Beware the scammer

You have probably been told never to send money to an agent.  I repeat this mantra because I wish I had heard this when I first started out.

In the dark ages before personal computers, I wrote my stories on a typewriter (for those of you too young to know what one is, look it up). Then I took it to a stationary store that had a copy machine and paid to have a copies made so I could send my stories to various publishers and agents. The manuscript went into a manila envelope (or a box if it was a large manuscript) with an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) inside.

I trudged to the post office and had the clerk weigh it for me, so I knew how much postage to put on the SASE  so the publisher or agent could return it. Because I had paid for that copy and if the publisher or agent didn’t want it, I did.

Of course, I hoped it wouldn’t be returned. I never wanted to see that big manila envelope wing its way back to my mailbox. I wanted a  #10 envelope containing an acceptance letter and a contract.

My hopes and prayers when answered when I got a call from a woman with a very distinguished British accent. The agency liked my work. If I would send them X amount of dollars they would send it to X number of publishers. The money was to cover the cost of paper, printing, and postage.

I talked it over with my husband, who was as clueless as I was. It sounded reasonable to him, so I sent the check.

In the following weeks I received more calls. They’d had some nibbles. I shouldn’t give up, but I needed to send more money.

Being as savvy as a two-day-old  kitten, I did.

By the third call, I began to suspect things were not on the up-and-up. I regretfully said no, and then began wondering if I had blown my Big Chance for a few hundred dollars.

And then the world opened up. I bought a personal computer. I read on-line blogs about writing. I joined critique groups and writers groups. I attended writing conferences.

I wasn’t alone any more, fighting my way blindly to the to goal. I had help.

The first time I heard someone say “Never send an agent money” I knew I had been seduced by a cultured British accent.

I suspect they are out of business now, because stamps and paper and copy machines are no longer a necessary part of submitting. Or maybe they have found  new way to scam gullible newbies. I don’t know.

It was a painful, embarrassing, and expensive lesson for me and that is why I want to repeat the words I wish I’d heard way back when: Never pay an agent. If you are good enough, they will take a chance on getting their money from their fees.

Now editors. Editors a different story and if you are serious about your work you will hire one before submitting anywhere, and especially if you self-publish.

That money is worth it.

 

 

 

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