From Writer Beware:
In the late 1990s, when Writer Beware first started up, the digital revolution was just peeking over the horizon. Traditional publishing was still the only path to publication, and literary agents were the principal gatekeepers.
As a result, there existed a huge and lucrative subculture of scam literary agents, who fed on writers’ hunger for publication and turned the (false) promise of access into money. Upfront fees, editing referral schemes, vanity publishing scams: the list was endless.
No more. With the enormous growth of small presses and the expanding number of self-publishing options, agents are no longer the be-all and end-all of a writing career, and fewer writers decide to seek them.
. . . .
There’s an impressively large list of book placements on the website of Loiacono Literary Agency (motto: “Where ‘can’t’ is not in our vocabulary!”). In this case, though, size isn’t everything, because apart from a handful of sales to larger publishing houses, most of the books have been placed with small presses that don’t require authors to be agented. For most of the publishers Loiacono has worked with, the authors likely could have placed the books on their own and saved themselves a commission.
This isn’t why you hire an agent. Another thing you don’t hire an agent for: hooking you up with vanity publishers. A very large number of books on Loiacono’s list have been placed with Argus Publishing. Argus, which has also done business as A Better Be Write, A Book 4 You, and A-Argus Book Better Book Publishers, charges a four-figure publishing fee.
. . . .
The 25 or so book placements claimed by The Swetky Literary Agency (don’t you love that dawn-of-the-web vibe) is much, much smaller than the list claimed by Loiacono.
In other ways, though, it’s similar. There’s a handful of placements with reputable independent and specialty presses; the rest are “sales” to vanity publishers (Koehler Books) and small presses that authors can work with on their own. Also, even if every one of Swetky’s book placements were impeccably reputable, 25 sales over the nearly 15 years the agency has been in business is a pretty sad track record.
. . . .
I’ve heard from multiple writers to whom Faye Swetky offered representation or the possibility of representation, and then told them that their manuscripts needed editing. Fortunately, she knew a terrific editor who might be willing to work with them: David J. Herda, a much-published author of nonfiction.
. . . .
Sarah Warner, principal of the Warner Literary Group, has an impressive background as an acquisitions editor. It would seem to be the perfect set of qualifications for a successful literary agent.
And yet, Warner’s track record is tiny. Since the agency’s founding in 2011, she appears to have made just 12 deals. Seven of these are with solid publishers–but the rest are books by agency clients that have been placed with the agency’s own publishing division, Hedgehog & Fox. In fact, with the exception of one book authored by Ms. Warner herself, the whole of Hedgehog & Fox’s miniscule list appears to be made up of agency clients.
Something else agency clients have in common: lawsuits. Warner Literary Group has been sued by three of its authors–a huge percentage for such a small agency.
Link to the rest at Writer Beware