This morning I came upon troubling news. Someone is impersonating a well-known literary agent, and contacting writers regarding book deals (read more on the story at GalleyCat).
Writers looking for agents ought to be aware of a few important things.
Be suspicious of an agent who charges a fee for reading. Agents get paid when they help you make money. Steer clear of agents who ask for an upfront fee.
Watch out for other fees. Some agents charge for postage and office supplies, but a legitimate agent will not charge 'submission fees' or fees for marketing.
Read your contract carefully. Know whether you're partnering with an agent for a particular book, or for subsequent books.
There are two main resources where writers can check potential agents against a list of agents on a watch list. These sites contain huge amounts of information on publishing in general. They're good to have bookmarked.
Any other ideas about protecting yourself?