Arming Yourself Against the Bad Agent

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jul 27 2018

Like most of the publishing industry, the BookEnds team has been troubled by the news of literary agent Danielle Smith and her fraudulent dealings with authors. Troubled, but not surprised that this happens (although we know nothing about Danielle Smith personally). Back in 2010, I wrote my first blog posts about avoiding bad agents. This isn’t a new phenomenon and Danielle Smith won’t be the last agent writers warn each other about.

In fact, in May I wrote a blog post imploring writers to do their research to protect themselves from signing with bad agents. We have been tracking stories on places like the Absolute Write forums and Query Tracker for months and when we get word from an author that they’ve signed with an agent without giving us an opportunity to “play” we immediately wonder if it’s one of these agents.

I haven’t done enough to protect authors from bad agents lately. I haven’t warned you enough or prepared you for how to handle it. I’m sorry about that. This week I made a video not just for those who are querying, but also in support of any author who feels they’ve fallen in with a bad agent and is now trapped, ashamed, or embarrassed. Don’t be. Get yourself out of the situation and remember that what that agent did is not a reflection of you. You signed with a bad agent, you were wowed by sparkly things (happens to me all the time). No one should judge you for that.

If you are querying, keep researching, get involved in the forums and message groups I discuss and know that 99% of all agents are good, hard-working author advocates who have your best interests at the core of everything they do.




12 responses to “Arming Yourself Against the Bad Agent”

  1. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    I think in the case of Danielle Smith it would have been a bit harder to pick because from what I understand she had made sales to big publishers (and she’d worked for two other literary agencies before opening her own).

    I have to commend BookEnds’ (and other) agents for stepping up and offering those caught in this horrid situation to query them – even when their lists are closed like Tracy Marchini. For all the terrible stories we hear, these are the ones that demonstrate how wonderful those in our industry can be.

  2. Avatar Rhay Christou says:

    This is such an important message…There is so much to look out for, and so many who are afraid to speak out. Thank you so much

  3. Avatar Nancy Parish says:

    Great advice!!! I’d add ask lots of questions and trust your gut! Love seeing Buford.

  4. Avatar Roi L Solberg says:

    Very interesting information, but hard to watch all the movement.

  5. Thank you for this amazing video! So much helpful information.

  6. Avatar NICOLE PARTON says:

    Dearest Buford:

    Your cameo in this video was memorable. Jessica was pretty good, too.

    Slurpy kisses –


  7. Avatar Hunter says:

    Thank you for creating a positive ‘face’ of agents/publishing, and for not keeping quiet. We’re with you, and thank you for rallying for us.

  8. Avatar Krystina says:

    Hi Jessica,

    First time I’ve seen the gorgeous Buford – am smitten!

    As always so much great information for those dipping their toes into the world of agents. Thanks so much.

  9. Avatar Sonia Ayoub says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I think many authors are feeling overwhelmed and scared because of this unfortunate situation and are unsure of how to properly arm ourselves against a “bad agent”. This was incredibly informative and helpful. I feel better equipped to navigate this terrifying and exciting next step.

  10. I really appreciated your comments. I particularly appreciated your words of encouragement to those of us who have escaped a bad situation.

  11. So glad to have found your blog, Jessica… I’m learning so much about the business of good and bad agents as I put together the facebook group Write Guard that I mentioned on another occasion.

  12. Avatar Julie Pace says:

    This absolutely happened to me! An agent who wouldn’t return emails until months had gone by and who refused to send me a sub list which has now damaged my chances with other agents who may not want to take a risk on a manuscript that MAY have been out on sub. (In retrospect, it probably was not, but I can’t prove that). She still has a good reputation and now works at another agency, while I am back to querying. Very frustrating, so I’m thrilled to see this blog getting out to more people!