Danielle Smith: Agent Gone Bad

I wasn’t going to blog about this but if you aren’t on Twitter you may not have seen the news.  Agent Danielle Smith has shut down her agency, Lupine Grove, after telling her writers that they had been offered publishing contracts that never existed.  She would tell these clients that the contracts were unacceptable and that she had already turned the offers down.

If you are one of her authors, several agents have stepped forward and offered to read work from her clients.  If you are not one of her clients, please don’t claim to be.  Seriously.  That would not be good.

If you are seeking representation, this is likely to make you question the wisdom of approaching an agent.  Know that this situation is so rare.  That doesn’t make it less awful for any of those involved.

Here are some of the warning signs of learned to look for when researching agents.

  1.  Check out the web site.  If it looks unprofessional or something strikes you as off, accept it as such and move on.  This isn’t to say that a site for a kid lit agent can’t be playful and fun but it should still clearly be a business.
  2. Agents who won’t tell their clients who has seen their work.  One friend fired her big-name agent when he kept telling her he was sending out her work but wouldn’t name names.  It turned out that her work had never gone out.
  3. When an agent turns down or accepts an offer without first showing it to the author.  Apparently this is what happened with Smith. I’ve heard of agents contacting an author and immediately saying, “This is no good.  You should turn it down.”  That’s okay, because you are getting to see the offer.
  4. Agents who only send work to open houses.  This isn’t a sign of fraud but really?  Why pay someone 15% to submit to the same editors you have access to?

Never thought I’d be glad that an agent did not offer me representation. My heart goes out to Smith’s clients.  For an agents take on this, check out Janet Reid’s blog post.

–SueBE