Friday, June 03, 2011

Dodgy Literary Agents.

One of the disadvantages of working from home right now is that my partner watches a lot of daytime television whilst she looks after our daughter, Emma. From time to time, as I'm working, I'll wander in and see her watching something completely useless to humanity: however, yesterday I saw her watching Fake Britain, and wanted to share with my followers what I saw.

A fake literary agent, running his so-called "business" from a spare room in his elderly mother's bungalow ( where he lived, in his forties ) had conned roughly three-quarters of a million pounds from aspiring writers across the country over several years. His method was to charge a nominal reading fee, but then coax hopeful writers into parting with ever larger sums of cash by promising them Hollywood film deals and such like. This individual, who was ultimately jailed, had literally thousands of untouched manuscripts littering his property, all representing the dreams of hopeful authors, discarded without even a glance. One poor woman, who had written her father's life story and sent it to this supposed agent, was promised a £100,000 advance and a film deal. Sadly, she spent the money on her elderly and disabled mother before she'd received the promised advance, which of course never materialised. She lost her home as a result.

For any aspiring writer dropping by here, whatever you do, follow the below guidelines to ensure that you're not about to be taken for a ride. Anybody can set themselves up as a literary agent, and some perfectly respectable agencies do charge a small reading fee. Frankly, you don't need to pay this as there's plenty of excellent agencies out there who do not charge anything. Finding, signing and getting deals for writers is where they make their money...

1) Start always with agencies who are members of the Association of Author's Agents, an organisation designed to protect author's rights.

2) Never pay a reading fee. Why would you, when the best agencies don't charge one?

3) Search the Internet to see which writers the agency in question represents. A fake agent won't have client list. Likewise, look for a website and agency connections that prove their validity. If possible, contact one of those authors - connections never hurt and it might even let you know what the agent in question is like to work with.

4) Don't send work to a suspicious looking agency just because everyone else has turned you down. Tempting as it may be, it won't further your chances and you might well be wasting your time.

5) Be patient. All reputable agencies are extremely busy and take time to process the hundreds of submissions they receive every week. Check their websites for a guide to how long you may have to wait. If that time passes, make a polite phone call just to find out how things are going.

6) If you discover a fake agent, tell EVERYBODY so that others can learn to steer clear.

7) Don't quit. Most agents are brilliant, and if you're a good writer, sooner or later somebody will notice your talent.


Matt Hilton said...

Great words of advice, Dean. I'll link through to your blog and bring this to even more aspiring authors, OK?

Dean Crawford said...

Thanks Matt, and please do link to your blog mate. The more people that hear about this the better.

Talei said...

Ah, excellent tip! I have heard of people running this type of scam in the States. I think this applies to all field of work where you require agents.

Have a fab weekend!

PS: I watched Home and Away yesterday, I don't feel guilty...

Glaznost said...

Hi Dean,

Good points all, and i heartily agree. I found your blog through Matt and i'll gladly spread the word too and link your blog up on mine!

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Great advice Dean, and thanks for posting it. Found out about your blog via Matt Hiltons. Good stuff!

Michael Malone said...

Yeah, remember hearing this on the news. What a horrible man. Hope he gets his!

Well worth posting, Dean. Aspiring and desperate is a dangerous mix and some of us need to be protected from ourselves.

John Walker said...

Hi Dean,

Well said that man.
The problem goes further than 'Fake Agents though'. So I took time off writing (I don't have guilt pangs either!) to post something similar, enlarging on what you have said.

If you read my post and you are upset by it, then please tell me and I will take it down. However it is another ongoing aspect of 'reading fees' and one which I feel is important to aspiring authors like me.

Thanks again for the warning to us all.