Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Victoria Strauss -- Barbara Bauer Redux

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:

Hi.

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.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whoa! I am honored to have a link here to my A.W. posting on BB's cease & desist games. You made my week!

Another person commented privately on my other post (about my getting two threatening mails in the 24 hours from Barbara Bauer) that she only picked out "24" "threatening" and "Bauer" and now has a permanent mental image that BB looks like Keifer Sutherland.

(Hmm. K.S. in drag? Holding that Ph.D?)

You rock, don't stop!

-Gillhoughly

Bernita said...

The woman sounds screwy.

Victoria Strauss said...

Kiefer is much cuter.

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

It might be interesting, Victoria, to get some respected editors to do a post on how they prioritize agented submissions based on the quality/reputation of the agent. I know that if you're repped by Donald Maass or Ethan Ellenberg, you can get read right away; mid-tier agents get placed in the middle of the pile, and scammer agents like BB get relegated to the slush pile. Or so I've heard. I'd love to hear more about how editors deal with these marginal agents.

Anonymous said...

Rumour has it that the William Morris agency (now making headlines for the half-million-dollar-advanced 'Opal' fiasco) uses blue envelopes to indicate to editors 'Open me first; I'm from a reputable agency'.

Anonymous said...

Barbara Bauer is a scam artist in the guise of a literary agent.

I plan on suing the bitch, and therby destroying her business.

Mark said...

I wouldn't be surprised if there was a "read from these agencies first" kind of caste system. My view is, so what? That's the way the country works in every aspect. What gets me is why anyone would go to an agent like her in the first place? The bigger problem is writing is a tradecraft everyone thinks they can just do without any work, study, or effort of any kind. The scammers will always prey upon that group. Publishing is a cutthroat business where everyone doesn't have a place reserved for them. Anyone could have, but all won't. Only skill and effort will get you there.

I've found even big agents to be responsive and fair with my submissions. Getting picked up is another matter in a crowded market and project specific.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad you have never covered the scam made by Charles Petit, since you know him so well. Could it be you know TOO MUCH about his cheating??? Meaning, were you in on it??? If not, why the silence on this important story?

Wallace Cass said...

Oh Barbara, Barbara, Barbara,

I still have fond (yeah right) memories how she ripped me off back in 1990 while I was on active duty in Philly.

I also have copies of emails that she had sent to me years ago when I shared my story on AW. I see the woman hasn't changed a bit over the years. Still unrepentant, still doing that thing she does.

I'm just glad that more and more people are taking her to task. Good job!

Wallace

Anonymous said...

Too bad no commercial publisher will take you on Wallace. Maybe you should try that new vanity press, S&S. I hear Victoria is making a big splash about it. I think you should pay S&S one million dollars to publish your work, since they can do an unedited version of it for all to see your crapola.

Wallace Cass said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for your astute and insightful comments. I and my crapola thank you :)

Have a great day :)

Victoria Strauss said...

You and I both know Anonymous's initials are BB, don't we, Wallace?

Wallace Cass said...

Yes indeed, Victoria, yes indeed.