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Below, in alphabetical order, is a list of the literary agencies (not all of them currently active*) about which Writer Beware has received the largest number of complaints over the years, or which, based on documentation we’ve collected, we consider to pose the most significant hazard for writers. All have two or more of the following abusive practices:

1. Fee-charging–including reading fees, marketing or administrative fees, retainers, processing fees, and other forms of upfront or flat-rate charges that are made as a condition of representation.

2. Paid editing or publishing referrals–including placing clients with vanity publishers, promoting their own paid editing services to clients (a conflict of interest), sending clients/potential clients to an outside editing service that pays kickbacks for referrals. Some of these agencies are no more than fronts for editing services.

3. Conflicts of interest–some agencies are under common ownership with editing services or vanity publishers, which are recommended to clients, often without disclosing the connection.

4. No or minimal track records–many of these agencies have never made a single sale to an advance-paying publisher.

5. Nonstandard author-agent contract terms–including perpetual agency clauses, claiming commissions on clients’ future works even if the agency had no hand in selling them, billing clients for normal business overhead such as travel and entertainment. We also consider handshake agreements to be non-standard.

6. Unprofessional practices–such as sending form letters or postcards with boxes for editors to check off and return to indicate interest, “bundled” queries (several queries in the same envelope), “blitz” or shotgun submissions (submissions to a dozen or more publishers simultaneously, often without careful targeting), “packaging” a submission with unnecessary extras such as author photos, cover mockups, or sample illustrations.

7. Misrepresentation of skill or experience–including representing themselves as competent to sell manuscripts despite poor or nonexistent track records, lying about sales, and claiming placements with vanity publishers as legitimate commercial sales.

While the agencies listed here account for a substantial number of the complaints we’ve received, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Writer Beware has files on hundreds of questionable agencies, both active and inactive.

We do update the list from time to time, as questionable agencies sometimes change their names, clone themselves, or go out of business. Be sure to check back regularly.

* Why do we continue to list agencies that aren’t currently active? Because questionable agents often return under new names. One example: Clark, Mendelson, and Scott, whose previous incarnation, American Literary Agents of Washington Inc., vanished for several years when the proprietor went to jail, and re-emerged under the new name after he got out of prison.

  • The Aaland Agency (the alter ego of the now-defunct Abacus Group Literary Agency)
  • Allred and Allred Literary Agents (not currently active)
  • Barbara Bauer Literary Agency
  • Brock Gannon Literary Agency (not currently active)
  • Clark, Mendelson, and Scott (formerly d/b/a American Literary Agents of Washington, Inc., Capital Literary Agency, and Washington Literary Agency)
  • Eaton Literary Agency
  • Finesse Literary Agency (also d/b/a/ Elite Finesse Literary Agency) (not currently active)
  • Langtons International Agency
  • Mark Sullivan Associates (also d/b/a New York Editors, Manhattan Literary, and Pantheon Literary)
  • Martin-McLean Literary Associates (Lisa Martin)
  • Michele Glance Rooney Literary Agency (has also done business as Creative Literary Agency, Creative Concepts Literary Agency, Simply Nonfiction, and May Writers’ Group)
  • Mocknick Productions Literary Agency, Inc. (not currently active)
  • Novel Literary Agency (Leeann Murphy, a.k.a. Melissa King) (formerly Desert Rose Literary Agency)
  • The Robins Agency (Cris Robins) (not currently active, but Robins has reappeared a number of times)
  • SBPRA (Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency) / Best Selling Book Rights Agency (Robert Fletcher), formerly Writers Literary Agency and The Literary Agency Group, which also does or has done business under the following names (see Writer Beware’s Alert for even more names used by this company):
    -WL Children’s Agency
    -Children’s Literary Agency
    -Children’s Book Publishing Agency
    -WL Poet’s Agency
    -Poet’s Literary Agency
    -Poetry Book Publihsing Agency
    -WL Screenplay Agency
    -The Screenplay Agency
    -Screenplay Writers’ Agency
    -New York Literary Agency
    -Global Book Agency
    -Strategic Book Agency
    -ST Literary Agency
    -Stylus Agency
  • Swetky Literary Agency (Faye Swetky and D.J. Herda)
  • West Coast Literary Associates (also d/b/a California Literary Services) (not currently active)
Copyright © A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss