A Lack of Controls

Our industry – writing – and its principal magazines do nothing to police themselves. Writers’ magazines do NOT investigate the ads they receive. Does Writers Digest — the first magazine most new writers come to — check their advertisers out? No. Are there crusading journalists on the local scene? Not to my knowledge.

And we’ve all heard of agents who charge a reading fee. I’m ashamed to admit that I fell for this one back in my early days. I paid $135 to Daniel King, literary agent from Milwaukee. He did zip for me.

An excellent expose of The Scott Meredith Agency appeared several years ago, not in a writer’s magazine, but in the New Republic. The author, Joe Queenan, sent inane proposals to the Scott Meredith Agency and got back high praise for his concepts and, of course, requests for a reading fee.
Here is a sample:
Dear Scott:
Down through the centuries, while being pursed by English soldiers, members of the Irish Republican Army have often had to eat on the run. Here, for the first time, is a list of recipes that kept them going: 63 easy-to-prepare meals that can be whipped up in less than ten minutes, eaten in less than five. The IRA Cookbook includes recipes for Mulligan’s Stewlet, Paddy’s Cakes and Irish Soda Breadcrumbs.”
“We’d be delighted to work with you,” Meredith wrote back. “Simply send….”
The worse case of agent rip-off I ever heard of happened with an agent in western Canada…..Wait a minute. The reason nobody comes out and names names is they’re afraid of lawsuits. Well, go ahead and sue me, Joanne Kellog of Edmonton, Alberta. I’ll tell the court all about the senior citizen who sent you her novel and $75 and got back three words: Read more books.
And the senior will stand up with me.
Most agents and publishers are reputable people, but they are not doing much to police themselves.

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3 responses to “A Lack of Controls

  1. Great post, Ed! I suspect there are unethical people in every industry, but aspiring authors seem to be especially easy prey. It’s “buyer beware”, for sure! I don’t know of any specifically Canadian sites, but there’s lots of information available online if you build strong cyber relationships within the industry and ask questions. If you haven’t found the following, I highly recommend them:

    Editors & Preditors (http://pred-ed.com/pubagent.htm)
    Writer Beware Blogs with Victoria Strauss and AC Crispin (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/)
    Writer Beware Website (http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/)
    The Absolute Write Forum (http://bit.ly/ruXD4H)

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