I first heard about literary agent Barbara Bauer through the good offices of the much-missed Miss Snark, whose post about Ms. Bauer and her various critics was, to put it mildly, not flattering to Ms. Bauer. The Monmouth County literary agent has now taken up Miss Snark’s challenge and filed a lawsuit against her Internet critics. Here’s the Star-Ledger’s recap:
If you believe her website, Barbara Bauer is a veteran literary agent who has helped get numerous books by award-winning authors published in multiple languages around the world.
If you believe other sites around the internet, Bauer is one of the industry’s “20 Worst Literary Agents,” charging her clients high fees for little work.
The Monmouth County literary agent says the websites, blogs and YouTube videos slamming her are ruining her reputation and cutting into her business. So she is suing a number of sources of online criticism in a case that has caught the attention of free-speech groups and online activists.
The ball apparently got rolling a couple of years ago when Writer Beware added Ms. Bauer to its 20 Worst Literary Agents list. Google her name and you’ll find plenty of complaints about her on various writers sites.
I’m happy to say I haven’t had any encounters with the agents on that list. But I can tell you this: You should never pay any reading fees or, for that matter, any sort of fees up front. Never. This is the rule from which all other rules follow.
An agent takes you on as a client because that agent sees a chance to sell your work, whether immediately or somewhere down the line after a bit more woodshedding. It’s a business arrangement, simple as that. If the “agent” tries to justify a reading fee by saying he has business costs, you tell him: Well gee, pal, so do I, but I’m willing to let you read my stuff for free. Which should be the last thing you ever say to him.
If the manuscript sells, you and the agent share in the benefits. If it doesn’t sell, you take to your bed for a few days and sob into your pillow, or go to a waterfront bar and pick a fight with the first stevedore you see. Whatever makes you feel better.
If you pay a reading fee up front, you are announcing that you are a pigeon looking for someone to take advantage of you. End of discussion. Case closed.