Last year this time I had a big
announcement to make. I was proud and happy to tell you all that I had an
agent. Well, yesterday my contract ended with my agent and I feel that I have
to be honest about my experience. After all, that is what my blog is about.
When I met my agent last year, she
had mentioned to me that she would charge me an X amount of money to edit and
then represent my manuscript, but that I would not have to worry, as she would
give me my money back as soon as she sold the manuscript, which she was
confident she could do. I talked it over with my family and even though they
discouraged me from dealing with this agent, I went ahead and borrowed the
large amount of money from them and paid her the editing fee in order for her
to represent my work.
I was desperate and I needed to
make all the stressing and waiting stop. It had taken me 2 years to find
someone who wanted to represent my work, so what if she wanted me to pay an
editing fee? At least I will have an agent, right? After all, she had a proven
record of sales to reputable publishers. So, I signed on for a six month
contract and then my journey of more waiting and stressing started.
She did edit my manuscript and at
first I thought she did a good job. She gave me an example of what my marketing
plan and author’s biography should look like, as it was a copy of what one of
her other authors had written. I wrote my own version and was only asked to do
one correction. When it was submission process time, I made all the changes to
the manuscript, and handed over the synopsis I had queried her with, along with
the author’s biography and marketing plan I had worked on.
Months past and I did not hear
anything. I was making myself sick worrying. I could not think straight or get
much sleep. I kept thinking “please don’t let this be a scam”. I was still
unemployed at the time, so there was no way of paying back my family the money
for the editing fees.
So, I contacted her and she
mentioned that we had gotten a bunch of rejections, all verbal, none on print
and none of any help. More months passed and our six month contract was almost
over. Once again, I contacted her to ask what it would all mean. She gave me
three options. Renew my contract, self-publish or go at it on my own. I was
ready to end the contract, but my siblings who I had borrowed the money from
still believed and I signed on for another six months.
This time around I got even more
restless. I can’t write, I can’t think, I am constantly on edge and I am
worried about the money I have to pay back. I then go onto the internet and
poke around and realize that there were other writers out there like me, who
had written about having been approached by my agent and also asked to pay
editing fees and that they knew that this was a scam and that all aspiring
authors who were approached, should run.
I then decide to go back over my
manuscript and realize that it had not been edited that much. I had not been
asked to do rewrites. I few words were suggested to be removed, a few sentences
deleted and my characters thoughts were told to be in Italics. I just found out
that publishers hate it when italics are used in a manuscript. Realization? I
had paid for not so good editing.
A few weeks ago I started doing
more research on my agent and found out that she had been involved in various
other scams over the years. She had recently started a new one where she asked
other aspiring writers an editing fee too. They were not stupid like me, they
did their research and found out that it was a major conflict of interest and
it was something that no agent, truly bent on selling your work, would do.
I then approached a reputable
source for information, which is when my greatest fear was immediately
confirmed. I had been scammed and that I had been doing business with a
disreputable agent that has been struggling to make sales in the publishing
world and who was just stringing me along till my contract expired.
As a way to salvage some of my
dignity and perhaps prove that she actually made an effort to sell my book, I
had asked my agent for the list of publishers that my work had been submitted
to. She had provided me with a list containing the names of 12 of the largest
publishing companies in the US and then I was told from my reputable source,
that this was not conclusive evidence to suggest that my work was ever
submitted, as only the publishers names are given and never the names of the various
imprints under which they function. So there is no saying who saw my manuscript
and if anyone saw it at all. I was advised to proceed as I had never been
represented at all, which is kind of depressing, but I was grateful for the
honest and professional feedback from my source.
I guess many people will say that
I am just bitter and resentful that my book was not sold. In a way I am. I just
wish that I had never met my agent, who will remain nameless. What really makes
me the angriest about all of this is the fact that she was always so polite. Why
could she not have just told me that I didn't have a chance in hell and that my
book would never sell? Why keep me on a string for a year, give me hope and
have it all taken away? She kept suggesting that I self-publish and I guess
that should have tipped me off. Why would I self-publish if I wanted her to help
me get traditionally published?
I even deleted my posts from last
year about how I got my agent, because I didn't want other people to do what I
did and end up in a scam. Now I am not sure what I want to do next. I know I
still want to write. I had found my calling in life. But do I go back to the
query trenches and look for another agent? Do I skip the agents and just go for
a publisher? What if I get scammed again?
So…that is my big secret.