11.16.2006

Miss Snark is befuddled

Dear Miss Snark,
Is this for real?



Well, I slithered on over just to take a look and I can't quite figure out how they make money.
They tell you that agents pay for their services (if you're an agent who uses that, I'd be interested in hearing from you).

The weird thing is unless you know who they cull slush for, you can't benefit by NOT querying the same people.

I don't understand this.

If anyone has a clue or two, speak up.

43 comments:

Don said...

The benefit that I can see is that you don't have to make it through the query/partial gauntlet to get your ms read. I can see the benefit if you really hate that aspect of the process. For me, I've found that thinking about the query letter gives me a chance to focus my writing (I wrote a first draft of my query for the last Crapometer, and I'm working on a hook for the next one, all while still writing the ms).

Termagant 2 said...

The only clue I can get about this is--they provide yet one more screen for the new author. If a publisher won't read your query, and an agency can't read all the unsolicited queries they get, another sieve pops up.

I can see why they don't list the agencies they represent (if in fact they do--Momma Termagant taught me not to believe all I read, even on the 'Net), but is there any reason why they can't state which genera they might consider?

Sheesh--and yet a tad bit intriguing.

T2

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating. They don't seem to break any obvious "rules" that would land them in Bella's Skank Awards somewhere, but still . . . something smells like Denmark . . . well, that's what it seems like anyhow.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11899

Victoria Strauss looked into this, or said she was going to, but there doesn't seem to be a final reply from her in this thread.

Perhaps an email to Victoria would bring us more information.

It doesn't make sense for an agent who already works on commission to pay to have an anonymous website filter submissions.

I am suspicious about the quality of agent this site would attract.

Anonymous said...

I see a lot of red flags flapping in the breeze.

Possibility #1: The literary agents they read for go by the names of Barbara Bauer, Chris Robins and "Sherry Fine" at The New York Literary Agency.

Possibility #2: They "strongly believe that all writers should work with editors." Yeah. Editors that Manuscript Screening is happy to recommend.

I wonder what Ann, Victoria, and Dave have to say about this.

Anonymous said...

This sounds very similar to a service I found for a friend of mine who writes country music. http://www.taxi.com/ I was extremely skeptical about this for a while, but have yet to uncover a single negative comment about it.

So is Manuscreen the same thing? Or are they both scams? I'd love to know.

Anonymous said...

You can't even tell which continent those crumbs are on, never mind what their names are. Which is the first thing a clever crook working a cyber scam always tries to achieve, so it looks very very shady to me.

LadyBronco said...

Babs?

Is that you?

Anonymous said...

What says that they won't turn around and tell the authors, "It's not bad, but with a little bit of editorial help...we recommend *this* editorial agency, and they don't charge all that much"?

dink said...

What I don't get is WHO the heck is this? I mean there is no sense of people attached to this at all. I couldn't find a single name of person anywhere.

Some unnamed stranger says, send me your ms. and I'll get through to many unnamed agents.

okie dokie, sure, right away.

The thing that makes me the most wary is their request for submitters to type a copyright symbol on the ms. submitted to Manuscreen.

Funky.

Anonymous said...

Their suggestion that if you're worried about copyright protection -- just put a copyright notice on the first page and make your lawyer happy! -- is laughable. They'll be happy to see that, alright, because your case will be an uphill battle and take so very much extra time, they'll make a lot more $$$, at your expense. If you're worried about infringement, you can put a copyright notice on it or don't bother, but absolutely register the manuscript. In the USA, you do that with the Library of Congress Copyright office. Directions, forms, etc are here:

http://www.copyright.gov/

When the certificate with the registration number comes back, put it in a very secure place. The difference is that if infringement comes post-registration, the judge can award substantial penalties without making you do anything else to prove authorship or damages. If the infringing publication happens before you registered the ms, you are likely to end up in trial trying to prove authorship and damages. Which might take years and cost a fortune, especially if you lose.

ORION said...

I think it is still best to research agents yourself. This is just like submitting to Miss Snark on her blog. You know nothing about the agents who use this service.

Greta LaGarbeaux said...

Maybe this is just a new form of outsourcing. Instead of hiring assistants or other low-level but full-time employees to first-read unsolicited material, an agency (especially a biggish one) might find it more economical to hand off the work to a contractor paid on a per-piece basis. No fringe benefits, no vacation pay, no medical coverage. Could be something they might try.

Anonymous said...

This is a scam, pure and simple. The reasons they list for participating agencies not wanting to reveal themselves are lame, and everyone knows that putting a copyright notice on your manuscript is the mark of an amateur. Plus, they don't give any credentials as to why they are qualified to screen fiction manuscripts.

Here's how they probably make money: By selling lists. They get personal information from aspiring writers, and sell it to editorial services, scam agents, book doctors, scam contests, etc. I bet every author who has submitted to them has an inbox full of scam spam.

Anonymous said...

Huh? Agents for agents. Will it ever end?

isbfy said...

I did a similar thing witha literary consultancy in Britain. She was a "scout" for a leading literary agency. She did charge me, but compared with other such consultancies, it wasn't much at all. She passed my ms straight to the agent, who gave me an immediate read, ended up repping me and getting me great deal with a major publisher. The "scout" gets a percentage of the advance/royalties - it comes off the agent's commission. As far as I know she only works with this one agent.

Anonymous said...

They seem fairly obsessed with the copyright notice, don't they? Their submission guidelines recommend it on the bottom of EVERY page! I suspect this is to reassure the novice writer that their work won't be stolen because there are big ol' scary (c)s all over the place.

Despite there being no apparent costs involved, I wouldn't touch this 'service' with a bargepole.

Anonymous said...

Are they claiming that they can place 10% of the manuscripts they receive?

"We are very selective - our agencies demand it. For every 100 manuscripts we receive, we recommend roughly 15 to our agencies. About two-thirds of those get picked up for representation."

From what I've read on Miss Snark's blog, and other blogging agents, the chances of an unpublished author landing a publication deal is just slightly higher than milking gold out of gnat's udder. 10% of ALL the manuscripts they recieve? Colour me dubious on this one!

Rik (forced to comment anonymously - the monkey on his shoulder has taken a long weekend off)

Anonymous said...

Aside from all the other warning signs people here have picked up on, the company also claims to secure representation for 10 manuscripts in every 100 they're sent, which seems far, far too good to be true.

Anonymous said...

Isbfy:

I'm interested in what you said. I'm also in the UK and know a writer who found his agent in a similar way to you. He used an editing service that also scouts for three major agencies. His agent is one he would never have submitted to, as they take new clients only by “referral”.

But the difference between this situation and manuscreen.com, is that the writer paid for an editing service provided by a reputable company, with named editors, a physical address etc.

JDuncan said...

Ok, so it's anonymous as far as who they might be culling for. So? Other than the above mentioned possiblity of getting on some stupid spam list for editorial services, what can it hurt? If you get notified that an agent is interested, you can then check out the agent for yourself and see if they are indeed someone you'd be interested in. No money out of your pocket unless you pull some nitwittery. I honestly don't see how submitting here could hurt you, and it just might help if you're lucky.

Linda said...

Some kind of software company owns the domain. Maybe it's one of those things where someone well-meaning thinks they'll help out writers (and help themselves get published)--but they don't have a clue about the business.

Termagant 2 said...

JDuncan, I did send them a short e-mail regarding what genre(s) they want to see. Will report results if/when they respond.

T2

Beth said...

Who are these people and what are their qualifications? Why is that information not listed? In what country does this originate? Why should any agent trust these people to screen manuscripts? And not only trust them, but pay them to do it?

Too many questions they apparently don't want us to know the answers to.

writtenwyrdd said...

I have a theory. They aren't screening for a growing list of agents, they are a wanna be agency which is looking for potential victims. (Or a list to sell to other scammers like someone else mentioned.)

When they have enough of a client list, they'll magically appear as a new agency, maybe run by scammers or maybe by sincere idiots.

Tattieheid said...

It could be that someone who does reading for one or more agents has decided to go into business big time. No harm in that - BUT

What are their qualifications?
Who are their clients? (ie. Agents they have links with)
Where are they based?
Are their contacts Worldwide or just US?
Do they send to all known agents or just a limited selection who get to cream off the best?
Where is the proof of the figures quoted or are these just advertising puff/ambition.
Etc.

Possible good idea if it gets work put in front of agents who don't normally take queries/submissions, but otherwise where are the benefits.

Too many questions not enough answers.

Senile in St. Louis said...

You can go to register.com, put in the domain "manuscreen", and see who owns the domain. It even lists an address and phone number.

Kinda scary actually.

Anonymous said...

Babs?

Is that you?


Don't think so. The site is coherent, has used spell check, and failed to mention having a Ph.d, suspect links to B-list media-types, and warnings against big bad hate sites.

Still, I don't like it and will take my chances with sparkling query letters and knock-off-your-Nikes proposals and sample chapters.

Ray Goldensundrop said...

Absolute Write on Manuscreen:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=183140&mode=linear

Mark said...

And that copyright speil? Has to be a scam for kickbacks from fee charging fake agents. Possibly even the usual suspects or a new one by Robert Fletcher.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

I really don't like the lack of credits. What agencies? What authors? Where are the satisfied writer testimonies?

Linda said...

The company that owns the site develops software. It has the flavor of someone who wrote a novel, was rejected, and figured he couldn't get published because the publishing system was broken so he started this.

Samuel Tinianow said...

All I see is a site that tells authors their chances of being published conventionally (i.e. legitimately) are nil and that the only way anyone is ever going to get their work out there is by signing up for a logistically dubious service.

Does this sound entirely too familiar to anyone else?

clh said...

It says this on the site

--6. Why is this service free?

We are an extension of the literary agents that we represent and are paid by them for the services we provide.--

Sounds weird, but pretty legit to me.

Ken Boy said...

Agents already have plenty of queries to busy themselves with, and would probably prefer to rely on their own judgement regarding the quality of those submissions.

Authors don't want yet another filter between themselves and whoever they want to read their work.

So this service won't succeed, unless it becomes the industry standard.

Just a thought.

jump said...

I'm wondering if this is the Bookner guy.

Termagant 2 said...

Isn't this just a form of outsourcing? If it's legit, I mean. The agencies can then concentrate on the clients exclusively, pitching & selling their books...only when this subcontractor recommends a MS need they look at something from an author with whom they don't already work-?

And you CANNOT query all agents. Some don't take this genre or that. Some say they are closed to submissions. Some won't pick up more than one new fiction writer per decade, and sorry, that slot's already filled. So I can see how an author might be tempted.

T2

PS, no reply to my e-mail as yet.

Anonymous said...

Imagine you are one of ten agencies paying these readers and they find a great manuscript. Perfect. Now, do they notify you and your 9 competitors simultaneously and let you all contact the author the same day and see who the author chooses? Or do they start an agent bidding war to see who gets the author's name first? Or do they automatically give the name to Agency #1 and if that's a reject, it goes to Agency #2, etc. on down the line or what? It seems to me that this kind of service would reduce an agency's access to the "best" new authors. Why would they pay for that?

Mac said...

Just some more info:

Joe Dougherty is an author himself, and is represented by 'Mulcahy & Viney Ltd'
(Ref: www.mvagency.com/joedougherty.html)

According to this agency: "The company is most interested in finding and developing new creative talent, but typically relies on contacts to source this."

Perhaps his agent suggested a 'finders fee' to him, so he figured it could be a good business?

The agency has other authors (eg: www.pauldowswell.co.uk) with sales to Bloomsbury - the publisher that made its fortune with 'Harry Potter'.

I can't honestly believe, though, that he'd managed to get 5% of the slush pile representation.

Interesting.

Mac

Paul Freeman said...

I'm not so worried they don't tell you who uses them, I put this down to the same way a Job Agency won't tell you more details about jobs until you actually get an interview - they don't want you to use them to just get the details, and then go direct to source missing them (and their commission) out.

That said, what does raise a red flag is no where is there any information about how an agent could contact them and use their services.

Heather said...

Hmm.

You know what I smell?

I smell a scam agent smokescreen.

Think about it. This service gets lots of manuscripts submitted... by writers who don't have the nose many of us do that raises those red flags.

So the author becomes one of the 10% selected...

And is contacted by an agent. Who then proceeds to scam the writer, who has been lulled into a false sense of security.

Just one thought.

I don't like it. I think I'll stick with a query letter, thanks.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said...

To amplify what Ray said:

Free Manuscript Screening: "Does anyone know anything about manuscreen.com?..."

Manuscreen : "Hello everyone...I am new to this site and I hoped I might get some feedback (if at all possible) regarding a service provider--Menuscreen."

The consensus at AbsoluteWrite can be summed up in 2 words: "Don't bother." But I encourage everyone to go read the threads for all the reasons why.

Anonymous said...

This site screeeeeeams "scam" to me. Agents spend comparatively little time reading slush; if they don't accept queries, it's not because they have too many, but because they're making plenty of money already. There's no possible reason why they would need to pay some other entity to read slush for them.