Good literary agents earn their living through commissions on the sales that they make to legitimate publishers, while less scrupulous agents earn by charging fees to the writers that they “represent”. So, if an agency doesn’t charge its writers up-front fees, you’d expect them to be legitimate. Sadly that’s not always the case: the notorious Writers’ Literary Agency earns its money in an entirely different way.
Instead of charging up-front fees (which many writers now correctly recognise as a sign that something is not right), the Writers’ Literary Agency strongly encourages all of its writers to pay for critiques of their work. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing: there are some very good editorial agencies out there, and many writers have benefitted from the advice they’ve received from them. But the Writers’ Literary Agency rarely rejects any writers, which implies that it’s not looking for good writers who stand a good chance of publication, just that it’s looking for writers; and it refers them all to the same editorial agencies, which just happen to be owned by Robert Fletcher, who also owns the Writers’ Literary Agency and all its many associated and subsidiary businesses.
The critiques which the writers receive are generic. They make little or no reference to individual manuscripts, and so they have no real value.
It’s possible that the Writers’ Literary Agency never actually submits any of its clients’ books to pubilshers but despite that, it claims that it has made a few sales. I found it impossible to document any of those sales apart from those to Eloquent Books or the American Enterprises Group, both fee-charging publishers owned by—you’ve guessed it—that same Robert Fletcher. Ignoring, for a moment, that the agent and the publisher are the same person here, how do you suppose a fee-charging agent can earn a commission from a sale to a fee-charging publisher? By charging the writer a percentage of the fee which the writer will pay to the publisher.
To recap: writers who sign up with agents like the Writers’ Literary Agency first pay those up-front agent fees, which no reputable agents charge; they pay again for the editorial reports which are going to do little to improve their work; they pay to get published by a vanity press; and then they pay their agent a percentage of the fee that they paid to the vanity press. And all for a book which, regardless of its quality, stands little chance of selling more than a handful of copies. No wonder I don’t like this side of publishing.