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  Issue #25

Free Writers' Newsletter

   Mar 26, 2005  

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Short story contest – deadline delayed!

The deadline for's First International Short Story Contest has been delayed by one month to May 1, 2005 to allow for last minute entries.

The competition is seeking short stories up to 3,000 words, and is open to stories on any subject and in any style: literary fiction; genre; romance; horror; science fiction; experimental – all are acceptable and will be treated equally – the only criteria on which they will be judged is the quality of the story and of the writing.

The winner of the competition will receive a cash prize of £200, or the equivalent in your currency (that's over $300). Not only that, but there will also be ten special commendations awarded. All eleven winners will be published in firstwriter.magazine and receive a free annual subscription to worth $28.49 / £18.99, allowing access to our daily updated databases of over 200 writing competitions, over 600 literary agents, and over 450 magazines.

Another advantage of the competition is that submissions are made online – saving you the hassle of printing and posting. To enter your story online in seconds go to 

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How to get top-selling agents' attention
By Jill Nagle, Founder and Principal
GetPublished, guerrilla guidance for your writing adventure
An excerpt from How to Find A Literary Agent Who Can Sell Your Book for Top Dollar

Many authors nearly jump out of their shirts when they get an offer of representation from an agent. However, not just any agent has the right contacts to get the kind of money your work may be able to command. A top-selling agent with a recent track record of selling work like yours for the kind of money you want is your best bet, yet so many authors shy away from approaching top agents, thinking those agents would never pay attention to someone of their stature.

The bad news is, itís true: top agents are often way too busy to give a new client the time of day. So how do you get top agentsí attention? A personal introduction from one of their own author-clients gets an agentís attention more effectively than almost anything else. Some agents accept only such referrals, and no cold queries. 

To create your own such connection, if you donít have one already, youíll need to approach authors whose work your target agent has sold. Some authors will be more willing than others to talk to you about their book, the process of getting published, and their agent. Those most likely to talk to you will probably be those who:

  • are less famous rather than more famous;
  • have a book recently out – theyíll have publicity and connections on their mind, which you can leverage to both your advantages;
  • have a book that relates to but doesnít directly compete with yours;
  • view you as having something to offer them, which you most certainly do; and
  • after having looked at your work (proposal, or at least outline/sample chapters), believe it is worthwhile and want to support it.

Hereís how to increase your chances of getting a personal referral to an agent from one of their authors:

  1. First, create a list of 5–10 agents who have recently sold works similar to your own for the kind of money you want.
  2. Next, do a search on using their text-search function, to get the names of authors whose books that agent has sold. The search will turn up the acknowledgments section in which the author thanks the agent – thatís how youíll know which authorsí books that agent has sold. 

    Watch out for the rare agent name mentioned randomly in other sections of the book, as this is probably not an indication but a coincidence. Not every author thanks their agent, but enough do that you should be able to get a decent handful or two of authors, depending on how prolific the agent.
  3. Research those authors on the internet – check out their websites, if any, other places theyíve been published, so that when you approach them, youíll have done your homework on who they are.
  4. Familiarise yourself with the books of those authors youíll be approaching.
  5. Decide what youíll be asking the author for. Here are some suggestions:
    1. an interview, if you have a way to publish it (otherwise you may be perceived as wasting the authorís time – I know I have been through this!);
    2. a blurb for your book. Donít ask them to write the foreword – youíll choose that person from among those who have written you blurbs, as youíll want the most famous; or
    3. help. About 25 per cent of authors will be genuinely interested in helping you as another author. The rest may be threatened, indifferent, or simply too busy.

Do not approach an author right off the bat by asking for an introduction to their agent. Ideally, you want such an introduction to be the authorís idea. At that point you get to remain sceptical and ask about the authorís experience working with that agent, letting the author convince you to approach that agent!

Hereís a sample letter introducing yourself to an author whose agent you want to meet:

Dear U. R. Published:

Iíve been making my way through Another Way to the Top, and am particularly enjoying your perspective on Buddhism and gravity. 

My own work centres around a Taoist approach to networking, and I was wondering if you might consider blurbing my upcoming book, Working the Web: How to Expand your Personal and Professional Network Using Small Increments for Exponential Results. Iíd be happy to provide you with my outline and sample chapters, along with my bio.

Iíd also be interested in talking with you about your experiences with your agent and publisher.

I can be reached at the number below or you can email me back here at your convenience.

Best regards,

I. L.B. Published, II

Jillís Guerrilla Tip:
Asking another author to blurb your book is a gift, not an imposition on them. First off, itís a compliment, even if they are too busy to receive it. Secondly, itís a great publicity opportunity to get their name in front of their audience, assuming your book reaches a similar audience. 

You cannot have too many blurbs – what you donít use for the back of the book, you can use for other publicity materials, such as a press packet or website.

Hereís another real-life example, a version of which I used with one of my clients:

Dear [Author]:

My name is [Aspiring Author], and I am inspired by your work and your successful marketing efforts. For the past twelve years, I have worked both as a therapist and as a corporate and nonprofit consultant to help engender more effective communication between individuals and within organisations.

Although I have approached communication coaching more from a cognitive than spiritual angle, empathy and recognition of the other have showed up as major themes in my work. I see us as taking complementary positions on these topics.

I am currently finishing a book proposal for [Working Book Title], based on [bookís central concept]. [One-paragraph description of project].

I would very much like to send along my outline and sample chapters for your review and possible endorsement. I would also be interested in discussing with you joint publicity opportunities such as talk shows or interviews, and hearing about your experiences with your agent and publisher. 

I can send my materials via email attachment or postal mail. I may be reached at this email, or at [phone number].

Best regards,

[Aspiring Author]

This letter is more content-driven, and attempts to capture the interest of the author by engaging her on a topic of obvious interest to her. This author also offers ideas for joint publicity endeavours, demonstrating that sheís got the published authorís interest in mind. She only mentions the agent in passing.

Jillís Guerrilla Tip:
Approach each published author you contact seeking to discover how it is you might work together. This is an important part of pre-publication networking. An agent introduction may well surface as an organic outgrowth of this type of connection. Even if it doesnít, you will have made a potentially important contact.

If after all this, you canít manage to wangle an author introduction, youíve still got a number of other guerrilla tactics to maximise your chances of getting an offer of representation from an agent.

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 at 

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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How I got a literary agent
An interview with author Jeffrey Bishop

Jeffrey Bishop recently placed his book with the Running Water Literary Agency, which he found using's database of literary agencies. We asked him about his writing, and how he found success.

fw: Jeffrey Ė thank you for taking the time to talk to us, and congratulations on securing a literary agent! Tell us about the book you managed to place with them.

JB: Bartemus Ammblin in the Old Forest is set on the Great Plains of North America 10,000 years ago. Within a highly evolved critter society, a young rabbit named Bartemus Ammblin is trying to survive seventh grade in the Burrowton School. His best friends, a badger and a wolverine, support him while he's constantly battling the school bully, a nasty bullfrog. Bartemus is beginning to show promise as a mystic and healer and is taking after his grandfather, the local know-it-all. Bartemus's powers are forced into play when a band of wolves attack his hometown and take the citizens hostage. With the help of his friends, a crazy old pheasant, and some eccentric characters along the way, Bartemus must save the prairie from the wrath of a tyrant.

fw: Is it your first book? How long did it take to write, and where do you get your inspiration from?

JB: This is my first work of fiction. I've had articles published in nonfiction books and trade magazines (I'm a composer and orchestra conductor) prior to this, however. Bartemus took approximately six months to write. I did a lot of research prior to the actual writing process, though. I did several trips through the region to gather information on wildlife and plants. There are recipes and original music in the books as well, so that took extra time too. My inspiration came from the fact that I felt that too much of young adult literature panders to the average kid. I grew up the typical nerd and was a voracious reader. I see the literature today as being a far cry from the C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Susan Cooper books of past generations. I don't pretend to be such a writer, but that's my goal Ė to inspire a sense of awe and wonder while prodding a young person's intellect and morality.

The actual inspiration for the characters, timing, and place came from my intimate relationship to the prairie. I've lived on or near it my entire life. It just seemed a natural extension of my own life story.

fw: Did you mention the fact that you'd previously had nonfiction articles published? Did it help?

JB: I've had articles published in Teaching Music Through Performance, in Orchestra Volumes 1 & 2, the Instrumentalist magazine, and the trade journal Orchestra News. I did mention this in my approach along with the fact that I've had over three-dozen pieces of music for orchestra and band published. I think it's very important to have at least a foot in the publishing door; even some nonfiction articles can help!

fw: What made you decide to try and get a literary agent?

JB: I was lucky enough to have a friend of a friend who works as a field representative for a large publishing group. He was kind enough to get the manuscript into the hands of some high power editors in New York and London. One of the editors was a big help and offered several suggestions. I spent a year working on the sequel and rewriting the last five chapters of the first book. That's when I started looking for an agent. As a full time teacher, composer, and conductor I travel across the country doing clinics and have a full schedule of commissions for new pieces of music. I needed someone who could work the literary side of my life while I controlled the musical side.

fw: Once you'd decided that you needed a literary agent, how did you go about getting one?

JB: I did what every aspiring writer does Ė bought the books, subscribed to the magazines, and read every article on the web that I could find. I wrote the query letters and sent them out and began a large collection of rejection slips. I had a hit on one agency that wanted a huge reading fee and that's when I realised how much money unscrupulous agents could make in this business! It was a shocking revelation and one that I won't ever forget. Once I exhausted most of the standard methods, I found and decided to give it a try.

fw: Even J.K. Rowling got rejection slips! But how long did it take to get a positive response?

JB: I think I received over two-dozen rejections. That includes the ones from inside the industry that my friends helped me with. It took about a year after I got serious about finding an agent before I landed one. From the horror stories I've read about, I think I had a pretty easy go of it considering how bad it could have been.

fw: And how did help you to achieve this?

JB: I used the search engine to narrow the categories down to children's fantasy within America. That gave me a huge amount, much too cumbersome to sort through at once, so I began plodding through them a little at a time. I came to rely on the daily email updates almost exclusively after a month or so. I would save the ones that fit my needs, print them off, and send out queries. That's how I found my agent. It was from one of the InstantAlert emails.

fw: So would you say that you found the InstantAlert feature the most useful aspect of your subscription to

JB: I loved the InstantAlert emails. They became my daily "to do list." I would sort through them, delete the ones that weren't pertinent, and then sit down and work on query letters. It made the process of finding possible agents so much easier. And in my case, I found an agency that was just getting started, so that really was to my advantage. I've got an agent who believes in my work and believes that she can sell my work. Together we're going to get my work published by the best possible company. That's such an empowering feeling in this otherwise eviscerating line of work!

fw: How did you approach the agents you identified from the InstantAlerts?

JB: I had a standard query letter that I sent out to several agents (usually 5 to 7) at a time. I would wait for the replies before sending out another set. I used the Writer's Markets guidebooks at first, but then came to rely solely on, as the agents were already narrowed down for me. I also changed my query letter after several rejection slips. I was frustrated that after having nearly three-dozen pieces of music published that literature could be so difficult! I had no idea! A little bit of arrogance and attitude in that first paragraph of the revamped letter made an
impression. I got three positive replies from agents, two of which passed on the manuscript, but the last one offered a contract.

fw: What are your plans now, and how's your agent helping you?

JB: I'll keep on writing. And my agent will work on selling what I write. She's busy with the query letters, bios, and other materials for the publishers. She's been in contact often with regular updates. I am very happy with the relationship. As for the book, there are sequels in the works. I have designed the story arc like the plot of a grand opera: three acts with three scenes in each for a grand total of nine books. At 300+ pages on average per book, I will be writing for several years and loving every minute of it.

If you want to see how Bartemus and company are doing, check him out at

fw: Thanks, Jeffrey Ė and best of luck with this and the rest of the books!

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Resources for writers at

Visit 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. 


International postcard exhibition
A celebration of the meaning of poetry. Mail your meaning of poetry, the sense it has for you in the many artistic forms it can be expressed – the written word, photographs, pictures, prints, collages, illustrations, etc. Make combinations of words and any other art form. 
Your meaning of poetry and mailing address must be on one side.

Send to: 
Macanoly V.Q. and/or La Negra Esperanza 
To: CID (Digital Information Center) 
Longoria with Candelaria Street. 
Antigua Casa Amarilla- City Casco Histůrico 
La Victoria- Ribas County- Aragua State 
VENEZUELA-South America 

Or: Ateneo de La Victoria 
Francisco Loreto Ave., with Dr.CarŪas Street. 
La Victoria-Ribas County-Aragua State 
VENEZUELA- South America.

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Creative writing courses
The next Carry on Creative Writing Course at 44 Portland Place, London, W1B 1NE starts on April 5th and runs for 7 weeks from 6.30-9.30 pm. This is great opportunity to develop and sustain the writing skills you already have and to further discover your writing voice. If you have an idea for a novel you are burning to write, or a collection of short stories or poetry, this is the perfect opportunity to get started on the right track. You will be able to share your work each week with the group and get valuable feedback.

This class operates very much like a writers group with sharing work, getting feedback from the group and individual advice and guidance from award winning writer Emilia di Girolamo.

The course costs £125 and information and bookings are available on 020 7079 2855 or info@44portland
– be sure to quote course code

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Pencil One – Audiobook on CD
PENCIL would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who entered the initial PENCIL Short Story Competition for their effort and support. Also, a huge thank you to the readers who invested their valuable time by dedicating it to reading through each PENCIL entry. Finally, a big thank you to the 2004 PENCIL judges, Mark Brady and Tina Pisco for their contribution and dedication. 

In addition to a small publication, PENCIL has uniquely produced an audiobook CD of readings (mostly by the author) of all the three winning stories, the runner-up story and a selection (editor's choice) of four other stories. 
These are: "Virginia Creeper" by Alexandra Fox, 1st prize (Northampton), "The Reader and the Writer" by Gillian Rowson, 2nd prize (Glengarriff), "The Train" by Jud Weidner, 3rd prize (Bantry), special commendations to "Killers" by Denis OíConnor (Kerry) and "Love" by Mary Malone (Dublin). Also included are "The Wacky Baccy Conundrum" by Freddie Sherriff (Bantry), "November, December" by Ursula Kingston (Bantry). Included on the CD are specially commissioned musical links by Andy Reynolds,  

To launch this exciting new venture, PENCIL are having a special launch day on Saturday April 2, 2005 at 4pm at Bantry Library. PENCIL would like to take the opportunity to thank the librarian Noel OíMahony and staff for facilitating the event. PENCIL would also like to extend an invitation to everyone interested. Admission is free and everybody is welcome. 

The PENCIL 2005 competition is open for entries, please go to   for further information. We would also like to remind younger writers that PENCIL-TEEN is open for entries, closing date August 31, 2005. It is hoped that the winners and runners-up from these competitions will be recorded to produce further audiobooks.

Please contact either Camille on 027-51550 or Cammy 028-32921 for further information. 

For more than 200 other writing contests click here

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New opera / film / theatre collective
Paul Murphy is interested in forming a group dedicated to formulating resistances to the commercial functioning
of art while still seeking to exist in a commercial

Seeks anyone with enthusiasm but not necessarily skill or experience (although anyone with experience of acting, technical support roles, writing, screenplaywriting, composers, conductors,
performers etc. are welcome) – anyone really who wants to think about theatre/film/opera,
have fun and enjoyment.

Paul's interests are in radical kitschy attempts to question the basis of commodity production but also likes Wagner, Brecht, the Beatles, Box Car Willie and Bob Hope. This includes criss-crossing genres and anything at all really,
including porn, musicals, comedies, the more bizarre, weird and basically mad the better; the more Post-Modern the better.

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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. 

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© 2005
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.