20 Worst List Updated

When Ann and I put the 20 Worst Agencies list online at Writer Beware, we didn’t think we’d have to be tinkering with it very much. Most of the agencies on the list have been around at least since 1998, when Writer Beware was founded.

But in the world of questionable agents, a leopard can change his or her spots anytime it feels the need, and it isn’t uncommon for bad agencies to re-name themselves or to spin off a clone or two, in order to rake in more clients or escape a bad reputation on the Internet. Since the Worst Agencies went live on Absolute Write on March 13 of this year, we’ve discovered three name changes.

– American Literary Agents of Washington, Inc. is now doing business as Capital Literary Agency. (How do we know? They’re using the same URL and mailing address.)

– Finesse Literary Agency is now doing business as Elite Finesse Literary Agency. (How do we know? The owner, Karen Carr, didn’t change her name–or her fee-charging M.O.)

– And Sherwood Broome, Inc. is now doing business as Stillwater Literary Agency. (How do we know? Same agent–Mark Black. Different mailing address, but same location: Stillwater County, Montana. Same verbiage on website and publicity materials.)

We don’t flatter ourselves that the first two name changes had anything to do with the Worst Agencies List. But we have a hunch that the third one did. A check of the Whois data for Stillwater’s URL reveals that it was registered on March 31, 2006–just a couple of weeks after the 20 Worst List was published.

It’s nice to know we have an impact.


  1. I am not sufficiently stupid for Caroline DuBois Hutton, who exhibits unlimited ego, greed and a complete lack of conscience. She is destined for the list. Before I ever get into any sort of online arrangement, I always check the other side out. Now how do I find a legitimate literary agent? It’s a minefield of parasitic “agents” out there.

  2. Your 20 Worst List just saved me a lot of trouble and possibly a lot of money as I was able to contact WL Children’s Literary Agency about my
    manuscript which they accepted and wanted to represent me. Luckily I did not go with their advice of sending money to them to get my manuscript critiqued and got a friend who is a professional editor to do it instead.

    Keep up the good work and all the information that you provide is greatly appreciated.

    RR, Toronto

  3. I sent a manuscript to the Robbins Agency. I don’t believe they ever read it or even knew what they did with it. I stopped in their place of business one afternoon and was told to come in the next day. I believe that gave them time to pretend to be a real agency.
    They charged a friend of mine $500 to edit his manuscript He got NOTHING from them.
    Thanks for alerting writers about their scam.

  4. “What baffles me is why someone would choose to be a scam literary agent as a career path?”

    Because it’s totally easy and extremely lucrative. It’s also about a million percent easier than being a real literary agent.

    This gives me an idea for a post on the psychology of scammers. Stay tuned…

  5. I found a court site that listed the proceedings, but didn’t show the details, but it was enough to justify stating that the information appears to be true.

  6. What baffles me is why someone would choose to be a scam literary agent as a career path? I mean, are they bad people? Are they trying to defraud others? Or are they similar to those sad cat-hoarding ladies who think they’re doing good but really are not all there mentally?

    Thank you for the hard work. When I submit my queries in the next couple months, I will be glad that there were people on the net dedicated to educating new writers.

  7. I haven’t gotten documentation yet, but I’ve been promised it. I think we can state that the report is true.

    I’ll do a blog entry on this once I get final confirmation.

  8. I noticed a posting over at AW concerning Chris Robins. I’m trying to verify the report which I hope is true.

  9. I notice no one’s made a comment. Maybe we’re all just dumbfounded at the greasy greed of these people.

    I do want to say, though, thank you both for all you do. I check your blog regularly and wouldn’t make a move without you. I know there are thousands like me–not so vocal, maybe, but loyal. Thanks.

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