- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- Commercial & Creative Writing
Warning to Writers -- Avoid this agency scam -- Writers' Literary Agency
Ask questions/ Check out any agent you consider
Consider this a public service announcement
Why did I write this?
Three times now, I’ve seen hubs announcing the happy news that another aspiring writer has found representation with an agency. Right away my heart sinks, because I know what I’m going to find. Sure enough, I flip over to that hub to find an excited and exhilarated, proud writer telling the world, oh miracle of miracles, this agency is going to handle my manuscript. Yes, I have been accepted by the Writers’ Literary Agency. What wonderful news!
I hate to have to do it, but I do every time. I contact them and tell them this agency is a scam. They don’t sell books to publishers (though in all these years they have handled four contracts for four writers who found a publisher on their own – four!) Run – I tell them, and make sure you don’t send them any money.
Every time I post a new article in my Writing Is … series, their ad shows up. I am struck by a blinding desire to write something in the biggest, boldest print I can manage: DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO THIS AD -- they are bottom-feeding pond scum that attach themselves to the living bodies of aspiring writers and suck out all their dreams and the money from their wallets.
Why do I feel so strongly? Because I coach new writers, and I’ve seen a number of people get hurt. Today, I received a sheepish email from a young writer (age 19) who I’d coached some time back in writing his YA novel. He’d signed a contract with them, had already sent them close to $250 of his limited funds, and now, belatedly had researched the agency on the internet. So for you, RR, here is the scoop for anyone to read.
History of the Writers’ Literary Agency
The company is owned and operated by Robert Fletcher of Boca Raton, Florida. Fletcher is an adjudged con artist, convicted of selling unregistered securities in Washington State (Case number 00-06-230).
Writers Literary Agency has no verifiable record of book sales under any of its names. (see below)
This is the same group formerly known as Sydra Techniques, ST Literary Agency, Stylus Literary Agency, The Literary Agency Group, New York Literary Agency, The Screenplay Agency, Poets' Literary Agency, Children's Literary Agency, Christian Literary Agency now calling themselves Writers' Literary Agency & Marketing Company, WL Children’s Agency, Writer's Literary Agency -- Children's Division, WL Poets Agency, and WL Screenplay Agency. Other business names include My Editor Is A Saint, The Writers Literary & Publishing Services Co., and RapidPublishing.com. They recently formed some sort of alliance with AEG Publishing, and it is widely believed, but not confirmed they own several vanity presses.
There is currently an active investigation into their business in the state of Florida (the 275 Madison Avenue, NYC, NY address is a mail-forwarding service). If you live in Florida and have had any interaction with any of these "agencies," please contact the Florida Attorney General.
Some “names” associated with all of these businesses: Georgina Orr, Georgina Scott, Rey Best, Ray Kyle, Sherry Fine, Hil Mallory, Mary Bluestone, Mark Bredt, Janet Dublino, Robert Fletcher, Robert West, Paul Anderson, Peter Parente, Jill Mast and Andrea. Supposedly according to the latest information sent to me by RR, my client, at present these are the active “names”: Robert Fletcher, President; Sherry Fine, VP-Acquisitions; Hill Mallory – Agent; Andrea – Director of Client Relations.
According to my research and correspondence with Preditors and Editors http://pred-ed.com/pubagent.htm , Writer Beware http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/ several other writers’ sites – it is believed all of these names, with the exception of Robert Fletcher are pseudonyms for Mr. Fletcher himself, although others think “Sherry” and “Hill” may be accomplices.
Here’s How it Works
They accept any and every manuscript
that is sent to them. They require the manuscript be given an "independent
critique," which they are willing to sell to you for $90, from another
company that they secretly own. Based on this "critique" they will
offer to represent you, but will request that you have the manuscript
"professionally edited," again by a company that they secretly own.
After you pay whatever amount you're willing to pay for the "edit,"
you'll be told that you need a web page to advertise your book to publishers,
for which they'll charge you $150. After that, they'll offer you their
"aggressive agent" program, for $90, to submit the work to
publishers. Children's book authors may be asked to pay for illustrations.
Screenwriters may be asked to pay for "coverage."
As I mentioned, they have no apparent record of sales to commercial publishers, despite having been in business for the better part of a decade (under one name or another).
As time rolls by, you will be advised that with the current state of the economy, your manuscript has not found a buyer, but there is one last hope. You should self-publish, list your book on Amazon, E-Bay etc to “prove demand” thusly earning the attention of a bona-fide publisher. (As if!)
And of course, they’ll be glad to refer you to a vanity press, so I’m told.
If you click on Writers’ Literary Agency’s website
You will find an elaborate article detailing how passionate they are about publishing new writers, and how well they will represent you – providing, of course, you are prepared to work hard, invest in yourself, and follow their guidelines. They are incredibly proud of their new business model that is revolutionizing the publishing industry. They have publishers, they claim, following them on their whirlwind business tour of the world asking them “do we have this or that,” and if your manuscript, listed on their database fits – lucky you.
This website is a simple four-page affair with no reference whatsoever to any of the books they’ve represented.
On the second page, you have a query submission form, with fields for your bio, contact information, and of course your synopsis. The literary agency is unbelievably prompt in replying, and despite the huge stockpile of submission “they receive everyday”, they will reply to yours satisfactorily within a day or two’s time.
The agency will show extreme professionalism in requesting your work, and promising representation.
As soon as you send your full manuscript or first three chapters at their request, you will receive the new mail telling you how appropriate and marketable your work is and how willing they are to represent you.
But there is a catch! The agency believes that your work needs ‘polishing’ and they will recommend an editing company (MS critique service in their terminology) to do it for you at the payment of a small fee of around $100. (Now keep in mind, an edit of a manuscript usually costs between $1,200 to $2,500.)
The critique, when it is done, consists of a few changes on the first page only – as an education for you the writer.
Further research discovered internet postings of the stories of “contracted editors,” uneducated and unqualified people who do these “critiques,” and you guessed it; they have been scammed as well. They’ve never received payment.
The moment the first request for money arrives is the time when all the bells should ring in your head.
Any agency that asks money from you is a scam.
So far, the agency’s communication has been fully automated (but not error-free) and pleasant, almost chatty in nature. However, when you decline or question, the good tone changes to something grouchy.
Uncle Dave’s Analogy
Uncle Dave, founder and president of Preditors and Editors, a site every writer should visit prior to circulating queries, (link once again: http://pred-ed.com/pubagent.htm ) This type of scheme is based on an age old con-game known as the Spanish Prisoner. Here is his analogy:
“A certain very rich and powerful lord has been imprisoned by the perfidious Spaniards, who are asking for ransom. The Spaniards, however, do not realize who they have captured. While the man could easily pay the ransom himself, to do so would reveal his real identity and he would surely be tortured and killed by the Inquisition!
Thus, you have the opportunity to pay his ransom (a trifling amount -- the Spaniards don't know who they have!). On his return to England he will be immensely grateful and will reward you richly.
So you pay the ransom, only to hear that there's a new obstacle. He needs to obtain a passport. A small sum is needed to pay for this vitally necessary document!
So you pay for the passport. Now he needs to buy passage back to England. A small expense but he cannot pay it himself without revealing his true identity. He is very rich and will reward you well!
Oh no! He must get a visa for that passport! The fee for that is but a trifle compared with the riches that will be yours once he returns to England! He's a lord!
Alas! Due to unforeseen circumstances he failed to board his ship! A new passage must be arranged, but the price is small. Not only will he be grateful, he'll probably make you his heir if you purchase it for him.
Woe! His ship was captured by the Spanish, and he is again a prisoner! But a corrupt judge will let him go free if you will but pay the bribe the judge requires....
And so, endlessly, on, until the mark runs out of money or gets tired of paying it.” -- Dave Kuzminski, President of Preditors and Editors
This scheme is probably better known today as the Nigerian deposed millionaire despot scheme.
There are hundreds of thousands of wannabe authors out there
in the world. Many of them are niaive of the vulture ridden business world of
publishing. No company, no con-scheme could survive all these years on the
measely proceeds of brokering four actual contracts (for foreign writers who
found publishers on their own and wanted an agent to negotiate on their behalf –
and stumbled upon Robert Fletcher.) No, but consider their widespread
advertising net snaring thousands upon thousands of would be published
writers and funneling them into this scheme. I'll bet one of their ads is on this page.
Don’t be caught. Use the links given in this article to check out any agent or agency you are even considering.
Here are the warning signs of an agency scam:
- Openly advertises for writers in print or online publications or both. (Real agents don’t need to advertise, they are swamped with submissions.)
- The agency claims that it's open or seeking first-time authors for representation. (No agency will gamble on only first time writers. They may accept a few at best.)
- Claims that it has new methodology for gaining access or acceptance with book publishers, but never explains why successful agencies aren't utilizing it. (Uh-huh)
- Does not list any sales or refuses to divulge the titles of sales for confidentiality reasons. (Agency sales are a matter of public record.)
- The only sales it lists are for vanity or subsidy publishers or the sales it lists were made by the author before the author signed with the agent, often years before representation.
- Sales it claims to have made cannot be found listed in any reference lists of books that were printed by the supposed publisher. (All publishing sales are a matter of public record.)
- Sales it made were mostly to a publishing house wholly or partially owned by the agency. (Bona fide agencies do not own publishing houses or editing services. This would be a conflict of interest.)
- Requires an upfront payment for administration or for a web display or for later postage and copying.
- Representation is usually granted in less than a month or even less than a week. (Ha – most agencies sit on material for months, and months, and months)
- The agency name has changed, but the same personnel still work at the same address and there was no conflict with another agency with the same or a similar name and no merger to warrant a change.
- The agency never provides original comments from publishers that manuscripts were allegedly submitted to.
- The agency never provides original invoices or receipts for postage or copying expenses it claims were made on behalf of the author.
- The agency suggests that it will grant representation if the manuscript is first given professional editing. Frequently, it will suggest who should do the editing or offer to make its own in-house editing service available for a discount price.
And just for fun: Some actual correspondence with Writer’s Literary Agency forwarded by my client:
PLEASE READ THIS INFORMATION CAREFULLY AS IT WILL SAVE YOU TIME AND REDUCE YOUR STRESS (and mine!)
Please note: If you asked a question in a prior email, I may have chosen not to answer it in the hopes that this email will address your question or concern. If it does not, please feel free to email me the question again. My main goal is to get the contract process underway. We have plenty of time for questions now that we are going to work together.
1. Attached is our Contract for Agency Representation.
It is simple and straightforward. We think it is fair. It is also non-negotiable. I'm happy to answer any questions that you may have, but 99% of the time we will not make a change to it if requested. If you want to have a lawyer look at it, by all means do so, but we've spent great time and energy with our lawyers making it simple enough for a business person to understand. If you spend any appreciable amount with your attorney, you are probably wasting money. You will notice that to reduce paperwork, mailing, and administrative costs, we offer an "electronic signature option". We hope you will consider that option.
We know signing contracts can be scary.
In general though, you don't have to be nervous because you can back out very easily. Within the contract we very clearly state that your 'out' from the contract is that you can fire us if we don't perform or you don't like our services for any reason. This rarely happens, but it's there for you if you want it. Also, we can fire you too, so please, let's keep our relationship professional.
… are using our referral, we ask that you get the critique started in parallel with sending in the contract. Send in your contract at the same time you are getting your critique. Don't wait for the critique to send in your contract.
They will send you a very clear set of instructions on how to proceed with the critique, how to send your manuscript, payment, etc. We refer them so much business that they offer a discounted price to referrals that we send them. We send them so much business that they will prioritize your work andthis will speed up the entire process. We can also lean on them if we need to make them work more quickly!
When they complete your critique they will send it to you and to us at the same time. Remember, we are unique in that we are willing to help you develop your talent, so there is no need to worry about what the critique will say. We know that you will improve as a writer as a result of having this critique. It's a nice gift to give yourself as an aspiring writer! Invest in yourself, the more you do, the better your chances are.
During the next 30 days, we should receive your contract and your critique should be completed. Once we receive your contract and your critique is finished and in our hands, you will be put in touch with your Agent.
The Agent will then become your primary contact and will answer questions, guide you, and hopefully, before too long, come to you with the good news of a sale! (Note: we never, never promise a sale, that's a checkbox for you within the contract by the way).
I am happy to answer any further questions that you may have.
I have enjoyed our interaction. My sincere best wishes for your writing career.
Now, back to drinking from the proverbial fire hose!
Sherry - VP Acquisitions
p.s. One more time. It's this easy....
A. Get your critique in to us.
B. Prep your work. Meet your agent.
C. Become a best seller!