Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers and industry news and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

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.

23 comments :

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..

~Micah

MicahAckerman.weebly.com

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 : http://janedowaryagency.mozello.com/
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.

Cliff Garstang said...

Just got a Linked-in request from Julia Levin. I'm glad to have found this post!

Jim Goddard said...

Actually she has. She sent my screenplay to Sandra Bullock through Creative Artist Agency in Los Angeles. This was verified because CAA told me how to send it and asked that I sign a letter of disclosure with CAA's logo, address, contact information. I've been in show business for 40 years, I know CAA, I know this wasn't a fraud. Julia promised to have my script at CAA (which is next to impossible to happen, even with experience) at Sandra's agent's desk - and she did. The fact that it was passed over WAS NOT Julia's fault, and why should it be? She didn't write it. Just promised to submit it. For me, she's done she said she was going to do. NO OTHER producer/agent I've had as been able to find it's way through CAA's doors.

Victoria Strauss said...

Did she sell your screenplay, though, Jim? That's the real test of an agent.

Jane Bwye said...

She connected with me on LInked-in yesterday, and I asked if she was interested in the foreign rights of my book. (My small independent publisher does not exercise foreign rights). She's come back - asking for exclusive rights while she reviews... I'm tempted to give her a try, but now that I've read all the above ---- think I'll sleep on it. Any more good stories about her?

Victoria Strauss said...

The only story that matters is the story of books she's sold to reputable publishers...and the answer to that is "none."

Kate Jay-R said...

Waves at Jane Bwye.

She's asked for a connection on Linked In but as always I check it out online and Writer Beware. If it seems too good to be true then it probably is. I've never been approached by a literary agent except after my first book was trad published. Most agents don't need to tout for authors!

Brooklyn Ann said...

I just got a LinkedIn request from her as well. Agents do not solicit authors this way so I immediately googled. All I can say is...WOW.

Courtney Pierce said...

Yes, it's Easter Sunday, and I just received a LinkedIn request from "Julia Sarah Levin" at the Jane Dowary Agency. She's been a busy bunny this weekend. Thankfully, I read the many informative posts about this so-called agent prior to making the mistake of accepting her request. I belong to an indie publishing collective. Julia appears to have targeted the 17 authors on our roster. As a board member for the Northwest Independent Writers Assoc., I will spread the word of warning. But all you have to do is read the nonsensical ramblings on her website to know that she can't write, never mind dare to deem herself qualified to evaluate the work of others.

Jessica Goodwin said...

Curious as to why a literary agent wanted to befriend me on LinkedIn (I'm a writer, but was more than surprised to have someone search me out!) I figured I'd give her a Google. Not surprised that she sounds like a sham.

 
Design by The Blog Decorator