Please forgive me if there's already a thread on this subject, but while a forum search has given various individual posts on firstwriter.com, I've yet to find a thread devoted to it - and I think it may be time it had one.
Many apologies also for the fact I'm rubbish at posting links. I've done my best with pasting quotes below, and hope someone cleverer than me will help out with post-links if they seem relevant.
The subject of this site is not new, and Victoria has already warned us against it in the Morpheus thread, the Circle Literary Agency thread, and the big Hill & Hill thread, to which firstwriter.com itself subscribed under the user-name 'FirstWriter'. However, the two areas bothering me are these:
The Writers' Literary Agency
We know what this is. So does anybody else with any internet savvy. But firstwriter.com (a site dispensing wisdom to help new writers get published, and which on its home page says in boldtype Avoid the internet scams!) apparently does not. WLA is clearly advertised on the site.
Yes, firstwriter.com has very properly protected itself. Above the advertisement appears the caveat 'Not endorsed by firstwriter.com'. Below it appears ''Concerns about any of these companies? Tell us', and a link is provided to do just that. And yes, it is possible, it is just, just possible that a site which professes to help new writers is really truly the last in cyberspace to be aware of the nature of WLA.
It must be, in fact, since its Managing Editor said this in the Hill & Hill thread:
So all we have to do is tell them, and the ad will disappear - right? Now, I'm nobody, and a UK nobody at that. But if someone of real stature like Victoria were to tell them to look at the WLA thread in this forum, then even firstwriter.com could no longer declare themselves ignorant. They know Victoria; by their own admission they've communicated. Let's see how truly determined they are to protect their members and visitors from exploitation. Please, could somebody press that 'Tell us' button, and let's see what happens.If there's a bad agent out there I want to expose it -- not hush up and pretend it doesn't exist.
The firstwriter.com site is plastered in frightening advertisements pressing the need to register copyright. 'If you've written it, PROTECT it!', they say. 'NEVER send your work to anyone without protecting it first'. Those people (especially in the UK) who know there's no need to do any such thing know better than to click on the link. But if you do, what do you get?
You get the copyrightregistrationservice.com. It has all kinds of official looking seals over it, and announces itself as the Intellectual Property Rights Office. Sounds dead legit - especially as the genuine government body in the UK is called the Intellectual Property Office. But the US government body is the 'US Copyright Office', which charges $35 for online registration (which in ordinary circumstances lasts the author's lifetime plus 70 years). The Copyright Registration Service linked from firstwriter charges $45 for copyright lasting 4 years, $80 for 8 years, $110 for 12 years and $125 for 15 years.
Why on earth would firstwriter.com send its members to this site instead of the official government office? Maybe it has to do with this, taken from this 'Intellectual Property Rights Office' own site:
(bolding mine)Affiliate Program
To promote awareness of copyright protection and to encourage more people to take out copyright protection for their work, the IP Rights Office runs an affiliate program whereby webmasters are paid US$10 for every new registrant they refer. The program is free to join and simply requires a webmaster to place one or more special links on their site.
Links such as firstwriter.com offers, for instance. And while no, of course they're not remotely responsible for the advertising on their site, I'd love to know why their free e-mail to subscribers always includes this:
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
in the body of its articles, without so much as the header - 'Advertisement'.
Although it's illegal in the UK to print something like this without stating clearly it's an advertisement (as opposed to a genuine piece of advice from the advisory body who includes it in their material) it may be perfectly legal in the US. All this may be perfectly fine and above board. I doubt there's even a law against people being asked to pay over the odds for a service they a) probably don't need at all, and b) could get much cheaper if they went to the official body. That's just 'good business', right?
But I think people need to know about it. I briefly tried the free subscription to firstwriter.com, and in the foolish days before I found AW I actually looked at its writers' forum. While I am sure there are many talented writers who get lured in there (and indeed several AW members have said they belong) the general level of literacy is sufficient to make the PAMB look like a conference of Einsteins. There are some very, very vulnerable people out there, and if we can help inform them as to the dangers to which the site exposes them, then in my personal opinion it's worth doing.
I for one have wondered a long time how the WLA and others of its ilk continues to find fresh victims, despite the many and prominent warnings on the net. A site which professes to help new writers, and comes up first in most Google searches for 'help for writers', but which also directs those new writers into the hands of people like these may just possibly be part of the answer.
My apologies for such a long post. If it's inappropriate or in the wrong place, then obviously I hope the Mods will move or delete it, and accept my apologies for giving them the trouble.
But I'd love to know what other people think about this, and if I'm the only one bothered.