5.26.2006

20worstagents.com

The really stupid thing about attacking writers is that they are smart and creative.
They don't call talk shows and whine...they build websites (or post really really sardonic yet useful comments on Making Light)


Here's the website du jour

Jenna Glatzer and the folks at Absolute Write have my respect and best wishes.

Jenna has a book out from Nomad Press called The Street Smart Writer.
You might consider buying a copy and donating it to your local library.
Anything we can do to pull the avaricious fangs of scam artists like Barbara Bauer counts as the good deed of the day.

46 comments:

FreeSpirit said...

Oh my gosh, thanks so much for my laugh of the day. It'll help ebb the flow of tears until AW gets back up and running again.

December Quinn said...

LOL! That's awesome!

Anonymous said...

If writers are so smart and creative, then why do they fall for these scammers in the first place?

Anonymous said...

I've read so many threads on this woman my head is spinning. Here's the thing, unfortunately, most agencies on the Top 20 list will still probably get plenty of unsuspecting newbie authors who are not saavy to the ways of the scam artist agent (I was one). Now that Ms. Bauer chose to make a stink about it, that will only make people think, hmmmmm and hopefully steer clear of the controversy. After all, there are plenty of agents out there, why go with one fueled with so much criticism and controversy?

If I was interested in you before, Ms. Bauer, I ain't now!!!!

Jackie said...

Note to self: Don't drink coffee when reading the Snarky One's blog, lest I want coffee spewed all over my keyboard when I break up laughing...

Jackie said...

Anonymous (who asked about why writers fall for the scammers in the first place) --

Good question. I see two answers:

1. The Innocent Newbie. If writers don't know about scam agents, they will fall prey to them. That's why it's so important to educate people about scam agents. Having watchdog organizations, like Writer Beware and P&E -- and the Beware and Background Check on AW -- are absolutely vital in this business. Of course, all the information in the world means nada if writers don't do their homework.

2. The Scorned, Yet Brilliant, Writer. If writers can't get a legitimate agent, they may choose to go with a scammer. Why? After countless rejections from other (read: legitimate) agents, having a scammer say, "This is brilliant and deserves to be published!" can be just the balm the writer's wounded ego is seeking. Of course, the price for that balm is money out of the writer's pocket...and, usually, no publishing contract -- or, worse, a contract with a vanity press.

357martini said...

Love yer snark lil Mizzzz Feminista

Termagant 2 said...

If writers are so smart and creative, then why do they fall for these scammers in the first place?

Answer #3: hope. A human habit, it springs eternal, yada yada.

Picture this scenario: a writer is Almost Ready for Prime Time, but not quite there yet. He submits stuff to agent after agent. All give him a "no-thanks." Then, voila! Here comes an agent who UNDERSTANDS his work! Who will give a newcomer a chance! Who isn't overcome by greed!

Naturally, some writers will buy into this scam. Hope says "maybe this time it's real." And we humans, in my experience, will go with hope 75% of the time, even when it contradicts common sense.

T2

Anonymous said...

Is it just me? Is anyone else more pissed at Stephanie Cordray than at Barbara Baur? In my mind, Ms. Baur is an unhappy character, trying to make a buck off unsuspecting and needy writers, yes. Which is irresponsible and just plain wrong. But Stephanie Cordray was a member of the AW community - who had absolute power over their web hosting - and who chose (unwisely) to capitalize on Baur's rantings and use smoke and mirrors to destroy a thriving community and then had the gaul to try to fit her own competing website into the void.

Follow the "no-follow" link to Stephanie's site on Making Light - and you'll see that her personal site is even called "Rising from the Ashes". Now THAT is gaul.

Jen said...

As one of the moderators for the Absolute Write forums, I have to say thank you for the posts (and comments).

Ig said...

Say you've written a book. You've dreamed about doing so your whole life--the characters and stories have been flitting through your brain for years. So once the kids were in school you found yourself with the time to make this a reality.

You stay up nights, writing this book. You stay in weekends, writing this book. Slowly but surely, your story comes to life, and you are as excited as when little Billy took his first steps.

Now you've never published anything before, but you're an American with a dream, and you know that you can make it happen. You send your manuscript to publishers, and you never hear from them. A local librarian tells you about slushpiles and agents, so you write some query letters and get some rejections. It hurts.

Someone tells you about this one agency in New Jersey, and you send out your query letter. Then finally, finally, after years of writing and getting rejected, this nice woman with a PhD. loves your work. She loves it and wants to represent it and you're so excited that you could pee your pants. Of course you'll pay a fee! She's working for you, after all! It's an investment and it's going to pay off! Goodbye debt, hello book tour!

Anonymous, not all writers are so smart and creative, and even those who are may not have the resources to properly research agencies. That's why blogs and forums exist--to offer support and information, in order to protect would-be victims.

I'm 28. I live in a city and I have high-speed internet. Of course I can do some digging to find out if an agency is above-board or not. To assume that everyone can do the same would be ignorant.

So stop being a snitty smart-arse. Everyone can get scammed, and will, sooner or later, whether it's by a predator agent, a smooth-talking player, or a guy selling snake-oil. If you want something badly enough, you'll turn a blind eye to the warning signs.

Lauren said...

Good answers, Jackie. One more thing that many of us can do--especially after the emotion of this particular outrage has faded--is to spread the word about Writer Beware (both it's home page and blog), Preditors & Editors, this and Evil Editor's blogs in any writing groups to which we belong, to mention them in any appearances we make and to bring them up in any conference, adult ed or other classes we attend. Spreading the word among the continual influx of new writers means more than just putting it online--though that is important. Don't let your outrage fade away; change it. Convert it to determination to help others learn where the knowledge can be found.

Rei said...

Well, there's always my way to assess how good an agent is (apart from the usual - P&E, ARR, other authors' research, etc). Find their author list (if you can't, that's a big red flag). For each author of theirs, Google for:

"Full Name" author

Disclaimer: Don't rely on this for those with very common names. "Author" helps filter out non-authors, but if the name is "John Smith", the non-author people that just happen to have "author" in the page will outnumber the pages about the real author)

If you get a few tens of thousands of hits on their more established authors, they're midrange. If you get hundreds of thousands or millions of hits for their established authors, they're a big fish. If you get a dozen hits, they're either brand new, a scammer, or otherwise worthless at selling your book. Determining if they're brand new or not is pretty easy; most agents wear their years in the publishing industry on their sleeve as a badge of honor.

It's not perfect, but it at least gives you something.

Anonymous said...

Too late. Ruined another keyboard.

Next time post a beverage alert, I hate wasting good booze.

Now WHERE might one contribute to the continued upkeep of that website? I would love to see it expanded to the next twenty or twenty thousand, however many are out there.

Ditto for the 20 worst publishers to come.

I know Another Realm has a huge list, but the bad are mixed in with the good.

Human nature being what it is we're more interested in gawking at the bad 'uns first!

And now I must try to clean up my squishy keyboard!

THANK YOU and all the other GOOD 'UNS!

Laurie said...

Oh my goodness. :D That's so wonderful! Thanks for providing the link to yet another wonderful site.

And Jackie - yup and absolutely.

Anonymous said...

This is such great information to have!! Thank you Barbara for shedding so much light on who are the scam artists and what to look out for to decipher who are legit and who's not. Hooray!!!

truthteller said...

Although scam-artist literary agents can’t be a good thing, there is something witch-hunty about posting “lists” and naming names, especially with no personal knowledge of the people listed. Except for some romance and fantasy writers, most authors are perfectly capable of navigating the literary world waters by themselves, with maybe a bump here and there.

And in looking at “recommended” and “not recommended” lists, remember that the best agent out there might be someone with no sales or clients but with contacts in the business and a drive to make it, which means they throw everything they've got into getting your book sold.

librisfb said...

Miss Snark said:
"Jenna has a book out from Nomad Press called The Street Smart Writer.
You might consider buying a copy and donating it to your local library."

I bought my copy back in February, based on a good review from Booklist (an ALA publication, heavily used by librarians.) It's a very useful book and DOES belong in every library that has a writer's collection. So, for those of you thinking about donating a copy to your local library, may I suggest you print out the Booklist review from the Amazon site and slip it inside the book. Libraries short on time and staff will appreciate it (the Booklist review will help "vet" the appropriateness of the book for inclusion in the collection, saving the librarian some time) and it will increase the likelihood that the book actually gets added to the collection (instead of sold through Friends of the Library group for money.)

For my part, I will make sure my local libraries have copies, whether they agree to buy with library funds or I buy it for them.

Stella
Writer (and, surprise!) librarian

lizzie26 said...

Jackie's item number 2 is what you hear and read so often. The "brilliant" writer who can't get any agent to read their gem of a book. They're the ones who also defend those top 20 worst agents.

It's the newbies that I sort of feel sorry for; the ones who don't investigate first and get scammed. And maybe, just maybe, they really did have a manuscript that's saleable to a top publishing house.

Thanks, Miss Snark, love the link!

Anonymous said...

There are scammers in every profession.

Writing and any other creative endeavor means the artist focuses on the art. Once he decides to publish, he must turn his attention to the business end.

Do your homework.
Read the dedications in books you enjoy.
Remember agents are looking to sign you up - you are the product they sell. If you keep going, you will catch a break. It might take a longer time than you'd want, but perseverence is a big part of writing success.
Learn to read between the lines: some agents are more interested in being stars than making stars out of their writers. Not quite the same as a scam, but you become their "horse" to ride.
You get what you pay for (not sending anyone money, but paying with your investment of time) -- there are no short cuts. You have to put in the time. Some people get lucky. They sell the first book they write, they've got the right "product" at the right time. (A bit too late to start writing chicklit or paranormal now--move on and find your own voice.)

Most of all, buyer beware. Someone like this bogus agent can only take advantage of you if you let her...ego, need, desire, whatever. Don't be stupid. Buyer beware, and you'll be ok.

Anonymous said...

Oh...and also...does anyone else find it amusing that The Bauer's blog/podcast is known as AWOL ??!!

Its supposed to stand for 'Artists without limits". (Or should I say Artists without Agents).

But AWOL...that's too funny. She's gone missing and she'd tell you herself, if she was anywhere around.

Umbrella Girl said...

This just in from the Robins agency in reply to my email:

Dear Ms. Valentine,

Thank you for bringing this information to our attention. We are not
part of the class action suit Ms. Bauer is starting (last count I
believe she had about 100 agents involved with the goal being to
remove all those writing boards); pay little attention to the whining
boards; pay even less attention to some arbitrary list systems; and
only work with professionals.

You may wish to distance yourself from that lot as we are not the
only agents who hear about those who post there and many other agents
not on those lists are checking them against their submissions and
tossing out those they find there. Just FYI, some agents are even
passing around a new list NOT posted on those boards; it's the 2,000
Worst Writers List. I'd hate to see your name on it.

Wishing you only the best,

Mr. Gregg Collins
Marketing Manager


********************************
Robins Agency
*******************************
e-mail: robins-agency@sbcglobal.net

LMAO!

Chalicechick said...

So, some of Barbara Bauer's clients have websites.

Has anybody thought to email her clients and tell them what's up?

CC

Anonymous said...

"If writers are so smart and creative, then why do they fall for these scammers in the first place?"

Even the most intelligent person can be duped and this has nothing to do with creativity.

It has to do with dreams. When a person dreams all their life of being something and another person says, "I can make your dreams come true," some people will go with it. We live in a world of instant gratification and that's what scammers offer.

Jessica said...

Oh, that's so great. I love the picture of her with her mouth yapping.

Bernita said...

Oh, oh, oh!
Umbrella Girl, does this suggest the black-listed agents are compiling a Black List of writers they will not try to rip off?
Shut-up-or-we'll- do- you sort of thing?
Birds. Feathers. Flock.

DJT said...

Cliché but apropos:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke


Kudos to Miss Snark, TNH, and the online writing community for standing up and taking action.

Anonymous said...

Umbrella Girl: Interesting response from Robins agency. (People, please note: That's Robins with one B. The two B Robbins is a good agency. Like Bauer's website, bad agencies often try to imitate, superficially at least, the good.) Basically, they seem to be threatening AW and other writing board members with blackballing.

Gosh, what a quandry - is being blackballed by agencies that don't bother to try to sell the books they take on a threat? Does this mean they won't take my money for nothing?

To those of you who feel the listed "worst agencies" are being treated unfairly due to hurt feelings/viciousness/etc., please note that they're repeatedly offered the chance to clear their names by one simple step: list the books they've sold. There are new agencies who have not yet sold books, but these are noted as such.

The ones on the "worst" list are not new. Read the boards, or at least the ones mentioned (since I can't speak for the ones I haven't scanned), and you'll know why they're listed as such. Don't ascribe unfounded hostility to those who clearly list the reasons for the Not Recommended.

As for Stephanie, I also regard her timing as suspicious. I may be wrong, of course; no doubt she was able to pull everything together overnight when she discovered that due to her own actions AW would be out of service for a while. Uh-huh.

Posted anonymously in support of Miss Snark's anonyminity. If you wish to dismiss this message based merely on not listing a name, choose one.

Anonymous said...

djt, That is not cliche, it is words of wisdom! Sorry I couldn't figure out how to get that dashy-thing over my e in cliche. -JTC

Dave Kuzminski said...

Truthteller, keep in mind that those "recommended" and "not recommended" listings at P&E are backed up with documentation according to our posted criteria.

I must admit that being on a list of the 2,000 worst writers wouldn't bother me at all. More likely, it would draw readers to what I have out there just to see if it's really that bad.

Oh, I am so glad to hear that about 100 agents want to form a class action to force writing boards off the Internet. Be sure to include P&E and my name at the top of the group you sue. This is one legal action I don't want to miss out on.

Mirym K. said...

Bahaha! Oh, man, Umbrella Girl, thanks for sharing that email!

Yes, REAL agents want writers to stay as far away from each other and know as little about the business as possible. In fact, it's preferable that they don't go to websites at all! *rolls eyes all the way across the room*

"qxcat" indeed.

Anonymous said...

had the gaul to try to fit her own competing website into the void.

That's one of the funniest misspellings I've ever seen. Damn French.

-A, who's been on Fanfiction.net and knows she's nowhere near the 2,000 Worst Writers list

lizzie26 said...

*rolls eyes all the way across the room* Ooh, ooh! mirym k, can I borrow that line? Then I, too, can be on that fake agent's list of top 2,000,000,000,000 writers. Oh, wait. That's plagarism. Think they'd care?

Anonymous said...

Bothered, but not the same way. :-(

This person claims to be bothered.

Anonymous said...

They not only build websites, they use those online, too.

Check out this link on the venerable Wikipedia site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Bauer

Sigh. Somebody beat me to the idea. Still - good thinking, whoever! :)

December Quinn said...

Yeah, truthteller, it's just a few dumb romance and/or sci-fi writers who aren't capable of doing their own research.

All writers of literary fiction or any other genre are smart enough not to fall for scams. Luckily we morons have people to hold our hands and make sure we don't fall for scams or attempt to use our hair dryers while in the shower.

Chrysoula said...

Guys, stop it.

Is this Miss Snark, of the 'contests and fee-charging agencies and writing books are taking advantage of aspiring writers for their own profit' mantra?

I am deeply disquieted to see a supposed champion of non-predatory publishing practices selling a book on how to avoid being taken advantage of. It reminds me a lot of getting spam about spam-blocking software. It's probably the reason I never latched on to Absolute Write; I avoid sites that offer to help me, and oh, they have a book for sale all about it. Turns me right off.

I'm pretty sure Babs Bauer is a scammer and that everything is legit, but it seems astoundingly inappropriate to try to harness the lynch mob that's been riled up to buy a book.

Please tell me it was just a thoughtless mistake.

Umbrella Girl said...

I'm happy to go to the top of their 2000 Worst Writer's List if they'll just spell my name right.

Christine said...

No (and I really want to use the word nitwit, but will refrain) - Jenna had AW LONG before SSW came into being. She wrote it after seeing so many writers being taken by scam artists.

People are being asked to buy it to help other writers - that's all. Oh, and AW is an Amazon associate, so it will help contribute to getting AW back up and running.
Nothing to do with advertising or spamming; if you had hung around AW you would know that.

Chrysoula said...

Christine: so Miss Snark's encouragement was only aimed at people who were part of the AW community? So sorry, I misunderstood. I'm afraid my community involvement is limited to research on static pages and blog-reading. Not being familiar with the people and relationships involved, I guess I'll skip attempting to apply the critical thinking skills encouraged by an enormous number of professionals, and instead shut up and blindly trust that everything is on the level.

Oh wait. Not.

Harry Connolly said...

For those who are too delicate to associate with people working in trade, you can always check the book out of your local library, or request your library purchase a copy.

Anonymous said...

In addition to what Christine said in response to Chrysoula's comments about AW existing as a vehicle to promote The Street-Smart Writer, I'd like to point out that Bewares and Background Check was one forum on a board with many, many more that had nothing to do with scam agents and publishers.

Did you ever actually look through the site, Chrysoula? SSW's copyright date is 2006. AW's been around for years before that.

Chrysoula said...

"Did you ever actually look through the site, Chrysoula? SSW's copyright date is 2006. AW's been around for years before that."

I looked through some cached pages on google after finding out it was gone, and I think I encountered it a few years back in my occasional searches for a writing forum I felt comfortable in. When I looked at the cached pages on google, I was immediately faced with an unavoidable large ad trying to sell aspiring writers a book that seemed to duplicate information that was probably out there for free. Given the context of my search, that's what started all my questions.

I never particularly believed that AW was purely a vehicle to sell books. But the advertisement marked it as a site that had made the transition from simply supporting aspiring writers to benefiting from their existence (and it's not the first one I've seen). Given that, I was uncomfortable supporting the crusade defending it against another person who benefits from aspiring writers without asking some serious questions.

And yet I want to be supportive. :) I want to believe this community is capable of only good things. It's just I'm afraid I have rather consistent standards that have to be satisfied.

Christine said...

Miss S just likes helping out. She'll also give you a list of the best books to make you a better writer. Is that spam too? Miss Snark gets nothing from those sales, it was just kindness. Ya know, kindness?

Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

I got three responses to my e-mails to the 20 worst agents (or those few with contact addresses).

Also the 2000 worst writers list threat.

One asking me to explain how Barbara Bauer has made the list so well known.

And one inviting me to look at the reply on his website--that from Mark Sullivan.

His website basically defends his upfront charges to writers. Specifically, he includes this paragraph.

""No fee" literary agencies only take on writers by referral. There are too few exceptions to be worth noting. Only submit a manuscript to a "no fee" agency if you have been referred by one of their writers, a publisher, or a friend of the agency. Instead, spend a little time in New York networking if you’re determined to try to get a reading from them."

I researched AAR agents for my recent query and found tons of agents open to queries from new authors writing in my genre. In fact, it was very unusual to find any who only looked at new work on a referral basis.

There's other hooey in his "defense" as well.
http://www.marksullivanassociates.com/

fyi

Gerri said...

Chrysoula,

Here's my take on the recommendation to buy Jenna's book.

If the hot topic was point of view, would you take offense to someone with lots of influence recommending Orson Scott Card's Characters and Viewpoint, esp. if he's part of the conversation? I wouldn't. The book is relevant to the topic.

In this case, the fact that Jenna is the author and the owner of AW is coincidental. I do believe that Miss Snark would recommend any book that was relevant to the issue. Jenna's book, however, is pretty much canon for the don't-get-ripped-off-by-scam-agents publishing information. Why? Because she cares enough to run a place like AW.

I make book recommendations on my blog all the time in response to questions I see in different places, as well as comments on books I've picked up along the way.

This issue really is a molehill where you're trying to put a mountain.

For perspective, I suggest reading Fondling Your Muse" by John Warner.