Miss Snark Is Puzzled-Updated

I was recently approached by an acquisitions editor for a lit agency who said to protect myself from B.S. i should have an independent critique done of my work....is this normal M.O. for agents and agencies also what exactly is a holding contract?

Did the subject of money come up?

A literary agency with an "acquisitions editor"?
That's news to me.

And I have no idea what a holding contract is.
I even consulted my trusty Kirsch's Guide and found no reference to it.

I think I see red flags waving but if any Snarklings have good intelligence about this kind of thing I'll be glad to hear about it.

Next email:
basically i was trying to see if they were looking to make a fast buck off of me

they approached me after reading a poem in a magazine

the woman who contacted me claims to be the VP of Acquisitions

and then says they will "not sign" the contract for representation unless i have an independent professional critique done by a third party

supposedly a holding contract says (according to them) that they will agree to represent me (unless i don't have the critique done) in 30 days they drop me

now the contract also goes on to state that after 90 days i can drop them if they haven't sold any of my work

meanwhile somebody has gotten my 80.00 for the critique (somebody they suggested i use)

curious if all agencies work like this and if it was simply a case of the left hand feeding the right hand and leaving me sans 80.00

Red flag: they approached me after reading a poem in a magazine.

Why: agents hardly ever represent poets for poetry. There's no money in it. Agents approach writers of short stories, or people with blogs, sure, but hardly ever poets.

Red Flag: VP of Acquisitions.
Why: Literary agents call themselves agents. Agents don't acquire things. Editors acquire projects. Agents represent authors. They "sign" authors.

Red Flag: we won't sign you unless you pay for a critique.
Why: Reputable agents are not in the business of referring you to critque services.
The Association of Author's Representatives does more than frown on it; they forbid it.

Even if an agent is NOT an AAR member, look for "we follow the AAR Code" or like language on their web site.

Do NOT pay for critique services recommended by an agent.

ALWAYS look for an agent's name or company name at Preditors and Editors.


Dave Kuzminski said...

This sounds like the infamous Literary Agency Group (LAG), home of Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency, formerly Sydra-Techniques Literary Agency), Christian Literary Agency, Children's Literary Agency, Screenplay Literary Agency, New York Literary Agency (oh, the shame of it, they even taint the name of a great city that they're not even located within), and Poets Literary Agency. They used to charge an upfront fee, but P&E and Writer Beware put so much pressure upon them that they changed their M.O. and now state there is no upfront reading fee. Instead, they refer their victims to what they claim is an independent third-party critique service. It's not. They own it, too. After that, if that brings in some coins, they go on to recommend editing is needed and recommend another independent third-party editing service. Of course, they own that too.

By the way, even though they have a 212 mailing address, it's a mail drop. They're located in Florida.

By now, Miss Snark's readers should recognize that LAG is one of WB's top twenty worst complained about agencies.

Richard White said...


I was just about to post the same thing.

I'd lay dollars to doughnuts that the VP of Acquisitions is Sherry Fine.

nice anonymous said...

Poets Literary Agency! Ha! [Sound of a poet laughing hysterically over her laptop.]

This agency perhaps offers representation to poets so that its agents can earn $10 from the advance on a poetry book? Or free copies to clutter their offices?

Well, Maya Angelou and Billy Collins probably have agents. But I think that the agents would mostly be around to handle books they write outside their genre, or perhaps their speaking engagements & speakers fees. (I'm fuzzy on the details of who handles that sort of thing, Ms. Snark. But I do know I've made more from speaking & reading & teaching than from my poor books.)

Anonymous said...

There's little money in poetry for agents. But if you pay the critique service $80 for the critique, I can guarantee you, it's either the same person, or someone who sends at least $40 back to the 'agent' who referred you there. If you're good enough, they'll sign you. If you're not a paid crit isn't going to make you better. That 30 day thing is to make you feel rushed. DON'T DO IT!

BuffySquirrel said...

Run away now. Both of you.

Dave Kuzminski said...

No bet. You're not getting my doughnuts. They would rather be introduced to my comfort zone. ;)

Sherry D said...

A great BIG red flag. Tell them to go away.

Kim said...

Run. Fast. In the opposite direction. Go and don't look back.

Anonymous said...

Ever better idea: check the individual names plus the agency names on P&E. I saved myself some trouble by doing that.

Anonymous said...

Holy mother's mush! They said what? Nooooooooo! Run, run away! Grab your coconut shells and gallop for your life! I'm so new to the business I squeak, but that entire scenario raises a whole battalion of red flags, for me.

But the scam artists are out there. The other day I ran across a website for an agency that wants their clients to pony up something like ... gad, I want to say $2,000! They gave some convoluted rationalisation that the costs an agent will ask for anyhow, copies, postage, marketing, etc., will amount to that, and this fee guarantees some sort of miraculous treatment ... I don't recall details, but I nearly choked on my Starbucks! Pity I can't find them again, or I'd post them here simply as a warning. Sheesh.

Anyhow, here is a good link with warnings about what to avoid:
Cheers ~

G. Atwater

Anonymous said...

I've heard of Holding Deals in the television industry. A production company might sign talent to a holding deal to ensure their availabilty for a future project. But they would pay YOU.

nice anonymous said...

Oh, dear. I'm sorry for addressing you as "Ms." Snark in my previous post. I do know that it is properly "Miss" Snark, only I couldn't jump back into the post & edit it again, because the post was hanging on Blogger, teetering between crashing or hardening & maturing into a proper post, and that is a delicate moment on Blogger, as I've learned.

Delilah said...

The constantly changing names just proves that a dick by any other name is still a dick!

Dave said...

Above all - DON'T sign the contract.

Not before your lawyer reads it and you understand what you are giving up.

Phaidra Johnson said...

I'm beginning to think that before anyone can even utter the words, "I think I want to be published," they should be required by law to read Jenna Glatzer's The Street Smart Writer. This is a terrific book for all writers.

Ryan Field said...

I was ready to post, but Dave did it first. There's another one out in LA that does the same thing. The best is how they praise the writer's work; you could send them the copy from the back of a tylenol bottle and they would praise it, but tell you it still needs editorial work...for a fee.

Kanani said...

Ha! Ha!

Well, they really are desperate when they coin a phrase 'professional critique,' and by the way, "here's a list of 'professional critique-rs,' make that check payable for $1,000. payable to me."

And an agent wanting to represent a little known poet?

cue laughter

shelby said...

And an agent wanting to represent a little known poet?

cue laughter


Obviously the writer knows by now that she's been had. No need to use derision to make that point again.

We all start somewhere. I'm sure there are several new snarklings walking away from this with their $80 (or more) still in their pockets thanks to this poster.

Termagant 2 said...

Send two dozen glazed Krispy Kremes to my snail addy and I will do the very same thing for you--and cheaper! Poets, take note!


Anonymous said...

No, not derisive, but the truth.
The poets who are good enough and lucky enough have university positions and get paid to teach. But for the most part, poets don't get paid... not even for submissions. And a good many of them (good ones, too) pay to be in anthologies that are put out by various poetry groups.

So, as Miss Snark said, agents don't go around looking for poets to represent unless their Dana Goia, Maya Angelou, Billy Campbell or any of the other 'biggies' who show up each year at the Dodge Poetry Festival.

Go here: Foetry

Anonymous said...

shelby said: Obviously the writer knows by now that she's been had. No need to use derision to make that point again.

Shelby, any serious poet knows--knows--they are not going to make money at it. Laughing one's butt off at the idea of a literary agency surviving on the 15% commissions earned from the sales of poems is not mocking the poster, but rather recognizing the absurdity of the situation. Some lies are so outrageous, you just have to snort.


Xopher said...

Yog's Law: all money flows toward the writer. ALL money. The writer should never, ever, ever pay anyone to look at the book, to edit the book, to do anything to the book.

Verfword: ipigmio. Isn't that the gender-swapped Italian opera about Oedipus' kids?