Recently, Ann and I compiled a list of Writer Beware’s 20 Worst Agents, which we posted to WritersNet, Absolute Write, and Miss Snark (check out the comments from people who were rooked by agencies on the list). Since then, we’ve been waiting for the inevitable explosion, and taking bets on who’d be first. We were wrong: it wasn’t Agent B, who has cease-and-desisted us several times over the past few months. It was Agent R.
Here’s what Agent R, a.k.a. Cris Robins of the Robins Literary Agency, has to say on her website about Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors. Responding point by point:
For years I’ve sat back, quietly, and listened to Ann Crispin and Victoria Straus and even the Preditors & Editors page say how they’ve had all these complaints about us; how we are not recommended; how we do this wrong and that wrong.
Not quite quietly. Back in 1998 or 1999, when my phone number was listed in my name (rather than my husband’s, who has a different surname), Cris called me up to yell at me for providing warnings about her agency, and to demand why Writer Beware thought it was such a big deal to recommend paid editing services to clients and potential clients (making editing recommendations was at that time a main focus of the agency). I tried to explain, though I could hardly get a word in edgewise. Eventually she hung up on me.
Cris also contacted Ann and me under an alias to try and find out what we were saying about her agency and, possibly, to tempt us into making actionable statements. And she showed up under another alias at a writers’ message board where I was a regular participant (an alias she has used in the past to provide bogus testimonials about her agency) to argue vigorously in favor of agents charging huge upfront fees.
So, I’m wondering why is it then, when presented with a sterling opportunity to bring all these so-called complaints to light, when the rubber hits the road and the chance to really put a sword in our hearts and potentially prove all their claims, do they back down? When they are in a position of having nothing to lose and EVERYTHING to gain, do they do nothing? When their claims finally have a chance of being brought into the light of justice, do they stand back and let them die?
We’re not exactly backing down. Since this time last year, I’ve responded in email to 27 questions/comments about Ms. Robins: 6 general questions about the agency’s business practices, 19 very similar complaints/advisories (many with documentation) citing fees and other irregularities (currently, the agency charges $3,250 for a year of representation, often using a hard-sell telephone approach to try and convince dubious writers) and 2 other problems (a publisher irritated about inappropriate submissions, a writer claiming nonperformance on a ghostwriting contract).
Perhaps it is as I’ve said all along – they have NO verifiable claims or complaints against us; they have not one letter, e-mail, or person who can stand up and declare with righteousness – “This is what the Robins Agency did to me and it was wrong.”
Bzzt. Wrong. See above.
But, don’t take my word for it, take theirs. Ann Crispin was approached by someone filing a complaint against our agency with the Missouri Attorney General’s office. She was asked for any and all complaints against us to put with this complaint. Her response: “If you’d like to talk with us about the info and documentation regarding her in our database, please call me.”
A point of correction: Ann was not approached by any complainant. She was responding to a request for contact by someone named Christopher Dahl, posted at the Robins Agency thread on Absolute Write. Also, I’d like to know how inviting someone to call for information is “backing down.”
(P.S., Cris–posting someone’s email online without their permission is a copyright violation.)
The results: NOTHING. Not one single piece of information in her so-called database was ever included in the filing. Why is this?
Uh…maybe because this Christopher Dahl never responded to Ann’s invitation to phone? Neither Ann nor I ever heard anything at all from this individual.
We contend that it’s because there is nothing that she has that can withstand the scrutiny of a legal filing. Yet, by her own admissions, she feels justified in warning hundreds of writers away from us? And this is a good service to her readers; to deny them opportunities just because she can?
Actually, we are happy to help writers pass up an opportunity to waste $3,250. And we feel comfortably justified in warning writers about the nonstandard practices of the Robins Literary Agency, which now and in the past include or have included:
- Recommendation of the agency’s own paid editing services, often on the basis of just three sample chapters (a conflict of interest: if an agent can profit financially by recommending editing, how can a writer trust that the recommendation is being made in his/her best interest?)
- Charging upfront “retainers”–currently $3,250 for a year of representation (reputable agents don’t charge these kinds of fees)
- Misrepresenting the agency’s qualifications (to potential clients, Cris claims to be one of the “top 10 agencies in the nation.” She’s currently claiming a sale–of her own book–to Adams Media, an established independent publisher that doesn’t require authors to be agented. But before that, to our knowledge, the Robins Literary Agency had never placed a book with a commercial US publisher in the whole of its nine or so years of existence–not…one…book…EVER)
- Misrepresenting typical business practice among reputable literary agents (in her phone sell to potential clients, Cris claims that charging huge retainers is standard. And check out the agency’s FAQ page, where, among other gems of misinformation, it’s stated that agents don’t “usually” reveal their track records “as past performance has little bearing on the type of job they can do for you.”)
Dave Kuzminski, Editor at Preditors & Editors, had the same request made of him. His response: a listing of contact information of three former editors who used to work for us, a haphazard accounting of our business manager, and two former clients. Yet, he provided no complaints of any kind and preferenced all of his information with they MAY be able to help you.
The results: NOTHING. Again, not one of the people Mr. Kuzminski said could possibly help this claim against us did; not one single letter, e-mail, or person was presented to uphold their allegations of wrong doing on our part.
(Dear me, copyright violation again!) I’m guessing that Mr. Dahl never responded to Dave, either.
Here’s something else. Supposedly, we’re talking about a complaint to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office–not a claim in court, where rules of discovery would apply. Is it the policy of Attorney General offices to share complaint files with the objects of those complaints? Somehow I doubt it. So…how is it that Cris has Ann’s and Dave’s emails in her possession? Think about it.
And so it goes, they spread poison for no other reason than they can. They are the perfect examples of why information on the net is unreliable at best and harmful to the reader at worst. If they don’t like the way we do business, fine. But, they have no right to rob their readers of opportunities they can’t find elsewhere by spreading their unsubstantiated claims.
For a prime example of unreliable information on the Internet, I again recommend a visit to Cris’s FAQ page.
If all the things they said about us were true, that would be one thing. But, when they are given the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and back down that just shows the validity to their claims is non-existent.
However, the validity of our agency rests in that we have never had a claimed filed against us that we’ve lost in any court, jurisdiction, or government agency. THAT has to say something about the way we do business. We’ve proven ourselves time and time again when we’ve had everything to lose; why can’t they prove anything when they’ve everything to gain?
It’s actually rather pathetic that while other literary agents call on things like track record and reputation to demonstrate their validity, Cris can only call on the fact that she’s never lost a claimed [sic] in court.
So Cris–how about you put your money where your mouth is? Tell us how you’ve proven yourself “time and time again.” Have you proven that you have a track record of sales to commercial publishers? Have you proven that you have standing in the industry? Have you proven that you do more for your clients than take their money and give them empty promises?
It’s up to you, the reader, to decide – are you going to believe someone who can’t back up their own claims, or are you going to stop and believe in yourself, your gut, and your work.
That’s right, dear Reader–it is up to you. It’s up to you to do your research. It’s up to you to learn the right questions to ask, and to ask them without timidity. It’s up to you to educate yourself about the publishing industry and how it works. If you do–if you believe in yourself and your work enough to put in the time and make the effort–you’ll have no problem knowing whom to believe. We promise.