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How to Spot a Literary Agent Scam – Part 2
So, what can you do to work out if an agency is legitimate or not?
Only Query Established Agents – Not an editor/agent, or a publisher/agent. There are some agents that do multi-task but being an agent should be their number one priority. Good agents have more work than they can handle wearing just one hat.
Check Their Sales Figures and Track Record. These are the top indicators and they should be more than happy to share the information. If they say their sales are confidential, walk away. Always ask to see recommendations, published work and recent sales, anything that could help to determine their legitimacy. Do keep in mind that if an agent has only got a small number of sales, it doesn’t mean they are bad; some of the best agencies are small and that means you get personal attention so don’t mistake quantity for quality.
Look For Total Professionalism. Does their website look professional or not? Are letters they send you full of spelling and grammar mistakes? Do they get annoyed when you ask about contracts and fees? Do they ignore your calls for weeks on end? You are looking for professionalism all over and general courtesy. Again, if an agent is working from their home, don’t automatically dismiss them out of hand. Likewise, if they don’t have a huge website or hundreds of staff. Some agencies don’t have a website and many don’t employ hundreds of staff because they are keeping their costs to a minimum. These are the agents that may be better for new writers and they have more time to give you.
Don’t Fall For “Recommended Services”. If you get great praise from an agent who then tells you that your work needs to be professionally edited before it will sell, back off, especially when they tell you they have an editor lined up. This is an indicator that the agent is on a ‘kickback referral scheme’ which is unethical and can destroy the dreams of a new author. The same applies to illustrators. Good agents know that the publisher will do the work of matching you to an illustrator if needed and you should never be pushed into hiring a recommended service.
Be Wary of The Agent Who Wants Short Stories and Poetry Only. A good agent knows there isn’t any money in this unless they are working with an author who is already well established and on the way to becoming a household name.
Be Wary of Too Much Praise or Expansive Promises. A good agent won't shower you with praise because there will always be something that needs changing or that isn’t right. And they never make any promise they cannot keep.
Be on The Lookout For The Signs of Incompetence. There are loads of half-baked agents who are unprofessional – using odd submission strategies, insisting you pay out for photos, marketing plans and other things that the editor simply doesn’t need.
At the end of the day, if something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Make sure you do your homework and run a Google search on any potential agent; you never know what you might dig up. The writers' forums are a good place to look for information; writers share with each other all the time.
It’s down to you now; only you can keep yourself out of the hands of the dodgy agents!
Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Anne-Marie Reynolds