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1200$ reading fee?

Posted: May 12th, 2010, 7:19 pm
by FK7
This afternoon I went to visit my dad at the hospital, who's recuperating from a big operation he had last Thursday to take out that son of a bitch, also known as "colorectal tumor". I spent the entire afternoon by his side last Saturday and Sunday, so today, three hours in, we had exhausted all topics of conversation.

Nobody but my best friend and one or two people I trust even know I'm working on a novel. I ESPECIALLY didn't want to tell my dad, since he's not very artsy, and I knew he wouldn't take me seriously. He's the kind of father you know is proud of you, but he doesn't show it well... when I got accepted in medical school, I was so excited, and he barely smiled. I could win a Pulitzer and he'd just grin and be like "that's cool". It's a little frustrating, but such is life.

I began to talk to him about the novel and the world of publishing, and he seemed to be interested in that part. What I didn't know is that the other patient in the room was listening in to our conversation from the other side of the ugly blue curtain that separate the beds. When my father went to the washroom, I heard her say "I believe I heard you're writing a book?"

Actual story:

The lady was obviously in bad shape, in her late fifties, and asked me under a heavy and difficult breath how my experience was going so far. I noticed the pile of books on her bedside table, and imagined she was interested in literature. She seems eager to tell me about her own experience, a few years back, when she tried to sell a book. I was surprised when she said she wrote it in English since she has a very French name (I'm from Quebec), but I let her continue.

I paid more attention when she said she actually traveled to NYC to meet a lit agent and paid a whooping 1200$US to have her fiction manuscript read and critiqued... I'm talking a 250 words critique, that ended up saying, a month later "Too long. No good theme. We invite you to resubmit for the same price."

I SWEAR TO GOD, right at that time, I imagined Miss Snark lighting up in flames in my head, screaming profanities at the charming lady that laid before me, saying "This is the worse kind of nitwittery I have ever heard."

I felt so bad for her, but I simply said I was sorry. I didn't feel like telling her "Sorry madam, but legit agents don't charge a reading fee, especially not 1200$. For 1200$, you could have had a prestigious freelance editor such as Third Draft NYC or Sterling Editing do a full line editing for a good chunk of your novel. Not only were you lied to, but you were scammed out of you hard earned money." I would certainly have given her a heart attack...

HOW CAN PEOPLE BLINDLY PAY 1200$ TO SOME RANDOM AGENT (she couldn't even remember the name of the agency when I asked her) as a reading fee without so much as a background check? It is DISGUSTING how some scumbags abuse the ignorance of people so openly, playing on their dreams and hopes. Clueless much? This was a a well articulated woman, I could tell from the way she spoke, but the Shark/Miss Snark would have eaten her alive.

How would you have handled the situation? Would you have told this woman the truth? Maybe slipped her an anonymous note with a link to Miss Snark's and Nathan's blog, with a P.S. that reads: "Get a clue!"?

Re: 1200$ reading fee?

Posted: May 12th, 2010, 7:23 pm
by Bryan Russell/Ink
If she was actively considering such a thing, or still looking for such opportunities, I would probably say something. But it sounds like it's in the past for her, she's not pursuing it anymore. I'm not sure telling her she got scammed would really help anything at this point. Silence can be golden. :)

Re: 1200$ reading fee?

Posted: May 12th, 2010, 7:25 pm
by FK7
I didn't ask if she was still trying... because then I would have felt compelled to tell her she got screwed, and might have been later charged with involuntary 3rd degree homicide.

Re: 1200$ reading fee?

Posted: May 12th, 2010, 8:33 pm
by Nathan Bransford
First off, hope your dad is recovering quickly and smoothly.

Second, holy cow is that depressing about the woman paying that much money for a 250 word critique. Ugh. Thank goodness at least for the Internet. Hopefully this sort of thing will be less common as people look first to the Internet for information on how to get published.

Re: 1200$ reading fee?

Posted: May 13th, 2010, 12:19 pm
by jvc
I agree with Ink. If she isn't trying to get the novel published anymore then I'd just leave it and not say anything else. If you do go back and find out she is trying to submit, then maybe point her to a few forums, such as this one, or others that might help her do some research first. I probably wouldn't come out and say she is a bit ditsy (or something a lot stronger) and was scammed, though.

Oh, sorry about your dad, I hope he's recovering. Postive thoughts heading your way.