Agents, Publishers, and Scams, Oh My!

We live in a crooked world.

This is apparent in most of what we see and do. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone is a crook, just as not everyone is out to get you. But there are a lot of them out there, all looking legit.

I won’t name names, but there is an individual promoting heavily on social media under the guise of being a literary agent. This person appears legit, company and all; however, a dive into business practices and comments from past clients share the same story; a front to promote editing services in the hope that your work will become strong enough to be picked up. Only that does not happen. Costs a lot. And while we all could benefit from solid editing and should take advantage of finding an editor, even though it means stretching the budget, there are many less painful and less costly ways to do this. This person is preying on writers who know no better, and I categorize that practice as predatory and no better than vanity publishing.

This article will give you some tips on recognizing them and some resources that can help steer you clear. 

The First Rule

The first rule is that you should not have to pay an agent or publisher. Legitimate ones get a percentage of your earnings. 

This is why Vanity Presses, so called because they appeal to your desire to be published, are to be avoided. For a fee, they will do all the work and still get a percentage of your royalties. 

So what work do they do? Edits, proofing, cover design, layout, submissions to Online publishers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. 

If you think that is a good deal, think again. Generally, the most difficult part of publishing your work is the edits and cover design. You can get a cover designer on for a low cost, and you can do most of the editing yourself (see the tip on low-cost editing in this issue), leaving room in your budget for an external proofer to catch those niggly mistakes that always survive.

Repeat the first rule out loud because you will encounter publishers with a great explanation of why you should pay some of those costs. 

As for Literary Agents, or Book Agents, here there are just as many scams. 

I was friended on a social media platform by one such agent. The message was benign, stating that he/she had seen my postings and invited me to submit a chapter and cover letter to their offices via email or post. This is the one I refer to at the start of this article. Perhaps you have encountered this person as well. 

Sounds legit, right?

Checking the website, I could see the agent had many authors represented. However, none of the names stood out as anyone I had seen on a bestseller list, in interviews, or in any way I would expect an agency to represent. Furthermore, the publishers that handled these clients were small and vanity press outfits. 


The second rule is that no matter who publishes your book—you, a mainstream publisher—YOU will still have to market the book to get it noticed. 

You are a small fish in a very large ocean, and everyone and their grandmother has published something—usually badly done, badly edited, bad cover. This affects you. 

Imagine standing downtown in San Francisco, holding your book high. With the throngs of people, will anyone notice you? 

So you must devise a way to make your book stand out. And that will NOT happen on social media—honestly, social media is a pool of vampire writers all trying to sell each other their books. 

A warning from several online writer groups, including 

Scammers are very active again. Have you been contacted?

There is no shortage of scamming literary agents, publishers, and the like that approach writers on this and other forums or via email. 

Before you get enamored, do some research. One link is above. Here are some more. They will open in a new window so you can keep the list active:

And THIS ONE is especially important—

Stay safe out there. We work too hard to be fooled!