Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Cautionary Tale

Interesting day. I had requests from three other writers to reprint three of my blogs in newsletters. I appreciated the compliment.

I'm also having laptop problems. I'm beginning to think this machine is possessed. Whenever I'm on a deadline or feeling stressed, it seems to act up. Do you suppose it can sense something from how hard I pound the keys or perhaps from the skin oils on my fingertips? Hmmmm. Haunted computer. I wonder if that could be worked into a story?

There's a developing story happening in the blogosphere. I thought it would die down in twenty-four hours but, if anything, it's gotten bigger. Finally decided to post about it.

First, the players:

Absolute Write Absolute Write's website here is a clearinghouse that provides information and networking opportunities for writers.

Miss Snark Miss Snark is the pseudonym for an agent who writes a blog here that provides helpful information for writers.

Barbara Bauer Barbara Bauer is a woman who says here that she operates a literary agency. However, under "Our Clients' Work," her website contains vague language about "a few of the many companies who have worked with our clients," as opposed to something more concrete like "publishers who have bought/paid for/contracted our clients' work." The people (clients?) her website links to are self-published. There is no list of books she has sold.

More to the point, the websites I trust like Preditors and Editors here post warnings that Barbara Bauer is "not recommended." Apparently, enough complaints have been lodged about her with watchdog groups that she recently was placed on a list called "The Top Twenty Worst Agents."

Since this story started, bloggers have come forward to say that, when they wrote something negative about Barbara Bauer on the Internet, she contacted them with threats of legal action. Apparently this strategy has served Ms. Bauer well until the current contretemps.

As I understand this story, Absolute Write recently posted the list of the Top Twenty Worst Agents. Ms. Bauer--in an attempt to get the list removed--contacted the ISP for Absolute Write and threatened legal action. According to Teresa Nielsen Hayden of the Making Light blog here, the web host--a company called JC-Hosting--buckled under the pressure and, without warning, simply pulled down the entire Absolute Write website on May 23, 2006.

As of this writing on the 25th, Absolute Write is still down, but I hear they are shopping around for another Internet service provider.

One assumes that Ms. Bauer must have been pretty happy with this outcome. However, she apparently did not count on the power of the blogosphere because word traveled swiftly through the writers' community about what had happened to Absolute Write. Yesterday, I must have heard the story at least five times on the various loops and blogs I frequent.

Then Miss Snark stepped forward. In a blog that can only be described as filled with righteous anger and indignation, MS posted two blogs on 5/24 here (You'll have to scroll down to the post titled "Hey Barbara Bauer! Put Up Or Shut Up!")

In her inimitable style, MS said, "Barbara Bauer is not a literary agent. Barbara Bauer is a scam artist. And a very very stupid one."

If that wasn't enough to float your boat, MS also said, "Hey Barbara Bauer! Put up or shut up! . . .You can storm around all you want and huff and puff till the house blows down. I have only one question, Babs, honey: 'What have you sold'?"

Things really started rolling then. MS says she averages 3,000 hits a day on her blog. Her loyal (dare I say, fanatical) fans and readers began linking to her blog and the Top Twenty Worst Agents list. The goal was to convince the Internet's search engine web crawlers to pull up the list every time someone googled--you got it--Barbara Bauer.

This grass roots campaign seems to be working. I just googled "Barbara Bauer." Of the first eight listings, the first was her literary agency. The next seven were either the Top Twenty Worst Agent list or a reference to this story.

The story is still rattling around on the Internet. Today's Publisher's Lunch referred to it, saying "Blogger/agent Miss Snark is on the warpath over Barbara Bauer, 'one of the 20 worst literary agents' according to a list compiled by the SFWA's Writer's Beware."

I have three thoughts:

(1) The other nineteen people on that list of the Top Twenty Worst Agents might want to pool their resources and hire a hitman for ole Babs, seeing as how she has now taken them from what was merely an embarrassing situation to a cause celebre;

(2) Babs, you might want to keep in mind what happened to Martha Ivery (publisher of Press-Tige Publishing Company) when Writer Beware went after her. Trying to evade her tarnished reputation, Martha invented a new persona: Kelly O'Donnell, literary agent, and continued doing business as usual. It took several years before the FBI nailed Martha/Kelly for mail fraud (see my blog of 12/8/05 here titled "Anatomy of a Writing Scam"); and

(3) When I was growing up, my mother always reminded me that, although the wheels of justice grind slow, they grind exceedingly fine.

Mom, I bow to your wisdom.


Jen said...

Thanks for the breakdown. This was a great blog on this topic.

christen roberts said...

Excellent, excellent final thought.