Thousands of novice writers looking for literary agents fall for a scam because they do not know where, or how, they can locate agents. Fake literary agents ensnare uninformed, gullible, novice writers and persuade them to part with their money. Even educated professionals in other fields, such as lawyers, can become victims of these unscrupulous predators.
According to a Washington Post article by Linton Weeks, James Fisher, a former FBI agent estimated that over 10,000 hopeful writers have lost over 50 million USD per year. This “genteel racket” has even inspired counterparts in India, according to a blog post by Tanuj Khosla on the Publishing Perspectives website.
Why Writers Fall for Fake Agents
Anyone can be an agent. Literary agents are not licensed, or scrutinized, by a regulatory or professional organizations. Jim Fisher’s book “Ten Percent of Nothing: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell” is about the first case that led to a criminal conviction. In his edinboro.edu blog, Fisher described the six basic scam types in a post about “The Genteel Racket.” These swindles fleece novice writers before the representation contract is signed and after the signing of the contract.
Manuscript Evaluation Fees
Unpublished writers who are not picked up by legitimate agents are easy victims for this low-level swindle. Writers who fall for this scam, and do not learn from this mistake, are vulnerable to other scams.
Manuscript Editing Fees
Writers are drawn into this scam by fake agents who tell them editing is required before the works can be taken to publishers. The lure of this fraud preys on the belief that the work is worthy of being published and the defrauder has the connections and experience to make it happen. Authors suffer even more if they re-write their books based on the feedback they receive.
Phony Publisher and Agent Referral Kickback Schemes
These schemes create phony publishers and literary agents that refer the writers to editing services. This fraud works with the phony publishers and literary agents soliciting manuscripts through direct mail ads, ads placed in magazines, publishing directories, and other venues that seem legitimate to aspiring writers.
Fraudulent Contracting and Marketing Charges
In these schemes writers are charged for signing agent representation contracts and afterwards for the “marketing” of the manuscripts to publishers. Consultation, handling, and associated fees fall in these two categories.
Legitimate literary agents have a proven book sales record and they never charge manuscript review fees. They will not edit manuscripts or suggest editors. They also do not charge for marketing and related fees. Legitimate agents are compensated after the books are sold. Their payment is charged as a percentage of the advance and royalty payments made by publishers. Be careful and only give your manuscript to authentic agents.
Please feel free to check them out, as we will be posting new updates about the IAPWE on our social media profiles in addition to our blog. These updates may also include news about other people and organizations that have been helping to support and/or spread an awareness of literacy in their local communities.
If you’re not already a member of our association, you can apply for membership at https://iapwe.org/apply. We hope everyone has a happy and health holiday!
– IAPWE Team
IAPWE | International Association of Professional Writers & Editors
Are you writing a literary, mainstream/general fiction, or genre novel? Did you think about genres when you started writing your novel, or afterwards? Some authors easily identify the category of their work. However, others find it more difficult.
Categorizing the fiction type is important for agents and publishers. It helps to position the marketing of the product and identify its target audience. If your novel does not fit a genre classification, it might be a mainstream novel.
Differences between Mainstream and Literary Works
Is your book literary fiction? The beauty of the writing style and the themes are more important in literary fiction. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is literary fiction. You may think literary works are highbrow; but Harper Lee’s masterpiece is engaging because it is not highbrow. It presents complex issues in a narrative style that engages readers with deceptive simplicity. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is also a work of literary fiction. It is much more than a crime novel.
Mainstream fiction focuses more on action, although it may have elements of a literary novel. The storyline hooks the reader, while the characters and plot fuel the momentum. This characteristic makes novels in this category marketable to a larger target audience. Mainstream fiction readers like to follow an exciting plot.
Literary fiction is considered a limited niche market today because fewer people spend their time reading complex, and sophisticated fiction. Readers of literary fiction like to linger over their reading material.
Identifying Genre Fiction
Genre novels have a built-in target audience that looks for books in a particular category. These novels focus on the story. Character development takes a back seat to the main plot built around the genre’s primary focus. This means in mysteries the main character’s activities are focused on solving the mystery; and in a romance, the focus is on the relationship between the two main characters.
Entertaining the reader is the main purpose of genre fiction. The linear storyline culminates with a clear resolution and satisfies the reader’s expectation. Hence, a happy ending is the culmination of the narrative arc of a romance novel’s storyline.
Mainstream fiction does not fit into a defined genre category. It is harder to market, because there is no target audience. However, it has the potential of appealing to a broader audience. The word-count requirements and style guidelines are stricter for genre novels, than they are for mainstream or literary fiction. So, it is also important to know how to classify your novel for this reason as well.
A query letter is a one-page document sent by a writer to his or her literary agent. Its primary purpose is to lure the agent’s interest in the manuscript. Since many writers are engaged in the same goal, a successful query letter makes for an outstanding pitch.
Each query does not have much time, or space, to capture the interest of the literary agent. Experienced agents get thousands of queries every year. This is why novice writers sweat over the challenge of writing a captivating query letter.
Creating a List of Prospective Agents
There are several resources that help writers locate agents that specialize in their genre. These include databases like the publishersmarketplace.com, literarymarketplace.com, the Association of Author Representatives, agentyuery.com, querytracker.net, and writersmarket.com. After finding potential agents, writers need to visit the agents’ websites to obtain submission guidelines, find out what types of books they are looking for; and whether they are still accepting submissions.
Following Submission Guidelines
Submission guidelines specify the acceptable method of submission, as well as what should be included in the query letter’s contents and/or attachments. Some elements do not change even when the contents vary according to the agent’s specifications, the work being pitched by the writer, and its genre.
Printed/Email Formats and Content
If the agent wants the material submitted by mail, then the letter should have the writer’s address, right justified, at the top of the page followed by the left justified agent’s name and address. If the letter is being submitted by email, the subject line should indicate it is a query and the signature should have the writer’s name, address and other contact information.
The agent should be addressed courteously; and, the main portion of a posted letter should not exceed five or 6 paragraphs. Emailed queries should not exceed 300 words because agents read and discard emails quickly.
The first paragraph should capture the agent’s interest. This is the paragraph where connection with the agent maybe personalized by for example mentioning authors represented by the agent, or any meeting with the agent, or knowing someone who knows the agent. It can include the word count of the book, its genre and title.
The following paragraphs should capture the agent’s interest by giving a vivid sense of the book. If query is about a nonfiction work, the writer should explain why the writer is qualified to write the book. If the book is a novel, then following agents on social media may provide useful information about whether the agent is the right fit for the book being pitched. Only requested attachments should be provided. The signature can include links to a personal website or blog.
Bottom line: agents want projects that publishers will accept. If you want to feel comfortable about your task, check online for examples that have worked. You can also improve the odds of being accepted by sending queries to many agents.
Book packagers offer another way for writers to get published and for editors to be employed in the publishing industry. Packagers are independent companies that create products for publication by imprints of trade book publishers. Trade book publishers publish the books that are sold in bookstores serving the general public. Both large and small publishers use book packagers to enhance their brands.
Invented in England
Paul Steiner of Chanticleer Press introduced book packaging to the American publishing industry. Originally, the company was the subsidiary of a British company; it became independent in 1952. By the time he passed away in 1996, Paul Steiner had launched a whole new way of publishing books in the United States that had grown from strength to strength.
What Book Packagers Do
While some packagers deliver printer-ready books to publishers, others may rely on the publisher for finalization. The amount of work done by packagers varies, as does the compensation they receive from publishers.
Why Publishers Use Book Packagers
Both large and small publishers appreciate the services provided by packagers. By relying on book packagers, large publishers can go into specialty fields like art or licensed books without hiring more staff. Small publishers with small staffs can get more accomplished with the use of packagers. Ever since Chanticleer Press was established, heavily illustrated books have been an area in which packagers have shone from the start.
Book Packagers Work in Several Genres
Books as varied as the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide series, Andrew Greeley’s The Cardinal Sins, New York Public Library Desk Reference, and most young adult books have been produced by book packagers. Packagers are no longer limited to any publishing genre, although they dominate certain genres such as young adult books, illustrated, and nonfiction books.
Some of the leading nonfiction genres include diet, cooking, design, pop culture, fashion, lifestyle, pop psychology, relationships, and parenting. So many companies are involved in this aspect of publishing that the quality of their product varies also.
Packagers Offer Reliable Work
Working for a book packager offers a way to build published credits and writing/editing skills. Generally, writers do not own the intellectual property of their contributions and do not receive royalties. Compensation for writers varies. Some packagers pay a flat fee; others split the proceeds or take a portion of the writer’s royalties.
Reputable packagers value talent. They give novice writers a chance and use writers that have worked with them previously.