Alert: Jane Dowary Agency

 Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

A while back, I wrote a funny post about a "literary agent" who popped up under one name, then another, then a third. To give you the gist...In 2009, I began hearing from writers who'd submitted to a Boston-based literary agent called Sara Levine, only to be contacted by Levine's supposed assistant, who told them that Levine had died suddenly of a heart attack and referred them to Levine’s colleague, Julia Levin of the Florida-based Julia Levin Literary Agency.

However, things about Julia Levin didn't quite add up. None of her clients were published. Her sales claims didn't check out either, and the physical address she gave for her agency turned out to be bogus, as did the agency where she claimed to have trained. The weirdness of Sara dropping dead and Julia emerging out of thin air began to look even weirder--could Sara and Julia, with only an “e” of difference between their last names, possibly be the same person?

Writers began to smell a rat, and to say so in public. Eventually it all got to be too much for poor Julia. Within a month, she'd vanished from the Internet.

A few weeks later, I started getting questions about another Florida-based agent called Drew Montgomery, of Drew Montgomery Literary Associates. Drew's online presence exhibited exactly the same inconsistencies and falsehoods as Julia Levin's (including a telltale mis-spelling of the name of publisher Houghton Mifflin)--and within a few days, I found out why. The owner of an agent-tracking website emailed me to say that he'd been recently contacted by the now-vanished Julia Levin about a listing, which he refused because she couldn't prove she'd made any sales. About a week later, Drew Montgomery approached him with the same request. Since she couldn't prove any sales either, he gave her the same response. But he happened to notice something odd: Drew's IP address was identical to Julia's.

Bingo! Outed here and at Absolute Write, Drew vanished too (though not before reappearing as Julia Levin in a bizarre attempt to impersonate one of Drew's clients).

End of story? Not quite.

Enter Jane Dowary, of the Jane Dowary Agency. I first started hearing about Jane in April of 2012, from writers whose work she'd submitted inappropriately or to whom she'd given bizarre writing advice. In at least one case, I'm convinced, she fabricated an editor's comments.

At the time, Jane's LinkedIn page looked like this (click to enlarge):

Note Jane's claimed location (Boston area) and her claimed education (Yale, Berkeley). Note also the mis-spelling of "Houghton Mifflin" as "Houghton Miffin"--a telltale mistake made by both Julia and Drew--and the agency at which she claims to have trained, which, like the agencies claimed by Julia and Drew, does not appear to exist. Based on these things, as well as on Jane's M.O. as reported to me by clients, I was pretty sure that this was Julia, or Drew, or whatever her name was, in yet another guise--although I couldn't prove it.

Well, now Jane has put up a website and created a new LinkedIn page where she cops to being Julia Levin. She may also now be honestly disclosing her location and education--at least, her current LinkedIn page makes very different claims from her original one:

So should she get points for coming clean? Not so much. She's still lying about her agency's startup date (early 2012, not 2013 as claimed on her website). She still doesn't have any relevant experience that would qualify her to be a literary agent, and, apart from one book placement with a small press that doesn't typically work with agents, she still doesn't have any sales.

I would probably have been much later in discovering all this had Julia not, once again, been unable to resist torpedoing herself by another appearance at Absolute Write:

Asked why she was presenting herself as a new agent when she'd previously had two (or possibly three) agencies under two (or possibly three) different names, she claimed she wasn't trying to mislead anyone:

When I asked her the same question in private email, she told me "I kept changing names because I wanted to have a agency that was free and clear from all of this so that I could earn people's trust and respect and become a legitimate and successful agent and actually get novels published for my client."

Okay then.

In many ways this is a sad story. I think some kind of pathology is at work here, with the repeated name changes and the serial lying. Whoever Julia is, she seems to be a troubled individual. But she's not someone who should be acting as anyone's literary agent--and, judging by the number of questions I'm receiving about her, she is reaching out to authors.

Writer beware.

2 comments to Alert: Jane Dowary Agency

  • Victoria Strauss

    Hi, Ruth,

    I really don’t think you need to worry about that. Theft of book-length manuscripts is much rarer than many writers believe, and throughout her various deceptions, “Jane” hasn’t shown any inclination for outright theft.

    However, if you’re concerned, you could periodically do websearches on your title, character names, and unique phrases from your book. If there’s any unauthorized use of it, those should locate it.

  • Ruth Welburn

    Oh dear! I sent her my file for my book. Is there any chance that she might try to steal my book and market it as her work?

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