Don’t be a fool!


I know that lots of us are out there, looking for literary agents. I know that a lot of times, it feels like we’re competing against each other for the same person’s time and energy (not to mention attention and hand-holding).

But I firmly believe that we’re all in this together, folks. We all have our own slice of audience that’ll be completely unique to each of us.

And because I believe that, I think we need to stick together when the scammers raise their ugly heads.

This time, it’s in the form of the The International Independent Literary Agents Association (IILAA). I’m not going to post a link directly to them ’cause that’ll just give them one more link at places like Technorati, and who wants to help out a bunch of scammers? (My link goes to Victoria Strauss, who I’ll mention later on, so keep reading)

This is what steams me about them:
1. They claim that charging a reading fee is normal and good business practice. Yes, they sort-of have a point in that you often pay a lawyer a retainer.

BUT… not ALL lawyers ask for retainers. Many work the same way reputable agents do: They take a cut of what you win in court (granted, agents take a cut of what you earn, but you see my point). Many just send you a bill.

2. If this The International Independent Literary Agents Association (IILAA) is to be believed, there are ten agents they recommend. That’s fine. But… who’s number 10? They only list nine on their site.

Yes, counting to ten may be math, but it’s not higher math. My kids could both do it before they were two. Most of us have ten fingers and ten toes for the express purpose of using two of the four (YOU get my higher math, right?) appendages for counting to ten.

3. They make a BIG STINK of denouncing Preditors and Editors, Writer Beware, Miss Snark, and other sites that many of us rely on for information.

4. As they denounce these people, they can’t be bothered to spell some of these places properly. Hello? You’re a LITERARY agency. A little show of your own LITERATE capabilities would be nice. (And let’s not get into how nice it was of them, in their literary worldliness, to point out that a group called The International Independent Literary Agents Association is composed of Independent agents.)

Yeah, yeah. We all make typos. See my own post from yesterday, which invites you to capitalize on one I made. But c’mon, folks. If you’re going to cut someone down, do it the right way. Those last two examples aren’t even as amusing as “be a retainer,” which also appears on their site, in the bit about why fees are acceptable.

If all those sites are so disreputable, why do so many of us hold what they say to be canonical? Because we’re stupid? Or because we’re smart enough to do the research that backs us up. Look at some blogging agents. My favorites are Agent Kristin, Lit Soup, The Rejecter, and Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. Miss Snark goes without saying.

What do these agents have in common?
1. They support the efforts of Ann, Victoria, and all the rest who are out there, keeping us abreast and warned of the scammers.
2. They’re NOT on Writer Beware’s list of 20 Worst Agents.
3. They don’t charge fees.
4. They are careful about their typos and the way they present themselves. That many mistakes… c’mon. Would you want THEM to represent you? What would happen if they offered you a contract for a book you didn’t write? You wrote Under a Blood Red Sky, not Over a Bloody Die. That doesn’t even make sense, unless you play craps!

Think about it. An agent represents you. They are your face to the publishing world, at least initially. They are your advocate, your business partner.

Do your research before you commit to any agent, even the ones I listed here as the blogging agents I particularly like. This is your career, people. I’ve already had one bad agent in my life. I can tell you, firsthand, what a frustrating time-suck it is. And he wasn’t even a fee charger. He didn’t ask me to BE a retainer.

Be smart, folks. Writing is a craft, an art form, yes. But there’s also a business end to it. Please don’t ignore that.

/rant over

(by the way, if I’ve offended you and you want me to take this post down, you’ll have to go through my lawyer to get me to do so. Don’t say you weren’t warned.)



  1. Andrew

    October 27, 2006 11:27 pm

    Right on! So now IILAA is denouncing all these legit places? I so love it when THEY’RE the ones we’re always sniggering at, because we know they’re pathetic. Typos?! Seriously.BR/BR/Still, it saddens me how many people can actually fall into the claws of scammers under the spell of “We will publish you!” And I always wonder how such scammers manage to stay in business, despite bad or nonexistent sales.

  2. Susan Helene Gottfried

    October 28, 2006 8:34 am

    Thanks, Andrew.BR/BR/As to how these people survived, I worked for the Lee Shore Agency (not quite on the Top Twenty of Worst Agents). You’d be surprised how many people are willing to pay a reading fee.

  3. Dawno

    October 28, 2006 10:52 am

    Fabulous post! Thank you for speaking up.BR/BR/BTW, if you put the html to Victoria’s post about IILAA under every mention of IILAA (and mention often) then when folk google it they’ll get Victoria’s post as one of the hits instead of their own. 🙂

  4. Susan Helene Gottfried

    October 28, 2006 12:20 pm

    Thanks for visiting, Dawno! I hope you’ll come back under less stressful (not to mention infuriating) circumstances. With Trevor hanging around this joint, we have plenty of fun. BR/BR/I DID edit my post to include the links. Let’s hope we can save a clueless (or desperate) author or two a LOT of hassles and headaches.

  5. cheesygiraffe

    October 28, 2006 4:19 pm

    It’s sad isn’t it? Nothing or no one is safe from being scammed. *sigh* BR/Thanks for the head’s up to other authors Mr. T. 😉

  6. Susan Helene Gottfried

    October 28, 2006 6:17 pm

    I know. Anything to make a buck. Why not do it the old fashioned way, by working hard?????BR/BR/Mr. T. Man, that cracked me up!

  7. Anonymous

    October 28, 2006 8:00 pm

    aspiring authors are always being hit up with scams, tho. it must be that a lot them work, unfortunately. damn scammers.

  8. Susan Helene Gottfried

    October 28, 2006 9:47 pm

    Hi, Brooklyn! Thanks for dropping by!BR/BR/I understand HOW the scammers can do it. It’s simply a matter of educating everyone — not just the writers, but the friends and relatives of the writers and so on and so forth — that this isn’t the way to go. BR/BR/Desperate people do desperate things; I say this all the time. But why be desperate to publish? I don’t get that part.BR/BR/Hope you’ll come back and visit again and join our usually-scheduled fun!

  9. Anonymous

    October 30, 2006 1:57 pm

    Found you on absolute write… excellent post! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Susan Helene Gottfried

    October 30, 2006 2:37 pm

    Thanks, Rash! Hope you’ll hang out here more often and join the fun.

  11. Harbormaster

    October 31, 2006 2:55 am

    I have been following this at AW (and a few other places) and hope the word spreads of this ill fated organization. Hopefully some well placed keywords with Google will help out with the effort. It is sad to see so many writers drawn into these situations.

  12. Susan Helene Gottfried

    October 31, 2006 9:06 am

    Yeah, I’ve been following it, too. The aftermath has been the most interesting part of it; how unprofessionally it’s been handled. BR/BR/I wonder how many people would run screaming from this outfit if they saw the e-mail Victoria (and many others, apparently) received.

  13. Peggy

    October 31, 2006 2:57 pm

    What’s fantastic is how fast the response of the writing community was to this ridiculous site. It’s nice to see so many agents willing to blog and let us know what they really do on their job. Oh, and as of right now the IILAA site is down and being “worked on” 🙂

  14. Susan Helene Gottfried

    October 31, 2006 4:13 pm

    Yeah, I was surprised and pleased to see everyone jump on this so fast. Yes, it IS a conspiracy — a conspiracy of men and women who want BETTER in their lives. BR/BR/It’s amazing how much the Internet has changed since I had that first, lousy agent. I probably would have never queried him in the first place, let alone signed a contract with him!

  15. Marilyn

    November 2, 2006 5:46 pm

    Thanks for the tips, it really helps newbies like me on what to watch out for.

  16. Jay

    November 2, 2006 11:55 pm

    IBUT… not ALL lawyers ask for retainers. Many work the same way reputable agents do: They take a cut of what you win in court (granted, agents take a cut of what you earn, but you see my point). Many just send you a bill./IBR/BR/I see your point but I feel compelled to point out that it’s the area of law that determines whether or not the lawyer takes your case on a contingency basis or not… The norm is to ask for a retainer.

  17. Susan Helene Gottfried

    November 3, 2006 8:52 am

    Not the lawyers I’ve worked with.

  18. SuzanneLieur

    November 4, 2006 5:40 pm

    Always “run” the other way if a so-called agency charges a reading fee.

  19. Susan Helene Gottfried

    November 4, 2006 5:41 pm

    Yep — run right on over to Absolute Write and alert the rest of us! *grin*BR/BR/Welcome, Suzanne! Hope you’ll spend more time over here with us.

  20. LK Hunsaker

    November 5, 2006 12:53 pm

    Great post! Anyone putting down Preditors and Editors is someone to be avoided. It means they don’t want us to know the truth.BR/BR/Honestly, I’m not sure why so many authors think they need an agent. Most of us don’t. It’s about as hard to find a good agent as it is to find a traditional publisher without one. I would rather try those publishers who accept unagented work: no extra cut coming out of your paychecks that will already be rather low for most of us. Only about 20 fiction authors a year actually make enough to support themselves solely on their writing. Why give part of it away? Which publisher accepts you is much less important than how much marketing you do.BR/BR/I came by to thank you for the book promo link. 🙂 I’ll check into that.

  21. Susan Helene Gottfried

    November 5, 2006 12:56 pm

    I’ll admit, I teeter between agents and the whole “legitimate” publishing and just opening up my own shop and doing it all myself. BR/BR/I think what keeps me chasing down this road is the chance that I’ll wind up with a big publisher who’ll contribute to the publicity game and help me reach out farther. BR/BR/That, and time.BR/BR/Thanks for visiting, LK! I hope you’ll come back more often!

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