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Agents Beware

It’s been years since I’ve done a blog post warning authors of unscrupulous agents–those with little to no experience looking to take advantage of an author’s dreams. Recently though, we had an interesting experience where an unscrupulous “editor” was looking to take advantage of us.

A few weeks ago we received an email from a freelance editor about a client of his. He claimed that he met one of us at a conference a few years ago and was told to get in touch about any of his clients with real promise. Immediately this felt fishy and not like something any of us would do. Not in the way he described anyway. We are happy to hear from editors we know who have someone they think has promise, but I can’t imagine any of us telling someone we don’t know to do this. Or at least, not in the way this editor was presenting.

Instead of calling him out we decided to do a little investigating ourselves, thinking maybe a picture would ring some bells and maybe we did tell him to send us material. See, we’ll give people the benefit of the doubt. Instead, what we found were red flags and warnings all over the internet about a con artist who scams unsuspecting women, and has run into problems with the law in several states for his scams. On top of that, the name he gave wasn’t even real. And apparently the client doesn’t exist—it’s just a pseudonym he created for himself.

All of this reminded me that I haven’t reminded authors for a long time to become very familiar with Writer Beware, one of the best resources writers can have when it comes to evaluating and checking on agents.

Now, back to thinking up the most effective and enjoyable way to call this con artist out.

Category: Blog



  1. Tell him you love the concept of the material he’s sent but the editing was so poor you’re unable to take it on? 😀

  2. I have a little bit of an evil streak running through me that is screaming. “Ask her to let us know what she does”

    I hope you manage to take this shark out of our pool, or at least take a big bit out of his ugly mush.

  3. Isn’t it a shame that as writers, and as members of today’s society, we have to look over our shoulders so much. Nice to know there are wise folks ahead, parting the crowd and keeping us aware. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Call me sadistic, but I love playing games with these sort of cons. My daughter got into one where a person on Craigslist was looking for babysitting services and wanted to send her a large check to be cashed and then distributed, via Western Union, to other providers. We danced around and dragged it out to the point of actually receiving the check, then turned it into the bank for fraud investigation — then sent the con a note telling them precisely who they might be contacted by next. And over the last few weeks, my tutoring business received a similar inquiry — woman wanted tutoring for her son, would I take her check, cash it keeping a little for myself, and send the remainder to the caregiver? That one I really enjoyed, giving the con an inane little back and forth email conversation designed to drive them crazy till I finally didn’t hear back. Didn’t get to the point of receiving a check to turn in, but that’s okay; I had fun anyway.

    There’s always a payout for the con, and I try to keep them dancing right at that point. In this case I can imagine telling the “editor” how awesome his client sounds, and then in (excessively) long missives explain how important an exclusive opportunity is to you, and just keep baiting him for a few months (“Oh, your third chapter is so lovely, I can’t put it down — except for when I have to, but I’ll get to the end, I promise!”) before you finally let him down with “you suck for even trying this.”

    …but that’s just me. I may not write the same kind of books as the other Stephen King, but I think I picked up some of the attitude regardless….

  5. One of the worst scams I went through, turned out to be the biggest thrill. $23,000.00 worth of thrill.

    Working as an HVAC admin, we took on a large commercial job. The 3rd party company who took care of the stores HVAC/plumbing (etc) needs, promised payment on completed job within 5 business days.

    We did the job, was given a check number and told it was in route. Two weeks later, no payment. Again, we were given a check number, the excuse they didn’t know what happened and its back in the mail. Jump ahead a month. NO MONEY!

    Well, many don’t know, anything connected to your home/business/building, is yours. Period. After speaking with every higher up, (taking names/dates etc) I decided to call the actual store (not 3rd party company) and BLUFF. I told them how sorry I was we’d have to come disconnect and take our unit back. Asked for as high up as the local store manager to get me (was a major chain jewelry store) and finally got to corporate.

    Turns out they were being sued by the 3rd party company, yet had paid their monthly fee’s and were now counter-suing for breach of contract. After speaking a bit, the Corp manager and I came to an agreement.

    I’d leave the unit AND forward all my documentation (names, dates, false check numbers, etc) if she’d overnight the payment. I told her to deduct the overnight fee and knew my paperwork would be a major help to them in court.

    Got the money the next day and sent the proof they needed of the unethical practices of the 3rd party company.

    Have to admit, it was one heck of a high.
    Thanks for the Writer Beware reminder,

  6. People really, really want to trust, and that’s what makes the scammers so successful, way too often. It’s a good thing to be willing to give the benefit of the doubt, but it’s good to hear the warnings and referrals to resources like Writer Beware…thanks for sharing!

  7. I recently received several e-mails from an “agent.” The person read the sort-of synopsis on my personal website. According to the e-mail, the writing was highly polished, the story fascinating and the agent excited about reading the full manuscript. Obviously, this is the type thing all writers dream about. A couple of years ago I may have jumped first and asked questions later, but experience has taught me well. There were several glaring issues: I’m redesigning my website and have only a very brief and incomplete excerpt from the manuscript on the site. The site is — at the moment — something of a mess, certainly not the professional level I want. Finally — and most important — no legit agent works in such a fashion.

    I’ve been published in some travel and nature publications and have a narrow reputation in my area due to my work, but I don’t have major publishing credits. In short, I’m an unknown. I ignored the e-mail. Then, about a week later, I received a second e-mail, almost identical to the first. In the second e-mail, the “agent” talked of money. Together we might make some serious money. Of-course, she might have to take some up-front money, but it would be a great investment on my part. DING-DING-DING! Again, this isn’t how publishing works. A few days later a third e-mail arrived. Didn’t I understand what an opportunity she was offering? My novel would become a New York Times bestseller, she was certain. Wasn’t it worth a small investment to begin my soon to be successful writing career? Um-ha…I didn’t write a novel. I wrote a memoir. Long story shorter – I sent a copy of the e-mail to WRITER BEWARE and blocked further communications.

  8. I’m so grateful for sites like Writer Beware (another is Preditors & Editors). I discovered them very early on and have learnt so much since.

    Good luck, Jessica, with your preditor!

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