Challenge,  Misc,  News

Sitting and Laughing….

Just Couldn’t Stop Laughing…

I got sent this newsletter that I tend to read every month. It is from a major traditional published person, a former editor and so on, who has her head so far up the ass of traditional publishing, I have no idea how she sees anything clearly. And she often does not. She pretends to pay attention to indie publishing, then does a sad and so uninformed piece of Pay-to-Publish, I got disgusted.

But that is not what made me sit and just laugh and have a hard time stopping this afternoon. She did an article about how the AALA (American Association of Literary Agents) revised their Canon of Ethics.

The organization is a toothless joke and has always been, even under its original name of the Association of American Representatives.

But sadly, what started me laughing is that the group has a Canon of Ethics in the first place.

Never, in all my life, have I been around a group of humans without ethics like book agents. But I guess it makes them feel better that they can join an organization that has a Canon of Ethics that I will bet not a one of them has read. Or even pretend to care about when they are taking clients money, co-mingling funds, using a clients royalty check to pay their office rent, and so on.

So I have to be honest, I was chuckling when I read their organization had a Canon of Ethics. Then I came to the tragic meat of the article. They were changing their newly-minted Canon to include (are you ready for this?) AGENTS CAN NOW PROVIDE EDITORIAL SERVICES TO WRITERS FOR A FEE.

Sadly, for all the writers that will fall into this trap, I just started laughing.

Many agents have already been doing this for years, hurting young writers with promises that if the writer just pays them a fee to learn how to write, then maybe the agent will represent them. Maybe. (Never happens.)

This just plays on writer’s dreams, gives them nothing but hope, and then lets them twist on the next rewrite and the next rewrite as the agent takes more and more of their money.


And an agent, who used to be a friend, so disgusted me when I learned he was doing this to baby writers, I came within seconds of just punching him.

But now, all these years later, the association that lets agents join it to give them something to put on their business cards, has put in its “Canon of Ethics” that it is all right to do this sort of thing.

I’m sorry, I’ve been fighting the agent battle for so long, trying to let writers know that agents are all scams, that lawyers are better to use, the only thing I could do when I read this news was laugh. The agents association had just approved in their “ethics” this scam. (I wonder if no agent has ever looked up the word “ethic.”)

I bet next up in the “Canon of Ethics” for literary agents in this country they will approve that it is all right to hold and use writer’s money as long as they intend to pay it back.

This is so deep in the myth of needing an agent, and so sad about the thousands lost to this myth every year, I can do nothing but laugh.

Breaks my heart for all the young writers who celebrate getting an agent (scammer). So much so that if I didn’t just laugh, I would cry.

So today, when I learned this news, I just sat and laughed.

But it was not a joyous laugh. But a laugh that you do when you realize that not a shred of human decency is left in part of a profession you love.

Not one damn shred.


  • Grace Wen

    The AALA doesn’t even try to hide why they made the change: according to Publishers Marketplace, “The organization explains that the accommodation was made in part in recognition that ‘many literary agents currently struggle to support themselves by agenting alone.’” Yet they expect cash-strapped agents to follow this handy flowchart to determine whether their editorial services are ethical (scroll down):

    I don’t think they understand human nature.

    • Grace Wen

      Dean said: “I bet next up in the ‘Canon of Ethics’ for literary agents in this country they will approve that it is all right to hold and use writer’s money as long as they intend to pay it back.”

      Heh, they’re already there in Section 8(A)(ii): “if during or after the rendering of [editorial] services the member agrees to represent the author, the member must then return in full all payments received for such services prior to submitting the work and waive any further payments for such services for that author.”

      It’s cute how they think that will ever happen.

    • dwsmith

      Oh, Grace, they understand human nature very well. They understand that no one will look at that chart or care and that baby writers with dreams will pay thousands and thousands to have someone just sprinkle fairy dust of approval on their manuscript. They can’t make it being an agent, so they make it scamming writers. And now that is “approved” by their organization. Just head-shakingly sad.

  • tony

    Did they really write “Cannon of Ethics”? Must have, I guess. You wouldn’t make that mistake.
    Thanks, though I fear those needing this never see it, even if they look.

  • Vincent Zandri

    If an agent told me I had to pay for an edit/critique/revision I’d fire him/her on the spot. I once had an agent, for about five minutes, who couldn’t sell one of my books and I told him I was going to indiie publish it. He said he wanted 15 percent of the indie book royalties. I told him to kiss my ass and fired him. He had his chance to sell the product and failed. I ended up selling the book on my own. Go figure. But I should have gone with my gut and indie published it. But that was then and this is now, and now I know better. Live and learn. I love to write and publish, but boy oh boy is this a shyster business or what.

    That’s why I love Harlan Elyson’s now infmaous Pay the Writer YouTube clip…

    It’s not the same as agents asking to be paid for editing services but you get the idea…

  • Kris+Rusch

    When we were baby writers, the president of that organization was the agent who was notorious for embezzling from his clients and then forcing the ones who caught him to sign a non-disclosure if they wanted money.

  • Cora

    I remember seeing that exact scenario with the agent that you are talking about. As a business person it horrified me. And I’m actually surprised that it took this log for the industry to codify it. Some sort of peer mentoring effort to help preserve their numbers and influence maybe?

      • dwsmith

        Vincent, no matter how good you think he is, have the publisher send your share of all money to you, and when there is a translation sale, contact the publisher at once and ask to be informed when the money goes out. Every agent I have ever met has been accused of sticky fingers and I know most of the “good” ones. And often it is not the agent, but the accounting department, or a sub-agent that might be the problem. With agents, trust them exactly as far as you can throw them, keep track of every penny from the publisher side. Amazing how easy it is for money to just go missing when the writer doesn’t even know it is coming.