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 firstwriter.history

firstwriter.com was founded in 2001 by J. Paul Dyson, a Cambridge graduate and former Fiction Editor of Lateral Moves magazine. Over the years since its inception it has grown from a small project to become one of the largest sites for writers on the Internet, adapting and evolving as it has expanded. The following chronology charts the changing face of firstwriter.com  
 
2001
Following the demise of the small press magazine, Lateral Moves, the original concept behind firstwriter.com was devised: to launch a small press magazine that would exist only online, thereby avoiding the problems and expense of traditional printing and distribution, while at the same time reaching a larger audience. Writers would also be able to submit online, saving paper and postage. A very rough first version of the site was launched in the summer of 2001 using the above logo, and calling for submissions of fiction and poetry. 

Interestingly, as crude as the first logo appears in comparison to its modern counterpart, it actually includes all the major features that would characterise the site for the bulk of its future: from the combination of blue and yellow, to the radiance surrounding the dot (the dot as a symbol of the Internet; the radiance as the information it broadcasts), and the yellow line beneath the name that has changed and evolved, but exists to this day.

After a fortnight online a grand total of zero submissions had been received. Having learnt the first harsh lesson – that simply putting something on the Internet will not guarantee thousands of people will see it – it was realised that the site would need traffic before the vision of the magazine could be realised. In a departure from its original look firstwriter.com was redesigned on a red and yellow theme, incorporating a directory of small press magazines and listings of writing competitions as resources to attract writers. Though this design seems to be the odd-one-out in the site's development, even here there was a level of consistency: the bar across the screen beneath the logo was still there, albeit red, and the the red and yellow used were actually the same shades still used to this day in the headings on the site.

Once the directory and the competition listings had been successfully created and consolidated the site was again redesigned as it was expanded to include new sections on writing tips, links, and literary agents. The site reverted to its blue-look, and began to acknowledge its increasing role as a resource for writers, rather than as a literary magazine. Nonetheless, the magazine for the first time received its own distinct section, and once again the call for submissions went out...

  
2002
After the swift succession of changes in 2001 while the site found its feet and its place on the Internet, 2002 was a year of consolidation with relatively few major changes. The first issue of the magazine was launched as a free online zine. The firstwriter.store was launched, providing an outlet for small press publications online, and the firstwriter.com First International Poetry Competition was also opened.

With the magazine providing a stage for graphical creativity and visual flair, and the rest of the site becoming an increasingly functional resource for writers, the design of the main site was simplified to improve download times and the efficiency and directness of data delivery. As more links and adverts for the site were appearing both online and in print it was also becoming increasingly obvious that a more distinct and easily reproducible logo was required – and so the firstwriter.com logo was born.

2002 also saw significant technological advances underneath the bonnet, with the first use of a searchable database. The competitions section switched from a collection of static listings to a database system with a powerful search capacity.

 
2003
2003 saw further improvements to the functionality of the site, with the literary agents, magazine publishers, store, and links sections of the site all becoming database-driven. 

Also in 2003, more than a year and a half after the site was first launched, the paid-subscription system was finally introduced. This decision was not taken lightly, but was ultimately seen to be necessary for the growth of the site, and indeed for the benefit of the visitors seeking the information. With the funding created from subscriptions an extensive program of advertising on Google, and later Overture, was embarked on, increasing the site's monthly hit-rate from around 30,000 to over 1.5 million. 

Not only were more people seeing the site, but, thanks to the increased exposure, the databases grew rapidly – the competitions database quadrupling in size, and the literary agents database growing from under 30 entries to over 400 by the end of the year. All in all, the introduction of the small charge – less than the price of a phone call a day – was a good move for everyone.

firstwriter.com did not abandon free services altogether, however. 2003 also saw the launch of fwn, firstwriter.com's Free Writers' Newsletter, which rapidly became the number one rated "free writers newsletter" on Google, delivering to over 5000 writers by the end of the year. Further email services were introduced for subscribers in the form of InstantAlerts, keeping subscribers up to date with all the changes and additions to our databases the moment they happen.

 
2004
Towards the end of 2003, and during the start of 2004, the look of the site was slowly evolving to a more 3-D look, gradually removing the flat areas of colour. As this progressed the logo, now untouched for nearly two years, was looking increasingly bland. To tackle this (as well as the niggling anomaly that the blue of the oval had never quite been the same as either of the blues used on the site itself) the logo was redeveloped, keeping it more in-fitting with the rest of the site, while retaining the familiar firstwriter.com image.

On the functional side, the RSS service for the competitions database was launched, syndicating on Yahoo! and across the web.

 
2005
2005 saw the launch of the Publishers Database, and the upgrading of that and the Literary Agents and Magazine Publishers databases to include a new Feedback feature, reporting the experiences of users approaching the companies listed, and providing a whole new angle and depth to the listings.

The Login Assistant also made her first appearance, providing users with instant answers to their login problems by confirming usernames and account status instantly online, and emailing passwords instantly where required.

2006
In 2006, firstwriter.com was named as one of Writer's Digest's "101 Top Web Sites for Writers 2006". It was also awarded a Gold Award by Literary Magic.
2007
In 2007 the firstwriter.com service was improved even further by the introduction of SafeAssess and SafeSearch on the Literary Agents database, to help users avoid the scams and stick to the agents with the best independently verified track record of success.
2008
In 2008, firstwriter.com was again named as one of Writer's Digest's "101 Top Web Sites for Writers".
 
2010

Gold Dust Award
for overall excellence

Awarded by Gold Dust magazine to exceptional and outstanding writers' sites in recognition of the contribution they make to the enjoyment of writing, the fostering of creativity and community among writers and the achievement of the highest standards in the literary field

Read current and past issues of Gold Dust at our HOME PAGE

Gold
Dust Site Award


 
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