I stumbled across this interesting account of a summer a young man unwittingly spent with a scammer. Disreputable literary agencies had a kickback arrangement with a book doctor. They would claim that a given manuscript just needed help from a book doctor, and then they could surely place it. And they helpfully directed would-be clients to a book doctor – who kicked back part of the fees the clients paid. Promised representation never materialized.
Here’s one paragraph from the account: “All told, between June 1995 and August, I completed two critiques, one line edit, and two line-edit/critique combos. I was directed to redo one of the line-edit/critiques when its author went off the deep end, claiming I hadn’t properly assisted him in his mission to proselytize through his fiction. (His manuscript was about two mute cave men named Urktoe and Uoktoe who spent the entire story hunting a Tyrannosaurus Rex. At the end, the angel Lucifer incongruously appeared from on high to teach them how to pray to God.) All of these jobs, of course, were performed on a ghostwriting or ghost-editing basis for Bill Appel, which explained why he never accepted follow-up phone calls from his clients, instead preferring them to mail in their questions so others could answer for him.”
Read more here.