Many of you may be familiar with the recent activities of Barbara Bauer, unlucky number four (in alphabetical order) on Writer Beware's 20 Worst Agents list. Always swift with a cease-and-desist demand, and unhappy with her new notoriety as the 20 Worst List proliferates across the Internet, she's taken to slamming people who post the list with yet more cease-and-desist letters. (BTW, Writer Beware, the source of the list, hasn't heard from her lately.)
At any rate, I was recently contacted by an editor who had a close encounter with Ms. Bauer. He's given me permission to quote his letter here in full:
Just wanted to give you a bad agent story from the other side of the equation. I've been doing some work for a major publisher, and I recently came across a submission from the Barbara Bauer Agency. From a quick perusal of various blogs, I see that she's much maligned, so I'll presume you know of her.
The submission was in bad shape in terms of its physical condition and its content. Granted, evaluating manuscripts is somewhat subjective, but there was nothing about this work someone might have valued. Specifically, it was so full of grammatical errors that it read like a bad translation. Also, there were some simple flaws in the manuscript (unintentional tense and P.O.V. shifts) that BB ought to have asked the writer to fix before submitting.
Essentially, it was clear that nobody had given the manuscript a thoughtful reading, and I feel it was unconscionable -- especially when charging a steep fee -- to send such a poor work out on someone else's dime. Further, the cover letter was handwritten, using a familiar name for the editor that she does not use (essentially feigning familiarity by doing the equivalent of calling Robert "Bob"), and the half-page synopsis was both poorly written and not very descriptive of what the work contained.
I checked out your list of things a writer should look for in choosing an agent, and in light of what I've seen from BB, it seems you might want to add giving some editorial feedback. If an agent is truly interested in selling one's work, he/she ought to take an interest in it being as good as possible. Similarly, it's probably a good idea to look for agents that are selective, because it means they're not spreading themselves too thin and they are more likely to believe in what they are selling.
My two cents. Feel free to reprint this letter, but please don't include my full name if you do.
Thanks on behalf of all writers.
So there you have it, from the other side of the desk. No wonder BB doesn't have much in the way of a recent track record.