If you've read even one of my blog posts, or one of my tweets, or one of my Face Book rants, you've no doubt discovered I'm an aspiring novelist. I would say writer, but since I've managed to wrangle a couple of freelance credits, I like to think I'm already a writer.
For many years now, I've been trying in vain to get my foot in the door with the next great novel. I've been close a few times, but I've never made it to the show as baseball players say. A couple of those close calls left a bitter taste in my mouth and almost made me consider packing it in altogether. One such close call involved a less than scrupulous literary agent.
Though it's been a few years now, I can still recall how excited I was to get that request for a partial that was followed by a request for the full manuscript. Then came that day every budding author dreams of. The agent offered representation, and I signed a six month contract. This turned out to be the worst mistake of my career, but I was too green to know it. Sure, some things seemed a little off. The agent only wanted to communicate by email and only wanted to sign for six months. I told myself these little quirks were because I was an unpublished and unproven investment. The day she asked me for $200 in materials fees, I knew again something was afoot, and it wasn't good. I knew it, but I ignored it. I kept telling myself I didn't want to alienate the only agent who'd shown an interest in me. It wasn't until later that I found out she was a scam artist and had even landed on a list of the top twenty worst agents of all time. After stumbling on that information, I decided to get smart for the next time.
With a little web research, I discovered some rather wonderful web sites that educate authors on literary agents. This inspired me to write the article, Beware the Bad Agent, that was published in the March/April 2009 issue of Writer's Journal. I also decided that from now on when an agent asked to see my work, I'd do my research before I got sucked into any excitement. I should tell you it's probably a better practice to do your research before you send a query, but I find my way easier. Thus far, I've been lucky. The few that have asked to see a little more of my project have been above board. At least they were before it happened.
I got a request from the assistant of an agent I'd queried telling me they were excited by my pitch and they wanted to see more. Having been rejected so much, I'm always leery of any positive response, but something about this one didn't sit right with me. The first tip off was the fact that she misspelled my book's title. I guess that's not a horrible sin, but I was right to be concerned. It seems this agent has an editing service on the side, which is a huge conflict of interest. She's also had no recorded sales this year and only a few in 2009 and was listing some authors on her web site who were no longer clients or weren't at the time some of their work was published. Needless to say, I deleted her email and didn't send a damn thing to her.
Still, I'm a little miffed about this. It seems like a horrible thing for some low life money maker to prey on your dream. With so many agents out there, I guess it was bound to happen. The difference this time is that I'm not the same ignorant kid I was when I started out.