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.