C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

The Author Selects the Agent Scam

Writers’ magazines occasionally run stories on “how to select an agent” or some such nonsense. Sure, you can check Preditors and Editors and ask around about particular agents, but the power differential between authors and agents is, well…the word “egregious” comes to mind. (In fact, that’s the same word that came to mind for Kristine Kathryn Rusch. See below for that most excellent link.)

When you submit work to an agent (note you’re already in submission and they are in dominance from the get go) it’s kind of like applying for a job. You send out a resume (your manuscript proposal) and agents say no. And more agents say no. Repeat until doubt and self-loathing kicks in.

When you do finally get the call, you’ll say yes to anybody.

Pick your metaphor: 

1. It’s the end of the world and don’t you want to experience the act of physical love just once before you die?

2. You’re a serial killer/diabetic and the warden says they’re fixing the electric chair and would you like your first and only chocolate éclair before they electrocute your ass?

3. The vampires have risen and this is the last sunset before Dracula’s armies of the undead close in on you, the last human survivor on the roof of The Mall of America. Suddenly Carrie Moss shows up piloting a helicopter. Do you jump on the rope ladder to safety? Or do you negotiate so she wears an even tighter leather outfit like the one from The Matrix?

Answers:

1. Of course, devirginize!

2. Eat that éclair. The sugar won’t have time to migrate to your rotten pancreas.

3. Board that helicopter and maybe you’ll live long enough for the sequel!

If you’ve run the long gauntlet of trying to find an agent, or just heard a few horror stories to that effect, you sign that contract as fast as you can. You’re closer to publication than you were, so an agent calling must be good, right?

“Must” is a strong word. In fact, read The Passive Voice  and you’ll be running to publish yourself after all. It’s about enslavement via contractual obligations that go on forever. This is scarier than anything Stephen King could possibly dream up. 

Passive Voice also links to Kristine Kathryn Rusch, which you should also read before you do anything. Don’t even poop before reading this.  

Before you put on that electric collar and tie the leash around your genitals, read your contract carefully. Make informed choices. Show contracts to a lawyer. Negotiate the egregious. Take responsibility so you hire the agent, not the other way around. And always be willing to walk away from any deal. Walking away may be the only way to get a decent deal.

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Filed under: agents, authors, DIY, publishing, queries, Rant, Rejection, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. [...] The Author Selects the Agent Scam (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) [...]

  2. Mary Maddox says:

    Contract? I’ve had two agents and never signed a contract with either of them. Legit and well-known agents based in NYC. They tried to sell my books, and when they couldn’t they said farewell. But that was a while ago. Maybe things have changed.

    • Chazz says:

      For most agents, a contract is expected. It’s a business arrangement, so that’s probably best.

      However, I think I’d prefer how you did it. That’s how I bought my house. I didn’t sign a thing with my real estate agent until he’d found the house and we were about to close the deal. Interestingly, I’ve rented several offices on the basis of a handshake and that worked out fine (while the people next door who had signed a lease defaulted just as easily as they might have if the business relationship was based on something less tangible.)

      I think the trend for agents for a long time is to try to lock people in so they don’t end up working for nothing. I’ve heard of a couple of cases where authors burned agents, though generally you hear the converse of that story.

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