Sunday, September 30, 2007

Victoria Strauss -- Solicitation Alert

Have you recently received an email solicitation from Cris Robins of St Louis, MO, titled "Is Your Writing Ready to Sell?"

It begins like this:
Good morning.

For over ten years I ran the largest literary agency in the Midwest (we ranked about 10 in the states, and 18 on the globe) and I made a difference in the industry by bringing out the potential of new writer's' works and showcasing them to some of the largest publishers and studios in the states. I closed the agency last year because the industry changed and I found that I could show new writers how to sell their work to publishers who didn't work with agencies; additionally, my clients found that our editing service increased their chances of being published and overall, made their work better.

Currently, I'm in a position of taking on a few new clients, and I'm cutting my price to do it. Although my editing service normally runs $6.50 per 250-word page I've dropped my price to the first ten respondents to $5.00 per page, and includes the initial editing and a finishing review. But, editing is just the first part of it; when the work is ready to be presented, I will also put together the package for submissions, the list of publishers looking for your work, and the methods that they prefer for submissions.
If you have gotten this email, here are a few things to consider.

- The agency Cris Robins ran was called The Robins Agency. Complaints and advisories about this agency were among the first that Writer Beware received when we started up in 1998, and we continued to receive them until the agency's apparent disappearance last year. Among the issues cited by writers: promotion of the agency's own paid editing services to clients and potential clients (a conflict of interest), with editing recommendations often based on the reading of just a few chapters; inadequate, unprofessional, and/or incomplete editing; and the charging of upfront fees ranging from $500 to $3,200. Other complaints can be found at Absolute Write.

- In May 2006, a default judgment against Cris Robins of The Robins Agency was entered in Washington Superior Court 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 was ordered to pay $8,320 (treble damages) plus interest and attorney fees. (There's more detail on the judgment in this blog post. We actually think that the judgment and attendant adverse publicity had more to do with the agency's closing than changing market conditions.)

- To Writer Beware's knowledge, The Robins Agency never sold a single client's book to a commercial US publisher in the whole of its more than eight years of existence.

- The Robins Agency is included in Writer Beware's Thumbs Down Agency List.

15 comments:

Samuel Tinianow said...

I closed the agency last year because the industry changed...

Hmm, somehow I must have missed that story in PW.

The Home Office said...

I wonder if the phrase "the industry changed" is an insider term for "an investigation was begun."

I'm so out of it sometimes.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Thanks, as always, for the heads up, ladies.

I suspect if I have gotten this, or if I do (the subject line sounds familiar), I'll simply mark it as spam and not even bother reading it.

Janet said...

Wow, some people never give up, do they?

P.N. Elrod said...

bringing out the potential of new writer's' works

"bringing out the potential" is not the same as selling the book...

and is "writer's' " a whole new way to mis-use the gentle apostrophe?

I'm not inspired with confidence in their ability to edit my stuff much less their radio contest ploy to cut a discount with the first ten who fall for this one.

Since this scam clearly pays better than an honest job slinging burgers I expect the first ten will be stretched to include however many are gullible enough to respond.

bjh said...

Nice to be able to deal with an out-and-out scammer instead of someone strolling down the shady side of the street, as in the prior thread.

The Home Office: Good one.

James Goodman-Horror Writer said...

All I can say is wow...

Thanks for exposing scams like this one.

Lorra said...

I guess to be a good scammer, you have to be persistent, first and foremost.

jamiehall said...

Does saying "could show new writers how to sell their work to publishers who didn't work with agencies" mean that Chris is now claiming to not be a literary agent, but just someone who shows new writers the ropes? Ouch!

Deb said...

What's the market here? How many publishers "don't work with agencies"? Just the small presses and e-pubs, that I know of, and friends, you can submit to them anytime without benefit of agent or any third party at all.

Sheesh. Cris, why not go volunteer at your local hospital or homeless shelter, until an idea for a real honest job hits?

Anonymous said...

Oh, she's still knocking around, is she? I've been out of the querying business (some of us do give up) for more than four years now, but I remember Ms. Robins well.

She and Lynn Clough of Edit, Ink, are the only scammers who almost snared me in their net (nets? I'm still unsure if they were working together).

Unluckily for them, I was an editor, and the hair on my neck stood up when I saw typos all over their communication. So I got online and started googling (before it was called that).

I believe I found someone called the ScamHunter, who ran a feature in an online newsletter for writers. There I found Ms. Robins and Ms. Clough listed.

About the only honest thing in the new pitch from Cris is that she has been in the business a long time.

The business of running scams, that is.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about Writers Relief: http://www.writersrelief.com/

Have you all heard anything about these folks?

Victoria Strauss said...

See the Writers' Services Page of Writer Beware for an assessment of services like Writer's Relief.

squiresj said...

So this agency is resurfing? I wondered what happened to it when I noticed it's office had closed in Arkansas over a year ago. I don't even know why I decided to do a research on them tonight except that I was wondering where they had disappeared to and had always suspected them of not being real.
So they were fined and walked away to start up all over again in St. Louis - is that the story?

Anonymous said...

I live in St. Louis and recently hired Cris Robins, former owner of a literary agency, as a contractor. All I can say is WATCH OUT. I wish that I had seen this blog before I hired her. We're out quite a bit of money, but I don't really care as long as she leaves us alone. She starts out very nice, then she becomes mean and impatient. She then asked me for MORE money, though she hadn't completed what we had originally hired her to do. She became hostile when I refused to give her more money. Beware.