Inspired by the Facebook ads I've seen from literary agents/publishers calling for submissions, I wanted to write a refresher post on what authors should watch out for. First, reputable agencies and publishers receive so many submissions, we're not out trolling for more. Second, "Literary Agent/Publisher" - whoever you're dealing with should be one or the other, but not both in one. Third, money should flow to the author and not away. This means that you shouldn't be paying reading fees, "expedited reading" fees, contract fees or any other expenses up front. The commission structure of agenting means that we don't make money unless you do. It's shared risk and shared gain. Agencies might take deductions from payments going to the author for set things that would have been discussed or delineated in their contracts ahead of time, but no up front fees. (See the Canon of Ethics from the Association of Author's Representatives. Members of AAR must adhere to these standards, which outline acceptable business practices.) Some scams might not ask for money right up front but instead funnel you to a particular editing service, which will, of course, charge you a fee. This is not to say that a reputable agent might not suggest that your work could use a professional editor, but they'll make several suggestions and not be affiliated with those services in any way.
The best way to assure that you don't get scammed is to do your research on the agencies you query. Check Publishers Marketplace to see who the dealmakers are in your genre. Look into the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) Writer Beware site for info on particular scams and what to watch out for. (I've just discovered they have a blog as well here.) You should also check out the Preditors & Editors site, which will give you information on agents, editors, contests and awards...basically anything you might need to know. Note: the listings here are by first name rather than last.
If anyone has any tips, links or whathaveyou to add, please comment. Let's get the word out.