Arrrghhh!!! When a so-called “literary agent” is really a fee-based publisher…

Arrrghhh!!! When a so-called “literary agent” is really a fee-based publisher…

Q –


I have a friend who has written over 15 novels in the past 30 years and, though he has had a few agents who tried to sell his books, he remains unpublished. Three months ago he sent out a query letter and the first chapter of one of his books to an agency overseas. The agent responded favorably, and agreed to try to sell it, but didn’t offer an agency contract. My friend went ahead and sent her the whole book.

After 3 months he was curious if the agency had any luck with the book so he sent a “send update” email. The agent who had the book responded quickly, but said she was unable to find a publisher who was willing to take on the project. She listed a litany of reasons, and then wrote, “Rather than letting your book sit on a shelf collecting dust, I could publish it for you.” That seems to me to be a definite conflict of interest for a literary agent but my friend, who’s ready to give away the store to this agent, doesn’t see this. Am I correct in my viewpoint?



A –

Yes, it’s definitely a conflict of interest, and extremely unethical. I’ve heard of this happening many times before. Please tell your friend to avoid this bottom feeder!

Some small-time publishers pretend to be literary agents in order to attract authors. These snakes have no intention of helping an author land a big contract. Rather, they claim to have no luck with publishers, and then offer to publish the author’s book themselves…for a hefty fee of course.

In other cases, they instead “recommend” the author use a specific fee-based publisher, and get a kickback from that “publisher” on the fees the author paid to get published.

One fake literary agent in the past (who used a fake name as well) would “refer” authors to a publishing services company that she herself owned. If I remember correctly, she ended up serving jail time for fraud.

If any literary agent tries to sell an author anything at all (including editing services), run for the hills! The only legitimate up-front fees that a real literary agent should charge authors are the printing and postage fees for sending out manuscripts to traditional publishers.


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One Response to "Arrrghhh!!! When a so-called “literary agent” is really a fee-based publisher…"

  1. pamelaallegretto  August 11, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Great advice!