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February 21, 2014

Alert: Jane Dowary Agency

 Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

A while back, I wrote a funny post about a "literary agent" who popped up under one name, then another, then a third. To give you the gist...In 2009, I began hearing from writers who'd submitted to a Boston-based literary agent called Sara Levine, only to be contacted by Levine's supposed assistant, who told them that Levine had died suddenly of a heart attack and referred them to Levine’s colleague, Julia Levin of the Florida-based Julia Levin Literary Agency.

However, things about Julia Levin didn't quite add up. None of her clients were published. Her sales claims didn't check out either, and the physical address she gave for her agency turned out to be bogus, as did the agency where she claimed to have trained. The weirdness of Sara dropping dead and Julia emerging out of thin air began to look even weirder--could Sara and Julia, with only an “e” of difference between their last names, possibly be the same person?

Writers began to smell a rat, and to say so in public. Eventually it all got to be too much for poor Julia. Within a month, she'd vanished from the Internet.

A few weeks later, I started getting questions about another Florida-based agent called Drew Montgomery, of Drew Montgomery Literary Associates. Drew's online presence exhibited exactly the same inconsistencies and falsehoods as Julia Levin's (including a telltale mis-spelling of the name of publisher Houghton Mifflin)--and within a few days, I found out why. The owner of an agent-tracking website emailed me to say that he'd been recently contacted by the now-vanished Julia Levin about a listing, which he refused because she couldn't prove she'd made any sales. About a week later, Drew Montgomery approached him with the same request. Since she couldn't prove any sales either, he gave her the same response. But he happened to notice something odd: Drew's IP address was identical to Julia's.

Bingo! Outed here and at Absolute Write, Drew vanished too (though not before reappearing as Julia Levin in a bizarre attempt to impersonate one of Drew's clients).

End of story? Not quite.

Enter Jane Dowary, of the Jane Dowary Agency. I first started hearing about Jane in April of 2012, from writers whose work she'd submitted inappropriately or to whom she'd given bizarre writing advice. In at least one case, I'm convinced, she fabricated an editor's comments.

At the time, Jane's LinkedIn page looked like this (click to enlarge):

Note Jane's claimed location (Boston area) and her claimed education (Yale, Berkeley). Note also the mis-spelling of "Houghton Mifflin" as "Houghton Miffin"--a telltale mistake made by both Julia and Drew--and the agency at which she claims to have trained, which, like the agencies claimed by Julia and Drew, does not appear to exist. Based on these things, as well as on Jane's M.O. as reported to me by clients, I was pretty sure that this was Julia, or Drew, or whatever her name was, in yet another guise--although I couldn't prove it.

Well, now Jane has put up a website and created a new LinkedIn page where she cops to being Julia Levin. She may also now be honestly disclosing her location and education--at least, her current LinkedIn page makes very different claims from her original one:

So should she get points for coming clean? Not so much. She's still lying about her agency's startup date (early 2012, not 2013 as claimed on her website). She still doesn't have any relevant experience that would qualify her to be a literary agent, and, apart from one book placement with a small press that doesn't typically work with agents, she still doesn't have any sales.

I would probably have been much later in discovering all this had Julia not, once again, been unable to resist torpedoing herself by another appearance at Absolute Write:

Asked why she was presenting herself as a new agent when she'd previously had two (or possibly three) agencies under two (or possibly three) different names, she claimed she wasn't trying to mislead anyone:

When I asked her the same question in private email, she told me "I kept changing names because I wanted to have a agency that was free and clear from all of this so that I could earn people's trust and respect and become a legitimate and successful agent and actually get novels published for my client."

Okay then.

In many ways this is a sad story. I think some kind of pathology is at work here, with the repeated name changes and the serial lying. Whoever Julia is, she seems to be a troubled individual. But she's not someone who should be acting as anyone's literary agent--and, judging by the number of questions I'm receiving about her, she is reaching out to authors.

Writer beware.


Pat Dilloway said...

Some people are so sad.

Jayne Hitchcock said...

This is assuming that she is a she. This sounds suspiciously like the Woodside Literary Agency, which cyberstalked from 1995-2006. Although the female in that husband and wife team died, I always wondered what happened to the husband. I know they had property in Florida and although located in Woodside, NY, Boston isn't that far away. Is it him? I don't know, but it smells like it to me.

Micah Ackerman said...

Thank you so much, writers have enough challenges without having to deal with this BS. I feel sorry for the people this deranged person roped in... To think of those poor people who actually thought they were that much closer to their dreams..


Karen Kennedy Samoranos said...

Thank you for this, Victoria. Anyone placing their writing--and trust--in "Jane" after reading your post, and the thread in AW, should also think about investing in the Canadian Lottery. Writers would be better served following Occam's razor--when it looks like a scam, the simplest explanation dictates that it probably is.

Mags said...

Looks like she's finally thrown in the towel on spelling "Houghton Mifflin."

Anonymous said...

She can't be coming clean about her education. According to Google there's no such school as Prospect Hill College.

Traci said...

Reminds me of a "publisher" I had the misfortune of working with. :( Sad for all of them

Jennifer at WriteKidsBooks said...

Seriously, "trying and failing" under various assumed identities is the secret of success? Um, not for any agent I'd ever work with.

Marian Perera said...

She kept changing names to "earn people's trust"? That's not how trust works.

Krystol Diggs said...

Wow! This " agent" had requested my manuscript and I sent it to her. Luckily, I was able to say nicely, i was no longer interested. Thanks for this.

Jim Goddard said...

On the other hand....she promised to give a screenplay of mine to Sandra Bullock through Creative Artists Agency, and she did. Verified. And easy to verify since I live and work (show biz) in the same neighborhood (Los Angeles). For me she completely came through.

Paul Whybrow said...

I submitted to the Jane Dowary Agency today. I live in the U.K.but have been approaching American literary agencies too. I thought that the Jane Dowary web site looked professional,so I sent off a query letter,synopsis and sample of my novel :
Used to waiting several weeks for a response from British agencies,I was amazed to get a reply in forty minutes from Jane Dowary - or is it Julia Sarah Levin ? For that is the declared name of the founder on her web site,and she uses both in emails.
I was pleased,but also suspicious to hear from her,especially as she asked about having exclusive rights to the novel.
I sent my manuscript to her,as she requested,but now I'm wondering if I've done the right thing. She acknowledged receipt and said that she'd get back to me...
I'll update you on what happens.

Jim Goddard said...

For what it's worth, she has one of my novel's at a major publisher. She's also taken a screenplay of mine into the hands of Sandra Bullock through Creative Artists Agency. Since I work in the entertainment industry, this was easy to verify, and was in fact verified. So for me, Julia has been wonderful.

Victoria Strauss said...

...but good to keep in mind that Ms. Levin has never placed a book or screenplay with a reputable publisher or production company (in any of her several literary agency ventures), and has a long history of telling lies.

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