Good agency goes bad

Originally posted March 19, 2009

Objective Entertainment is a big agency that deals with lots of celebrities, so I really didn’t expect much when I queried agent Ian Kleinert a few months back.
I was more ignorant then too.
I thought my journalism experience and my years as a stay-at-home mom were a strong enough platform for my nonfiction book.
My eyes are open now.
The proposal has changed and it’s much stronger.
So is my query letter.
So I expected rejection this afternoon when I found a response from Objective Entertainment in my inbox. But Objective Entertainment surprised me. The e-mail was not from Ian and it was far more appalling than a rejection.
It was from a woman named Tracey Ravenelle.
This is what she said:

“Thanks so such for querying us, but we are unsure that this premise would work in this tight market. All said we would encourage you to do what many of our clients have done prior and self- publish with a reputable, and recommended, publisher. This is a new age in publishing, and as evidenced time and time again, neither The New York Times bestsellers list nor major booksellers discriminate against the self published. Oftentimes, authors choose to get proactive in order to build a sales record and boost their chances of being picked up.
I would like your permission to pass along your information to someone who can help you get started on your path towards getting published. If you are ready to become proactive about your career we will let them know more details about your manuscript and how to get into contact with you. There are a lot of publishers that seem to have gotten the better of new authors, the two that we refer you to are not of that ilk, they have had a number of successes.”

Needless to say, I was floored.
This person has decided that she has the authority to speak for every agent and publishing house out there. Since she believes the market is too tight, apparently every agent will feel the same way. And I am supposed to accept that.
Hmmm.
Now, I don’t want to reveal too much about my agent search, but I will say that I have every reason to believe that I will get a contract sooner or later and that I will publish in the traditional way.
Fortunately, I am not so easily deterred.
But I worry that other writers might be.
A little searching on Absolute Write proved that I am not the only writer who recently received communications from Tracey after querying Ian. In fact, other writers received precisely the same note.
I can assume only one thing.
Tracey, Ian and maybe some other folks at Objective Entertainment, are making money off these referrals to self-publishing houses. They are making money and they are preying on the ignorance of writers who might be inexperienced with publishing, and on their potential lack of self confidence to do it.
There is nothing wrong with self-publishing if that is what a writer wants.
But this is not friendly guidance.
This smells fishy.
Very, very fishy.

The karate scam

Originally posted March 11, 2009

My 7-year-old daughter became interested in karate through a short introductory course, which was promoted as a fundraiser for her school. She was hooked, so hooked that she quit dance and gymnastics to join.
I had the twins with me when I registered my daughter and they were screaming to get out of their stroller. So I didn’t pay much attention when one of the owners explained the six-month contract and the automatic deductions.
I just signed the papers.
Fine.
A six-month commitment was probably a good idea anyway. It would force her to stick with it long enough to know whether karate was really her thing.
And it is.
She loves it.
But now we must quit.
It’s a matter of principle.
It’s a scam.
For the past several months, the folks at the karate school have lured her deeper and deeper with tips on her belt, new belts, more tips, more belts and lots and lots of games. She has anxiety issues and she loves the fact that the instructors simply take control.
They tell her what to do and she does it.
They tell her not to cry and she doesn’t.
They tell her to be respectful and she is.
But two weeks ago, she received a letter. The letter informs me that she is nearing her testing for lime belt and that’s time to make a greater commitment. My daughter may continue only if I sign a three-year contract, agree to let some outside company continue to withdraw funds from my account, pay double the tuition I’m paying now and give 90 days notice for cancellation.
I’m not stupid.
This is about money.
This is about hoping that, if my daughter stops going, I won’t get around to cancelling for a month or two, and then I will still have to pay for another 90 days. This is about using outside companies who have can easily send those who oppose this system to collections, possibly ruining their credit.
This is not about karate.
One of my daughter’s best friends joined about the same time. Her mother, a single mom, recently lost her job. Two months remained in her six-month contract. She tried talking to the owners. They offered to let another family member fill the slot (She has no siblings), but they refused to cancel her automatic deductions.
I have left two messages, asking to talk about the 3-year contract. They have not called back.
Since then, I have learned from others that they will not call back and they will not budge if I approach then face-to-face (which I will do this week). Fortunately, my daughter is very bright. I explained the situation and she understood.
She’s going back to gymnastics, where I pay tuition every eight weeks by check.