The Hunt Continues...
by Tina Morgan, author, reprinted with permission, first appeared in the Fiction Factor .
Recently my co-author, Ciara, and I received an offer of literary representation. We should be doing the happy 'Snoopy' dance right?
Wrong. After querying several agents last year, we discovered we had queried several questionable ones. This agent was one of those. So when they asked to see the complete manuscript, we thought 'why bother?'. But then I changed my mind. I wanted to see a copy of their contract for myself.
Now they didn't call or write - they emailed me asking for the manuscript. That didn't bother me. What did concern me was the form letter appearance of the email. A form letter request to see a manuscript? How many manuscripts do they ask to see a month?
Being the cynical person that I am, I wondered if they would truly read the manuscript. So as a test, I sent seven chapters of the third (and final) draft and the remaining twenty-nine chapters of the second draft. So far no one has asked me why the novel doesn't line up properly and why a character that is killed in the first five chapters suddenly appears in chapter twenty. Hmm.
Approximately two months after the manuscript was mailed to them, we received an email welcoming us to their 'family'. They said they were all ready pitching our work to publishers. How? We haven't signed a contract yet. They also said that time was of the essence and to fax the signed pages of the contract to them. One problem. They didn't send the contract.
When I didn't send the contract back (what contract?), they emailed me. No, not to ask me for the signed pages but the exact same form letter as before asking to see the entire manuscript. I returned their email with a copy of the one welcoming me to the family. I told them I didn't receive the contract. I also told them that since I sent the manuscript in and received the welcome letter I assumed someone had read it. Their response? The same welcoming email but with the contract attached this time.
Since I first wrote this article, they have contacted me again. I told them that I had sent a letter requesting my manuscript back. I have yet to receive my manuscript. I was also assured that someone had read my work. ?? So why haven't they questioned me about the inconsistencies?
After reading the contract carefully I found it resembled the standard contracts I've found on the Internet - but with one major difference. They want $200 US a month to represent my manuscript.
Most writers I know hope to write more than one novel. I know in our series, we have one completed, a sequel in the works and outlines for three, or possibly four, more novels. Each additional novel would cost us $50 US a month. That would be over $400 a month. My car payment is less than that.
Included with their contract was a list of frequently asked questions. In these questions, they included a list of novels they had sold. Every single novel was sold to Americahouse. When I tried to find Americahouse on the Internet, I couldn't find anything at all. What I did did finally learn is that Americahouse has been known to pay as little as a $1.00 advance. Yes, that decimal point is in the right spot.
Another red light was the quote: "It is our policy to not share our list of clients, primarily due to the confidentiality clause contained in our contract." They go on to say that they are sensitive about sharing the phone numbers and addresses of their clients. I'm not asking for the phone numbers and addresses of their clients. Author names and novel titles would do. I want proof they've sold to more than just one publisher.
They also say "If you are looking for a large company to represent you, you have the wrong one." Okay, I don't particularly want to work with a large company. But if they are so busy that all their correspondence is a form letter and they can't even read my manuscript then how are they going to target the right editors? How much time are they going to spend on my manuscript?
Another quote: "No. We do not charge reading fees. Commission from the sale of your project generates our income only." What's the $200 a month for then?
There's also a very confusing clause about late fees. It says that a 10% late fee will be accrued after the five-day grace period and $1.00 per day for each day after that. Each day after what? I thought the 10% was after the grace period when does the $1.00 per day go into effect?
Did I also mention that the contract was sent in my name alone? All correspondence to this agency included both mine, and Ciara's names. How can I sign a contract for a work that isn't totally mine? Ciara and I have a writing partnership. Control of all intellectual properties and monies is divided 50/50. To make this contract legal, we would both have to sign it.
I don't know which is more insulting, the fact that they think I will jump at the chance to pay them a monthly fee or that they think I will do it with so little effort on their part. Sorry boys, you'll have to work a lot harder than that for my money.
As always, I'll end this rant by saying "Money flows TO the Author - NEVER the other way around."
*UPDATE* Just a few weeks ago, I recieved a suprise package in the mail. It was my long lost manuscript. A year after writing this article and requesting my manuscript back it finally showed up. In remarkable pristine condition. I had been assured the manuscript had been read, but the pages were unwrinkled and showed no indication they had ever been touched.