Tuesday, July 01, 2014

American Writing Association: A Service Writers Don't Need

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Recently I've gotten a number of questions about the American Writing Association (note the .org suffix, implying altruism and good will), a group that describes itself thus:
We are a group of professional writers and editors that are committed to helping people become published writers. We work with a wide range of people - from the every day writer with a story to tell, to the experienced writer looking for the big publishing contract. Whatever your goal is, we are dedicated to helping you achieve fulfillment from the time and effort you have put into your writing.
What exactly does that mean? Well, if you ignore the abundant red flags and submit your writing, you receive an offer like this:
If we do feel the book has the potential for success, then we would offer to represent you. That includes:

1) Writing a Query Letter to represent you and the book
2) Offer to copyright the completed book if necessary
3) Our attorneys will represent you when signing contracts
4) Submit you directly to Literary Agents in our expansive network

This requires an investment of $699. Again, past that there are no other fees other than the 5% Commission, but we will not surprise you with any hidden fees within our business. We are very up front about what we plan to do.
In other words, American Writing Association is a new iteration of a very old scheme: the literary agent middleman.

For a savvy writers, AWA should set off multiple warning bells based just on its particulars: the lack of substantive information about staff; the vague promises about connections and networks; the last-names-missing testimonials; the non-verifiable success stories on its Twitter feed. Not to mention the big fee and the 5% commission.

But there's a bigger issue here as well. Literary agents are the ONLY recognized middlemen in the publishing business. And you don't need a middleman to approach a middleman.

Unfortunately, services like AWA--which can carry fees into the four figures--have a fatal appeal for writers frustrated by the research and query process, not to mention multiple rejections. The concept even makes superficial sense, in a hall-of-infinite-reflections kind of way: since you need an agent to get the attention of publishers, why wouldn't you need an agent to get the attention of agents?

You don't. In fact, you're far less likely to get a favorable response than you are with your own query letter. I've seen a number of these middleman-to-the-middlemen schemes over the years, and they all have one thing in common: literary agents hate them. You don't have to take my word for it--here's the recent reaction of two successful literary agents to a middleman approach--one that I'm betting was a lot more professional than AWA's:
So who's behind AWA? Its website offers no clue; those highly-touted "professional" writers and editors and attorneys aren't named (though I did manage to find one of AWA's editors; I'll let you judge her level of experience), and the URL is anonymized.

I was able to find several names that appear to be associated with AWA: Bruce Allen, AWA "Vice President"; Jerry Moore; and Adam Goldson. AWA alleges that it's located in Downers Grove, Illinois (home, perhaps not coincidentally, to Silver Screen Placements, a fee-charging agency about which I got a number of complaints in the mid-aughts). A toll-free number on the website thanks callers for contacting AWA and invites them to dial staff members' (non-existent) extensions.

However, the phone number included in the AWA emails I've seen belongs to something called Big Rock Florist Concierge in Big Rock, IL, just down the road from Downers Grove. I called that number too, and was routed to Adam Goldson's voice mail. So he, at least, appears to be a real person, though I was unable to find out anything else about him--leaving open the question of how being a florist concierge, whatever that is, qualifies you to have anything to do with writing and publishing.

Writers, don't waste your money on a needless "service" like this.


Inkling said...

For those who don't know, a copyright is easy and inexpensive to get:


You don't need a lawyer or any organization to handle the details.

Anonymous said...

"Our attorneys will represent you when signing contracts" confuses me. If you're signing a contract with them, then obviously their attorneys would represent them in that deal, not you. And if they were to get you an agent, then your agent would handle any contracts with a publisher.

And 5% commission of what? Would they expect 5% of every piece of writing you sell forever--when an agent is the one actually selling it and earning a 15% cut?

Judy Penz Sheluk said...

I wish you had Twitter and FB and Pinterest links -- I'd love to share this (easily). This is a message that needs to get out there. Not sure why you are limiting your Sharing buttons? I personally offer it all - Tumblr, etc. Just because I don't use those social media methods, doesn't mean my followers don't.

Victoria Strauss said...

Judy--there's a "Share" button at the bottom of each post that allows you to post to multiple social networking sites.

Judy Penz Sheluk said...

Duh! I just thought that was a Google + share....So sorry! Have duly shared :-)

Kevin Waleroup said...

Wow lol I can't get anyone submit my very very very very very small publisher company https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/BLASTERbooks. maybe I'm to honest. Lol

LMEighmy said...

You can also go to http://www.addthis.com/ and get their app for your browser. You can share pretty much anything on the 'Net. :)

steve davidson said...

your exemplar lists "Stevens & Tate" marketing firm as a previous employer.

It may certainly be legit; its also two names we ought to be familiar with from the TV show Bewitched (Darren Stevens worked for Tate at an advertising firm)

anna.e.norris said...

Thanks for doing this.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wow! There are so many "green" writers out there for places like this to feed on.

I'll tweet and share...

Mike Sutton said...

Many thanks for this information. It helped with a little detective work that I hope will save at least one aspiring author from parting with $600 and getting zero for his money:
See comments section to this man's post: http://www.bestthinking.com/thinkers/merle-e-ackeret?tab=blog&blogpostid=22138

Victoria Strauss said...

Adding linkage to Mike's comment above.

Mike, thank you for stepping in! I hope he heeds you.

Bob Butler said...

Writer Beware is a sorely needed voice that needs to be widely heard in the writing community. I invite you to blog at BestThinking.com. Since we are not advertising driven you are welcome to direct traffic back to your main blog and there is no cost to you. We make our money from actual book sales and use BestThinking to raise the visibility of writers. We would love to raise your visibility to help authors have a better understanding of the real world of making a living at writing. Our biggest challenge is unrealistic writer expectations being fueled by the many scams you are exposing. Bob Butler, CEO ThinkerMedia