&E, please remember to include a copy of that email that "editor/agent" sent to you. In fact, if you have other correspondence, P&E would like to review that as well, even if it has to be scanned in and attached.

bookfraud said...

i don't think this is a joke -- it sounds oh-so-common. the writer sounds less insecure and ignorant than simply desperate. like the janny and post above this one indicate, i know of people who know better fall prey to this type of scamming. when you pour your soul into a novel, your defense mechanisms (skepticism, wariness, suspicion, etc.) are down. you lose your perspective, and your money.

Chrysoula said...

I smell a joke. But it seems like a good litany of all of Miss Snark's pet peeves about her field. And I don't doubt that people like this exist; I just doubt that anybody who threw away $5000 like that would end up here and talking about it.

Actually, given how oft-repeated the basic advice of 'money flows to the author' is, how does one even FIND that kind of scammer without encountering the basic wisdom? Don't you have to do some kind of research to find an editor/agent?

Anonymous said...

Hmm. The words 'fictional novel' make me think this person is trying to wind Miss Snark up.


Bill Peschel said...

And, please, anon, understand that you are not the only one who has ever done this. We all have had our moments. And, no, I won't tell you mine, not unless you buy me a drink first.

So don't feel too bad if you pick yourself up, report this agent, and move on to another project.

You can feel bad if a) you stay in this situation, and b) you fall for it again.

Life is full of lessons like this, and we can only get over it if we imagine these bad experiences as bumps in the road, and wave them bye-bye as they recede in our rear-view mirror.

Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Stories like these make me want to go to New York and hug the stuffin' out of my legitimate agent who always takes my calls, answers my emails, and is honest and encouraging. He spent three hours on the phone with me editing the original manuscript, and has never asked for a dime. And of course, I checked him out on P&E before I queried him.

I may have to send him some baked goods or something.

Eden said...

I agree w/ Alice. The use of "fictional novel" gave me pause. It's where my sympathy level fell under the carpet, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank each of your for your posts. Between Miss Snark and her faithful readers I have been given hope. I did check every place known to the writer world – she was not listed. Yes, I lost my perspective and thought this situation was different. My gut kept screaming at me this was all wrong but the hopeful part of me went ahead and took a second mortgage on my house to pay this monster. I could tell you more but let’s just say it would include many vomit noises. I am going to report her. I was afraid at first there may be backlash from doing so yet at this point, I have to do the right thing. I have dusted myself off and submitted to new agents. I think you all call one of them an “A List Agent” who asked for my first 3 chapters. Did I get a good edit job for 5 grand – at this point, who knows. I do know I was bent over and she never even kissed me first. How rude. That harsh truth here is I made a critical mistake. I let my defenses down because I was too wrapped up in my novel. I will never make this mistake again. My best to each of you.

Anonymous said...

I had one question about her saga. What's wrong with asking an agent which exact editors have seen the MS. I wouldn't think that would be a problem.
Back in the ancient days when I had an agent for a mystery I wrote, he sent me all the rejection letters. Happy reading, but he had no problem with my knowing exactly who was disrespecting me.

SherryD said...

"This person was my editor first – after I paid $5,000.00 to have her edit my fictional novel (80,000 words) she became my agent."

Or dear - you can kiss that $5,000 goodbye. If this was a prank email, shame on you. It sounds too awful to be true.

Termagant 2 said...

Beware, writers, some more: not all "bad" agents are listed in P&E.

Anon's comments aside (and I do feel yoah pain) I submit that all it takes for a so-so agent to become a "bad" agent is a mis-fit between your styles or personalities.

My un-named ex-agent will never make P&E. She and her agency were not engaged in scamming, just haphazard, lazy work. I will not report them, because for other authors they've done a businesslike, effective job. It just wasn't a good fit for me, and in truth I think I caught the agent on the downward leg of her career path.

So move on, scammed author, and count yourself in the pool of those with stories to tell.


Bella Stander said...

For $5K, that agent/editor should have at least told you not to ever use the phrase "fictional novel."

Anonymous said...

I hope this is a joke. For $5000 dollars you could have went to several conferences and found legitimate representation.

A. C. Crispin said...

Dear Anonymous:

Don't just report that scuzzy agent to Preditors and Editors. Please also report to Writer Beware.

We do exchange info, but it's nice to get info for our database from the horse's mouth.

The Writer Beware email address is:

-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware

Genuflecting to Her Royal Snarkness:

Now for something new and different...don't know if there is any way to "sticky" this post, or pass it on, but here it is, for whatever good it will do, O Great Fount of Snarkness.

Writer Beware has complied the list of the 20 agents we receive the most complaints about from scammed or almost-scammed writers. Here it is:


Writer Beware's 20 Worst Agents


Below is a list of the 20 agents about which Writer Beware has received the greatest number of advisories/complaints during the past several years.

None of these agents has a significant track record of sales to commercial (advance-paying) publishers, and most have virtually no documented and verified sales at all (many sales claimed by these agents turn out to be vanity publishers). All charge clients before a sale is made, whether directly, by charging fees such as reading or administrative fees, or indirectly, for "editing services."

Writer Beware suggests that writers searching for agents avoid questionable agents, and instead query agents who have actual track records of sales to commercial publishing houses.


*The Abacus Group Literary Agency
*Allred and Allred Literary Agents (refers clients to "book doctor" Victor West of Pacific Literary Services)
*Capital Literary Agency (formerly *American Literary Agents of Washington, Inc.)
*Barbara Bauer Literary Agency
*Benedict & Associates (also d/b/a B.A. Literary Agency)
*Sherwood Broome, Inc.
*Desert Rose Literary Agency
*Arthur Fleming Associates
*Finesse Literary Agency (Karen Carr)
*Brock Gannon Literary Agency
*Harris Literary Agency
*The Literary Agency Group, which includes the following:
-Children's Literary Agency
-Christian Literary Agency
-New York Literary Agency
-Poets Literary Agency
-The Screenplay Agency
-Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency)
-Writers Literary & Publishing Services Company (the editing arm of the above-mentioned agencies)
*Martin-McLean Literary Associates
*Mocknick Productions Literary Agency, Inc.
*B.K. Nelson, Inc.
*The Robins Agency (Cris Robins)
*Michelle Rooney Literary Agency (also d/b/a Creative Literary Agency and Simply Nonfiction)
*Southeast Literary Agency
*Mark Sullivan Associates
*West Coast Literary Associates (also d/b/a California Literary Services)

- Victoria
Two of Eight
Website: www.victoriastrauss.com
Writer Beware: www.writerbeware.org
Writer Beware Blog: www.accrispin.blogspot.com

P.S. from Ann: Lee Shore Literary Agency gets the No. 21 Honorary Runner Up mention here.

P.P.S. Victoria Strauss's new book, The Awakened City, was released yesterday from HarperEos. It is a TERRIFIC read. Check it out!

Emjay said...

A member of my writers group came in all excited because she had an agent.

I mean she was really excited...her kids had a party for her and made her a little crown and badge that said agented writer.

She showed me some of the e-mails. Yes, she had paid them for editing and, wow, her work was so good and perfect, they could find nothing to edit.

It was New York Literary Agency. I immediately looked them up on P&E where they were 'strongly not recommended.'

I didn't say anything to her, but put a notice in the Club newsletter advising everyone to check potential agents out on P&E.

Apparently she ignored it because she was back at the next meeting with more glowing e-mails.

I still haven't directly said anything to her, but the $5,000 figure scared me.

So, now I don't know what to do.

Do people still shoot the messenger???