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While walking on campus, Student saw a notice posted on a bulletin board advertising a guided writing group. The group was run by Agent, a literary agent with a prominent local agency. Student emailed Agent and asked for more information about the group. Agent responded:
I run a guided writing group three times per year, with a maximum of eight participants. We meet weekly on Saturdays for two months to workshop anything you are working on. Typically, participants like to present as many ideas as possible, so they tend to present a different item each week. I will give some commentary at the workshops, but the bulk of the substantive feedback typically comes from the other participants. I use the workshops not only to transfer some of my knowledge from working in the publishing industry for the last two decades, but also as a way for me to get an early view at promising young authors. You must agree that you will submit any piece that you present in the workshop to me first as a potential agent. I will consider each piece individually, and decide whether I would like to represent you in pitching the idea to publishers. If I decline to offer representation, you are free to circulate the piece to other agents. Participation in the workshop costs $2,000.
Student asked Agent how many previous participants in the workshop had subsequently had work represented by her. She responded in a short email, “Obviously, individual results will vary, but I can tell you that there are a number of current clients who I met through such workshops.” Excited by the prospect of getting his work in front of a literary agent, which would otherwise be difficult to do, Student signed up for the workshop.
When the workshop began the following month, Student was disappointed in the quality of the feedback, as Agent typically gave only a sentence or two of responses to each presentation. The remainder of the time was taken up by similarly inexperienced writers sharing their thoughts on the presented work.
Additionally, Agent summarily rejected every story Student presented in the workshop, as well as every other participant’s work. On the day of the final workshop, Student was determined to have a longer conversation with Agent about his work, hoping to at least learn why Agent had rejected all his ideas. As Student waited—along with a couple other participants in the workshop—outside the meeting room for Agent to exit, he and the other participants heard Agent having a conversation on her cellphone. Agent said, “Yup, another disappointment of a workshop! I could tell on day one that none of these guys were going to give me anything worth my time. Oh well, at least I get a good hourly rate from their tuition!”
Furious at Agent’s insults, Student refused to send Agent payment for his participation in the workshop and sued Agent for breach of contract. Student argued that Agent did not give his writings a genuine evaluation. Additionally, Student argued that because of Agent’s failure to fairly evaluate Student’s submissions, Student did not receive any value from their agreement.