Legit Literary Agent Or Scam? Here’s How To Tell | Writer’s Relief

by | Literary Agents | 38 comments

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Legit Literary Agent Or Scam? Here’s How To Tell | Writer’s Relief

Having a literary agent express interest in representing your book is a dream come true for most writers, and you might be tempted to sign on the dotted line without any hesitation. But the experts at Writer’s Relief keep a close eye on the publishing industry and know that there are good, legitimate agents—and unscrupulous literary agents and publishing scams to which even the savviest writer may fall victim. Here’s how to tell if that seemingly great opportunity is from a legit literary agent or a scam.

How To Tell A Legit Literary Agent From A Scam

It’s important to know what you’re getting into before you sign any contracts. Do an Internet search and check out a prospective agent’s social media presence to get a feel for who they are. You’ll learn more what kind of agent they would be for you and might also uncover evidence of unprofessionalism that you will want to avoid.

Look into the agents or agencies you want to query, and when in doubt, ask for more info. You can even ask other seasoned writers, whether that be in your own circles or online. Writers are a close-knit bunch, so if someone finds a sketchy agent, they will most likely warn others to steer clear. Having a community is definitely a great way to find the resources and support you need for success.

Here are some red flags to watch for:

Signs To Watch Out For

Fees. Agencies only make money through book sales. That’s it. Full stop. Reading, evaluation, and marketing fees are not the standard and are even looked down upon by the publishing industry. This wasn’t always a red flag, but the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) abolished these kinds of fees after several agencies abused them, charging for material they had no intention of committing or even giving a chance to. And if an agent asks you to pay them for every small expense, they may not be legitimate.

Pie-in-the-sky promises. A good agent will never promise you’ll be the next J.K. Rowling, because that outcome is a fraction of a percent of what author success actually looks like. Agents who make outlandish promises of “best-seller sales” either aren’t familiar with the industry or are trying to bait you into signing with them—without ever intending to fulfill their end of the bargain. Instead, look for an agent who is more realistic about what they can offer and what you might achieve.

An offer from out of the blue. Dishonest agents sometimes troll online writers’ forums or purchase subscription lists from writers’ magazines to beef up their client list. Agents will never advertise in magazines or search for clients online, nor would they approach writers to offer representation. Yes, it may happen—but only for well-established authors. If you receive an offer from an agent whom you haven’t previously contacted, be sure to do some investigating.

Questionable submission methods. A literary agent who is unconventional may not be dishonest, but they might be inept. If an agent sends your work to editors who aren’t looking for your writing style or genre, or bundles several queries into one package, or uses shotgun types of submission methods, the outcome isn’t promising. These haphazard strategies show that the agent is trying desperate methods in hopes of randomly landing an editor.

Pay-to-play additional services. Reputable agents won’t push you to use specific products or services that they endorse. This could be a sign they are trying to take advantage of you, preying on your willingness to do whatever it takes—including spending more money—to get your book published.

Excessive flattery. A legitimate literary agent will be realistic with feedback and won’t shower you with gushing, over-the-top praise. If it seems like an agent is working extra hard to butter you up, it could be a sign they’re just trying to get you to commit to a contract—without really caring about you or your writing.

Signs A Literary Agent Is On The Up And Up

A good track record. A newer agency may not have a long list of published authors, but seeing how many authors the agent has represented and published shows their effectiveness and reliability. Keep in mind that a trustworthy new agent with no track record is better than a so-called established agent with a questionable reputation. Always check an agent’s claims and credentials.

Transparency. When asking you to sign on, the agent is the one being interviewed, not you. A reputable agent will be willing to answer questions, share evidence of their effectiveness, and explain how they will support and promote your work. An agent who is defensive or vague may not be trustworthy or reliable—and you wouldn’t want to work with someone like that anyway.

Professional attitude. A professional literary agent’s emails and web presence should not be filled with typos or grammatical errors. They should be respectful, responsive, and offer you common courtesy—and shouldn’t ignore your calls or emails.

If you’re worried about your ability to avoid publishing industry scams and to find a good agent on your own, the Writer’s Relief researchers are experts at vetting and targeting the best agents for your writing style and genre. You can rest assured the literary agents carefully selected for you by our team will be professional and reputable. Learn more about our services, and submit your writing to our Review Board today!

 

Question: What publishing scams should writers be on the lookout for?

38 Comments

  1. carmel maria foster

    How can I confirm this company is legit?

    QUANTUM DISCOVERY LITERARY AGENCY

    Reply
    • Blog Editor

      Hi Carmel,

      A literary agent or agency does not charge for services. A quick internet search shows a number of posts that suggest Quantum Discovery Literary Agency may not be functioning in this capacity.

      Reply
    • ROSETTA BILLINGSLEY

      20twenty literary. Nicole@2020literaey.com is this a real company they called me about a book writing deal

      Reply
      • Irene

        Is Jay Thompson Twenty 20 Literary Group publisher & marketing real or are they a scam. Please let me know. He called today. Sounds good and redl. Just wanted to check to be safe.

        Reply
        • Blog Editor

          See the Reddit thread we posted above.

          Reply
      • William H. Vasilakis

        I wrote a book. And am in the process of a rewrite. A Michael L. Page literary agent from Sony pictures would like to talk to to me about buying the rights. Not sure if he is a scammer?

        Reply
        • Blog Editor

          Hi William,

          There are a few other comments about this person. We believe it is a scam.

          Reply
  2. Jim Rosselle

    I was contacted by Kelsey Garcia from Tyler Literary, can’t find anything on her and not much on Tyler Literary. Looks like they have a rented office in Chicago for $50 a month. What do you think?

    I write books under the name JP Rosselle

    Reply
    • Blog Editor

      Hi Jim,

      We have no insights into this agency, however, we would recommend proceeding with caution if this agent contacted you out of the blue. You may find more info about this agency here: https://tylerliterary.com/

      Reply
  3. Sonja Simpson

    We received an email requesting a time to talk about our book. We scheduled the meeting and met with Michael Page. He sounded Pakistani, but said that he represented Sony Pictures. He mentioned that Sony is working with Netflix to source out existing material from new artist and found our book. They read it and thought it would be a good series for Netflix. He said that he does not need anything from us but a script for screenplay, which we already have. We also have a soundtrack, but we didn’t share that. He then said that he would follow up with us by November to see if we have the script/screenplay complete. Again assuring us that he is not looking for anything from us financially. He shared that they would offer $450k as an advance and a percentage in royalties or views? I’m not quite sure here, because we were excited about this potential opp. The only catch is his email was michaelpage.sonypictures@gmail.com. That’s an odd email address. Equally off that our book is copywriter, we already have a script for screenplay and a soundtrack that we were hoping to launch one day, so how would they know this? Is there any way to find out if he is legit, or that he works for Sony pictures/Netflix?

    Reply
    • Blog Editor

      We do not work with screenplays so do not have any insights into this industry. But we would recommend caution and speaking with a lawyer familiar with the film industry.

      Reply
    • Lauren

      I had the same person reaching out, did you have any further interaction with him?

      Reply
  4. Alter

    I was contacted through email by a Book Business Executive and a Marketing Consultant, they explained that they would need to rebrand and republish which would cause a fee. Their not very transparent and the reason for this is because of a strict non-disclosure agreement, so I’m unable to see other books they have either rebranded or published. What do I do?

    Reply
    • Blog Editor

      We are not lawyers so cannot offer any legal advice. We would recommend talking with a lawyer who is familiar with the publishing industry.

      Reply
  5. Judy Prescott

    Having already been scammed once, I am very cautious but only recently had almost believed a literary agency about acquisition by a traditional publisher for my first written book.
    All had appeared legit as they were asking for no fees until, suddenly they wanted $3250 for a book license.
    Thompson Literary agency have now emailed me about my book. Are they legit?

    Reply
  6. Onye

    I received a message on instagram on my book account from a Chris Daniels, asking me to call to discuss acquiring an agent because my book was looked over due to the lack of it. So when I called the number I end up speaking to someone else named Felix Cooper. He claims to be with Authors Empire Agency located in New York. But his heavy Chinese accent and other circumstances make it hard to believe. Every time he calls I can barely hear him because of all the static and noise in his background.
    First he say’s everything is free and I only have to expect a book deal. Then he mentions I should work with an agency to correct some stuff a Traditional Publishing Company requested. This agency is charging $2,500 and that’s the only charge I’m expected to cover. That sounds shady.
    He also mentioned the possible book deal is with Penguin House Publishing.
    How do I confirm if any of this is real?

    Reply
    • Blog Editor

      Hi Onye!

      We agree there are a lot of red flags here. And there has been an uptick in people posing as literary agents and scamming writers out of cash. You may find this article from Poets & Writers informative: https://www.pw.org/content/scams_bait_selfpublished_authors

      Reply
    • Sydney Ulph

      Hi, I received the same thing and now upon reading this I’m wondering if I’ve made a mistake. Is it real or just a scam??

      Reply
    • Tmaka

      Hey Onye, I’ve experienced the same thing. Been reached out by the same person and was told the same things. Have you been working with him? If so, how’s the progress? I’m feeling kind of iffy about it as well.

      Reply
  7. Mary Krambeer

    I received a letter from Eaton Literary Agency saying that they liked the manuscript I submitted but that it needs “in-depth analysis to bring it up to professional standards.” They charge $225 for this fee. Does that sound legit?

    Reply
  8. Marie Burke

    I have been approached by a. Literary agent called James McGowan at bookend’s literary agency
    He guarantees me that he can get my self published children’s book published by a traditional publishing company
    Is he legit?

    Reply
    • Blog Editor

      Hi Marie,

      We have no insights into this agency, however, we would recommend proceeding with caution if this agent contacted you out of the blue. You may find more info about this agency/agent here: https://bookendsliterary.com/myauthors/james-mcgowan/

      Reply
    • sandra Novello

      Scammers – I recieved an email with the name Pete Ford at the top of the email. Introduced himself as James MsGowan in the email message and signed the email as Pete Ford????
      Its a scam!!!
      Aquistitions is a typical scam company. Look up writers beware

      Reply
  9. Lisa

    I was contacted by phone. Kate Harding of The Literary Firm. She sent a follow up email asking for an updated bio, manuscript, updated photo, any book covers or illustrations I own the rights to, and to get a book license. I have the choice of finding my own attorney. I have not been asked for any money. She was supposedly contacted by a publisher to contact me and to “clean up grammar and update terminology,” to present in their 2nd round. She states, if the book is chosen by the publisher, her cut is 8% of any advances and money received by publisher to sign with the publisher.

    Reply
    • Blog Editor

      Thank you for your comment, Lisa!

      Reply
      • Lisa

        Does it sound legitimate?

        Reply
        • Blog Editor

          Hi Lisa,

          We’ve never heard of a “book license” and other writers have reported that this company is not legit. We’d recommend you speak with a lawyer of your choosing who is familiar with the publishing industry, and to tread carefully.

          Reply
          • Lisa

            It was a scam. The name of the agency they are using is “The Literary Firm.” My supposed agent was Kate Harding.

          • Blog Editor

            Thanks, Lisa!

  10. mark wright

    Hello,
    I am wondering about a company called AG Literary Agency in Nevada.
    Are they legitimate or a scam?

    Reply
  11. Carmelo Pinnavaria

    I was contacted by phone. Kate Harding of The Literary Firm.
    It was a pleasure speaking with you, and congratulations on reaching the final round with one of the country’s most prestigious traditional publishers. I am confident that your book, “Court vs Pro-se (TRUE STORY At War for Justices)” will make a strong impression during the final screening. 
     
    I briefly outlined what happens once your book is selected after the final screening, emphasizing the significance of this opportunity for both you and your book. However, it’s crucial to bear in mind that there are other competing books. To enhance our chances of securing that contract, we need to collaborate on creating an outstanding presentation for your book.
    In this regard, the first step is to comply with and submit the following requirements:
    Author Bio (please include a list of your other published works and your future plans as a writer)
    A soft copy of the full manuscript of your book (in PDF or Word format)
    A digital copy of your book cover design and images used in the book
    Book License certificate (to be processed by a copyright attorney)
    High-resolution photos of yourself

    If you need assistance with any of these requirements, kindly inform me at your earliest convenience. My goal is to compile and submit all necessary documents next week. Please be reminded that the final screening is scheduled for March 27, 2024. Your prompt attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.

    Kate Harding
    Senior Literary Agent
    +1-607-308-5888
    kate.harding@theliteraryfirm.com
    http://www.TheLiteraryfirm.com

    As of today, she has not responded to my emails of call me for an update.
    Scam?????? Stay tuned.

    Reply
    • Blog Editor

      Hi Carmelo,

      Others have commented that this company is a scam.

      Reply
  12. Alan Flory

    Ava Dixon
    Sr. Literary Manager | LeapWrite Literary

    I was contacted by this person yesterday. She claims to be a legitimate literary agent. I have not been able to find much on the internet to verify that this is a real inquiry or a scam. Can you provide some incite?

    Reply
    • Blog Editor

      Hi Alan,

      We are not familiar with this agent or agency.

      Reply

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