Thursday, August 1, 2013

MY BIG SECRET IS OUT

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.