Beware of the Big, Bad, She-Wolf Agent

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Recently on my quest to find an agent an interesting thing happened. On January 13, I emailed a query to a certain literary agency; I’ll call the Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency. On January 30, I received an email back from them saying, they’d love to read my entire manuscript.

Wow! Was I excited? I wasn’t crazy about the fact that they wanted me to mail them a hard copy, but I burned The Color of My Heart onto a CD and hurried it down to my buddies at the local copying store. I bundled the manuscript up in a padded envelope, paid the postage and sent it on it’s way to the Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency. I am so glad that most literary agencies, and publishing companies have gone green. But, there are still a few agencies that want that feel of paper in their hands.

I anxiously awaited a response from the Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency, one, two, three, ten, twenty days passed. Then, on February 21st I went to the mailbox and found a letter hand addressed to me. It didn’t feel like the normal rejection letters I’ve received. For one thing it was too thick. And, it wasn’t a SASE that I had included in my query packages because the handwriting wasn’t mine.

When I glanced at the return address I realized the envelope was from the Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency to whom I had mailed my novel. Too excited, or scared to open the letter; I laid the envelope down on the kitchen counter and busied myself with a few morning chores. The bold handwriting kept staring at me until finally I opened it.

The Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency said they had enjoyed my story very much and thought others would also. The Big Bad She-Wolf who had signed the letter went on to say she thought she could find a suitable publisher for my work. The envelope also included a three-page contract! Yes, that’s right a contract between the Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency and Sarah Martin Byrd. I skimmed the pages thinking everything looked pretty good and stuck it back into the envelope. Later that day I sat down and read the contract thoroughly.

First red flag: The contract stated that it would be binding for one year.

Second red flag: The contract said The Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency would represent “all” my work for the year’s duration. Did that mean they would have control over my other novel, In the Coal Mine Shadows, and the one I’m writing now, The River Keeper, plus my children’s stories?

Third red flag: On the first page of the letter it stated that they, the Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency would charge no fees, that they would cover expenses for photocopying, postage, and phone calls out of the country, and other. Then on page two, section 5 of the contract it stated: Authors shall submit a payment in the amount of $225.00 for the processing of their work to cover these fees. The agent will not expand more than $50.00 without prior agreement with the Author. So, by that I learned the $225.00 would only be the beginning of the money The Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency would be asking me for.

By now my elation was doused to a flicker of hope. I got on the computer and started googling the Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency. On the surface the company looked pretty good. A small boutique agency, the she-wolf sounded very personable. She said that being a writer herself she understood the entire writing process and what it took to market a client’s work to publishers. The she-wolf’s blog page stated that she had thirty clients and had been a literary agent since 1998. Was the she-wolf speaking the truth or, only telling me what I wanted to hear in hopes I’d drop that $225.00 check in the mail?

When I looked the Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency up on Preditors and Editors, at http://pred-ed.com/, they said, “This agency is not recommended, they charge fees.” That was the only negative thing I could find about them, so still somewhat hopeful I emailed the she-wolf with my concerns and asked her to email me the names of authors that she represents and her recent sales to publishing companies

The next morning I had an email from the she-wolf telling me she would have the list to me before the end of the day. That was six days ago and I have yet to see her client list or hear from the she-wolf. If I had signed that contract I can only imagine how many $250.00 money orders that she-wolf would have asked for.

What have I learned from this? I will research every agent I query more thoroughly. I will use credible resources such as, Writer’s Market, and Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents. Just because an agency pops up on a google search doesn’t mean they are legitimate.

Here are a few questions that we, as authors should ask potential agents.

1)    How long has your agency been in business?

2)    Are you a member of AAR?

3)    Would you send me a list of authors represented and titles you’ve sold to publishing companies?

4)    How many staff members do you employ?

5)    How often will you report to me, the author, of any progress, or lack of concerning the placing of my work with a publishing company?

6)    Ask to see a sample contract.

There are all kinds of other questions that we should ask. Does the literary agency send 1099 forms at the end of the year? Do they give detailed sales reports, including gross and net income? We should even ask what happens in the event of our death? And, one last very important question: If the agent and author decide they are not compatible, can the contract be broken?

I hope this blog helps others, like me, who are strolling through the dark forest, hoping to find the right way to turn in this crazy world of publishing. I don’t want you to be deceived by the Big Bad Wolf Literary Agency. If something doesn’t feel right, if your gut is telling you to step away, then you’d better listen and find another path. Looks, as well as fancy words can be deceiving.

In our quest for representation let us not rush into something just because we are impatient. There are pesky, old, she-wolves out there everywhere ready to pounce on those of us who have been raised to treat others, as we, ourselves want to be treated. On the other hand I know there are hundreds of respectable literary agencies and publishing companies. Again, I suggest you purchase one of these two books below, or both, to aid you on your journey to publication.

Writers Market, where and how to sell what you write, 3,500 listings for book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals, literary agents, and more. Jeff Herman’s Guide To Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents. Who they are! What they want! How to win them over! Either book may be purchased at any major bookstore, ordered by your local bookstore, or online at http://www.amazon.com.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

huntress February 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm

I love to know who you are talking about.
DM?

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