Thursday, 25 February 2010

Debunking agent myth #1

A woman called me yesterday asking if I do manuscript evaluations. Yes, of course I said. I've done hundreds upon hundreds. Seems this new writer has an 'agent' that has requested to see her book, but before said 'agent' goes forward with her as a client, this agent has asked her to get an editor to evaluate her manuscript to see if it's publishable.

Wait a sec, hold on. Did I hear that right? Yes, it seems, I did. This 'agent' is asking this new writer and potential client to deliver a third-party evaluation on a manuscript said agent currently has in his or her possession. Huh?

An agent's first job is to read a manuscript for viability and to determine its chance for publication success. The agent has to believe in the manuscript in order to SELL the manuscript. It doesn't matter at all what another person thinks of the manuscript. The agent first and foremeost needs to believe in the writer and the manuscript.

I knew this agent was not a real agent the minute I heard this woman tell me that she would pass my "credentials" on to the agent because the agent would pick the right editor to do the assessment. I'm totally sniffing a scam if there ever was one. My best bet is that none of her editor choices will suit the agent. Who then will? Oh, some editor he/she has worked with for a long time or someone he/she will 'recommend'.

This is a common game among shady agents and that's why writers need to be careful. This game involves an agent and editor (that is suggested by the agent) sharing the profit from an edit or manuscript evalaution that the new author gets because said agent suggested author had to do this in order to get signed. BEWARE if you run into an agent that suggests you get an evaluation or edit on a manuscript, and even moreso if they give you names of editors. It's a scam and will only cost you money and heartache. Leave and do not sign ANY contracts.

An agent is your first reader. He/she should and does often lightly edit if need be or will tell you to edit yourself. If YOU want to hire an editor, fine. But no good agent will tell you as much. If your book sucks that much, they won't take you on. Bottom line. They make money off of writers (hello, 15% commission) so they want talented writers who are pretty much ready to package up to submit to potential publishers.