Warning signs that a potential book agent is a fraud

The best way to get a book agent is through a referral from somebody who works with them.

The worst way is to fling a manuscript, proposal, or query blindly at a Web site.

But it is so difficult to find an agent — and they are so selective — that some people get desperate.

Let’s look at Inscriptions Literary Agency. Why? Because based on some Twitter chatter, it’s a pretty example of an agency to avoid.

Here are some questions you should be asking . . . and how Inscriptions fails on them.

Can I discuss my book with the agent?

If an agent rejects your book — or simply fails to get back to you — then you just move on.

But what if they accept your book or proposal? Well, then a relationship begins.

At Inscriptions, this is the message people saw after making submissions:

Arrogant? Yes. Unethical? Maybe. Certainly “we are new, but trust us” is the wrong approach.

Inscriptions has since changed its tune on this, claiming they were hacked and had no idea the message was in there. But this tweet from its principal, whose tweets have since been moved to protected and hidden status, makes me wonder.

What books have you published?

Every legit agency site has a bunch of book covers on it. They love to brag about their successes. Here’s an example from the entirely legitimate Laghi Agency, for example.

If there’s not a bunch of covers on your agency’s page, you should get worried.

Can I see a list of your agents?

Here are the agents at Kneerim & Williams. They want you to know who they are.

Inscriptions used to have an agent page, but it’s gone now. And before they took the link down, it used to lead to this:

Who are your authors?

Most agencies have a page listing their authors somewhere. Inscriptions has a bunch of photos with no author names. I tracked some of them down by sleuthing the names on their photo image files, but it does not appear any of them are actually published yet.

Do we have to pay you?

Almost all agents work on a basis of 15% of every dollar you make from publishing deals. They succeed when you succeed.

I’ve paid my agents about $100,000 based on that kind of deal. And they were worth every cent. Do the math and you’ll see how much money they’ve made me.

There are also agents who help you on the basis of a fixed fee, regardless of whether they close a deal. I’d avoid them.

Don’t let desperation blind you to an agent’s shortcomings

Honestly. Just check the website. You shouldn’t spend time applying to an agency like this.

Make friends with fellow authors and pitch their agents. You’ll be much better off.

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