WritersWeekly Warnings Report
Company: Helping Hand Literary Service / newwriterswanted.com / Janet Kay and Associates / authorswanted.com / JanGeo Ink Publishing Company
UPDATE - 03/26/03:
NOTE FROM WRITERSWEEKLY.COM: We are still receiving complaints each week about this publisher. There are far too many to publish here. If you have a complaint about this firm, please contact the detective above.
My name is Benjamin Vazquez. I've almost been scammed by Janet Kay and Associates, but thanks to articles your organization put out, I found out about them literally minutes before I was going to send them a check for $115.00.
I sent them a completed manuscript and promptly received the most flattering letter you'd ever want to read. This is the first time I had ever submitted my writing to anyone so I was very nervous and I must admit the praises Janet Kay showered me with really got to me. I read the letter over and over because it made me feel so good. I, like all other authors, worked hard on my book and believed I had come up with something original and marketable and Janet Kay strengthened this feeling with her bogus compliments.
When I received her "offer to represent", I immediately became suspicious when I was expected to send in a small "deposit" toward expenses incurred in contacting publishers. This deposit was dependant on how many publishers I wanted contacted. Obviously, the more publishers the better my chances of getting published; unfortunately the deposit would also increase. At the end of this carefully worded offer there was a statement from Janet which read along the lines that she is a tiger which will fight to the end if allowed, unfortunately she is restricted by the "lack of actions" by her clients.
Against my better judgment, and financial condition, I decided to go ahead and send in the money. I am not rich and had to borrow the money, initially I tried to borrow $300.00 but was only able to come up with the aforementioned $115.00. At the last minute I decided to run a search on Janet Kay and that's when I ran into your article, thank God. Nevertheless, I have been scammed just the same. I've lost the enthusiasm I had when I first started searching for agents and I've also become deathly afraid of receiving a real evaluation of my work (I don't even think Janet read my book, the letter she sent out to me was dated two days after she received my manuscript). My life-long dream of having a book published, I held no fantasies of getting rich over this, may have been destroyed just as I finally had the guts to attempt to realize it. Janet Kay has done more than taken my money, she's taken a lifetime of hard work and dreaming. You can quote me on anything and I would be more than happy to help in any way I can.
UPDATE - 10/16/02:
I would just like to add my story onto the pile of complaints about George Titsworth's Helping Hand Agency.
In the spring of 2001, I wrote a 101-page Novella addendum to C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia for a class project. My English professor liked it so much that she tried to help me publish it; her idea was to create a fan anthology of Narnia follow-ups, but HarperCollins was unsurprisingly reluctant. Thus, I turned to the literary agent community, assuming in my naivet? that one of them might be able to help me obtain copyright clearance.
I stumbled upon Helping Hand's website, which at the time was "newwriterswanted.com" (which should raise one red flag to the experienced agent hunter; agents claiming to specialize in new writers are very rarely, if ever, legitimate).
I sent them my Novella, and two weeks later I received what I have since learned to be the classic Titsworth butter-me-up-so-my-wallet-slips-loose acceptance letter. His enthusiasm paralleled only my professor's, and his grammar and punctuation were perfect and extremely professional. When I replied immediately accepting his offer of representation, I asked how he would clear copyrights for me, since my novella was in the world originally created by C.S. Lewis.
His answer was the virtual antithesis of his first e-mail, in terms of attitude, mannerism and professionalism. It was very simply "sorry, thought you already had clearance. nothing i can or will do until i see those documents. geo t" (note that his previous e-mail contained all the punctuation this one lacked, as well as a full 'George Harrison Titsworth, Helping Hand Literary Agency' signoff).
Now, although I never saw his contract, I must say in retrospect, to offer representation to fan fiction reeks of unprecedented ignorance in the agent community. Later, a legitimate agent turned me down and explained why he could not represent my novella, and why the chances of it seeing the light were slim to none. The truth hurt, especially since I consider this novella to be one of my best works to date and so do those who know my writing. But I'm sure my writing would have been harmed in far worse ways had Titsworth allowed me to pay him to "represent" my novel.
Thus ends my tale, and by all means, feel free to quote me.
(btw, the story I mentioned at the top of my e-mail, "The Samhain Incident", is now published in the current issue of Wicked Hollow magazine).
Michael J. Greenhut
Starving Writer Extraordinaire
UPDATE - 08/21/02:
Surprise. Surprise. Mr. George Titsworth's wife, Janet, also said that my manuscript was a "must read."
Fortunately, I became suspicious when he wouldn't provide any client references. Unfortunately, the man must have nine lives. When I was in touch with him two years ago he had just recovered from a poisonous snake bite. I wonder if he bit himself?
UPDATE - 08/14/02:
I contacted helping hand literary agency in March after reading one of its author wanted ads in the local paper. I received information in the mail asking me to send my manuscripts in, which I did. In April I received a glowing report from George. In fact he stated his wife, Janet, had read them and ensured him that he would want to read them. He gave me the standard song and dance about being a great writer, especially for a beginner.
On our second phone call he informed me about helping to defray the cost by sending in a deposit minimum of $100.00 for each ten publishers and SASE in order to receive information concerning the publishing process. I sent in the $100.00 plus $15.00 for the query letter. After some time had gone by with no email or rejection letters in the mail I emailed George, no response. Then later when I emailed him the email came back undelivered, no such address. I called and called and called leaving messages for George no response.
It was not until Thursday of last week when I left a message indicating fraud that I actually talked to a real person. She spoke in a whisper as though she was afraid to be heard. She said that Mr. Titsworth had been ill. She went to the routine of taking my name number and address again. She said, "You did not receive your letters to accept pending publisher." I replied no and she assured me that she would put them in the mail in the morning as the "girls" that handle that have already left for the day.
This morning I typed in the search engine George Harrison Titsworth and it redirected me to Janet Kay and Associates. And when I typed in who is Janet Kay; surprise, surprise I ended up here. Now I know for a certainty That, like my $115.00, my dreams of being published through this company are gone in the wind. The fact that the majority of us were willing to invest in our dreams is evident that we are sincere about getting publishers and for insects like these people to prey on our hopes and dreams in an outrage.
- - -
After writing to you earlier, needless to say I felt duped so I decided to call Janet Kay and Associates. I spoke with a receptionist who claimed to be Kay Bell. Same lady that I spoke with last week, however, she denied it was her saying that there are a lot of ladies that work there. Right from the start I asked her if George was in the business of helping new writers by defrauding them. She immediately became offensive and threatened to hang up. I told her I understood why she had been caught. Not long after I had my say she hung up on me. Now I am p/o'd so I called back. No answer. Again I called back and a lady who identified herself as LeAnn answered. I asked for Kay Bell just to check to see if it was real. She was on the phone helping another client the lady said. I responsed by saying how convenient. I later learned that there are multiple Kay's and Janet's that work there. Really convenient. Anyway Kay Bell said that George had a massive heart attack. He was no longer answering email because this allegedly contributed to his attack. So I inquired about the cell and office numbers that no longer work. Did these play apart as well. No response. So I asked LeAnn if George was still living. She said that she saw him in the office "just the other day." Whereas Kay said he was still involved but not running the show. Janet Kay, another literary agent, was. Long story short. After I threatened legal action, I got a call from LeAnn, or so she said. The name on the Caller ID box, which I saved, said "Janet Titsworth."
I spotted an ad in a local classified adds paper stating that 'new writers are wanted'. I have been trying to get published for a couple of years now, and saw this as a golden opportunity.
I went to the web site listed in the ad, and then called Mr. Titsworth. After an encouraging conversation with the nice guy, I submitted a sample of my work to him. I got back a letter requesting to see the rest of my manuscript. My wife and I were so excited! I sent my manuscript to the 'agency', and received a contract in the mail along with a letter saying that the agency's 'board' voted unanimously to take me on as a client, because work like mine was 'too good to go unpublished'.
Like the others I read about here, I sent the postage and money to Helping Hand.
After a very long wait, I got lists of movie studios that my work had been submitted to, and three publishers that wanted to see my work. I did the work that I was directed to do in the letter, and sent the material off.
I was looking for the Helping Hand web site this morning because I had lost George's phone number. I found this article of warning instead. I can't tell you how disheartened, angry, and disappointed I was to read it. I think Mr. George Harrison Titsworth needs to be in jail! No wonder he never answered my emails, or returned my phone calls. It has always been my dream to be a published author. I love writing with such a passion....shame on you, Mr. Titsworth...shame on you!
UPDATE - 07/10/02:
It has come to our attention that Helping Hands Literary Agency is now operating under a different name. So, we are also issuing a warning against Janet Kay and Associates / authorswanted.com. The websites appear identical. They didn't even bother to change the html.
ANOTHER COMPLAINT :
It looks like an even to better possibility that I have been cheated. Let me start by saying, that that was the risk I was willing to take. God is showing me something neat here. I don't understand it yet, but I am still Happy, Cheerful, Buoyant, not rattled, over all. But I must admit right now I am saying darn, shucks, how embarrassing.
I thought this week I had some publishers wishing to see my book "It Was A Summer Day". I was mistaken. I looked the papers over that came in the mail this week and realized they were only more submissions. In other words requests for publishers to begin looking at the work. Or in more words, I am actually being told to do the footwork that the agent said he would do.
On third look I realized that this material was sent to me in one of my own envelopes the "agent" asked me to send in the beginning. They were more than likely rushed to me because the U.S. post just went up July 1st. They arrived postage due.
Monday I emailed the agent asking for a little guidance on what publishers were looking for in a synopsis and chapter summaries. I didn't get a reply. A bit unusual.
Today, July 3, 2002, because I haven't heard back, I went to YAHOO to re-find my "agent's" web-site on a different computer than I normally use here at school. It wouldn't even come up, but I found this little nugget at Writers Weekly. Hummmmm..... In short it shows that my agent is a weasel.
I tried to call HHLA by phone. Guess what, not in service. Duh.
Well, thanks for listening. I am NOT defeated. My book, "It Was A Summer Day" WILL be published if I have to do it myself. AND BELIEVE ME I CAN. I will sell the thing locally if that's what I have to do. I know the local printer. I used to work for him. I can pay to have it printed and hawk this little book from the street corners.
To George Harrison Titsworth, the "agent." I have some questions. George, where did your business go? Did you lose heart? Did you reach a pinnacle and feel you couldn't find the/a next peek to climb?
George, George, George. I did suspect you. I didn't just fall off the turnip truck. I suspected you the day you picked up the phone on President's day. Indicators and red flags waved when you said you had been up until 2:00 am. I heard in your voice, what I felt was a man desperately trying to stay in control of his kingdom. Your e-mail correspondence with me shouted low quality, with its abbreviated, truncated words and sentences. Your poor quality stationery, form letters and everything else were red flags.
I contacted the local paper down in your neck of the woods. They never heard of you. I contacted the better business bureau there as well. They had nothing GOOD to say about you.
The short of it is, George, I was willing to give YOU a chance. If you think you suckered me, think again.
UPDATE - 07/03/02:
After reading the other accounts regarding George Titsworth and the Helping Hand Literary Agency, I certainly feel like one of the lucky ones.
I, too, received glowing reports on my work - even the nicely dramatic touch of having a handwritten note which read, "Wish more of the work I received were like this!"
It wasn't until I got the actual "contract" that I began to smell a rat. Fortunately, I took the time to look up the agency and found the WritersWeekly Warning Report. Thanks to WritersWeekly for this invaluable service!
I wrote back to the agency, telling them exactly what I thought of their little trick and demanded my manuscript be returned immediately. Will let you know if I receive it.
In my opinion, these are the worst kind of bottom feeders. They prey upon the dreams and hopes of aspiring and talented writers, and in the end they only serve to undermine our confidence, by casting doubt. After receiving that last letter I commented to my husband that now I don't know if the manuscript is a good as I think it is - or if they were just buttering me up to pick my already impoverished pocket.
I am a full-time, dedicated writer - and the stories about starving writers are definitely true! I have nothing but contempt for those barracudas that target poor or desperate people in order to get money from them! It's just too immoral to believe.
To other writers, let me say this - keep on believing in yourself. Read your own stuff, and listen to your inner voice - you'll know if you're good or not. Don't let people like these keep you from pursuing your dreams. In the end, YOU are the real winner!
UPDATE - 06/26/02:
Being a young trusting soul, I too fell for the (deal) that George Titsworth played. I sent him his cash, made the phone calls, even went so far as to add to my own workload to write the synopses and chapter summaries as well as to spend my own money to make copies, things I would do again were they going to an actual publishing company. I sent three stories via snail mail to this "nice man" after having tasted the rejects of countless others. Thankfully my work was on a disk that was somewhat corrupted and so he received only one that viewing.
I too garnered glowing commentary and then the contract and amount of money to be enclosed. A personal check sufficed to still his money-hungry demands. I had neither the means nor the will, for I do wish to be published, to check out the contacts that he sent nor the man himself, no matter how gruff that he was to me. He cannot use the ideas for I have them on a computer and so the material has been automatically dated. The money I can do without, but to have someone with so little integrity degrade my work, my passion, as such it is, is a harsh blow to my already flagging spirits. I am forced to wonder about the quality of my work now more so than ever and, due to countless rejections because I am new at this, forced to debate the intelligence of pursuing my passion as far as procuring monetary means through my words just to get my ideals and thoughts out there.
And so, I would like to add thanks to this. I empathize with all of you that were taken in by this (man) and suggest that, if you are good enough for him to take advantage of, you are more than good enough to procure a true publishing contract and/or agent. Thank you for opening my eyes.
WRITERSWEEKLY COMMENT: The juno.com email address for this firm bounced saying their mailbox was full. The other email address did not bounce. Their website has been down for about a week now so perhaps they're out of business. If so, good riddance.
UPDATE - 05/08/02:
I, too, fell for the George Titsworth's sales line and sent him $100.00. I should have known better from my first conversation with the man. When I asked him for two references he immediately responded that writers such as myself were probably too difficult to deal with and he was getting some "red flags" about me in his mind. Not knowing any better, and not wanting to offend my first agent contact, I relented on my request and just went along with the program.
I did not even hear from the man for almost eight months. When I pressed him for answers about what he'd been doing with my book he gave me a song and dance about how 9/11 had the publishing industry shook up. He did say that he'd been contacted by two more publishers requesting information about my book and he forwarded some photocopied materials for me to mail to them. I got curious and contacted the individuals myself and they seemed to know nothing about me, my book, or George Titsworth. When I called him to confront him about what I had discovered he simply said that I was a real #@!*% and that he didn't want anything to do with me ever again. Then the phone went dead.
My wife called him about a week later to request my manuscript be returned and he hung up on her after saying that he didn't have to return it for a full year. An e-mail from me telling him that I would be on his doorstep shortly with the sheriff did bring a quick return of the book but a staunch refusal to forward any letters of denial from publishers that he had supposedly received. Since this has all transpired I have warned one other author in this area about this agency. Titsworth continues to put ads in our local paper.
UPDATE - 04/24/02:
I thought I was smarter than the average writer who wants to get their work published -- however, now that I have read about Helping Hand Literary Service, (via WritersWeekly) I realize I am just as vulnerable as the rest.
The problem is I sent the one hundred dollars to them. As well, I sent the required MSS to the list of publishers (at my cost) that was provided to me by Helping Hand Literary Service. All this I did under the guise that the list they gave me were legitimate publishers that had requested further reading of my manuscript, (six in all).
It was only last month, Feb 2002, when I called George Titsworth and he said that he had only received four rejections and was waiting for the other two to respond. Oh, Oh, Oh, what a fool who thinks a wooden nickle is anything else than a worthless disk of wood.
Summary: An author forwarded letters/emails to us received from this literary service/agent. The emails began with a pep-talk about how great the book is and how their review committee agreed to accept the manuscript. It then goes on to say that they realize that taking on new writers is a gamble, blah blah?which leads into the portion where they ask the author for $10 for ever contact they make with a publisher. They then ask for a $100 deposit (which will cover 10 "contacts."). And then they ask for subsequent deposits for more contacts. Gosh golly! Deposit $300 and you'll get unlimited publisher contacts! Oh, but if they DO make a sale, you can deduct that from their commission later. Wowzers!
Then, they ask the author to mail stamped envelopes to them to use! Say WHAT?!
That's not the worst part. On their homepage, they have a list of books that are currently "available from their clients", "recent sales" and "contracts pending." Well, we checked out some of these books by searching for the ISBNs and, guess what? Many of them are published by vanity publishers! They're NOT published by traditional publishers!
EXCERPT FROM WRITERSWEEKLY.COM WARNING LETTER SENT TO THIS LITERARY SERVICE/AGENT:
Your firm was recommended to us as a place that authors should be warned about. Your homepage states no reading fees, yet does not list the "marketing" fees you request later.
You also require authors to provide you with postage.
Please see emails under my signature and let me know if the information accurately reflects what you send out to potential clients.
We also checked out some of the books you have featured on your homepage as being available from your "clients."
One of the books was published by 1stBooks (Publishes every book they get - for a price - with the exception of porn or hate material, etc.)
Two of the books were published by iUniverse (Publishes every book they get - for a price - with the exception of porn or hate material, etc.)
One of your "contracts pending" was written by you.
Two of the six listed of your "most recent sales" were written by you.
Two other books were also "published" by "Writer's Club" (a division of iUniverse - see above.)
Response WritersWeekly received to its inquires into the matter:
WRITERSWEEKLY.COM has not yet received a response to our inquiry.
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