We’re in the process now of compiling an online directory of literary agents. It’s going to be sortable, have very rich data in every agent and will be enriched with our own recommendations and advice – and absolutely no one knows agents better than we do. [The database exists now, by the way. It’s called Agent Hunter and it’s fab. HB.]
But as we’re compiling the list, we notice that some agents still charge reading fees. So let’s make it clear: you should not pay reading fees to literary agents. Not ever. For any reason. Just say no. Or preferably say no [insert expletive of your choice] way.
Reading fees are designed to ‘compensate’ agents for their time spent reading unsolicited manuscripts – they take all the risk away from the agent and place all the risk on you, the potential client. It’s not fair or justified. Since the vast majority of agents now charge no fee, you should simply avoid those agencies that do charge. Simples.
There’s another scam you see from time to time as well: agents who charge a largeish sum (£350 for example) to represent clients. Those agents say that it’s an upfront fee for expenses incurred (such as photocopying and postage), but this is a double nonsense. It’s nonsense because these days manuscripts are sent out digitally, and mostly read on Kindles, or whatever. But it’s also pernicious nonsense because, at £350 per client, agents have an incentive to offer representation as widely as possible. That means they take on poor quality manuscripts. Which means that editors distrust those agents. Which means their representation is worthless. Possibly even unhelpful.
And you don’t need to pay so much as a string bean to an agent, unless that agent makes money for you. That’s their job. They’re there to sell. They read unsolicited manuscripts because they’re looking for stuff they can sell. Let ’em find it. Let ’em sell it. Then let them take their fair and fully deserved share of the proceeds.
Don’t miss your chance to attend our next event, The Getting Published Day. Meet agents and publishers, and get feedback on your work. The event will be held in Regent’s College, on Saturday 1st March, 2014. Book Today!