Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Beware Zombies: Franklin-Madison Literary Agency

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I'm writing this in my local Panera, which is one of the few places where I can power my computer just now. Here in Massachusetts, we are still suffering through the after-effects of the massive Snowtober storm, and after four days I still don't have power at home. And it has been COLD. And my friends are in the same boat, so no shelter there.

I feel like a hobo right now, migrating from place to place in search of warmth and electricity. This morning I was at the gym (hello, hot shower). When I've dawdled as long as possible over my second mug of Panera tea, I'll move on to the library at the University of Massachusetts. After that, home to my dark, chill house, which at noon was actually colder inside than out. It may be Thursday or Friday before power returns, but my fingers are crossed that when I get home tonight I'll see the porch light on. Wish me luck.

At any rate, this is a little late for Halloween--but today's post is about zombie literary agencies...agencies that die only to rise again and lurch out onto the Internet in search of writers' brains. More specifically, it's about one zombie agency, which is attempting to eat brains under two zombie identities.

A few weeks ago, I began getting questions about the Franklin-Madison Literary Agency. Never having heard the name before, I did some research. What I found rang warning bells. From the creepy image of what look like conjoined twins on the opening page, to the badly-written text, to the absence of any substantive information on the agency and its staff, Franklin-Madison offers an impressive collection of red flags.

Franklin-Madison also gave me a strong sense of deja vu, both in some of the qualities of its website and its Washington, DC address. But none of the writers who contacted me mentioned fees, and domain registration information (which can sometimes provide important data) wasn't helpful--so even though I had a strong hunch about which zombie agency had created Franklin-Madison as a zombie clone, I couldn't prove it.

I've finally received a copy of the Franklin-Madison contract and intake correspondence. Neither, of course, contained any (obvious) mention of Zombie Agency, and crucial aspects of the contract differed from Zombie Agency's (a term of 360 days rather than 180 days, for instance). The upfront fee was the same, though ($150 for US submissions, or $250 for US plus overseas submissions). More tellingly, Zombie Agency failed to cover all its tracks.

Here's a screenshot of the first page of the Franklin-Madison contract (click for a larger view):

Note that it's a pdf document. The file name (Franklin-Madison_Agency_Agreement-signed-1.pdf) is consistent with the contract's heading. But see what happens when you access the File menu, and click the Document Properties link:

Franklin-Madison's creator has forgotten to remove Zombie Agency's toe tag--i.e., the document's title, which is Clark, Mendelson, and Scott, LLC.

Clark, Mendelson, and Scott is a fee-charging "agency" that I began hearing about last June, and exposed on this blog as the risen corpse of fee-charger American Literary Agents of Washington Inc., a.k.a. Capital Literary Agency, a.k.a. Washington Literary Agency, a.k.a. Washington House, a.k.a. Trident Media Company/Mandrill Publishing, a.k.a. New World Media/American Bookpress (all vanity publishers).

These companies--about all of which Writer Beware received many complaints--were run by a guy named Samuel C. Asinugo out of Washington, DC from the late 1990's until around 2008, when Asinugo was found guilty of forgery. No doubt remembering how easy it was to eat writers' brains, Asinugo raised his fee-charging endeavors from the dead as soon as he was able, first with Clark, Mendelson, and Scott, and now with Franklin-Madison Literary Agency.

Possibly this zombie clone is a result of my blog post--which I know Asinugo knows about, since he (under an alias) sent me a legal threat. On the other hand, Asinugo may simply be attempting to diversify in an attempt to snag more victims. With all the semi-sleazy self-publishing companies and dodgy small presses out there, the brain-eating business is a bit more competitive than it used to be.

So there you have it: Zombie Agency times two. Because where there's one, there are always likely to be more.

28 comments:

Sherri said...

Here's hoping for the porch light.

Livia said...

That's some pretty impressive sleuthing, Victoria! Good luck w/ your electricity.

P. David Gardner said...

You two never fail to amaze me. Great job, thank you so much for what you do.

marycatelli said...

Good luck on the power. I lost it only to Sunday afternoon, but I've had visitors every night since then.

Melanie Walsh said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Victoria. We'll add these to our Cautions: Forum.

Sir Otter said...

Great stuff, as usual.

I probably shouldn't mention that, here in Middle Tennessee, I've been driving my Mustang convertible all over town with the top down, quite comfortable in a short sleeve shirt. So I won't mention it. ;)

jaybird said...

Sorry to hear about the power, sending warm, positive thoughts your way. Thank you for your brilliant posts, and amazing diligence, despite your present circumstances!

Lucy Woodhull said...

I've never commented, but I read all your posts. Thank you so much for what you do. I did huge amounts of research when agent hunting, and sites like yours helps steer me in the right direction. I pray your power returns soon!

Nyki Blatchley said...

Thanks for the warning, and I hope your power's back soon.

Anne R. Allen said...

"Neither snow nor sleet can deter our intrepid sleuth from protecting us from the lurking zombies..." Thanks Victoria, for this valuable heads-up and I sure hope you get power soon. The East Coast has had way more than its share of disasters recently.

Danielle said...

Thankfully I live in arizona! even though my heater is still broken, the lowest it's gotten out here is 50. I can't believe they'd let you guys live in winter without heat. :( A couple of years ago a guy died of hypothermia because of that.

Thank you for the info on this company! People like this just baffle me.

JS said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

You are powerful even when your power is out!

Leah Griffith said...

How appropriate, zombie slaying in the dark. Well done!
I hope you get your power back soon. I was up there in Worcester County for the storm...brutal! Nice to finally be back in sunny Florida.

widdershins said...

Old Zombies never die eh? hands upo anyone who's surprised?

On the cold ... erm .... front, now might be the time to look into alternate forms of generating short-term energy/electricity don't'cha think?

Jan Morrill said...

With everything you're having to deal with without electricity, I sure appreciate the good information!

Anonymous said...

I want the zombie Miss Snark to resurrect as Victoria Strauss and occupy her as well as Ann Crispin's bodies so that they can be "dual personalities."

Anonymous said...

Maybe you are cold at home because the devil in Dante's inferno resides encased in a block of ice!

Jeff said...

Victoria, one thing I'd add is that these days, huge chunks of D.C. office buildings--sometimes entire floors--serve as relatively inexpensive, interchangeable mail drops for individuals and small businesses eager to hold the occasional meeting and receive mail at a downtown address. I'm not claiming that's what this outfit is doing, but your readers should know that appearing to be a legit business that can afford pricey office space is now easier than ever in D.C., and probably in other cities too.

Kelly Robinson said...

Great sleuthing! You are a treasure.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark is a zombie invented by Crispin and Strauss.

Jarod said...

Just Yikes.

BuffySquirrel said...

Yes, yes, Anonymous, that's right. You just sit down quietly now and take your Tempazepam.

kbrigan said...

Impressive sleuthing, indeed. This blog post deserves its own Edgar!

A. C. Crispin said...

I personally verified that this zombie agency, in one of its earlier incarnations, existed, not as a suite in a posh DC office building, but only as a bronze mailbox in a mail drop store.

These guys have been around, scamming writers, for way over a decade.




-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware
www.writerbeware.com

melissa said...

I also want to thank you for the heads up, since about a hour ago I recieved an email from Franklin-Madison Agency, asking for the submission fees and the rest of my work.
Though I knew when I read Submission Fee, that there was a red flag, so I looked on internet and found your website.
Thanks again,

Melissa Miller

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this info. I was just about to foreward a cheque when I realised some mistakes in the email I recieved from the agent. They committed some blunder in the email that made me suspect they might not be real so I went researching. Thanks for the info.

Ms.Liz said...

This is strange because i received a reply from my query letter from Franklin Madison Agency TODAY! They sent me the exact contract and said they wanted to represent me...hhhmmmm

Robert Parker said...

Wish that I had read this blog before I submitted my work to this zombie agency...it just happened this morning so they haven't hit me up for a fee charge as of yet...I will post their response to my submission to keep all aware of their conduct and shenanigans....