With the deadline for firstwriter.com's
Fifth International Poetry Competition fast approaching
(October 1, 2006), firstwriter.com has announced a
last-minute delay to allow for final entries to be submitted. If
you haven't yet entered your poems for your chance to win £500
(that's nearly $1,000) you can enter online now in seconds
by going to
As well as the £500 first prize
there are prizes of $150 for the best US runner-up, and £100
for the best runner-up from the UK. All winners and
ten special commendations will also receive firstwriter.com
vouchers worth $30 / £20, which can be used to take out an
annual subscription to firstwriter.com for free, giving full access to
our database of over 650 literary
agencies, over 650 magazines,
over 600 publishers,
and over 200 constantly-changing competitions (you can start
enjoying all these benefits now by clicking
Spieler recently acquired an agent using firstwriter.com's
database of literary
agencies. We asked her about her writing, and how she found
fwn:Thank you for taking the time to
talk to us, Geri. Tell us a little bit about your book. What's the title?
GS: The working title is Iím Sorry I
Missed, Mr. President. The book is nonfiction and it is the story of Sara
Jane Moore, the 45-year-old suburban doctor's wife who tried to assassinate
President Gerald Ford in 1975.
fwn:What was it about her story that
made you want to write about it?
GS: I met Sara Jane 30 years ago when I
was a freelance reporter and I had a story published in the Los Angeles Times
about a class action suit against the womenís jail. Sara Jane read it while
still in custody before her hearing. She wrote to me at the paper and asked to
meet. I was curious about her, even though I was not reporting on her. We kept
in touch informally all these years. Finally I decided to write about her, and I
had the time.
fwn: So you already had a history or
GS: Iíve been writing for many years. I
was in some writing workshops in college, and then I became a journalist after
college. Iíve written for the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. I
also was a professional researcher. On and off Iíve done a lot of magazine
fwn:And do you think being previously
published helped you in securing your literary agent?
GS: I think it is critically important.
Agents want to know that you have a proven track record.
fwn:So once you'd decided to write
this book, what did you use as your starting point?
GS: I had 30 years of letters and
communication. But I didnít know all about her life. I began by looking up all
the newspaper articles written about her event. I wrote down every name in every
story associated with her case, and names of friends, family, FBI, Secret
Service, SF Police, all her associations.
I used an online people-search tool to find the
folks I wanted to interview. It took me six months to research the book. I ran
into a lot of problems in that some of the key people had died. Also, some
people would not talk to me.
fwn:When you'd finished the book, what was the first thing you
did to try and get
it published? Did you start trying to find a literary agent straight
GS: Yes. I am looking for an established
publisher and I learned that most publishers would only consider agented books.
So, I bought several books on how to write a nonfiction book proposal. I also
joined a writing club to talk to other writers and get into a writing community.
fwn:Where did you find your leads for
There were two rounds of agent searching. The first time about a month. I went
to the library and looked up agents that seemed to fit my book. I followed the
comments on what these agents want for book queries.
I sent out 40 query letters and got 39
rejections. I had a new agent for a while, but the relationship did not work out
after a while.
fwn: Really? What went wrong?
wouldnít hear from them for weeks and weeks at a time. They didnít seem to know
where to send my book. After that relationship fell apart, I spent nine months
rewriting the book. This time it took me about nine months to find a new agent.
fwn: Did you do anything differently
the second time round?
GS: The first time I was looking for an
agent I did multiple submissions at once. This time around I picked agents more
slowly. I researched each agent on various writer websites that give writers
information on whether the agent has had complaints, such as Predators and
I had a carefully crafted query letter that I
used and edited based on the agentís request for information. I was told never
to send a full proposal, even if an agent says that is what they want. An editor
told me to only send a query and let the agent ask for the proposal. Then you
can mark your envelope ďRequested MaterialĒ and it gets read faster.
fwn: Did you still receive a lot of
GS: Totally, I got about 75 rejections.
It was extremely frustrating and depressing. At
times I wanted to give up and I did for a while. I put the book aside and began
a new book. Then, I was frustrated that this book I worked so hard on was just
gathering dust, so I signed on to your website and continued to try and find an
agent, but I was very careful about choosing those I thought fit and I
researched them as much as I could.
Usually rejections were just impersonal letters.
A couple were rude.
fwn:What was it about firstwriter.com that particularly helped
I really liked two things: one, that I could
create my own profile; and two, that you sent alerts by email and I did not have to
remember to go to your site. That is how I found my agent. You basically placed
her in my lap.
fwn:And why do you think you were
successful in securing this particular agent?
GS: Couple of reasons: One, I looked
carefully at the books she sold and saw a good fit for my book. It is very
important to target agents that represent similar books. That is their
Another reason was that I was totally prepared
for her. I had my query letter revised and refined to perfection. When she asked
for my proposal, I had been working on it for months and had it also edited to
We seem to be a good match so far in that she is
very, very present. I hear from her almost every day. I like that.
fwn:And are you more optimistic about
this experience of having an agent than your previous experience?
GS: My feeling about having an agent, at
least this time, is hopeful. I heard a good phrase that you may already have
heard, but it is really true.
ďIt is not about having an agent, but the agent
So far, my new agent is very present. I hear
from you sometimes once a day, and at a minimum every other day. She has laid
out a clear roadmap to promote my book and shared that all with me.
fwn:What advice would you give to
other writers seeking an agent?
GS: Be prepared. Have your work polished
and ready. Be prepared to send a very clever, clean and brief cover or query
Write a fully fleshed out, proper proposal that
follows guidelines of one of the many books written about fiction or nonfiction
book proposals. Be sure to include a thorough marketing plan.
Do your homework. Try and find an agent that
represents the book you are writing. Conferences are the best places to find an
agent. Have your 15-second tag line ready. By that, I mean "tell me what your
book is about in 15 seconds and get my attention".
fwn:And what are your future plans?
GS: I already began writing another book
when I decided to put my agented book aside. The book my agent is representing
is nonfiction and Iíve started on a novel which is just brand new.
My agent is waiting until after Labour Day to
submit my book to publishers because she said they are all on vacation and she
does not want my book sitting on some desk waiting for them to return.
I donít know what to expect right now. So far, my
new agent seems very focused and assertive in her approach. I like the fact that
she gives me work to do to sell the book. That is a good sign. She is paying
attention to my project. I have no problem doing whatever it is she wants me to
do to help sell the book, as long as it doesnít change the basic project.
Packaging is important, and so far that is what
we are doing. She did suggest making the last chapter stronger, and I agree with
her. She is sharp – she spotted that immediately.
Everyone I know who sold a book said his or her
agent was eagle-eyed from the beginning.
fwn: Thank you, Geri,
and best of luck with everything.
To search firstwriter.com's
database of over 650 literary agencies yourself, click
Authors needed to write book A book is being organised which both professional
and amateur writers will be able to contribute to. The goal is to set a record
for the most authors of a single book, which is hoped to be recognised by the
Guinness Book of Records.
All styles are accepted, as long as they are
connected to the original base text.
Contest for movie scripts Gypsy Lar Productions is sponsoring a script
contest for feature-length scripts with GLBT leading characters. The winner will
have their script turned into a feature length movie.
The entry fee is $125 and $200 for late entry.
The closing date is March 15, 2007.
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.
renewed! Visit us at www.writer-on-line.com