Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Ten Percent of Nothing: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell Hardcover – May 12, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
$34.97 $7.82

Scream: A Memoir of Glamour and Dysfunction by Tama Janowitz
A Memoir of Glamour and Dysfunction by Tama Janowitz | Learn more | See related books
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews


“In telling the story of Dorothy Deering, Jim Fisher exposes the slimy underbelly of the agent trade. I work with new writers every day and hope every one of them reads this book before setting out to find a literary agent.”—Bill Martin, president, Agent Research & Evaluation, Inc.

“The complex and convoluted nature of the con game perpetrated by Ms. Deering and her ilk is highlighted by the clarity of writing in which it is detailed. Fisher is a pro and it shows.”—John H. Irsfeld, University of Nevada Las Vegas

Ten Percent of Nothing will fascinate anyone who wants to understand how a real-life big con is put together and executed, and it is also vital reading for everyone connected to the book business.  It is heartrending to see the numbers of new writers who fall for the siren songs of the Dorothy Deerings of publishing.  In the effort to be well published, nothing is more vital than the right agent; nothing can be more devastating than to realize that the person you were relying on to accomplish that has scoffed at your dreams and trashed your hopes. Bravo, Jim Fisher, for this great service to your fellow writers.”—Beverly Swerling, author of City of Dreams and Shadowbrook


“A unique book and an in-depth look into the psychology of a con-artist’s mind. Any writer seeking a literary agent should read this before signing (much less paying any money!).”—Ann Crispin, author of Rebel Dawn and the Starbridge series

From the Publisher

Former FBI agent Jim Fisher upends the genteel racket of fee-based literary agents and vanity publishers in this searing look at the rise and fall of one bogus entrepreneur who systematically swindled thousands of would-be writers out of millions of dollars with promises of having their work turned into saleable books. In divulging the details of this colossal and shocking confidence game, Ten Percent of Nothing: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell exposes a growing and serious crime against writers and a dark, ugly secret about the American publishing industry. In 1989, Dorothy L. Deering, possessing a high school degree, a recent embezzlement conviction, and no experience as a professional writer, editor, or publisher, began operating a fee-based literary agency out of her garage in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Over the next ten years, she racked up a fortune in reading and marketing fees, learning the business of sham publishing as she went along. Later, as the owner of a vanity press, she bilked 1.5 million dollars out of her clients, masterfully manufacturing dreams of literary success until she was brought to justice by Fisher’s investigative journalism, an FBI probe, and the retaliation and testimonies of numerous victims.

Actually, what Deering rarely manufactured were books. In fact, she never sold a single manuscript to a major publisher. With the money in her pocket and her clients’ hopes and hard work wrapped up in fraudulent contracts, Deering produced a few copies of four cheaply printed, poorly edited paperbacks. These she used as bait to hoodwink more clients. She was abetted by her husband, Charles, a former car salesman; his son, Daniel, a drug user with a ninth-grade education; and her brother, Bill, a fugitive from the law at the time he headed her vanity press.

By successfully impersonating a literary agent for ten years, Deering operated one of the longest-running confidence games in American history. The financial loss for her clients was devastating and the heartbreak was extreme. Drawing on victims’ experiences and documents recovered from the Deering venture, Fisher shows how Deering engineered and executed her scam, emphasizing the warning signs of sham agents, crook book doctors, and mendacious publishers. Ten Percent of Nothing provides essential information for aspiring writers and publishing professionals. Fisher’s findings also prompt new inquiries into the potential licensing of literary agents and the prosecution of interstate scam artists. The volume’s gallery of illustrations includes reproductions of correspondence, newsletters, and advertisements used by the Deering operation.


New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press; 1st edition (May 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809325756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809325757
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,076,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished "Ten Percent Of Nothing," and let me tell y'all, if you haven't bought this book and read it, you should. Classic true story of one of the biggest scams in the literary business, that of the Deering Literary Agency/Sovereign Publications.

The people that ran DLA/SP were Dorothy Deering, her husband Chuck, her brother Bill Richardson, and Chuck's son, Daniel Deering (he ran the literary agency, was a ninth grade high school drop out, who also had a drug addiction problem). These people started out running a fee based literary agency, then branched over into subsidy publishing when they saw how profitable that could be. They never published anything, took literally millions of dollars from hopeful authors, and ended up serving some jail time for all the agony they caused. It's a fascinating read, and I want to publicly thank Uncle Jim (James McDonald) for referring the book over at Absolute Write. Very much appreciated, Jim.

Something interesting to point out to everyone that reads this - here are some of the techniques the Deerings used to lure writers into their web. Some of them may sound familiar to those of you who have been affiliated with a certain "traditional publisher"...

1. They greatly emphasized how hard it was to break into traditional publishing, portraying it as a "we vs. they" type situation. Very strong emphasis on your book "deserving to be published."

2. All the Deerings ever sold were "services" to authors. On account of that, there was no need to produce catelogues or to have sales reps push the books, as that was not where the money came from. The Deerings lived to extract as much money from authors' wallets as they possibly could, they could've cared less about marketing, or even producing the books.
Read more ›
Comment 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
In this engrossing true crime narrative, former FBI agent and Edinboro University professor Jim Fisher tells the sordid tale of Dorothy Deering, who, posing as a literary agent and a publisher, stole millions of dollars from inexperienced writers and ran one of the longest con games in US history. Fisher does an admirable job of revealing not just the story of this particular scam and its downfall, but the methodology by which such frauds operate and the psychology both of those who run them and those who fall victim to them.

Sadly, Deering's story is neither isolated nor unusual. From fee-charging literary agents to dishonest vanity publishers to fake independent editors, hundreds, if not thousands, of fraudsters like her lie in wait for unwary writers, capitalizing on publishers' closed-door policies and writers' resulting desperation. It's a huge and growing problem, a parasitic shadow industry that mimics the real world of publishing but in fact has nothing to do with it (the only point of connection is the writers themselves)--which perhaps is why the legitimate publishing industry doesn't feel it needs to pay much attention.

One of the strongest conclusions to be drawn from this book is the importance of education. Writers need to study the publishing industry before they throw themselves into it. If you know the way things are supposed to work, you can more easily avoid the scams and pitfalls. Unfortunately, plenty of aspiring writers want to skip this step, and this as much as anything keeps the fraudsters in business.

"Ten Percent of Nothing" is an eye-opening book not just for writers who might fall victim to such frauds, but for publishing professionals who need to take a closer look at what's going on just outside their view.

Victoria Strauss
Comment 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
The biggest audience for this book is undoubtedly the writing community, but those who are interested in the details of scams and confidence games will also find plenty of engrossing material here.

As befits a university press, the prose is anything but florid, yet Fisher manages to get off a few zingers ("...how could he sell ten thousand copies of a cheaply made, poorly edited book that no one, outside the writer's family and friends, knew existed? Finding one of these books on the shelf of a Barnes and Noble store would be as likely as coming across a cold can of beer.")

The Deerings were cold-hearted sociopaths who are destined for that special section of hell usually reserved for child molesters and professional torturers--but the book about them makes fascinating reading.

One of the odd side effects of the book, though, is that it makes me want to read some of the novels mentioned...including Dorothy Deering's sci-fi novel. That anyone could be a writer and do this sort of thing to other writers boggles the mind.
Comment 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
I was underwhelmed by Jim Fisher's account of the Deering case.

The basic story seems like a natural, for hundreds of innocent victims were swindled out of their life savings by a family of depraved sociopaths. Everyone, or so it is sometimes said, has a book in them, but the Deering family would have said so to a tree stump if the tree stump had a bank account. Their lies went far and wide, and suckers stumbled over themselves to be fleeced. The agency Dorothy Deering claimed to run never sold a manuscript, but they printed gift certificates for 1,000 dollars apiece and some authors used them as currency. These certificates were deep discounts that Dorothy and family said they were giving to authors in whose work they most fervently believed would reach the best seller list.

The trouble with Fisher's book is that, once you reach chapter two or three, nothing new seems to happen. The whole scam eventually reaches its end, but in the meantime you just see a few more dozen miserable souls get screwed over. Fisher never delves very deeply into the psychology of either grifter or victim. In Daniel Deering's case, he just chalks it up to drugs. We never get close to any of the people involved, neither the college students the Deerings decorated their offices with, nor the often pathetic "authors" whose books were just about sub-literate. There's not much texture to Fisher's writing: methinks this should have been a magazine article, not a university press book.

Fisher, a former FBI agent, writes with the pizzazz we associate with J. Edgar Hoover's prose style. He is the author of two super-sober books on the Lindbergh case in which, imaginatively enough, he theorizes that the kidnapper of the Little Eagle was none other than Bruno Hauptmann.
Read more ›
Comment 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?