Maggie’s Question

Okay, here we are for the second question of the 7 posted. Maggie asked: “Do you think all these scams have made the publishing world distrustful? What impact will it have on, say, pseudonyms?”

Maggie, the world of the publishing and agenting scammer exists completely outside the world of the real publishers and agents. Many people in the real publishing world are only peripherally aware that publishing and agenting scams exist!

A few years ago, the then-President of AAR was asked to comment on the Deering scam. She fumfawed her way through the reporter’s questions in a way that made it clear that she didn’t have a clue what the Deerings had been up to. The closest she could come was to think of real agents that had been found guilty of embezzlement, ala Jay Garon that I talked about earlier.

These days, most first readers in publishing houses are fairly well aware of scam LITERARY AGENTS. Why? Because some scam agents (not all, by any means) actually do query on behalf of their clients. Most never submit any query packages, but a few do send in chapters, even.

Why would they do this, you ask? If they’ve already been paid by the author to submit, why bother to actually do it? Well, there are a couple of reasons. Some do it, I suspect, to have postal records that will prove they were submitting in case clients complain to the police or the postal inspector. Others do it because they want to rack up a string of rejections to soften the author up so they can then call the (increasingly desperate) author up and gush, “Are you sitting down? We have a sale!” Of course they neglect to say that the “sale” is to a vanity press, frequently one that the agent also owns…

So yes, there are first readers in publishing houses who know immediately upon receiving a submission from Janet Kay Literary Agency, or Deering Literary Agency not to even bother to glance at what’s in the envelope. It goes in the round file, or the postcard enclosed is returned with a “no” checked off, if the “agent” provided one. (One very successful scammer does indeed provided stamped postcards of this sort, just so she can get a bunch of rejections.)

As for commercial publishing editors being aware of vanity and scam publishers, they are more aware of them than they used to be. The reason for that is, writers query all the time, claiming a PublishAmerica book (or the POD/e-book equivalent) as a “publication credential.” Editors quickly realize what this means in terms of real publication: exactly ZIP.

As to what effect all of this will have on pen names, I don’t think it really will have much. I think that writers of memoirs will experience some burden of proof as a result of the James Frey fallout.

Remember…the world of scam publishing and agenting operates independently from the real publishing world. It’s rather like a negative of a photographic image. Everything in the scam world is twisted, distorted, and it bears little resemblance to the actual world of commercial publishing. Scammers deliberately twist, “spin” and invent so much, that their version of how publishing works bears only a very surface resemblance to the real thing in New York.

It’s not like scammers ever get invited to book launch parties, or taken to lunch by publishers, etc.

There’s an anecdote in Jim Fisher’s book (and if you haven’t read it, you should!) Ten Percent of Nothing: The Literary Agent from Hell that perfectly illustrates this. He described Dorothy Deering and Charles Deering waltzing into the lobby of a publishing house in Manhattan, dressed like country cousins, laden down with box upon box of manuscripts. When the bemused receptionist finally convinced an editor to come out and speak to this weird looking pair, and the editor introduced herself, Dorothy exclaimed, “It’s about time! Here they are!” and let the boxes she was holding slide to the floor. Charles did likewise. They then turned without another word, and left the building, leaving a stunned editor and receptionist exchanging incredulous glances.

I think that incident illustrates pretty perfectly that there is little relationship between the “negative image” world of the scammer, and the real world of the commercial publisher/legitimate literary agent.

Maggie, I hope that answered your question.

-Ann C. Crispin
Writer Beware

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

MARCH 12, 2006

Dave’s Question…

MARCH 23, 2006

Go Ahead. Make My Day.