The internet and social media have transformed writer/agent/publisher interactions in many ways, one of which is the proliferation of Twitter pitch events, such as #PitMad, #DVPit, and others.
While no online innovation has (so far) managed to supplant the traditional query-and request route, these events do attract plenty of reputable agents and publishers–unlike other purported shortcuts (*cough*Publishizer*cough*). However, inevitably, they are also stalked by marginals, amateurs, and even scammers.
For instance, Eliezer Tristan Publishing, which charged a $500 fee and went out of business just months after opening up, haunted #PitMad. Ditto for GenZ publishing, which charges authors $2,500. Burchette and Ferguson, a brand-new publisher staffed by people with zero relevant experience, participated in pitch events before they even launched (and went out of business shortly thereafter).
Then there’s this:
I’ve gotten many, many other questions about approaches by dubious companies and individuals as a result of pitch events. All in all, therefore, it pays to be careful, and if you haven’t heard of an individual or publisher who approaches you, to research them before responding. (You can contact me; I may have heard something.)
Which leads me to the subject of today’s post. I might not normally devote an entire blog post to one marginal agent, but this one is such an egregious example, and seems to be so active on social media–including #PitMad–that I think she’s worth a special feature.
Pigeon House Literary Agency launched just this past February. It’s run by Druella Burhan, whose resume includes none (zero, zip) of the relevant background experience you typically want to see from a new literary agent–such as a professional writing resume, or having previously worked for a reputable agency or publisher.
The lofty claims Burhan does make are either unverifiable, or provably false. For instance, here’s Harvard Medical’s publication on its 2011 MD-PhD graduates. Surprise! There’s no mention of Druella Burhan.
Here’s some of Burhan’s agenting philosophy:
The logo (for lack of a better word) at the top of this post provides a preview of the rest of the Pigeon House site (a Wix freebie), which is amateurishly formatted and clearly not proofread (several pages have fully-justified text, with words cut off at the end of lines–I mean, it’s a Wix freebie, it’s not like you have to be an expert to get it right) and rife with typos, grammatical errors, and bizarre word use. For instance,
That’s bad, but here’s what it originally looked like. Burhan changed it shortly after I tweeted about it:
There’s more: the Who We Are page, which bafflingly proclaims that the agency will “strive to bring a supreme appealingness and picturesque style of books from darkness to life”; the Foreign Rights page, which erroneously cautions writers that “If a literary agent does not agree to take you on as an international client/author, you will not be able to sell books overseas”; the Referrals page, where Burhan bizarrely invites other agents to send her clients. And here’s the contract she is sending out, which includes the same formatting/proofreading errors as her website, and is really just an embarrassment.
It’s a perfect carnival of amateurism.
Am I being mean? Maybe, but before you whip out the “everyone has to start somewhere” argument, consider Burhan’s false claims about herself and her aggressive use of social media to recruit clients despite her obvious ignorance and complete lack of relevant qualifications (I first heard of her because she was trolling on Reddit, and she is actively inviting queries on her Twitter feed).
The damage an amateur agent can do is considerable–squandering clients’ chances with substandard submissions, submitting to disreputable or incompetent publishers, inadequately understanding publishing contract language and therefore not capable of effectively negotiating it. An amateur agent may not drain a writer’s bank account the way a scammer would, but the bottom line isn’t that different: no sale, and lots of wasted time.
UPDATE 8/6/21: Druella Burhan is still seeking clients. There’s no sign of any sales for the agency.
That had occurred to me too (Google Translate). But she's claiming to rep English-language books in English-speaking markets. Call me kooky, but not having to rely on Google Translate might be a plus for that.
(Deleted and resubmitted with a clarification.)
Ya know, Druella there might not be a bad writer at all – in her native language. A lot of that wonky marketing copy reads like classic Google translate. You can also see where she had to add in a sentence of her own because of how differently it parses – a good example is the “We will be be checking to see if you are an agent, and if your not, your referral will be REJECTED” screed.
It kills me to think some people might actually fall for her act.
I also loved “manducate” for the same reason, Anonymous! It turns out it’s a real word (who knew?), but I’m not sure why she thinks authors would want her to chew or eat them through their (integral! multifaceted!) careers.
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I kind of like the word "manducate." It's like "mansplaining" in reverse.
After the PItch Wars in late 2019 autumn, I was approached by GenZ. I entered their site and saw that there were only three authors mentioned, none of them had books on Goodreads and so on. They are not on the list of I chose to pass and never heard from them again. Moreover, they are not on the list of approved publishers (Mystery Writers of America.) Thank you for mentioning a link to that list in a previous post.
It’s quite sad. This so-called agent was the only one who favored my pitch tweet, but I didn’t think she was legit from reading her sorry English.
Sounds like they heard of a great way to make money off of others and just can't wait to start raking it in – too bad they can't even fake it right … I'm reminded of those microsoft and apple calls telling me my computer is doing bad things on the internet and they are calling to help me with my little problem.
My reply was to say it's about time ms/apple called me back and I'd then demand the case/ticket number they're working on – which caused them to hang up for some reason. (As I never registered any of my systems there's no way/reason they will be calling …)
I can definitely see those Twitter events being great fodder for scams, especially for people who don't know better.
People like that "agent" remind of those TurboTax commercials that say, "Anyone can do taxes." Well, sure, just like anyone can do open-heart surgery. You CAN do it; you just probably won't do it as well as someone who actually has training and experience. Anyone CAN be an agent; they just probably won't do it as well as someone who has training and experience.