Monday, July 16, 2007

Victoria Strauss -- Agent Spam: May Writers' Group

Over the past couple of weeks, Writer Beware has heard from a number of writers who've received out-of-the-blue email solicitations from a literary agency called May Writers' Group. The emails aren't all identical, but here's a typical one:

Hi [writer's name],

Hope you're having a wonderful day!

You impress us as a very talented, imaginative and ambitious writer -- just the kind of writer we love to represent. May Writers' Group is a world-class literary agency. We're currently looking for new talent.

Please e-mail us at maywritersgroup@aol.com and tell us what writing projects you currently have available for literary representation.

We're looking forward to hearing from you. Have a lovely day!

Sincerely,

The Submissons Department
May Writers' Group


So is this a legitimate solicitation?

Contrary to what many people believe, reputable literary agencies do sometimes approach writers directly (rather than the other way around). However, this is pretty rare, and usually happens as a result of published work, or, occasionally, writing posted on a blog or at a website. The contact will also be individual and specific. No reputable agency engages in a mass email campaign to drum up clientele.

Another red flag: beyond the several online discussions by writers who've gotten solicitations, no information on May Writers' Group can be found. Not all agencies court the publicity limelight, but a reputable literary agency will have a research footprint, and a "world class" literary agency will have a large research footprint. Try doing a websearch on Trident Media Group, for instance. There's no such thing as a stealth literary agency.

There's no way to tell whether May Writers' Group is a clueless startup with the wrong idea about building a client list, or an unscrupulous fee-charger looking for paying customers--but one thing is for sure: this is not a solicitation you should answer.

18 comments:

The Grump said...

Don't know for certain, BUT the pitch in the letter is much the same as one I got from M. G. Rooney awhile back.

Wish I had kept it instead of deleting it.

Bernita said...

The unctuous "wonderful/lovely" inquiry in the intent-to-disarm style of telephone solicitations also sends up a minor flag.

Anonymous said...

I've seen real agents query people after they've published a work.

It's done in person over the phone. Then they treat you to lunch to get a feel for you.

Diana Peterfreund said...

A friend of mine received an email from an agent after the agent had read her blog. Before she responded, she googled the agent, who, it turns out, was a new hire at a big agency (one of the biggest) who had previously worked on the editorial side. The agency had hundreds (thousands?) of sales, and the agent herself had a long employment history as an editor at the big publishing houses in NY. The writer sent her the work, ended up signing, and they just sold a multi-book deal to S&S.

The difference is experience.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Perfect timing for me. I responded "What sorts of projects do you represent?" and they gave me a nondescript answer.

They just contacted me today with a website:

http://www.freewebs.com/maywritersgroup/resourcesforwriters.htm

I'm curious because they're using a free hosting server for their site and they have an AOL email address. I haven't sent them a query. My biggest red flag is that there are no NAMES associated with this group--no agent names, no client names, etc.

Victoria Strauss said...

Adding a link for the May Writers' Group website.

There's no content at the site apart from a rather silly essay on what literary agents do. Not what you'd expect from a professional agency, much less a "world class" one.

One amusing thing: the website has a graphic of a shadowy man in a fedora. There's print across it that isn't readable to a casual glance, but if you look closely, it says "private investigator." Hmmm.

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

I am a playwright and there has been discussion on playwriting listserves lately about a literary agency based in Bulgaria (yes, BULGARIA) contacting playwrights unsolicited and offering representation. Playwrights are actually asking the question "is this really legit? It seems to be." Ridiculous, because Bulgaria isn't exactly a good market for American plays, and literary agents (other than 2 or 3 very exclusive dramatic agencies in NYC, like William Morris) don't represent playwrights. I don't have details since I haven't been directly solicited myself, but if I am I will pass it along.

p.n. elrod said...

Rats, I couldn't find the graphic at all, and I'm a sucker for a hot P.I.

The only pages that opened for me was the 101 on agents and the most unhelpful one that suggested I, too, could have a nice looking free website.

Running away now before the ghost of Miles Thursby gets me.

Victoria Strauss said...

Obviously the May Writers' Group website is a work in progress, because it has just added a Welcome page (in a Very Large Font. Better check that template.) According to the info there,

We do not charge any type of reading, critiquing or evaluation fee. We adhere to American Association of Author Guidelines.

That's good about the fees--but what the heck is the American Association of Author?

Yet another sign that May Writers' group is not quite as "world class" as it would like us t think.

Anonymous said...

FYI - If recent posts on WN are to be believed, we've got a name: Shelly May.

Still no trace of this "world class" agent beyond promotion for a writer's conference.

---
CAO

Neal D. Bogosian said...

F.Y.I. Here is the email I received from them on July 1st....and no, I certainly did not respond:

Hi Neal Bogosian,
You impress us as a very talented, imaginative and ambitious writer -- just the kind of writer we love to represent. May Writers' Group is a world-class literary agency. We're currently looking for new talent.
Please e-mail us at maywritersgroup@aol.com and tell us what writing projects you currently have available for literary representation.
We're looking forward to hearing from you. Have a lovely day!

Sincerely,

The Submissons Department
May Writers' Group

__________________________

Quite bizarre that there is not ANYTHING about them ANYWHERE! And yes, it is thus a major red flag.

http://www.TheMeanDealer.com

Richard White said...

Does anyone else find it ironic that on a Writer Beware blog discussing Agent spam that we would get a spam message from someone trying to sell ads.

*sigh*

Maybe we should direct this spammer to the May Writers' Group and let them spam each other?

~Nancy said...

syferium,

You do realize this is a blog for writers.

Oh no, wait, spammers don't bother to read; they just let loose with whatever they're trying to sell, whether it's a relevant site or not.

Meh.

I decided to Google American Association of Author just for the heck of it. The closest to it was the American Authors Association, which is geared to writers. Nothing about agents, "world class" or otherwise. ;-)

~JerseyGirl

Victoria Strauss said...

I got rid of the spam message, mostly because it contained a working link.

bjh said...

May Writers appears clueless, but it's hard to believe they're as ingenuous as they sound given the continuing warnings, on many boards, against the very things they practise, the falsity of the AAA, and the thickness of the layer of butter they're slathering.

I'm putting them down as scammers. Let them prove their innocence through a track record. Come back with a list of books you represent, May - when you do.

Anonymous said...

Got the same letter and googled you wonderful ladies up. Did not respond. Was wondering if they were pulling names off the Writers.Net site. I have a couple of books out, but they would have to go through the publisher to pull my email address.

Anonymous said...

I recently received the May Writer's Group spam. I wanted to believe it was legit, as I am still unpublished, but everything I know about literary scams told me it was a fake. We were actually discussing this at fmwriters.com, so thanks for confirming what we had already suspected.

Silke said...

Guys, take a look at the email address. It tells you everything you need to know.

If this were a reputable, international, world class literary agency as they claim to be... then why do they give an AOL address?

Ask yourself how many - reputable - agents you know who trade without their own domain name.