Several years ago after I finished The Third Dragon, I tried to get my book published. I did this by first finding a literary agent. Why didn’t I go directly to a publisher? Because getting a good publisher to publish your book without having a literary agent is almost impossible.
As I was to discover, finding a literary agent is almost as difficult as getting a publisher. The competition is unbelievable. The most difficult part of finding a literary agent to promote your book is finding an honest and accomplished literary agent who wants to promote you book. I found out the hard way that finding a literary agent versus finding a good literary agent are two different things.
It took several months of submitting my synopsis and first few chapters to several literary agents before I had a literary agency reply with a request to see more. I was so excited to finally hear back from a literary agent that I did not research them thoroughly enough. The consequences were expensive.
After four years and almost ten thousand dollars, I realized that my literary agent was taking my money but not being aggressive enough in promoting my book. I consistently requested a list of publishers which they submitted my book to and very often got a very lame reply. There was always some excuse yet more money to fork up.
Upon further research, I found a lawsuit pending against the literary agency. Many of the circumstances were the same as mine and this person won the suit against the agency. So I decided to stop giving them my money and filed my own lawsuit. However, my lawsuit had to be filed in small-claims court. I had to file it in St. Louis, Missouri since that is where the agency was domiciled. The judge barely listened and said he would get with us in a few days with his decision. In a few days, the decision went into the agency’s favor.
Why did the agency win? Because they had a very one-sided contract. I had almost no rights as the author. The contract did not stipulate that she had to prove she was working on getting my book published. It did not stipulate how many publishers she would submit to, how often she would follow up, or any other important information.
I learned the hard way that I should have gotten a lawyer the moment I found a literary agent to support me. But I was trying to take short cuts since I was very short on money. Getting a book published is expensive. And it requires almost as much time in finding qualified companies to represent you as it does to research and write the book.
Next time, I will be more careful. I am still considering self-publishing. This method requires a lot more work on my part, but at least I only have myself to rely on. By the way, the literary agency was called The Robin’s Agency and, surprise, they have since gone out of business.
This story is so very sad.
A reputable literary agent wouldn’t have charged you anything under these circumstances. You’ve been scammed, and horribly.
Please don’t think that good agents behave this way. A good agent will earn you money, not charge you fees. This is so awful. Please let me, or Writer Beware, know who this agent was, and tell us a few details about your contract.
I really feel for you. This is so awful. Sorry.
She has since gone out of business so I’m not sure it will do any good. It was called The Robin’s Agency and she went out of business over 5 years ago. I have been sitting on my book ever since and only recently decided it was time to try again.
I’m so very sorry.
You’re not alone; you might check out Absolute Write. There are lots of published writers, self-pubb’d writers, writers, agents, editors and such there, with lots of good information.
I’ve linked to Absolute Write above. We even have a free query letter critique.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that money should always flow towards the writer; writers get paid first.
Agents are paid only after a writer is paid. Never ever before; nor do writers pay publishers or editors at publishers.
Have you submitted to Tor? They don’t require an agent, and they are hands down my favorite publisher.
It has been some time since a submitted my manuscript. But I believe I did submit to Tor because they are the publishers of my favorite fantasy novelists.
Thanks for the info. I can try Tor again and check out Absolute Write.
Please, never ever give money to a literary agent or a publisher again. If they ask you, it means they are NOT genuine. Money flows in only one direction – from them to you and not the other way around. That’s why it’s so difficult in getting either a genuine literary agent or publisher, because they are choosing who to invest their time and money in. Good luck with your book!
Wow that is AWFUL! I’ve never heard of an agent asking for $$ from a client. What did she say it was for? I’m sorry she tricked you.
Thanks for all the great feedback, everyone! I was misled to believe that some literary agents do ask for money up front. It has been some time back so I don’t recall the reasoning or the sources. All I remember is that I was so happy that an agent replied positively to my submission that I ignored all caution.
Lesson learned but I am ready to try again.
I am so sorry!
I’m really looking hard for a literary agent right now, but have yet to have the good fortune of landing one (I’ve come pretty close way too many times and am actually waiting on yet another partial right now).
I’m lucky to have read that you should never have to pay your literary agent anything, because otherwise I could easily see something like this happening to me (“You like what I wrote? Yay! I like you, too!”)
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I found your blog very helpful. I’m currently working on my first of many novels and i’ve really been debating on self publishing or seaking out a literary agent. It would be nice to get an agent, but if I self publish then the process is pretty much a lot quicker. Anyways, thanks for the info.
Thanks! If you go the self-publishing route, check out this book by Jason Matthews – https://dawnrossauthor.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/technical-book-review-%e2%80%93-how-to-make-market-and-sell-ebooks-all-for-free/