Vicki's Book News and Articles

Business: Unethical Agents

Written by Vicki Hinze

On December 28, 2010

Vicki Hinze © 2000-2011

Q. I’ve had serious problems with two agents. Both agreed to represent me and then did nothing. The first one for six months. The second one for four months. They’ve wasted a year of my time and I’ve just been waiting. How can I make sure Agent #3 isn’t like this?
A. First, you need to remember that there is no governing body that licenses agents. Your best protection is AAR (Association of Authors Representatives). This group is comprised of agents who have developed a code of ethics they swear to abide by. AAR agents also must sell x number of manuscripts during any given 5 year period of time to stay members of the association. If there are complaints filed, they address and resolve them. If an agent is a member of AAR, you know they are selling books.
I’m not saying agents who don’t belong to AAR–the requirements are pretty stiff–are crooked. I’m saying if you don’t know who you’re dealing with, then this is a gauge to help you to protect yourself. And if an agent in whom you’re interested isn’t a member, I’d be asking why not. It could be theirs is a new agency (like Trident Media, headed by Robert Gottlieb who was a honcho at William Morris [the largest agency in the world] for years).
Also, you can check with Predators and Editors online. It lists specifics to watch out for and says why.
You can check with Author’s Guild or other writing organizations, such as Romance Writers of America (the largest writing organization in the world) to see if there are complaints lodged against an agent or agency.
Lastly, check with the chamber of commerce in the local area where the agent is located and ask if there have been complaints filed.
There is no fail-safe method, that’s true. But do these things and talk to you writing friends and peers. It’s a billion dollar a year industry, but it’s a small community and word gets around fast.*


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