Part I

Finding just the right agent is a daunting task for beginning authors in the best of times. Adding to the difficulty is the confusing mix of information, much of it blatantly incorrect, that authors find when researching on the Internet.

As the editor of one of the top-five publishing houses in New York says, “The Internet has a lot of advice on it. Some of the medical advice you can find there, for instance, will kill you.” The same with advice to authors. “Some writers who wish to be published often follow blindly the information they find on the Internet. It sometimes kills any chance of a writing career they have had.”

Unsavory business have begun using the Internet to undermine their competitors. These “black hats,” as they are sometimes called, spread untrue negative reviews about competitors in an attempt to push their own businesses to the top. Add to this is the problem of writers who want to become published, whose feelings get hurt by rejection.

The same editor explains that truly professional authors look at their writings as products, and they want to do all they can to hone their products, to make their agents, publishers, and themselves the most money. However, some beginning authors, who have a great deal of ego invested in their works, are sometimes crushed at a rejection letter. They are sometimes personally hurt by the suggestion their work can be improved, and sometimes these authors lash out on the Internet, in an attempt to “hurt” those who they perceive as undervaluing their work.

Richard Lawrence, President of the powerhouse agency, Eaton Literary Agency, says, “I’m just amazed at the number of authors who will put blatant lies on the Internet about publishers, agents, and even other authors. They don’t understand when they do this, they are really hurting themselves.”

Publishers, agents, and bookstore owners talk to each other. It’s what they do for a living! If they come across an author who acts in nonprofessional ways, word gets around, so no one wants to work with such an author. The author is usually unaware of his bad reputation and spends his life wondering what happened to his writing career.

One publisher tells of an author who complained bitterly because his local bookstore would not carry his work, so he breached his contract with the publisher, whom he blamed. In reality, the author was so overbearing and full of a sense of entitlement, the bookstore owner just did not want to work with him. Unfortunately, his breach came at a time when his agent was negotiating contracts with not only mega-publisher but with a movie studio for a three-picture deal. This author will never know what irreparable harm he did to his own career, all because of ego.

The solution? The standard for researching literary agents, publishers, and all businesses is still the Better Business Bureau. They have an extremely fair system of evaluating both sides of any controversy and are thus able to weed out black hats and consumers who are blatantly lying.

Change is coming to the Internet, brought on by lawsuits. Some businesses are banding together, to bring lawsuits not only against consumers and black hats who lie about them on the Internet but also against the hosting spaces that allow this to happen.

“Everyone knows libeling someone in a newspaper article can bring grave consequences, to not only the libeler but to the newspaper who does not check its stories,” says one major agent. “What people don’t understand is that the same consequences can apply to people who spread lies on the Internet – and the people who give them the forum to do so.”

While this article is about the publishing industry, the same sort of lawsuits are now being brought by businesses in most other industries who are being unfairly libeled on the Internet

If you want to find a literary agent, research their BBB rating. Find out how long they have been in business. Any agency that has been around for decades is a successful agency.

“And for heaven’s sake, don’t spread dirt about businesses because your feelings are hurt,” says another publisher. “Word gets around. It may ruin your chances of ever becoming published.”

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