Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Victoria Strauss 2--Fun With Writer Beware

I was out most of yesterday, driving my husband to get tests and assessments for surgery he’s having this coming Monday (nothing serious, just mechanical problems with a knee injury). When I got home, an e-mail from SFWA’s legal counsel was waiting for me. A literary agent--let’s call her Agent B--had contacted him with a “cease and desist” demand for the “post created and maintained by sfwa [sic] as claimed by Victoria Strauss. It is disparaging and inappropriate. Delete it promptly.”

Understandably, he wanted to know what Agent B was talking about. Was Agent B mentioned on the Writer Beware website? If so, what did we say about her?

Now, there are two problems here (for Agent B, not for us). First, we don’t mention agents’ names on Writer Beware, unless the agents have been indicted or convicted, are the focus of a lawsuit, or are the target of an official investigation. I suspect that Agent B is referring to a post I made about her business practices on a particular writers’ message board--in which case, she should have approached the owner of the board, not SFWA’s counsel.

Second, she knows as well as we do that what I’ve said is true. Not flattering--not flattering at all--but true, and thus kind of hard to pass off as “disparaging” or “inappropriate.” Maybe she thinks we’re relaying hearsay, or peddling rumor. Maybe she thinks we can’t muster up anything to support our statements.

Bwa-ha-ha. She’s wrong.

Writer Beware has been tracking Agent B since 1997. We’ve gathered numerous reports and complaints about her upfront fees (a “processing” fee, a nonrefundable representation fee, and, for some writers, a consulting fee). We’ve heard from writers who received angry, profane responses when they questioned the fees or other aspects of her business, and from clients and former clients who say that the only time they heard from her was when it was time to send another check. One writer, who was with Agent B for eight years, paid over $3,000 in annual fees during that time, plus additional fees for office and phone expense (apparently if you wanted an “in-depth” phone call, you had to pay for it in advance). This writer had several manuscripts with Agent B--I’m sure it will surprise no one that none of them were ever sold. Agent B does seem to have made commercial sales in the past, but Writer Beware hasn’t been able to discover anything she’s sold with a publication date more recent than the late-1990’s.

Everything I’ve said above is supported not just by writers’ reports and complaints, but by actual physical documentation in my possession: email, snail mail, and copies of Agent B’s contract and brochure. And a nice, fat file it is, too.

This is why we don't panic when we get a nastygram from someone on our questionable list.

I spent most of this morning collating and summarizing everything for SFWA’s counsel. I expect that a brief but severe letter from him will be forthcoming, after which all of this will dry up and blow away. I’ll keep you posted!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bwa-ha-ha! Take 'em down. Seeing scammers get a little comeuppance always puts a smile on my face.

James Goodman said...

oops...the anon was my reward for not paying attention when I logged the comment.

Anonymous said...

remind me to stay on your good side.

seriously, thanks for providing a service that is helping countless writers everywhere.