I never thought I’d be re-visiting the issue of literary realtors charging reading fees. See, for example, this blog post by article writer Nadia Lee. Are four arguments in favor of reading fees Here, and why, for me, three of them don’t endure. The Darwinian discussion. Requiring authors to pay a fee to submit their work would winnow out the non-serious and the not-ready, providing relief to providers’ overburdened inboxes. Unfortunately, one of the items you learn when you deal with many aspiring writers is that many are deeply deluded about the quality of their work.
An unmarketable writer is simply as likely to be convinced of his or her readiness as marketable, and just as likely to pay a reading charge therefore. Some people believe that if writers are stupid or unschooled enough to throw away their money, they deserve what they get.
Possibly. But again, that is clearly a different question. It’s For Your Own Good argument. In some instances this might be true. But more than twelve many years of documenting the pointless and fraudulent things that writers can be persuaded to cover informs me, sadly, that money is not a barrier to bad decision making.
Plus, this discussion ignores the charged power of desperation, which drives some authors into the arms of dubious web publishers whose charges make reading fees look like chicken feed. You’ve Got to Give Something to Get Something argument. Among the things that’s most distressing to writers is the impersonal character of rejection. A reading fee might offer genuine benefit if it guaranteed some sort of personal feedback or evaluation.
But what would ensure that the charge was commensurate with the feedback? 50 will several scribbled lines suffice? A full page of universal writing advice? More to the real point, do overburdened brokers have time for you to provide this type of service? The Why Should I Work FREE OF CHARGE? Argument. It requires time and effort to judge manuscripts.
Why should brokers undertake this essential task without remuneration? For me personally, this is actually the one convincing debate and only reading fees, at least at the full and partial level. It really is time-consuming to learn manuscripts–and more often than not, the reading results in a rejection, so this really is the time for which the agent doesn’t get paid.
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Is it convincing enough to justify a go back to reading fees, though? No, in my opinion. Reading fees would burden non-wealthy writers unfairly. Like hourly billing, reading fees would disproportionately disadvantage writers with less money. Reading fees are incredibly easy to abuse. Well, for instance, by requesting manuscripts in which the agent isn’t interested, just in order to obtain the fee. 50–can generate a considerable yearly income. Or charging an assessment charge, and providing not a real evaluation, but a form letter slightly individualized for each writer.
Or running a full-on scam, where in fact the agency’s exclusive purpose is to gather reading fees, wait a couple of weeks, and send an application rejection then. Reading fees are easy, easy money; of all writing-related scams, they involve the least amount of work and ensure the least contact with the marks. I’m not making these good examples up. All come straight from information in Writer Beware’s data files.
We have voluminous documents of the ways that literary agents–not necessarily scam real estate agents, either–can abuse reading fees, and their awful cousins, evaluation fees. The AAR believes that the practice of charging for readings is available to serious abuse and could reflect adversely on our occupation. When Writer Beware was founded in 1998, reading fees were in decline among reputable providers, but were the dominant form of literary fraud.
That they may be almost nonexistent today–even among scammers–is, I think, a direct result of their rejection by the AAR and other professional realtors’ groups. Unfortunately, as happens whenever a bad practice is eliminated sometimes, people eventually begin to question whether the practice was really so terrible or whether it existed at all even. Is it impossible for agents to charge reading fees in an ethical manner?