So...my mother-in-law informed me yesterday that she had an agent.
After picking my jaw up from the desk, where it lay for some time in utter disbelief after hearing that she had queried one (1) agent and had been offered a contract, I started to think about it. Now, I've read some of her work and while it is good, I thought it was a bit of a stretch to find the perfect agent that quickly after one try. So I started asking questions.
Who was her agency? Although I thought she said Rider, it turns out she said Writer. Writers Literary Agency, to be precise, which has been discussed on numerous well-respected writers' sites: Absolute Write, Writers Beware, Preditors & Editors, and Making Light--among others. Although I didn't initially recognize the name, it did set off alarm bells. So, when I got home I googled it.
You've all heard me talk about the fine art of googling before. Use it. Embrace it. Revel in it. Because when you google Writer's Literary Agency, the very first thing that pops up is NOT their website. Oh no. It would be the sites listed above.
Never a good sign. More not good signs:
--Click here for a sampling of the positive emails that we receive on a regular basis. That's it? Emails? No, I want to see sales--whose books you sold, to which publisher, for how much. So let's go look there next.
--Ooooooooookay. Not a single NAME listed. Fair enough.
--Why don't we check out their marketing plan for their authors.
And that's where I get mad, because that's where my mother-in-law got snagged. What a lovely photograph of a green WL Literary sign at the 2007 Book Expo in New York. It's rather interesting though that all of the other signs are purple. And in not a single picture, which could have been taken by any casual visitor to an open event, was there ONE INSTANCE where you could see a WL Literary rep with an editor from any of the big houses....or an author....or even at the dinner...
So, she signed. She then paid sixty bucks for a 'critique' of her novel. Amazingly, in a 118k manuscript of a first-time, never previously published writer, there was only ONE misspelled word. The 'critique' was a rave, detailing how saleable the book was with a few cut and paste snippets from the manuscript.
So now I'm seeing red. I put all the pieces together and found myself in the unenviable position of informing my mother-in-law, business partner, and friend that she had been the victim of a well-tried and more successful than it should be scam. Let me just state for the record that this is NOT a comfortable place to be.
The public record on this company is long and it's discouraging. If you follow the links I've posted in this article, you'll be able to untangle it for yourself. I am posting this from Ann Crispin of Writers Beware--she added her full permission to copy and paste the alert wherever writers gather:
NEW ALERT FROM WRITER BEWARE: Writers’ Literary Agency & Marketing
Company (formerly The Literary Agency Group) The Literary Agency Group, a
business owned or controlled by Robert M. Fletcher of Boca Raton, Florida,
changed its name in February 2007 to Writers’ Literary Agency & Marketing
Company (a.k.a. WL Writers’ Literary Agency).
This umbrella group includes or has included the following agencies:
* Christian Literary Agency* New York Literary Agency* Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency, formerly Sydra-Techniques)* WL Children’s Agency (a.k.a. Children’s Literary Agency)* WL Poet’s Agency (a.k.a. Poet’s Literary Agency)* WL Screenplay Agency (a.k.a. The Screenplay Agency)* Writers’ Literary & Publishing Services Company (the editing arm of the above-mentioned agencies)
Since this company began operating in 2001 under the name Sydra-Techniques, Writer Beware has received hundreds of complaints and advisories of fee-charging, editing referrals, and other questionable practices. We’re not aware that the company has a significant track record of commercial book sales under any of its names, despite its claims to the contrary. Writers who have had trouble with Robert
M. Fletcher or any of the above-named companies, and who are or were residents
of the state of Florida, please get in touch with Ann Crispin at email@example.com (or firstname.lastname@example.org , if the AOL address bounces), even if you have previously contacted her. Please provide complete contact information.
And so now you know. I cannot stress enough how important it is to thoroughly research ANY agent or publishing company before you submit. Love your Google button and use it. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to compose a lovely registered letter on behalf of my mother-in-law. It is a painful lesson for anyone to learn. Try not to let this happen to you.