Friday, November 29, 2019




JUST $2.99 through JANUARY 2020
Then at the regular price of $4.99

Paperback will be $12.99 through JANUARY 2020, then $16.99


Chapter 1

is for Agent
An agent wants to represent me ~
Things to consider before you sign a contract

The six sweetest words an unpublished, or in some cases published, writer yearns to hear are, “An agent offered me a contract.”

All the hard work has paid off. It’s time to reap the rewards. Or is it? Many reputable agents evaluate an author’s work with an educated eye. When they are enthusiastic about an author’s work, they often offer representation contracts in accordance with accepted guidelines. Unfortunately, there are as many or more who call themselves agents , but are really just waiting to see how much they can get from their next pigeon.

The legitimate agent is dedicated to promoting their clients’ work, negotiating contracts and much more. They take on a client because they feel that author’s work is professional, compelling and most important, something they can sell to a publisher. But what about the sharks who offer the moon and don’t even deliver a little piece of green cheese? Their mission in life is to relieve the “publish-me” hungry writer of as many dollars as possible.

This doesn’t mean an innocent writer who fell for the scam couldn’t have gotten an agent. Some fleeced authors are truly talented, but they jumped at the wrong deal. Others are writers who are not yet proficient at their craft and may never be at the stage where their work warrants publication.
The latter group usually has convinced themselves that their baby will be a blockbuster. In fact, they might be out shopping for the outfit to wear on The View at this very moment. Whatever the case, shady agents shower the hapless client with compliments, all the while painting brilliant word pictures of untold success. Who doesn’t love being told their work is wonderful? These scam artists reel out the blarney as long as the writer continues to shell out money.

A personal experience with a scam artist
Early in our fiction writing experience, my sister and I received an acceptance letter from one such agent, who shall go nameless. A $300 deposit, requested in advance, allegedly would cover printing and submissions. After the thrill of knowing an agent wanted us, the demand for front money niggled at us and eventually waved a giant red flag. The agency was listed in multiple literary agents’ guides and had seemed legitimate. However, when we checked Preditors and Editors, no longer available online, we discovered numerous complaints against them. Although they did not list clients and would not divulge them when the information was requested, we did some detective work and found two authors whose work had been tied up for a few years with this “agent.” The only action they’d had relative to this agency was writing more checks for “advances.” We decided to have some fun.
We emailed the agency thanking them for the contract but let them know we searched the internet and found various complaints. Here is where we had the fun. In the next line we claimed we would still be willing to have them represent us but wanted them to reimburse themselves from royalties in lieu of the requested $300 deposit.

Their answer arrived so fast it broke speed records.

“Regretfully, Mr. Agent has suddenly become extremely ill. Therefore, he will not be able to take on any new clients. Unfortunately, we must withdraw the contract and offer of representation.”
Was this an amazing coincidence? After all, only a few days before they gushed about how much they loved the manuscript. Obviously they didn’t love it enough to defer the $300 until they made the big sale their offer letter alluded to. We later discovered our manuscript had needed lots of work at that point, including rewriting big chunks of it. They would probably have offered the services of a dandy editor who would have kicked back a referral fee to them. Any questions?
Are you ready for “prime time”?

Here is what we determined our problem to be, and this part of the story is mostly for unpublished authors who are ripe for this common rip-off scheme. We wrote a good query letter, but the manuscript didn’t stand the test.

Fortunately, after requesting and reviewing the manuscript, a few other agents offered sage advice. Both of us had been published but not in fiction. We clearly didn’t understand point of view and many other nuances that weren’t part of writing magazine articles, political print copy and, in my sister’s case, a cookbook and touring guide. These helpful agents said they felt we were good writers and offered suggestions about what we needed to do to write fiction successfully. In other words, we simply were not ready.

Of most importance, was the one who suggested hiring a manuscript evaluator for A Corpse in the Soup and said we should take workshops related to fiction. Once we learned more about the “tricks of the trade” of writing fiction, we recognized and fixed the problems in our manuscript.

Rule number one. When choosing an evaluator, editor or book doctor, make sure they have experience in your genre and their style is compatible with your style. Be leery if the agent who just loves your work recommends a dear friend who is also a wonderful editor and will polish the manuscript for thousands of dollars. Make sure to research that editor’s credentials before signing a contract or shelling out a deposit.

I heard one horror story at a writers’ critique group involving the recommendation to such an editor. This author confided that although the editor had no actual clients she could talk to, the woman had been married to an award-winning author and therefore must know how to edit and do a good job of it. That’s kind of like touching the hand of the maid who works for the cousin of a movie star. Marriage is not a credential unless it means she was the editor for her husband’s work. Yet the author relating this story was starry-eyed and couldn’t wait to send off her manuscript and check.

Before my sister and I hired anyone, we had to agree upon the choice. Both of us were totally in tune with our evaluator although we never met her. The entire process was accomplished by email because she lived on the East Coast, I lived in California and my sister lived in Alaska. The manuscript was rewritten with wonderful Jen as our instructor. Rather than sending us chunks of rewritten material she discussed problem areas, made suggestions, then asked us to send her our rewrites. She even gave us reading assignments and recommended how-to books. The lessons we learned shaped the way we write today.

When our manuscript was completely edited, we paid Jen the last installment of her fee. That was when we learned why we never had phone conversations with her. Jen confided that she was deaf and could only work online. Of course, we were never aware of her disability and were even more impressed with her.

If you are lucky enough to get a personal message, even if the book is rejected, listen to what agent tells you. If you see a pattern forming several agents saying the same thing it’s time to take a hard look at your work with an open mind.

What should the new author look out for to avoid being scammed? At the top on my list is the item that alerted us—Up Front Fees—and the list goes on from there. Always check sites like Writer Beware, as well as searching the internet for information about both the agent and agency.

An agent is supposed to make their money from selling their client’s work and keeping a percentage as a fee. Most agents won’t charge in front for their services. Sometimes disreputable agents cloak their grab for up-front money in a bogus description like “representation initiation fee,” or “marketing fee,” or a “retainer,” promising to refund it from sales. If that’s the case and they don’t sell your work, it’s not hard to do the math.

During a discussion about agents at a writers’ group meeting, one woman said she was sad that she finally had to give up her agent. When asked why, she answered in a dejected tone, “I couldn’t keep paying the $2,000 a month retainer.” This aspiring author had been ripped off royally to the tune of about $8,000. When agents charge legitimate fees, they are most often deducted from sales, not paid for in front or as a hefty retainer. This poor lamb had absolutely no idea what the agent was using her $2,000 a month for and upon further questioning we found she had never even received a list of submissions.

Signs of inept skills or bungling
Maybe an agent really is sincere, but just doesn’t know how to do what it takes to sell your novel. If they are a part-time toll booth worker, but also work the phones in the morning before starting their regular job, or say they know they can sell your novel because their first cousin’s wife’s friend is in the business, all I can say is: beware. What training, contacts or credentials do they really have? What qualifies them to take your precious baby—the one you’ve nursed along and pinned your hopes to—and toss it out there waiting to see if it lands somewhere? Pitching a novel to a publisher or editor is a one-shot opportunity. One shot only! If you burn all those bridges with the wrong representative, you usually can’t go back to the well.

More About Editing Service Referrals
“You have a wonderful, compelling manuscript and with a little editing it will be a blockbuster. Now let me recommend a great editor for you…”

Red flag number two. The agent may recommend an editor, packaging company, or book doctor. The title means nothing. What it means is that if you are foolish enough to proceed that way, the “agent” will receive a gratuity from their pal, and you may receive a mediocre edit. I’ve been shown some editorial commentary and a review from alleged “New York editors” that could more easily win an award for fiction than the novel itself. The authors were innocent marks, truly believing their book received an excellent edit or review (and an expensive one at that) because the editor was highly recommended by my agent.

One of those authors showed me her review and asked if I would read the manuscript and give her a quip (a one or two-line review or comment.) I did look at the editor’s review. The first several paragraphs extolled the magnificence of this novel, but the glowing review contained spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. It went on and on about the possibility of a publishers’ bidding war because the novel was so good. Curious, I decided to read the first chapter. I never got past the first few pages. The idea was good, but the writing was awful.

Website, email addresses and how the agent presents themselves or their company
This isn’t as high on the list, but is important. The cyber world has evolved and if a legitimate business doesn’t have a website, it seems like they aren’t really a business. It doesn’t have to be super-fancy, but it should look professional, impart information and give some references that qualify them as an agent.

By all means, think twice if the agent’s email address is something like It most likely is a sign of rough waters ahead.

Are they out there on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? Most of all don’t jump into anything without checking it out thoroughly. Visit websites that flag complaints, network with other authors, attend conferences and pitch your work, ask for recommendations wherever and whenever you can, but for heaven’s sake, please never fork over your hard-earned cash to chase a dream before you know who you are dealing with.

Here are some worthwhile websites current at the time of publication. Without fail, always look up the agent, agency or publisher on Writer Beware. These are listings with various types of good information, but all are very clear that their listing of the agent is not an endorsement. It’s up to you to check things out.

Agent and Publisher Directories
Writers Market 2018: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, 28th Edition: Who They Are, What They Want and How to WinThem Over

Online agent listings, some with “tracking record” feature (Includes a Query Tracker.

Writers Guild signatory agents and agencies

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