If you’re not afraid by now of the piranha swimming around in publishing waters, don’t so much as stick your pinkie toe in. You and your sweetness would be too much of a delicious snack for them to pass up.
Remember our mantra? The money goes to the author. This one sentence is really all you need. Creepy, sneaky fake-publishers aren’t the only problem for baby writers. There are a lot of crooked literary agents out there, too. I know how exciting it is to get a request from an agent for pages to read. It’s like chocolate, and sugar, and cake, and pie only better. Someone likes your brain! Your mind makes beautiful things, things people want to read.
It is total AWESOMESAUCE!
But if that agent tells you that he or she charges a reading fee—time to run kiddo. Run, run, run as fast as you can. Make like the gingerbread man and get out of Dodge. Reputable agents don’t charge reading fees. But, you are still full of baby evil and you can’t know all of the things you need to know. So I will tell you more.
You should go here, to the Association of Author Representatives, and read their Cannon of Ethics . As long as the literary agent is a member here, you don’t have to worry about a lot of things. Newer agents don’t always have enough sales in a quarter to join. They might decide that they aren’t a group-ish kind of person. But you can ask them if they run their business with the same moral code.
I know that right now you think agents come down from the sky to make your dreams come true. They have wings and everything, right? Golden light, maybe harp music? Well those of us who are evil aren’t that fond of wings. We know that a reputable agent isn’t worried if you ask questions. They want you to be well informed, and a business partner—not some dewy-eyed fan girl (or fan-boy) with unrealistic expectations.
I want you to freaking memorize that cannon of ethics. Every single one of those things listed are important. People who have seen every nasty little con ran on writers sat down and wrote out the right thing to do. Agents who cared about their reputations and their clients and writers in general. Read them. Learn them. Look for those qualities in a literary agent. If you decide that this is too hard of a thing to do, too boring, don’t come crying to the Evil league of Evil Writers. We think stupid people tears are especially delicious for breakfast.