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  Issue #17

Free Writers' Newsletter

   August 4, 2004  

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firstwriter.magazine Issue #5 launched is pleased to announce the release of Issue #5 of firstwriter.magazine, Aqua-marine. This issue is a poetry spectacular, containing the winner, runners-up, and special commendations from our Second International Poetry Competition, which closed on November 1, 2003 (you can enter your poems in our Third International Poetry Competition by clicking here).

The issue also includes the usual quality selection of fiction and poetry submissions. If you submitted work for Issue #5 and have not yet been notified of your inclusion then, unfortunately, on this occasion we have not chosen to use your work. We do encourage you to submit more work in the future, however. We have just closed submissions for Issue #6, but are now accepting poetry up to 30 lines and fiction up to 3000 words for inclusion in Issue #7. To submit your work please click here.


ST Literary Agency -- writers' break, or just crooked?

Writers desperate to get published and make their name have always been a vulnerable target for confidence tricksters: from the traditional vanity publishers, to scams like, there’s always somebody thinking of a new way to trick writers out of their hard-earned money.

The latest operation to come under the spotlight is “ST Literary Agency”. If you’ve recently searched on Google for “literary agents” you’ll have noticed an ad for this agency on the right-hand side, declaring that it has no reading fees and limited openings for new clients. There’s a lot of speculation currently circulating on the Internet regarding this agency, and whether or not they are a scam. We’re no better placed than anyone else to label ST one way or the other (what they actually do will almost certainly not be illegal, at any rate), but we can present you with the facts we have discovered.

The most important thing to know about ST is that, while they don’t charge any “reading” fees, if you are accepted to be represented by them they charge you $129 up front. You won’t find this mentioned anywhere on the site. In fact, you won’t even find it mentioned on the contract they send you until after the point at which you are supposed to sign. What it does say on the website is:

“A contract to sell [an author's] work for a success fee based commission is the best kind of contract. WE DO NOT CHARGE READING FEES, AND AUTHORS SHOULD AVOID ANYONE WHO DOES.”

Sage advice indeed. We emailed ST to ask them why, since they recommend a “success fee based commission” contract, they offer one with a substantial non-success based fee. They did not respond.

What they say about the "Admin Fee" on the contract is this:

"About the Admin Fee. This is NOT a reading fee. You have already been accepted. However, many writers are aghast that they would be charged anything for anything! They complain loudly and vociferously to all who will listen. If this one-time fee troubles you please do not sign with us and spare us any whining emails."

Unusual language for an official contract, I'm sure you'll agree. What's even more unusual is the fact that, if they have so little time for people who do not want to pay the $129 fee, they keep the fee secret up to this point -- surely it would make more sense to reveal it up front and avoid any "whining emails" from disgruntled authors altogether? Why would they want to invest the time to carefully consider a writer's work (and they claim to read all manuscripts in their entirety), only for the deal to fall through when the previously unmentioned fee was brought up? Unfortunately, this is a question we cannot answer, as ST did not respond to our request for information. 

They did respond, however, when we contacted them posing as an interested writer. The fact that there was a $129 charge was never offered freely, but in fairness to ST they did own up when we asked directly if there were any other fees involved. Their justification was that they needed to charge this fee in advance, but it would be returned once the work was sold.

But what are the chances of ST actually selling your work? We asked them what sales they had made, and what proportion of the number of manuscripts they handled this represented. Their response was evasive: “I would say one in a hundred”. No examples were given. There are examples of sales given on their site, but we can neither confirm nor refute the authenticity of these. What we can say is that, even if they are selling one book out of a hundred, this means that for every book they do sell they’re earning (or at least taking) over $12,000 for books they don’t. At 10% commission each book they sell would have to earn its author over $127,000 for ST's earnings from successes to even match their takings from failures, let alone exceed them. When you're being paid so well to fail, there is surely little incentive to succeed.

Given these figures, it seems more than likely that ST’s primary stream of income is from books that are never sold, and never have their author's $129 refunded. Certainly, there is little reason for them to ever reject a manuscript, as it won’t cost them anything to leave it sat to gather dust, but it will make them an easy $129. For the writer, however, it means that the novel they have put their heart and soul into could be stuck with an agency with no interest in selling it, leaving them unable to submit it elsewhere. Again, we can’t say for certain whether or not ST actually ever do reject anything, but from what we know about them they don’t seem too picky about what they accept: while most agents stick to specific markets and genres that they know and are experienced in, ST are happy to receive absolutely anything in any genre, be it a book or a script or whatever.

It’s also rather strange that an agency with such limited openings should spend months on end paying thousands of dollars to advertise to writers on the world’s largest search engine. Not only that, but they were willing to violate Google’s own rules in order to increase their exposure. By setting up a second site which automatically redirected to their first they were able to elude Google’s checks and get a second advert for the same search term, this time calling themselves “sydra-techniques”. Despite the fact that the second ad was taken down as a result of complaints, ST tried to get away with sneaking it back on a second time.

And don't think that appearing on Google is any kind of endorsement for the services displayed there. We asked Google to explain why they continued to display adverts for what many perceive as a confidence trick. This is what they had to say:

"Google takes claims of fraud very seriously and we investigate all complaints from our users about service they have received from companies advertising on Google ... However, we are not in a position to terminate ad campaigns or accounts based solely on the information [that has been] provided"

In other words, Google has thousands of advertisers and it can't possibly investigate all of them. They did go on to say, however, that they would be "very interested" to receive further information, particularly relating to any specific court actions. Anyone with information or complaints regarding the ST Literary Agency should therefore direct their "whining emails" not to the agency themselves, but to, where they will probably have more effect.

Ultimately, what ST do is not illegal, and whether you choose to approach them or not is your prerogative. However, do bear in mind the following facts when making your decision:

  • ST are not affiliated to any official industry body, such as the Association of Authors' Representatives, apparently because they “eschew” industry affiliations. Obviously this has nothing to do with the fact that (because of their hidden fees) they would not be accepted anyway.
  • Most agencies who are affiliated to official bodies make 100% of their money through commissions. Even if ST are making more than $127,000 for their authors on each book they sell, that still only gives them 50%.
  • The most respected and established agencies do their best to keep a low profile when it comes to writers as they are already swamped by manuscripts. ST are willing to spend thousands of dollars and break advertisers’ rules to raise their profile and receive more submissions.
  • Most agencies have some kind of specialist area they know and will reject submissions which do not fall into it. ST seem desperate for anything and everything they can get.
  • Above all, ST Literary Agency have a highly irregular hidden fee, which means that the easiest way for them to make money from you is to accept your work, regardless of its chances of being accepted by a publisher, and then not do anything to help you get published at all.

The ST Literary Agency takes great pride in being different to other agencies. Whether you think this is a good or a bad thing is up to you.


Writing: my Art
By Ann Marie Johannes

As a writer, I have always had a glorious relationship with  letters, words, and sentences while others played with dolls and cars. I love the different shapes and sounds of words and how they seem to make my world clearer. As a young person I would group words together that the learned in my school thought was a mistake. I would be busy putting words together that sounded exact to me instead of listening to my teachers.

I am pretty sure most writers can attest to the fact that many do not consider writing a profession unless they want you to write something for them. I have been writing since the age of nine and it is my serenity. I am writing this short story to acknowledge, inspire, and praise all those mentors in my life that understood that I was listening and paying attention plus writing at the same time. My inspiration came when my Mother died suddenly when I was nine and I grieved through writing.

Now some 40 years later I continue to write. When I saw your site I recalled my first writing and how important writing has been for me as an Art form. I want to share my first writing with you and to say thank you for your work and inspirations.

Ann Marie's "I Will Write Today"
My Mama died today. Don't know why. No tears no sounds. I will write today. Mama and me writing together was the only part that helped. Mama and I sang country tunes, played softball and baked yesterday. Her smile is like roses and her hugs like potato soup. I will write today, so Mama will smile out there somewhere as she rests.


Resources for writers at

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In this issue:


Book collaborator sought
A1 Documentaries seek a 50/50 collaborator (no upfront fee) for a book based on acclaimed documentary The Holland Avenue Boys: A Success Story.

For further details please see the following websites:

Interested parties should email their resume to (no attachments please) or snail mail to Holland Avenue Boys Ltd, 155 West 72nd Street, Suite 404, New York, NY 10023, USA, or call +1 (212) 579-0689 on weekdays.

Call for poems on Iraq conflict
Justine Tennant is a poet who is asking poets to send her one poem that sums up how they feel about the war with Iraq, the situation at Guantanamo and/or the latest, horrific, beheading of Paul Johnson. In fact, anything to do with the conflict. She is collating the poems and then e mailing them to Number 10 and to the Whitehouse with a brief intro stating that we comprise a group of poets wanting to pass on our message in the best way we know how.

Please send contributions direct to Justine at justine.tennant
. You can also visit her website at

Performance poetry organisation expands
Following a 325% increase in its funding from the Arts Council, London-based performance poetry group "Apples & Snakes" will be expanding its operations, and hopes to be active in six regions of England by 2006.

Apples & Snakes aims to stimulate the growth of performance poetry through offering a dynamic and accessible programme of workshops, training opportunities and live performances, aimed at a wide audience. The South-West office has just opened in Plymouth, and will be offering a range of training/professional development workshops in creative writing and performance skills, etc.

Interested would-be poets should email their full contact details to Heidi Stephenson, Apples & Snakes’s South West Regional Coordinator at apples&snakes@
or write to her c/o TR2, 12 Neptune Park, Cattedown, Plymouth, PL4 OSJ. 

Contest for new Hollywood sitcom
Bravo TV have announced a new reality-competition series entitled Situation: Comedy!

Executive Producers Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) and Todd Milliner; Arnold Shapiro and Allison Grodner (Big Brother) are looking for a sitcom script that is original, creative and, of course, funny.

Two script entries will be selected and produced for television in Hollywood.   Bravo will document the entire process for the upcoming series.

For the winning writer or writing team there is a prize of $25,000 and a contract with CAA, a leading literary agency, lasting a year. 

Interested writers should visit for official contest rules and application.

Multiverse Magazine ceases publication
Multiverse Magazine, the online publication of fiction and nonfiction with an emphasis on world-building, has been closed down.

Despite reporting positive reader feedback, the number and quality of submission had declined to a critical level. Editor Matthew Wayne Selznick said: "I didn't want to publish material I thought was below the standard I'd tried to establish. On the other hand, I didn't want there to be six months to a year between issues. Too many submissions did not
adhere to the writers' guidelines... maybe the concept was too restrictive."

Any authors with work set to be published in the magazine have now been released of their obligation.

© 2004
While every effort is made to ensure that all information contained within this newsletter is accurate, readers are reminded that this information is provided only as a collection of potential leads that the reader should follow up with his or her own investigations. Unless otherwise stated, is not associated with and does not endorse, recommend, or guarantee any of the organisations, events, persons or promotions contained within this newsletter, and cannot be held responsible for any loss incurred as a result of actions taken in relation to information provided. Inclusion does not constitute recommendation.