My good deed for today: I got an inquiry (that wasn’t exactly a query) in which the author explained that she wanted to be published but most of the publishers of her kind of book didn’t take unagented materials. She sent out 4 queries that got no reply, but did hear back from one agency that wanted her to pay for an assessment critique. The amount of money wasn’t as high as some that I’ve heard, but, as the author explained, their household budget is extremely tight and she just couldn’t come up with it. What she wanted to know was whether this was standard practice in the industry. I am so glad she asked. But I know that for everyone who finds someone to tell them How Things (Should) Work ™, there are probably many more that don’t.
Just in case there is someone out there reading this who doesn’t already know: Reputable agents work on commission. Commissions are based on selling your work. They make money if you make money. It’s a motivational system.
(There can be occasional, usually rare, overhead charges, but they are the exception, not the rule. And the agent should always discuss them with you ahead of time and get your approval.)
(Paranthetical #2: There are very good critique services out there that are worth their weight in gold (and cash). Plus there are some great free ones like Critters and OWW. Can anyone recommend some good non-SFF ones? Since I’m trying to expand my mystery/thriller and YA lists, those would be good to know…)
It makes me so steamed that I get emails like this every week (not at the authors). It’s hard enough getting the few every week full of vitriol aimed at a straightforward (and I’ve been told, not unkind) query rejection. These people out there who take advantage in this fashion just make it that much worse. I guess it explains why sometimes it’s no wonder that writers can come to view agents as antagonists in the publishing process rather than enablers.
So, where would you direct a new writer just starting out so they could get the information they need about things like how to query, how getting an agent works, how not to get scammed, etc.?