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  Issue #20

Free Writers' Newsletter

   October 24, 2004  

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Time running out for poetry competition entries

Poetry competition - click here to enter online in secondsThe final deadline for entries into firstwriter.com's Third International Poetry Competition is now just a week away, on November 1, 2004. Despite a previous delay for those wishing to make last-minute entries, the November 1 deadline will be absolutely final. To get your entry or entries in before then click here to submit online instantly.

The total value of prizes on offer comes to over £600 – that's over $1000 – including £300 for first place (that's over $500), $75 for the best US runner-up, and £50 for the best UK runner-up. All winners and ten special commendations will also receive a free year's subscription to firstwriter.com, giving full access to our database of over 550 literary agencies, over 350 magazines, and over 150 constantly-changing competitions (you can start enjoying all these benefits now by clicking here).

To enter the firstwriter.com Third International Poetry Competition click here.

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Writing competitions on Yahoo!

Yahoo!If you've got a My Yahoo! homepage (they're free to set up, if you haven't) you can now choose to have details of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and script writing competitions added to your homepage and updated on a daily basis.

firstwriter.com has long been renowned for the quality of its competitions listings, which are fully searchable and updated daily. Our InstantAlert service also allows subscribers to be notified immediately each time a new competition is added – and now, thanks to our new RSS feed, we can offer another exciting way to stay informed about the latest competitions. By syndicating our content with Yahoo! you can now have news of the latest listings to be added at firstwriter.com appear right there on your My Yahoo! homepage, just minutes after being added.

To add writing competition headlines to your My Yahoo! homepage simply click here, or click the "Add to my Yahoo!" button. You can do this even if you don't yet have a My Yahoo! homepage – one will be created for you.Click here to add all the latest contests to your My Yahoo homepage!

Another benefit of our new RSS technology is that if you use a news aggregator you can now have it receive the feed from our writing competitions database – right-click the RSS or XML icon for the address of the feed.

These advances come as part of a whole range of improvements to the competitions section: the overall look has been improved, as has the search facility; there are new categories for "Nonfiction" and "Scripts"; easier access has been granted to the main categories through the main navigation bar on the left; and printer-friendly versions of items and pages have been created.

To visit the newly revamped competitions section click here.

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The first three steps to finding a literary agent
By Jill Nagle
An excerpt from How to Find A Literary Agent Who Can Sell Your Book for Top Dollar 
www.FindTheRightAgent.com


Congratulations – you have a manuscript, a book proposal or the wherewithal to create one. You are on your way to getting published! One way to drastically increase the chances that the top-paying, most reputable publishers will get a look at your work is to engage a literary representative, or agent. 

Unfortunately, this is not an easy prospect. Even more difficult is finding exactly the right agent for you. 

Here are three steps to get you moving in the right direction:

Step 1: Get your work into tip-top shape
For nonfiction writers, tip-top shape requires having your book proposal and query letter polished to perfection before you contact your agent. You do not have to write your entire nonfiction book before approaching an agent – in fact in most cases it works better if you donít. 

You will, however, need 20–30 pages of sample chapter material for most nonfiction (self-help, how-to, memoir, biography, etc.): usually the first chapter plus one or two other chapters. 

For a memoir, where the quality of the writing weighs more heavily, plan on at least 60 pages of material. 

Fiction writers, on the other hand, usually do need to have their novel written, as well as a synopsis of the work, which is a brief description of the plot and characters, plus an analysis of how the work compares with others in its genre.

Step 2: Profile a hit list of agents 
This means you are to research agents, and create a list of those appropriate for your work, with as much information about each agent as you can gather. You will use this information to prioritise which agents to contact and what to reference in the letter.

Start with the internet and expand outward. Sources as obvious as guides to literary agents and as obscure as comments made during an authorís reading all count as research in creating your collection of agent profiles. 

Personal references are your best source. Who do you know? From as many of these sources as possible, create a list of anywhere from 12 to 40 agents who represent work like yours, then begin building a data file for each including all your findings. 

Step 3: Create a personalized letter for each agent
If youíre approaching more than a handful of agents, you may want to use the same basic query letter for each of them. However, you donít want to make it look as though youíre doing a mass mailing. Therefore, each letter should be personalised for the individual agent.

Begin each letter with something from the profile you created that relates personally to the particular agent. The more immediate and relevant, the better. The sentence (or two) you create should spark instant recognition in each agent. This will make your letter stand out from the dozens she may read that day that come out of the blue. So you might have:

Dear Jane Adams:

ďOnly the obsessed should write novels,Ē your warning in the October issue of Write This!, sits above my desk as I put the final compulsive touches on The Night Before the Dawn.

or:

Dear Adam Janeway:

Your comment at the Maui Writerís conference this past summer still has me laughing. The part about not showing an agent your fangs on a first date made me go get mine filed down.

If you have a referral from one of the agentís current clients, make that name the very first thing they read:

Dear Jane Adams:

Alice Walker speaks very highly of your work and suggested I query you about my self-help book, What to Do When You Find your Motherís Garden.

In the second paragraph, summarise your credentials, and in the third, give a brief summary of the project (or the reverse, depending on which is most impressive), and make sure to mention somewhere that youíre also querying other agents if indeed you are.

Even though a query letter is a short, to-the-point missive, spend some serious time on it. Expect to go through at least ten drafts of your query letter over at least a few weeks before you send it out, and show it to at least three people (or one with stellar qualifications) – you've got exactly one shot, and you want to make it your absolute best.

Stick with standard professional letter formatting; eschew fancy fonts, unusually-coloured paper or anything resembling a gimmick. Keep your letter to a page or less if possible; a page and a half maximum.

What Now?
If you have read this far, youíve now circumvented the mistakes that get at least 20 per cent of all publishing attempts rejected. Youíre now on your way to upping your acceptance odds even further.

Your next step is to get even more selective about who you want to represent you. Thatís right – finding an agent isnít just about who accepts you – itís about who you accept to represent your work.

This is because having the wrong agent can do more harm than having no agent at all.

To learn more about how to avoid putting your dreams on hold by tying up your lifeís work with the wrong agent, get a copy of How to Find A Literary Agent Who Can Sell Your Book for Top Dollar.

Jill Nagle is a published author and principal of GetPublished, which provides ghostwriting, coaching, consulting, teleclasses and more to aspiring and ascending authors. She has been helping other writers get published for the last decade.
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Resources for writers at firstwriter.com

Visit firstwriter.com for the following invaluable resources for writers:

To advertise on this newsletter for as little as $30 / £20 click here

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In this issue:

Spelling conventions

fwn uses English spelling conventions. Spellings such as "realise" "colour", "theatre", "cancelled", etc. differ from other spelling conventions but are nonetheless correct. 

News:

Apple Literary Agency goes rotten?
Apple Literary Agency and Editorial Services has stopped responding to communication. firstwriter.com and even a signed client of the agency have attempted to make contact by email, phone, and snail mail. All attempts have been fruitless.

The agency email address now results in a "User unknown" rejection, and the website is no longer online.

It seems likely that the agency is no longer active, however the status of existing clients is not clear. Anyone with any further information should contact us.

To search over 550 literary agencies click here

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Writers' experiences needed for new book
Blythe Camenson and Marshall Cook are seeking sample query letters and synopses sent to agents that resulted in the agent asking to see the full manuscript.

Query letters should be one page long, and begin with either a formal opening, a summary, a hook, or a reference to your connections.

Send letters together with written permission for their reproduction, and a brief history of their life (who they were sent to, what the results were) to BCamenson@aol.com.

Authors of featured letters will be credited in the book and receive a free copy.

Marshall Cook would also like to hear from writers who have tried to publish with a small, subsidy, or e-book publisher, or have pitched a novel to an agent in person or over the phone. He can be contacted at mcook@dcs.wisc.edu 

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Horror authors in fight against cancer
Beginning on Halloween, author Michael McBride from Colorado, together with Karen Koehler from Pennsylvania, Steve Zinger from Canada, and William Meikle from the United Kingdom, will each beginning serialising one of their horror novels online in a project which will last 14 weeks.

There will be no charge to participate, but a link will be provided for donations to the American Cancer Society.

A Yahoo! group will also allow readers to discuss each chapter as it is released, both with other readers and with the author themselves.

To sign up for this event, click here. To sign up the Yahoo! discussion group click here.

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Short poems sought for 2005 wall calendar
Scars Publications is
looking for short poem submissions for their 2005 Poetry Wall Calendar. Twelve
winners will have their poem appear with an image on a month of the calendar year.

There is no fee to enter poems, and no prize – other than the honour of inclusion.

There are no specific themes but last year's calendar may be viewed by clicking here. Submissions should be sent to editor@scars.tv 

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Partner sites:

WriterOnLine is an e-publication dedicated to writers and lovers of writing. Fiction, poetry, business and technical writing, how-tos, articles, reviews, freelance markets, jobs for writers and much more, published bi-weekly.
www.writeronline.us 

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© firstwriter.com 2004
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