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  Issue #59

Free Writers' Newsletter

   Jan 26, 2008  


A safer way to search for literary agents

Over the past few years, the rise of the scam literary agency has been both rapid and alarming; reaching a point now where the internet landscape is dominated not by genuine literary agents who can help you, as an author, get published, but by con artists out to exploit writers for money, while leaving their dreams of publication in tatters. These scams pay companies like Google and Microsoft to appear on the first page of their internet search results, and – because they're not technically doing anything illegal – they let them. The scams then lure writers in with flashy websites and promises of publication, but only ever deliver one thing: and that's bills.

2008 Poetry and Prose Contests at
Over US$20,000 Will Be Awarded

Winning Writers hosts five poetry and prose contests that will award over US$20,000 in prizes in 2008. We directly sponsor the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (no fee) and the War Poetry Contest. We also assist the Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest, the Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse and the Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest. These links will take you to the guidelines and past winning entries. Winning Writers is proud to be one of "101 Best Websites for Writers" (Writer's Digest, 2005-2007) and a recipient of the Truly Useful Site Award (Preditors & Editors, March 2006).

In the early days of the internet there was a vision that it could be used as a positive force, giving authors better opportunities to find the information they needed more quickly and more easily than before – but the "clear blue oceans" that were foreseen have been polluted by the proliferation of scams. Much of the internet is now a sea of shark-infested waters; granting the pirates who traverse it better and wider access than ever before to their vulnerable prey.

But has been working hard to create a safe harbour where that early vision of the internet can be realised and flourish: where the scammers are exposed for what they are and where writers are guided quickly and safely to the best agency for them. Our latest weapon in this fight is the introduction this month of SafeSecurity – the equivalent of your own personal online swashbuckling hero, there to rescue unsuspecting writers from the clutches of literary agent Blackbeards!

SafeSecurity is part of our new SafeSuite, currently being rolled out right across our literary agents database. The first element you'll have noticed is SafeAssess: a system which automatically evaluates every literary agency listing every time it is loaded, taking into account factors such as policies, membership of official bodies, and reports from at least three independent sources, before providing an evaluation of positive points, warnings, and cautions. SafeAssess allows you to see which agencies are scams, which agencies are legitimate, and which agencies are the best.

SafeSecurity provides a quick and easy way to apply this information to your searches. There are three levels of security you can apply: "On" (the default option, where any agencies with any negative indicators will be removed from your results); "High" (where only agencies with positive indicators and an independently verified track record of sales to royalty-paying publishers are returned); and "Off" (where all the agencies – even the scams – will be shown).

"Why not just remove the scams from the database altogether?" I hear you ask, and it's a common question. The reason, however, is simple: because looking for an agent these days is like walking through a minefield – and when you're walking through a minefield it's handy to have a map that tells you where the mines are. is that map. You can't avoid being exposed to these scam agencies these days. Every time you do a search on Google or Microsoft for anything to do with literary agents you'll be bombarded by their adverts; every time you visit a site about literary agents that carries Google Adsense ads you'll see them. Google and Microsoft won't stop advertising these scams (trust us, we've asked them to!), and they won't tell you that they're scams, but even though Google and Microsoft won't protect you will: giving you the ability to check out any agency you see advertised online and make sure you're not being sucked into a scam.

All this cements's position as the best and safest place for a writer to search for a literary agent. While other resources might give you one report we give you multiple ones – and trust us, they don't always agree! Lots of agencies reported on one resource don't appear on another, and sometimes an agency which receives a positive report on one resource has concerns and warnings elsewhere. Relying on just one resource therefore isn't going to keep you safe – but by giving you multiple reports gives you the full picture more quickly and more easily, and also provides you with reports from other users who actually have experience with the agency – all combined in one central, easy-to-search database! To try it out for free, click here.

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Poetry contest winners and new magazine

This month, has announced the winner, runners-up, and special commendations of its Sixth International Poetry Competition, as well as releasing Issue 12 of firstwriter.magazine, Against the Grain

Stephen Hough, of New York, United States, was announced as the winner of the competition for his poem "Early Rose", and wins £500 (around $1,000). Crishanti Jayawardene, of London, wins £100 for submitting the best entry from the United Kingdom with her poem "Mornings", and Lian Frost of Berkeley, California, wins $150 for entering the best runner-up poem from the United States, "Aphrodite". The winning poems can be read online at

Have you protected your Copyright? Copyright piracy is estimated to cost millions annually. Before sending your work to agents, publishers, or contests, make sure you take out copyright protection. Click here for more information.

All the winners will also be published in a future issue of firstwriter.magazine, and receive vouchers worth £20 / $30 – as will the ten Special Commendations:

  • Phyllis Jean Green, United States, "Curtained Off"; 
  • William Samer, United States, "Mars"; 
  • Judson Ziparo, United States, "Young Love"; 
  • Jan-Henrik Andersen, United States, "shore appeal"; 
  • Laurie Hoffsmith, United States, "Peeling Onions (An Ugly Affair)"; 
  • Rosemary McKerrell, United Kingdom, "Growing up"; 
  • Ailish Henchion, United Kingdom, "Hunting for keys"; 
  • Frances Truscott, United Kingdom, "Church Bells on a Rainy Sunday"; 
  • Thecla Condon, United Kingdom, "Picnic at Sandymount"; 
  • James Gray, United Kingdom, "Winter Welcome".

The Seventh International Poetry Competition is currently underway. To submit your work for the chance of winning £500 (that's roughly $1,000) click here

firstwriter.magazine Issue 12: Against the Grain
The latest issue of firstwriter.magazine has also just been released, featuring quality fiction and poetry submitted from around the world, plus your first chance to see not just the winning story from our Third International Short Story Contest, but also all ten Special Commendations. To view the magazine click here. To enter your work in our Fourth International Short Story Contest click here.

All those whose work has been included in issue 12 have now been notified, so if you submitted work for issue 12 and have not received notification of inclusion then, regretfully, on this occasion your submission was not successful. Please do feel free to try again, however, through

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Eight reasons to attend writer’s cons
By L.J. Bothell

You’ve heard about them, you’ve seen them announced; perhaps they’ve even invaded your city. "Cons", short for "conventions". WorldCon, Norwescon, NECON, etc. But they’re expensive, require travel, and lots of weird people go to them, right? Why would you (a writer / poet / artist / editor / whatever) want to attend one?

I have eight terrific reasons. Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun – oh, you want eight different reasons? Figures. After all, you are a writer. Okay, here they are (and not necessarily in this order):

1) Workshops
Many conventions have hour-long, afternoon-long, or day-long workshops, no matter what your field is. You’ll gain helpful critiques or learn to critique others’ work in a relaxed atmosphere. This is an especially good opportunity if workshops aren’t normally your thing (too time-consuming, too expensive,etc.), since they are one-shot and are included with the price of admission. Even if you are a busy freelance who focuses on nonfiction, you can learn a lot here, particularly if you do the workshop as a pro yourself.

2) Panels
You can visit panels on editing, writing, art techniques, the internet influence on publishing, genres, and roundtables on all sorts of subjects. Usually pros (both professionals and amateurs with experience) conduct the panels, opening subjects to questions and general discussion. You’ll get loads of useful information when you bring a notebook and an open mind. As you become more experienced, you may also participate on panels, sharing tips and ideas with other hungry minds. Also, when you participate in programming, you’ll get into the Green Room / VIP rooms and mingle with others who are accomplished in your field, without fan intervention.

3) Networking
Nothing beats meeting others who are involved in your craft. Editors meet others who have more experience and tips, and offer advice to those just getting started. Writers get together and compare ideas (poets and writers, too). You’ll make contacts in the field or simply meet others within your range of interests. Certainly you already do this through your craft, but face-to-face meetings cement relationships that the US mail may not.

4) Readings / viewings
Pros and amateurs alike have opportunities to read their works in progress and show their creations in Art Shows. You’ll see how an audience responds to your fiction or poetry, or if your artwork generates interest. You’ll also learn a lot just by attending readings and hearing the style and content, and by visiting the Art Show where canvases, sculptures, models, and all manner of creations inspire your own creativity.

5) Kid-friendly
Many conventions have a kid-friendly atmosphere; some even have an inner “KidCon”. This means you can network and join folks in the hotel café while your kids can hang out with folks their own age and feel like they’ve escaped the parents. You’ll want to check with upcoming conventions in advance to find out if there is a KidCon, what the rules are, what the price breaks are, and even if there are special panels for younger family members who are exploring writing.

6) Dealers’ Room
Otherwise known as the Huckster’s room, the wallet guzzler, etc. Whether you're a pro or amateur, writer or writer, bookseller or fan, the Dealers’ Room has booths for you to visit. You’ll find rare and signed copies of your favourite author’s books, prints of the art in the Art Show, special Con-theme related crafts, costuming items, and more. Bring lots to spend, because prices range from reasonable to “I have it and you get to pay”, but mostly because you’ll want just about everything there. The great thing is the books – many, many exciting books, including books by attending writers.

Click here for great value writing classes!

7) Meet the fans
This goes hand-in-hand with networking, but meeting fans, wannabe writer / writers, and people who like SF/F/H can be as refreshing as meeting your peers. A lot of fans go in for costuming, gaming, filking (folk singing) and convention planning areas, but you can get an idea of who’s viewing your work and target your audience a little more accurately. If you write nonfiction, you can pick up ideas for articles. Even if not participating in the Masquerade or contests, guests’ children can also dress up in costume.

8) Circulation
Don’t isolate yourself! It’s easy to consider work and your writer space as enough to boost your creativity and productivity, but you can pigeonhole yourself if you don’t get out and see something of the industry and genre-related events. Okay, you don’t have to attend every con in your area or affordable range, but one or two a year really offers you a refreshing new perspective. You need to circulate (and have fun, fun, fun...).

Eight great reasons to visit cons. Actually, there are many more (cool costumes, dances, the Hospitality Suite). Cons don’t have to break the bank if you budget well and start close to home. Check one out and see what you get out of it. You’ll have an unforgettable experience and will come away with a wider perspective of your craft, peers, and audience.

About the author
L.J. Bothell is a graphic designer/writer who lives and freelances in Seattle, Washington. Visit

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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. 


New publisher seeks manuscripts
Stratosphere Books is a new publisher aiming to publish contemporary fiction by Welsh authors writing in English.

The aim is to have the first book published by March 2009. For more information click here 

For over 900 other publishers, click here

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Bridport Prize 2008 opens
The Bridport Prize for 2008 has opened to entries, with prizes totalling £14,000 (nearly $30,000), including first prizes of £5,000 (around $10,000) in both the poetry and fiction sections, making it the richest open competition in the English language.

The 2008 competition will be judged by Helen Simpson for short stories and David Harsent for poetry.

For more details, or to enter online, go to

For details of 150 contests, click here

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Development program for first-time novelists
Adventures in fiction is subsidising five apprenticeships with professional writers for first-time novelists of commercial and literary fiction, including one for crime and one for fiction for children and young people (9+).

The placements have an individual value of over £2,750, and in its first two years the programme has already resulted in one publication and four referrals to literary agents.

For more details click here  

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Writers In The Sky Literary Agency closes
As of January 23, 2008, Writers In the Sky Literary Agency has closed. The shock announcement was made to agency staff with no prior warning, with owner Mark Straley citing financial problems as the reason for the move.

Former Author Liaison for the agency, Pam Crowley, has wished all authors previously involved with the agency the best in their future literary endeavours.

For over 750 active agencies, click here

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International Open Short Story Contest
Chapter One Promotion's annual International Open Short Story Competition is looking for short story submissions.

Cash prizes of £2,500, £1,000 and £500 will be awarded to the three winners, plus publication. Ten runners up and five highly recommended will also be published in Chapter One Promotions' anthology.

The entry fee is £10 per story and the deadline for the competition is midnight on Thursday 31 January 2008. Submissions and payment are accepted online. 

For more information click here  or email info@chapterone

For details of 150 contests, click here

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© 2008
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.