Scams

Bad Agents

   Every writer has to go through rejection as they send in submissions. At times, a writer will also experience corrupt and scam literary agents, as if we don't have enough to worry about. 

   There was a site I talked about in a prior post called Preditors and Editors. It is a great site to research agents and publishers as well as other categories to educate yourself before you get burned. As I almost did: 

   I was on an express bus home from work one evening when I noticed I received a voicemail. I was kind of upset because my carrier didn't let the call go through. So I listened to it and it was from one of the literary agencies I had sent my novel to prior. My stomach fell into my pelvis, frozen, I had thought I blew it--but then a rational part of me said I hadn't, come on, people leave messages all the time--but there was always that feeling deep in the back of my mind. So I worried, and waited, and started dreaming of how it was going to be as a best selling author. 

   When I got home, I worried and dreamt some more and finally went to sleep. It was all happening so fast. 
   The next day, during a break, I called the agency (I don't remember if I had tried leaving messages, but this was the successful connection) and got in touch with the lady that had left me the message on my cell. 

   She went on with what I now know was a spiel about, "you have to want this! You have to be ready for traveling and book signings and etc. etc." to which I was nodding on my cell to Manhattan traffic and trying to get out a "yes," or "ok," here and there. It was all happening so fast, felt too good to be true. 

   Then came the part of editing. They needed me to get them a certain amount of money--I believe it was like $1000--in order to start editing and getting the story ready for sending out. 

   The anvil dropped on my head. But that was ok, I started thinking about how I was going to get this money. I could stop eating some meals, I could borrow from this one, and so on. I circled around on the corner and looked like one of the crazies I see roaming around NYC on their cell phones--of which I sort of understand now. 

   A whirlwind was swirling through my mind, my dream was finally coming true, even though there was a little troll at the back of my head tugging on a string connected to my brain saying, "Woah, something doesn't sound right here, buddy." 

   I ignored him, and went on nodding my head, that she couldn’t see nodding, and saying yes, yes, yes into my little plastic device. 

   "You have to WANT this! I don't think you're serious."

   "Of course I am! I want this!" 

"Okay, so this is how much we need to start the editing process..." 

   And that was that. 

   I don't remember, but I think I had made a few calls to people, one being my father, to try and start borrowing money. 

   I was excited, but there was still that nagging at the back of my head. So I go back to my job and go to my manager and asked him what he thought about the deal. He was a writer and I figured he knew a few things about the industry. I gave him a quick run down about me submitting and how this place called me and offered something. I told him how much they wanted to charge. 

   He said, "That sounds about right. You're new."

   "No, this is what they want me to give them to edit the manuscript." 

   He told me you aren't supposed to pay anything to an agent. They get money when the publisher pays. Usually they will work with you to get the manuscript up to what they feel is good for who they are selling it to, but usually they don't ask for money. On occasion, I found out later, they might ask for things like mailing and such, but that should come out of what the publisher ultimately pays. 

   I became angry; it was starting to dawn on me that I was being duped. I asked what should I do? He said, well, ask for the manuscript back. So I did. I called and asked for it back, explaining that I spoke to a writer friend who explained that this wasn't the way it was supposed to work. 

   The lady got angry and started saying, "Well, we already started editing your manuscript," along that line, and, "We will get rid of it in an environmentally friendly way." I just wanted my sample chapters back... I hadn't even signed a contract! 

   I went back to my manager and asked what then? He said ask them to shred it and send it back. I called back and they were sort of giving me the run around, not answering and then calling me back. Finally I got the lady on the phone again. 

   I told them they had to send it back to me, to shred it. So this really enraged the lady and she started saying how I would never get work in the industry, and how all her crew was upset at me etc. I said, sorry to hear that, but please send me back my manuscript. 

   So, I hung up, my dreams sunk for just that day, well, maybe a week after--I wasn't as knowledgeable about how it worked back then. But I wasn't giving up. 

   So, not too long after, I receive this puffy envelope. 
I had sent a SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) following rules that state if you wanted your stuff back you should send your material with one. 

I received this envelope from them with, you guessed it, the shredded remains of my sample chapters. Something didn't seem right, I then said to myself, even if it took me weeks, a month, whatever, I had to learn a lesson for my own mental health's sake, and I began the task--once I saw red marking on the strips of what had to be the first page--of putting at least the first page back together. 

   I pieced back the puzzle little by little, and as I clear taped together more and more I began to see something forming. On top of my manuscript was the info I had a feeling would be there. 

   On the front, in red letters, was not the beginning of any editing or fixing of my story, but a quick rundown of what I was to be charged and when they would be getting their money as per our quick desperate initial phone conversation. 

   I was upset, but I also knew that I had gotten out of a very dangerous situation. I later read that the wrong agent--more like the one I almost signed with--can sign you up and legally hold your manuscript on a shelf for a year, if you sign a contract with them, of course. What they have to do is have proof that they are submitting it to publishing houses every so often. So usually a reputable agent knows people and go to events and such, or just like a good realtor know people who want something they just got in the mail and bam, but these scam agents send your manuscript out, more like the same way you'd send it yourself if you were sending unsolicited manuscripts, straight to a publishing house, knowing full well that they were probably not going to get any response. And the kicker is you can't even submit to anyone else for that year, because you signed a contract. 

   So I decided to do a quick search on Predators and Editors and found that there was a warning with them charging and such. I kicked myself, figuratively speaking, for not having had checked with this site in the first place. It would have saved me a lot of stress and time. 

   I hope this helps someone out there, and as usual, don't ever give up if writing is what you really want to do--and, of course, don't quit your day job until you know you can support yourself on your writing income.

   As always, keep writing. 



WCM

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