Are Fee-Charging Agents Legit?

Author:
Publish date:

Q: Recently I queried an agent and, in her response, she told me she charged a fee for reading manuscripts. I had never heard of this before, so I'm hesitant to move forward with her. Are reading fees a standard practice with agents?

A: No, charging a reading fee is not a standard practice of agents. Most agents generally get a 15% commission on the earnings on the manuscript, meaning that they don't get paid until you do. If they mention any type of upfront fee (other than sending a self-addressed stamped envelope, or SASE), that should be an immediate red flag that the agent isn't legit.

The Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR), to which many agents belong, has a very strict stance on this, which is mentioned in their Canon of Ethics:

AAR believes that the practice of literary agents charging clients or potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works (including outlines, proposals, and partial or complete manuscripts) is subject to serious abuse that reflects adversely on our profession. For that reason, members may not charge clients or potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works and may not benefit, directly or indirectly, from the charging for such services by any other person or entity.

All members of the AAR abide by this code, and nearly all non-AAR agents follow it too. About 15 years ago or so, there was a small collection of reputable agents who did charge reading fees, but most have dropped those charges so they aren't confused with scammers. It's also very telling that neither Writer's Marketor Guide to Literary Agents (GLA) list agents that charge upfront fees.

"You should never pay any upfront fees just so that your work is read or considered," says Chuck Sambuchino, editor of GLA. "If we find out someone has instituted a reading fee, we disqualify them and remove them from the book."

This is not to say that there aren't capable agents who may charge fees��you certainly may be able to find a few that have sold some books—but be clear that they are willing to bend the (nearly) universal rules to make a buck.

Want more?

6 Books Perfect for Fall Reading

6 Books Perfect for Fall Reading

Whether you're looking for something cozy or a little spooky, these books are perfect for the fall season.

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep?

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep?

When it comes to a 30 day writing challenge like NaNoWriMo, do you need to prep beforehand to achieve success? Well, that might depend on what kind of writer you are.

Sarah Echavarre Smith: On Going for the Out-There Ideas

Sarah Echavarre Smith: On Going for the Out-There Ideas

Copywriter and author Sarah Echavarre Smith discusses the process of writing her new romance novel, On Location.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 583

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a fall poem.

5 Thrilling Adventure Terms Every Writer Should Know (And Why)

5 Thrilling Adventure Terms Every Writer Should Know (And Why)

For over a decade, author Joshua Glenn has been researching adventure-related terms. Now, he's sharing what he's learned for other writers to add to their lexicon.

Moral Compass

Moral Compass

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, write about someone with an unfailing moral compass.

Daniel Levin Becker: On the Forgotten Art of Letter Writing

Daniel Levin Becker: On the Forgotten Art of Letter Writing

Author, translator, and editor Daniel Levin Becker discusses his hopes for future letter writing like those featured in the new anthology, Dear McSweeney's: Two Decades of Letters to the Editor from Writers, Readers, and the Occasional Bewildered Consumer.

e.g. vs. i.e. (Grammar Rules)

e.g. vs. i.e. (Grammar Rules)

Let's look at the differences between e.g. and i.e. with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

20 Authors Share Their Biggest Surprise in the Writing Process

20 Authors Share Their Biggest Surprises in the Writing Process

Experienced writers know to expect the unexpected. Here are surprises in the writing process from 20 authors, including Amanda Jayatissa, Paul Neilan, Kristin Hannah, and Robert Jones, Jr.