Saturday, July 29, 2006

Victoria Strauss -- New Alert on Writer Beware

An alert on The Robins Agency (Cris Robins) has been added to the Alerts for Writers page of Writer Beware.

On May 15, 2006, a default judgment against Cris Robins of The Robins Agency was entered in Washington Superior Court for King County (case no. 06-2-16530-6SEA) for breach of contract, fraudulent business practice, and consumer protection violations in regard to the promised provision of paid editing services and promised representation of the plaintiff's manuscript to publishers. Ms. Robins has been ordered to pay $8,320 (treble damages) plus interest and attorney fees.

According to a recent post on Absolute Write by plaintiff Christopher Dahl (which he has given me permission to quote here), "This judgment will affect her credit and may lead to garnishment of her bank account, as well as a visit from the sheriff to collect on the judgment with cash or personal property, if Robins fails to pay or settle the judgment. I have also submitted complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Missouri Attorney General's Office which both show up as Unresolved/Disputed."

Remember back in March, when Robins claimed that the validity of her agency was based on the fact that she had never lost a court case? Whoops.

(Hurry and take a look at that link, because it may be gone soon. My response is here.)

Christopher Dahl's experience echoes the many documented complaints and reports Writer Beware has received about Cris Robins and The Robins Agency over the years. (All details and quotes that follow are from the complaint filed by Dahl with Washington Superior Court.)

Dahl submitted a proposal and manuscript to Robins in 2003. Robins contacted him to offer representation--however, she told him that the work would have to be edited. Dahl, who didn't want to do any more editing himself, was willing, as long as the edits would be fully completed by Robins and there would be no costs beyond the quoted editing fee. In December 2003, she agreed to both provisions, and promised to complete editing within three (3) months.

Fast forward eleven (11) months, to November 2004. Dahl's ms. was finally returned to him, marked up with "sparse and sporadic" pen editing and general suggestions (described in the complaint as "cursory and often confusing"), plus a short memo with "primarily generic comments with some detail from the work slipped in, indicating the Work had been only cursorily reviewed." When Dahl contacted Robins, she told him that he would have to perform the rest of the editing himself based on her comments. Attempts to get her to finish the editing, or to provide feedback on the editing Dahl eventually attempted on his own, proved futile.

At last, in November 2005, Robins finally emailed Dahl that his edits "looked fine to her." She also sent him a representation agreement requiring an upfront payment of $3,250 (her standard "retainer")--despite her previous claim that there were to be no more fees.

That was the point at which Dahl decided to file his complaint.

This is an example of what can happen when a scam victim refuses to be intimidated or discouraged. Dahl is willing to help other Robins victims. From his AW post, mentioned above: "I will happily provide my complaint filings or lawsuit documentation as sample drafting to make it easier for others to proceed against Robins...Feel free to contact me for more information."

Christopher Dahl, Esq.
cdahl@wkg.com
206-233-2997

14 comments:

Bernita said...

Just. Sweet.

Dave Kuzminski said...

I thought of it more as a sweet and sour. Sweet for us, sour for Cris.

Cheryl said...

I think it's enough to know that an agent has been repeatedly taken to court. Glad to know she finally lost.

BarbJ said...

Yaaaayyyy!!! Hip, hip, hooorraayy!!

Well done, Christopher; thank you for letting us know, Victoria; pppptttthhhhbbbb on you, Cris Robins.

By the way, writers, remember that Robbins (two b's) is a respected agency. Always make sure you're checking the right agency to avoid scammers - and, hopefully, find a good agent or publisher.

Victoria and Ann, do you think the legal world is beginning to wake up to the extent of these scams? One wonders how Cris will boast of her legitimacy now that she's lost a case.

Victoria Strauss said...

Sadly, I don't think the legal world is any more interested or enlightened about literary scams than formerly. Where action occurs, it's usually the result of a single dedicated, determined person (sometimes a victim, sometimes a law enforcement official) who refuses to give up.

On the positive side, the writing world is WAY more aware. We keep trying!

Dee Power said...

Victoria, I know that you and Ann have led a good fight against PublishAmerica. You and readers of your blog may be interested to read what Peter Rubie, literary agent, has to say about PA. His comments are part of a Literary agent Q&A and can be found at our website
http://www.brianhillanddeepower.com/agentseminar2.html

Keep up the good work

Dee Power

Dave Kuzminski said...

P&E will have something on its New page for Mr. Dahl after tomorrow. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm a new writer,looking for an agent,its hard enough for those like myself, who really need the surport, from thoses who can make my and others careers as writers come true.Thank you for your C S I in detecting the criminals of the writing world.
mail.ccf.org//ellisot@ccf.com

Anonymous said...

Should it not be significant warning to anyone when an agent's claim to honesty is based on not having lost a court case?

Anonymous said...

thank you. thank you. May GOD bless you. we needed to know that .much sucess to you all.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about a publisher who says they are a publisher of "scholarly work" Several people have gone to publish with this publisher. It appears to be an "author mill".Characteristics are but not limited to: no editorial team says they are experts but no one has the title of editor - Dunn and Bradstreet indicates these are the only employees; does 90% work on book series (organizational); sells back to writer at 50% discount; 10% on net royalty; requires $20 to change book cover; uses exclusively print-on-demand; several books have as initial publisher the printing company, seems that 50% of holdings were bought (acquired) publications that he aquired the copyright; changes copyright on printing; has the writer give contacts for people to write blurb on the cover; only customers for books appear to be writers themselves since they are book series there would be 8-15 authors of chapters and readings; several of the book series are proceedings of meetings; contract is online and says on first line of contract if you want them to publish in timely manner please sign the contract; asks for marketing contacts; markets paperbacks at about $38 regardless if it is a 1991 document that now has a 2005 copyright date; not sure who would buy these books; for example who would buy a book from the 1991 proceedings of an organization; the idea that the books come from SIG meetings is generally hidden, seems to be acquring more copyrights from another company at a fast rate, these books generally have had a publication rank at amazon between one and three million, so why acquire them? etc. etc. Am I crazy or is this an "author mill"?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know much about The Children's Literary Agency in New York?
They are agents representing new authors.
Their website is www.childrensliteraryagency.com

They seem very good in their dealings. Are they good people or criminals?

jackpayne said...

Edits are the least form of problem in the literary agent field. Nagsome? Sure. But not lethal.

When the scam-busting profession finally gears up to nail the practitioners of "legal" crime out there, they will be truly accomplishing something.

--Jack Payne
www.sixhrs.com

Anonymous said...

It's always risky if a so-called "agent" demands money upfront to do any editing, or anything else for that matter; it's time to turn and run as far away as possible. Legitimate agencies do not do such, to my knowledge.