Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Unhappy Client Suing B.K. Nelson Inc. Literary Agency

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

An article from Courthouse News Service (a nationwide newsletter for lawyers focusing on civil litigation) caught my eye this morning:
A retired lawyer claims he wrote a book investigating the death of Princess Diana, and his agent extorted thousands of dollars from him to market the book. Paul Anthony Spletzer...sued BK Nelson and her eponymous firm, whom he says he hired to represent him for 20 percent commission.

"In negotiating her fee, defendant Nelson, when questioned by Spletzer as to why she charged 20 percent commission, which is believed to be twice as much as other agencies, replied that she, she personally, was worth it," the complaint states.
Spletzer says Nelson told him that he "would receive not less than $250,000 and probably $450,000 plus royalties for the rights" to his book by selling it as a film.

He claims she asked him to pay $4,000 so she could create a DVD trailer of "Her Necessary Death" and market the book to the entertainment industry in New York and Hollywood.

"Defendants stated that this trailer would be similar to the trailers seen on HBO or Showtime or those presented as coming attractions in movie houses ... that there would be actors presenting the theme of the work entitled 'Her Necessary Death,'" according to the complaint.

Spletzer says he received the trailer in May, but that it "is worthless."
The full complaint, which demands millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages, can be seen here.

Also noted in the article: B.K. Nelson Inc. is one of nineteen literary agencies on Writer Beware's Thumbs Down Agency List. We've been receiving complaints and advisories about the agency since 1999, including:

- A 20% commission (a handful of reputable agents do charge 20%, but the prevailing standard is 15%).

- An evaluation fee of $350, plus an additional fee of between $3.00 and $5.00 per page if the manuscript isn't finished.

- A fee of $250-400 to represent subsidiary rights at various book fairs.

- A fee of $450 to be included in a Speakers' Directory.

- A fee of $2,000 to feature an author and manuscript at BEA.

- Editing fees of as much as $4,500.

- Thousands of dollars charged to a client to produce a "professional trailer" to present to the entertainment industry. This client isn't Mr. Spletzer (I'm withholding the exact amount paid to protect the client's identity), but had a similar opinion of the trailer, describing it as something that "could have been done by a high school student."

And that's just the documented complaints.

The agency's website describes B.K. Nelson Inc. as "one of the leading agencies in the nation," which "has had a strong impact on the careers of writers world wide." However, the agency's client list reveals little evidence of recent sales. Of the clients on the list, several don't turn up in any websearch. For others, the referenced titles are incorrect, or don't seem to exist at all. Two clients have books with fee-based companies (Xlibris and Tate--possibly placed with these companies by the authors themselves). For the book authors and titles that do check out, there are some reputable publishers--but few recent publication dates (most of the pub dates are 2004 and earlier).


EDITED 6/13/12 TO ADD:  Mr. Spletzer's complaint (linked in above) bears a file stamp from the Westchester County Clerk dated September 10, 2010. However, a search of Westchester County court records shows no sign that Mr. Spletzer's complaint was ever filed with the court, and there's no record of any case in Westchester County, NY where Paul Anthony Spletzer, B.K. Nelson, or B.K. Nelson Inc. are parties.

16 comments:

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

The red flags on this one could furnish the entire Chinese Army!

S.M. Carrière said...

Oh boy. What a mess!

GalaktioNova said...

They should have known better than to take on a lawyer as a client :-) But it also shows that even professional lawyers can be quite badly informed about fraudulent practices in vanity publishing. He should have visited your site first.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a frivolous lawsuit. Who would expect a professional hollywood trailer for only 4 grand? I have no sympathy whatsoever for this jerk. If he was any good, the book would have sold anyway, even with a bad trailer. A good trailer with real equity actors in it would cost about 45 or 50 grand minimun for production on location.

Anion said...

Anonymous, you may know something about Hollywood, but you clearly know absolutely nothing about publishing. This isn't a frivolous lawsuit, it's fraud. *Real* literary agents don't make "trailers," no matter how much they cost.

Angie said...

Oh, what a mess...

Anonymous said...

I hear from clients and agents at several, reputable agencies that they have been charging fees for trailers, writing and management. So how come this book hasn't sold? Give it to one of them like William Morris or ICM. See if they can sell it. Otherwise, I think it's just another shakedown in a slow economy for lawyers. Maybe nobody else wanted him.

Victoria Strauss said...

I hear from clients and agents at several, reputable agencies that they have been charging fees for trailers, writing and management.

Which agencies are charging fees for trailers? Name names, please. Otherwise, this claim doesn't carry much weight.

Anonymous said...

I'm embarrassed to admit that back in the mid-90's I actually was a client of BK Nelson for about a minute. She still has me listed on her site for speakers, despite numerous requests to delete my name. She never asked for money, but she did talk me into going to BEA to work at her table there. She had rented a hotel suite that I was supposed to share. When I arrived, I discovered that what I was actually expected to share was a fold-out couch with one of her clients, a 6'4 transsexual. I booked a room at another hotel.

Anonymous said...

Regarding BK Nelson and her literary agency with her husband.

They tell clients to buy $500 sell sheets, and to give them $100,000 or else your script will remain unproduced.

BK Nelson claims that having a client's Power of Attorney will help to make a film deal.

BK Nelson will claim that a famous mogul *is* producing & casting your script, but if you phone that mogul to discuss details, she then freaks out and claims he is [no longer] attached to your script.

Avoid this agency like the plague.

BuffySquirrel said...

Oh dear, is the Diana bandwagon still accepting passengers?

KAWyle said...

I hope people don't confuse Kristin Nelson and her Nelson Literary Agency with this outfit!

Anonymous said...

I'd be very interested in the outcome of this case. I have an idea for a movie about a bogus agent who extorts money from desperate wanna be authors and self publishing "writers". The agent eventually takes on a serial killer as a client... I guess you know the rest!
Anyone know what happened?

Victoria Strauss said...

I too would love to know what happened, but I haven't been able to turn up any info on the resolution (if any) of this case.

Anonymous said...

She is a mess...I was also a client of hers...and ran to the hills ASAP. She refused to pay (or took months and months after receiving checks)..I finally had to go to the publisher directly and she was cut out of the money chain. I even had a lawyer of another client contact me once trying to find her. I sadly am still on her website...cannot get it taken down/removed. I have a MUCH better agent (although no agent would be better than her).

Anonymous said...

As a veteran of Hollywood ...a legitimate "AGENT" is licenced and bonded and is processed through
"The Dept. of Labor" ; a legit agent "NEVER, NEVER,NEVER " CHARGES ANY TYPE OF FEE . A legit agent only makes money "IF" you make money. PERIOD. THIS IS A CON-MAN...YES LOOK MORE CLOSELY..
B.K. NELSON APPEARES TO CE A SHE MALE. Come on Agents are in Beverly Hills for the most part !
Now , if this had been a "REAL LEGIT" agent , ther woold definitely be money in suing since they have insurance and bonds like I mentioned before. A talent agency is an EMPLOYMENT AGENCY. Actually in England ,all the BIG AGENCIES say this on their letters
at the bottom...you will see clearly that they are employment agencies processed through the LABOR dept... This one has no money..just a con-fidence game. I would think writers would be imaginative enogh to figure this mystery out. Remember its all show biz and if it seems to good to be true...