are by no means immune to importunate communications: Buy this, subscribe
to that. That's why when the postcard arrived in early October, 1995,
I didn't pay a whole hell of a lot of particular attention to it:
It has come to my attention that you're the author of a children's
book intended for publication. Since most of my clients write
in this genre, I would like to see your manuscript. Please
remember to send self-addressed-stamped-envelope.
RENAISSANCE LITERARY AGENCY
P.O. Box 566397
Atlanta, GA 31156
All of the
above text is sic, including the hyphens between self-addressed
and so on. (I might add that although my name had been typed in, the entire
rest of the card was obviously a boilerplate print job.)
to me to wonder how this fellow, Leon Jones, had gotten ahold of the mailing
list for the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI),
because that's clearly where he got my name. I've been a member for several
years now, having joined just prior to the publication of my children's
book Dinosaur Dress Up. But at this point, I did not,
as I said, give the matter a great deal of thought.
In fact, I
decided that I'd send Mr. Jones an old manuscript I hadn't been able to
sell, just to see what he'd make of it. This manuscript, entitled Penguin
Island, has been sitting in my files for a few years. Every
so often I'll pull it out and spend a few days tinkering with it. It went
to the editor who published DDU, but although he gave
it some consideration he eventually passed on it -- and I simply hadn't
gotten around to sending it anywhere else.
So I fired
it off to Mr. Jones on October 11, 1995.
Now the story
starts to get more interesting -- and, you'll be pleased to hear, funnier.
A couple of
weeks later, I got a letter from Mr. Jones, dated October 21, 1995. It's
well worth quoting in full:
October 21, 1995|
79 Margos Way
Hopewell Junction, NY 12533
Dear Mr. Sirois,
PENGUIN ISLAND is one of the best children's books I have read in
some time. It is marvelous. I read it to my niece and nephew, Ms.
Symonds, and they loved it, insisting I read it to them again.
You have a God-given talent for writing in this genre.
"Do I think your book has a good chance of being published?" you
My answer: "YES.
"There is something, however, I believe you should be aware of.
The publishing industry has changed dramatically in recent years.
May publishing houses have merged, for it costs so much to publish
and promote a book these days. Therefore, editors have to SOLD on
the idea of publishing a book.
That is why an agent is so important to the author.
As a writer, I am sure you are aware of the value of
having an agency represent you. An agent can provide
you with up-to-date information on publisher's
buying trends, deal with contract terms, advances,
ancillary rights and royalties.
In short, the odds against an unrepresented writer
getting published these days are enormous.
Our agency has the experience and expertise to
identify markets for your book, to anticipate
where you are likely to encounter problems, and to
serve as your advocate with the publishing industry.
Normally, Mr. Sirois, we charge a consulting/marketing|
fee of $700 for our new clients (to cover phone calls,
postage, traveling to meet editors in other cities,
etc., standard procedure among legitimate agencies in
the publishing industry), but since we believe it will
require less time to successfully represent you than
it takes with new clients, we will require only a
Unlike some agencies who advertise free appraisals--
but who are actually high priced editing firms with
LITTLE or NO influence with publishing houses--our
agency will represent you with the same professionalism
that we represent our clients of long standing.
Enclosed is our contract stating precisely what we will
do for you. If you wish for us to represent you, and
we sincerely hope you do, since we know several
publishers who should be interested in your book. . .
fill out the contract and return it to us.
Please note that the $300 will be refunded to you immediately upon the
sell of your book, PENGUIN ISLAND.
Please call me if you have any questions.
P.S. I feel confident I can sell your wonderful
book within 6 months, Mr. Sirois, +
maybe get you a sizeable advance.
I'm still finding
errors in this letter -- while rendering it into HTML to put up on the
Web, I found 2 more! (Some are obvious, but not all. For example, he has
my address as Margos Way. It should have been Marges
Accompanying this piece
of tripe was the following, even more laughable, document:
(You'll have to imagine two images flanking the
text, identical, of an old-style plume pen in a bottle of ink, in front of a parchment scroll -- really bad clip art...)
Title of book submitted herein:
I am submitting to RENAISSANCE LITERARY AGENCY certain
book, the title of which is indicated above, (which book
is hereafter referred to as "Book") on the following terms:
(1) In consideration of RENAISSANCE LITERARY AGENCY
representing me as my agent with the publishing industry for twelve months, they shall retain a
one-time fee of $300.00, and upon publication of said "Book", shall reimburse me in full. Also,
your agency shall receive one-tenth of the monies earned through the sale of said "Book" which is the
standard practice in the publishing business.
(2) I warrant that I am the sole owner and author of said "Book", and that I have full right to submit it
to you upon the terms and conditions contained herein.
(3) This agreement may not be changed, modified, terminated or discharged except in writing signed by me and RENAISSANCE
LITERARY AGENCY. This agreement, regardless of where executed or performed, shall be governed by the state of Georgia, applicable
to agreements executed and to by wholly performed therein.
(4) I hereby state that I have read and understand this agreement; that no oral presentations of any kind were made to me; that I have
consented to this agreement on my own volition.
Agency: RENAISSANCE LITERARY AGENCY (signed) Leon Jones (dated) 10/21/95
*American Association of Literary Agents
But it gets even
better! Included in the envelope with the letter and the "contract"
was an 8 ½" x 3 ½" piece of card stock, with the following "information"
printed on it in red:
Renaissance Literary Agency
P.O. Box 56637
Atlanta, GA 31156
* American Association Of
* Association Of Writer's
Are Agents Necessary?
Agents protect a writer's interests, and
are well worth their costs; they work
for the writer. Agents invest time,
much effort, and their expertise in the
writer, sometimes for a long time
before it pays off.
A writer should never represent
himself with a publisher. All publishers
have "boilerplate contracts," basic
contracts advantageous to publishers,
not to writers.
Can An Agent Do?
An agent has the expertise to:
negotiate a contract favorable to the
writer, secure better payments, serve as
a liaison between the writer and
Most agents charge some kind of a fee.
The old canard that writers should
avoid fee-charging agents has gone by
the board. Some charge a reading fee,
others just a fee for postage and phone
calls. However, the writer should know
precisely what he is being charged for
and what he will receive for this
Should A Writer Have An Agent?
The writer is the lifeblood of the
publishing industry. The agent
understands and appreciates this;
Therefore, the agent is dedicated to
the writer's interests.
Which Agency Should A Writer
"Renaissance Literary Agency," says Ber-
nard Palmer, author of WHAT ARE
THEY TRYING TO DO TO US? I
tried for years to get my book published,
but I was unsuccessful until I retained the
Renaissance Literary Agency."
that I have done my best, given the limitations imposed on me by HTML
and the browsers I use to check my coding, to present an accurate representation
not only of the text, but also of the appearance of the material
I received from this "professional agent."
All this was
so crazily idiotic that I didn't bother writing back. For fun, I took
copies of the Renaissance correspondence to a meeting of the Hudson Valley
Writers Association, and we had an uproarious time reading them and picking
out errors in spelling and grammar. (My favorite gaffe is in the first
paragraph on page one, where he forgot to remove the name of another would-be
client from his boilerplate document.)
to write to SCBWI and the Authors Guild about Renaissance, but the matter
slipped down in the list of priorities. Although I eventually did
contact both organizations, I blush to admit that I might not have done
so had Leon Jones not done something I didn't expect: he wrote to me
| December 18, 1995
Dear Mr. Strois:
RE: PENGUIN ISLAND
I am puzzled as to why you have not responded to my offer
to represent you in finding a royalty paying publisher
for your children's book.
I think you are a talented writer, and sincerely believe
that my agency can sell your book -- probably well within
the time stated in the contract. There is one editor of
a publishing house who is interested in looking at your
book. Just off the top of my head I can think of a
dozen others who would find your delightful children's
book to have "market potential."
If you are serious about getting your children's book
published, give me a call. I'll be waiting to hear from
believe the temerity of this twerp. Con artists like Leon Jones
probably manage to bilk people out of thousands of dollars every year.
So I got off my tail and wrote to the Authors Guild and to SCBWI, enclosing
with my letters to these organizations photocopies of the material I received
of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators replied with a copy of a press
release from their attorney, Andrew L. Finn, and a handwritten note from
Sue Alexander, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, saying that they've
printed warnings about Renaissance before. The release was published in
the February-March 1996 issue of the SCBWI Bulletin.
FROM THE SCBWI COUNSEL
It recently has come to our attention that a purported
publisher and literary agency in the Atlanta, Georgia
metropolitan area has apparently obtained a copy of the
SCBWI roster and has been soliciting its members; specifi-
cally, John Honea Publishers and Renaissance Literary
Agency. We do not know how these entities have obtained
the roster. Please be advised that SCBWI does not in any
way endorse the use of either of these agencies. Although
these agencies have not responded to our requests for
information, we have learned from the Georgia Department
of Consumer Affairs, the Atlanta Better Business Bureau
and the United States Post Office Inspection Service that there
are a number of complaints and inquiries which have been
filed pertaining to these entities as well as three related
entities, Eclectic Press, The Book Doctor and the Living
Faith Literary Agency. If any member has any complaints
concerning any of these entities, please feel fre to contact
either myself through the SCBWI office or the U.S. Postal
Inspection Service at (800) 372-8347.
--Andrew L. Finn, Attorney for SCBWI
Guild replied with a phone call from Martha Fay, editor of the Guild
Bulletin, asking me if I would give the Guild permission to publish
some of my correspondence with Renaissance. I agreed happily.
The real lesson
here is that most of us who've been around the publishing business for
any length of time know better than to fall for scams like this. But there
are plenty of people who have no contact with the larger community of
writers, who have hopes and dreams, and who just don't have any defenses
against vultures like Jones. I know from email that this page has prevented
the fleecing of at least two innocent wanna-be writers. They had done
a web search on "Renaissance Literary Agency" and ended up here. That
is very satisfying!
But I'd be
more satisfied to see Leon Jones and his associates made accountable
for their actions. Stringing them up by their balls would be about right,
script: Penguin Island was published by Hard
Shell Word Factory in 1999, with illustrations by the author.