Writer’s Relief

by Susan Henderson on November 4, 2006

Writer’s Relief is one of those writer’s services I’ve heard about but not quite understood. So when I found out that Mark Hughes has actually used this service, I asked him to give me the run-down so I could share the information with all of you. If any of you have experience with them, good or bad, please share your opinions.

Okay, here’s Mark ….


Mark Hughes

Aid for the Writer Who Wants to Write

Is this still the age of the do-it-yourselfer, or have I overslept? Years ago I remember skulking through the shelves of my local bookstore (this was in my deep underground period, just beginning to play around with short stories ”“ now I’m only a few fathoms from the surface and sun) and my zigzagging gaze came across a broad-backed book labeled Writer’s Market. I hefted one and fanned its pages. Clutching either the shelf or a startled patron’s shoulder for balance, my mind boggled. Here, I thought, giddily, was the Home Depot of publishing references. There were so many journals; I had no idea. Publishing regularly (every week or two, surely) was only a stop at Office Depot away. I carried my treasure to the checkout stand, the book heavier beyond its weight with possibility, no…certainty.

Pardon me while I wipe laughter’s tears from my cheeks. I hadn’t thought of those days for so long; my therapist would be proud.

How many hard lessons does the would-be writer learn? Probably a subject best not explored without the levitating aid of modern anti-depressants. It seemed each editor’s comment in Writer’s Market recommended obtaining sample copies; the mind boggled again. And again. Won’t they really just print anything that’s good…clamor over the nascent works floating in my head?

Let’s TiVo past the intervening years, shall we? This past spring, a woman in my writing group mentions Writer’s Relief. What? we ask. A service, she says. They target your work based on their experience and knowledge of the markets. Over the next few months, she reports placement of several of her stories through the service. I looked into it.

Here’s how it works: you begin by submitting samples of your work for consideration, which are reviewed by the Writer’s Relief board. If accepted, you are sent a package of information about getting started and the next deadline for submissions. There is a fee, of course, to get things rolling, we’ll come to all that later. Your job is to come up with a standard cover letter, conform your work to their specified layout standards, and send these to them, on both disk and hard copy. They proofread the work (you are told that they have never yet, in twelve years, seen a submission that couldn’t benefit from their proofreading. This, I can assure you, was taken as a challenge), and then e-mail you a PDF version with marked-up suggestions, which you approve or disapprove. You also approve their work-up of the cover letter.

Once all this is in place, you await the return of your ready-to-submit manuscript. One day a big packet arrives, stuffed with (in my case) 29 individually addressed cover letters, a sheet of corresponding address labels, a hard copy of the manuscript, and detailed instructions regarding the usual requisites ”“ SASE’s, 9 x 12 manila envelopes, etc., and the need for speed in getting these out into the great wide world, as the cover letters are dated three days hence.

You create the necessary number of manuscript copies yourself and then set up the kitchen table assembly line: creating SASEs, stuffing manila envelopes with manuscript copy and cover letter, applying matching address labels (quality control required here), sponging the envelope flaps, sealing, and stamping with return address. Then bundle the eager stack off to the post office. People in line behind you may groan, but the clerks seem to be used to dealing with this mini-avalanche. My guy weighed one, took my word they were all the same, and printed out a sheet of tailor-made stamps, which I took off to the side and processed in a matter of minutes.

Writer’s Relief puts you on a treadmill. Every two months they encourage you to submit, or re-submit, manuscripts. Note that they also work with non-fiction writers, poets, and novelists. When you submit a manuscript, you fill out a form that allows you to help them target various kinds of general markets; they figure out the specifics. In my humble case, for my first submission with them, the twenty-nine targeted publications spanned a range from small circulation to upper-mid level water journals.

Following submission they encourage you to submit your rejection notices to them and they keep track on their website, maintaining a personalized, password protected screen so you can see your history. It’s all very organized and responsible. In fact, everything in my experience with WR has been professional and responsive.

It is not cheap. You will establish the market price for your vanity…or your seriousness about your work and time. Figure that for the first submission you will kick in around five hundred, which includes the startup fees. After that, it’s three hundred per submission, give or take.

Having published nine stories in the past on my own, I know well the disorganization I brought the process…and I’m a disciplined engineer. I was ready for a better idea and so far, this is it. I heard recently that another writing associate published a story through WR too. As for my first submission using WR, I’ve received two rejection slips so far. I sent them my second submission two days ago and I’m preparing for more in the future. Will there come a time when I won’t use WR any longer? Can’t say for now. Probably, but then, that may be cause for another round of laughter, years from now. Things have a way of cycling around.



Mark Hughes lives with his wife, Karen, in San Diego. He is a mixed breed of some sort, having a mechanical engineering degree with a minor in literature, an ambassador from one world to another, and vice-versa. Now that he’s entering the second half of his life, engineering is gradually tapering down and literature and writing are in their ascendancy, filling more days lately than engineering work does. There is, he believes, a grand unification theory between the two, somewhere down in the depths of each, and this, he labors to find through the vehicle of fiction. That and an understanding of why Brussel sprouts would appeal to ANYONE.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin Slick November 4, 2006 at 12:41 pm

Ha ha – I loved your story about Writer’s Market. I was turned on to it for the first time in 1985 at a writing workshop and I had your very same demented fantasies.

That being said, Mark, I have to give you my gut reaction to Writer’s Relief, which, by the way, I first thought was financial relief for starving/sick writers and I wondered how I could sign up. Anyway, getting back to Writer’s Relief, I think it’s…oh god, Susan…don’t hit me…a crock. That kind of money for what, proofreading, common sense recommendations and envelopes with labels? You can use a free on line service like Duotrope to track your submissions and find the right magazine for your work if you don’t want to actually go out and buy/read lit magazines to get a feel for where your work would fit. Or ask friends/fellow writers.

Call me grumpy but Writer’s Relief sounds like something for a yuppie hobbyist writer.

But…I did love your article and you made me laugh out loud.



mikel k poet November 4, 2006 at 3:03 pm

I’ve always heard that you should get money not give money to get published, i.e. stay away from Vanity Presses and “agents” who want you to pay up them front to “rep” you. I think that I will take Robin’s advice and not Mark’s as I search for a publisher for my book, “The Delivery Guy,” which you can look at at under “word of…”


Juliet November 4, 2006 at 3:30 pm

It’s Saturday morning, I’m supposed to be relaxing, not stressing le brain, but you had me at the “voice your opinion” thing.

What an interesting and hilarious article. I agree with Robin, Mark’s article was great fun to read.

However (you knew it was coming) I’m not so much a fan of the Writer’s Relief style of mentoring authors.

They reminded me of modeling agents who grab young girls’ hope on the Subway, offering fame and fortune and the “you’ve got the exact look we’re after” just before they whack you with a small fee for walking talking blinking lipstick lessons.

There are other options for writers who are looking for mentoring.

The whole circling and editing thing I now get from Editors, I used to get from my parents or friends. (My Dad is still my best critic, and Mom still has the right to tell me to get the word “bastard” out of my character’s mouth.) (Yes, I listened. She’s my MOM, man.)

If you’re serious about writing, then find yourself a friend you can trust, a family member who believes in you, or heck, (was going to write “hell” but what if my Mom’s reading?) gosh, go ask your old high school English teacher. Start a blog and find some online writers’ groups.
All free.

There are numerous writers who stop by my office each month to show me (proudly and tenderly) what they’ve written, to ask advice or to just lament a bit. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there with half an hour to spare.

When the time comes to pitch your writing, google yourself up some answers. Ask some friends. Check the blogworld for established authors.

There are numerous resources which list how to get published, who to submit it to, what they look for. All for free, or at least under $10. As soon as I remember the name of the one we used to offer authors, I’ll come back and repost.

(If it sounds like I’m super-protective of authors, you’re right. It’s my history both as an author and as an Editor and as a publisher.)
(And probably, a bit of my Mom.)


Juliet November 4, 2006 at 3:31 pm

sorry for the long winded response… why’d ya have to include the word “opinion”?


Julie Ann Shapiro November 4, 2006 at 6:50 pm

I know some writers in a local group that are too shy to send stuff out and unsure where to send things. I think a service like this could help them. Although there are plenty of avenues for markets and edits on the net. Some people just don’t want to be bothered.

I just wish there could be a service like this, a mentoring group that could help talented writers and not charge. Now that would be writers relief.


Paula November 4, 2006 at 7:44 pm

I cannot for the life of me figure out what anyone finds appealing about brussel sprouts either.

I like the idea of someone doing all that organization and grunt work, but: “It is not cheap. You will establish the market price for your vanity—or your seriousness about your work and time. Figure that for the first submission you will kick in around five HUNDRED, which includes the startup fees. After that, it’s three HUNDRED per submission, give or take.”

Who the hell has that kind of money in the name of their vanity?

On the other hand, if you’ve paid your dues in mechanical engineering, why not?

I’d personally rather subscribe to the starving artist, suffering methods. Cliche, I know, but so is the great American novel.

And I think I am happier daydreaming about a novel someday than spending the rent money on “relief.”

Of course, I did sort of know by my junior year of college that I should have gone to vocational school instead. I mean, I tend to ramble and rant when I right. Those relief workers would really earn their money, I think. That does make it more tempting.


Susan Henderson November 5, 2006 at 12:27 am

I don’t have any experience with this group so I haven’t formed an opinion. But I like Mark’s delivery and I’m glad to see the conversation his piece has sparked.

Thank you Robin, Mikel K, Juliet, Juliet and Paula (welcome!) for sharing your opinions. I’m all ears if more of you would like to jump in.


Matt Bell November 5, 2006 at 2:24 pm

I’m with everyone above that this seems like a waste of money, or at least overpaying for something that really doesn’t take that much effort. More than that though, what offends me is the unwillingness to do market research, especially since that research should be an innate part of the writing process. All it is is reading.

“It seemed each editor’s comment in Writer’s Market recommended obtaining sample copies; the mind boggled again. And again. Won’t they really just print anything that’s good—clamor over the nascent works floating in my head?”

Why wouldn’t you WANT to read literary magazines first? Isn’t immersing yourself in contemporary literature (of which the best literary magazines are the very cutting edge) an essential part of writing contemporary literature? I will never understand this position of some writers– That they believe they can write and be published without reading, especially without reading the very publications they want to be a part of. As soon as I started reading tons of literary magazines, my own acceptance rate went through the roof, because I know to a reasonable degree what any specific magazine wants. Even when I get rejected, 95% of my rejections are handwritten or personal e-mails, because I’ve targeted my submissions in such a way that the editors at least gave it a hard look. This is what Hughes should be doing with his money: buying $500 worth of literary magazines would do more for his writing than this glorified secretarial service ever will.

Sorry for the rant, but this really touched a nerve. I feel like he’s being scammed (even if he gets an acceptance or two out of this) and mostly it’s his own fault, for being unwilling to do the legwork and reading that is an essential part of the writing/publishing process.

Once again, why wouldn’t you want to read the literary magazines you’re submitting to? Isn’t it much more meaningful to be published in a magazine you’ve read, loved, envied?


Lance Reynald November 5, 2006 at 3:59 pm


No personal experience here. But it does feel a bit gimmicky to me.

I’ll try to see it in the best light though. You might pay the same for formatting software and a database to organize yourself??

oh, I give up. I think that the blood sweat and tears of the writer’s life is well worth it in the end. The struggle to come into your own makes the victory so darned sweet.


Mark Hughes November 6, 2006 at 6:25 pm

Well, I think the responses here are gratifying–and perhaps quite understandable, given that though we all want to spend our time writing, the “business side” cannot be avoided, and is really a thorn in our sides much of the time. Therefore, a good deal of energy around the issue, as amply demonstrated.

First, I’d like to correct a mistaken assumption. I do subscribe to journals–Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, Zoetrope, One Story, Night Train, and Tin House, with others that have come and gone over the years. I also buy each year’s Best American Short Stories, O’Henry Awards, and numerous collections of short stories, either by authors I particularly admire (Melissa Bank) or anthologies. I agree entirely that reading is probably 85% of our education and learning process and didn’t mean to give the impression that it wasn’t in the article. Absolutely, it’s critical.

I also share the bias about vanity presses and don’t intend to go there myself, but I see WR in a different light. Here’s a bit of TMI perhaps, but it gives insight into my methods:

I used to travel, for business, 100% of the time. For about fifteen years I went around the country and later, around the world starting up power plants, being on location for two to ten months at a time. When it came time to “come home” I wanted to find someone special in a short period of time. This is where my engineering (and understanding of statistics) came to bear. In those days, the Internet was just an institutional concept and computer dating meant something else entirely. It was all local, but also personal. At any rate, I paid a goodly amount of money, some might think, but then I dated, over the course of two years or so, between 60 and 70 women. Mostly one or two dates, of course, but the end result was a life with someone I’d never have met otherwise and with a compatibility index off the scale (meaning someone who actually puts up with me).

Point is, life’s a game of numbers, at least in part. Personal quality’s not a bad thing either, but nothing beats exposure. And creating exposure, in the writing business, means time. Time spent not writing–and not reading either.

The last aspect is to admit that my day job is supporting Sales. It is romantic to slave away in obscurity, doing everything yourself (forging typewriter keys, chopping down trees to make paper, formulating your own inks) and therefore sweetening the eventual recognition of the near masochistic, semi-Herculean effort you’ve put in. Hmm…maybe there’s a story here. Anyway, what I’ve seen in business is that focusing on what you’re good at, letting others do what you’re not good at, or at least what you can afford to shop out, is a very efficient choice to make.

In the end, it’s the writing process itself I really like. I can create the worst drivel (when viewed a month later) but at the time, it sometimes seems like angels are singing the words to the accompanyment of golden violins. That’s a great time, and a great life. I want those moments–and they never come when I’m flipping through Writer’s Market, aligning mailing labels, or stuffing SASE’s.

Hope that helps explain.


Susan Henderson November 6, 2006 at 6:36 pm

Matt – I’m so glad you swung by! I appreciate what you wrote here.

Lance – Personally I’d love to have less of the blood, sweat and tears. I just haven’t figured out how.

Mark – I know how much you read so I’m glad you stopped in to clarify. I think this is a great discussion and I’m glad everyone is making their opinions known.


Susan GT November 6, 2006 at 10:16 pm

Ok, I’ll jump in here, but realize that I am a visual artist with writing tendencies that are creeping up on me.

When I was back taking art classes with aspirations of exhibiting my artwork ‘someday’, I visited all the art galleries in my local area. I did what I called, ‘gallery gawk’, at least once a month. I didn’t think of it as market research at the time, I was just a student, walking around gawking with mouth open at all the artwork there was to see.

Had there been an Artists Relief that would have taken my work, done slides, sent me a cover letter,and portfolio submission packet for each gallery, I would’ve jumped at the bait.

Instead, I stumbled to a photographer’s studio and had slides made and copied. I wrote, revised and edited a cover letter, put together a resume’, got folders and envelopes and slide sheets. I even spent time doing individual labels for each and every slide. And then, thanks to my gallery gawking, I knew which galleries I liked and sent them my packets. Yes, I got some rejection letters. Since then, I’ve exhibited in several galleries with reasonable success. I’ve sold work and not sold work. I’ve had great and not-so-great gallery experiences. But I’ve done it without paying someone else any money. Instead, I’ve made money myself.

Now, wanting to write, I don’t know any more than I did with my art. But I guess, I’ll stick to my own method because it worked before. I’ll check out blogs, the web, magazines and writers I admire. Then, when I’m ready, I’ll send out some packets and see what happens.

Guess I’m just a die-hard do-it-myselfer.


I guess I’m just better as a do-it-myselfer.


Mike Williamson February 7, 2007 at 7:22 am

Well, first, it’s the toiling to neaten up the raw edges that puts a personal touch on a work. Editing, which is what this is, is best done by the writer. A good pro editor simply points out WHERE editing is needed, and leaves the details to the writer. Even logical and reasonable changes can alter the mood and feel of a presentation or story.

Second, the amount they’re charging will eat up whatever you might get paid for a short work, or the advance on a book.

As to database and such…is it worth paying hundreds of dollars to have someone make a spreadsheet and mail envelopes for you?

I’m just wondering if anyone professionally published and earning even part-time living as a writer has used this service. I suspect not. A quick survey here has every professional available going, “Ack! Run away!”


Joe Harrison March 30, 2007 at 5:33 pm

I belong to the Writer’s Relief organization- meaning, I pay a pretty penny for them to help me submit my work. Here’s the deal. they spend how much time.. probably less than I would, just doing the things like figuring out the editor’s name and address, and what months they do or do not read submitted work. The fact is, I just don’t have it together enough to do the things that are NOT rocket science, just annoying tasks. I work and get paid an hourly rate for my own little business. If I spend 6 hours making money at my own business, and then pay Writer’s Relief the same amount of money I have made in 6 hours, I have in essence, been more efficient with my time. If I did the tasks they did, it would probably take me 3-4 times as long. So, it’s a lot of money for something that anyone can do for free, but the REAL VALUE in what they do is two things: get you to actually submit (instead of just thinking about it). and two, make this happen consistently, which increases your chances. I quit last year because I felt like it cost too much. but then over the past year, I received so many publications of my work (7 in total over 5 submission cycles for poems) that I recently re-joined, because this is something I just will not get together on my own. So, the value is in actually getting work published, not vanity pressed, and if you go and work at a job and make money there, time is money, so, think of it like a trade. At least that’s what I do, and it eases the pain of paying for my own – administrative disability. Moral of the story: will you do all of those silly tasks on your own? Me? No. I have dealt with W.R. and they offer a common sense service, are honest, professional and are just filling a niche in the market for a real need, not trying to manipulate writers with false dreams. Yay for Writer’s Relief.

ps, joe harrington is just an alias. i’m a woman writer.


neptune writer June 11, 2007 at 4:24 pm



I chanced across this blog/website after googling Writers’ Relief.

I’m in the middle of inserting the edits they suggested on this the second story I have submitted to them.

After reading all the above comments I was provoked to submit mine when “Mike Williamson” asked, “if anyone professionally published and earning even part-time living as a writer has used this service.”

I have a book due out in June with Ink and Paper Group Publishers. You can order it from their website or amazon. And this is my second consecutive round of using Writers’ Relief.

Have I gotten a story published? No
Do I “earn at least a part time living as a writer?” No. But I have studied under many writers published with big name houses in New York and few support themselves on just their publishing. Many have advised that once published you might very well make MORE money from speaking engagements than your writing. Which brings me back to Mark Hughes’ comment, “ in business…focusing on what you’re good at, letting others do what you’re not good at, or at least what you can afford to shop out, is a very efficient choice.” Writing is a business. Many well-established authors have told me this. I trusted them and after focusing on creating the best work I could and submitting it after over 100 rejections for other works I sit three days from when the published copies of my first book is due back to the small press in Portland that took me on when I didn’t even have an agent. Which brings me to another point. I chanced across my publisher through a monthly service I pay for, First Author, that again, I PAY to send me minute to minute updates on what magazines, publishers and agents are seeking mss. Grant it, First Author’s Fee, at $3.99 seems on the surface, less than Writers’ Relief. But the concept is the same. I can’t tell you how many mailings of query letters and mss I have made over the last thirteen years in search of getting published.

I never imagined I would get a publisher first. I am yet to have an agent and have learned I am not alone. Many seasoned writers are AGENT-LESS, because as time goes on and money grows tighter in the economy and certainly the amount circulating in publishing, fewer and fewer agents will survive and be around to hold the gates for the few large publishing houses that remain in New York.

Which brings me to my third point. I do not know what or if I’ll get a story published through my alliance with Writers Relief. I do know they take their service seriously.
At the end of April I submitted my first story for a second time since I had heard from only a few of the 29 submissions I’d made as instructed by the packet by Writers’ Relief
created for me. In truth I had not had time to refine another story—and I have many—in the last few months because I’ve been SO BUSY doing edits requested by my publisher for my book, and once that was done, working with the marketing director and publicist on getting the word out on my book. At a small press you have to put in a lot of energy. They include you in the process of helping sell you book unlike at the larger presses where unless you’re in the top 20% of their authors who get 80% of the money allotted for publicity. I will be doing a reading from my book July 23, 2007 at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris. Am I paying my way? Yes. But unlike with the new contracts Simon and Schuster is wrangling new and unknowing writers into my press does not own my book for a lifetime. It’s a fairly reasonable amount of time and less than 2 decades. Even the entertainment attorney who oversaw my contract and had overseen those done with New York publishers was impressed. Did I get a large advance? No. I received enough to cover half my attorney’s fees.
But what I have received is not only the promise of seeing my book in print, but a WONDERFUL experience with my publisher of seeing that come to fruition. Unless a major disaster arises I anticipate with great emotional joy and fear seeing my words in print. It’s an experience that to describe would take a book, one around which I suspect my next work will swirl in some muted fictionalized fashion. I have written nearly 8 novels before getting this collection of short stories, four of which are based on my novels.

I have spent an enormous amount of money in gaining my education as both a person, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and then my MFA in Creative Writing. I have spent untold nights to my computer, writing from sunset to sunrise, BEFORE and AFTER receiving my MFA. I have paid for more online writing workshops that I took while working to earn my MFA, which cost me nearly $50,000.00. I have lost track of all the writing workshops I have paid not just to attend, but cost to travel and stay there.
And I have spent money on gas to weekly writing workshops that I paid the instructor to participate in. My last instructor, Clive Matson, wrote a wonderful blurb for my book which is also on the website and at amazon. And he was extremely cheap compared to a set of instructors I studied under twice.

Writing takes time and perseverance. Improving your skills at crafting fiction takes even more of the previous two elements, AND monetary investment.

An astrologer, now deceased, told me during a reading that I was writing for my children. I immediately thought, “Yes. I’m writing to make money to help them accomplish their goals.”

In the nearly ten years that have passed since that reading I have come to realize the true meaning of the astrologer’s words. It is written on the faces of my children, ages, 20, 15 and 8, as they, a college jr., a high school freshman, and a third grader, cheer me on in having become published, they who watched me toil over the years achieve my goal, what I love and what makes my soul breathe.

Our willingness to make this commitment to what we love defines whether we are writers with a story bursting from our heart to tell. Anything less show irreverence to ourselves as creative beings and the gift we have been granted, and have a responsibility to share with others.

Writers’ Relief is just one more step along my road toward manifesting my dream—sharing my stories with the world and connecting with people through my words. I believe in time that I will make money. It will be hard earned and greatly appreciated. A well-established author, Chris Abani once told me, and others in a class he was instructing that EVERY successfully published author pays her/his dues. Some do it early in their careers, others afterwards.

When I look in the faces of my children, read the responses of my editor and publisher to my stories and the changes, which were always helpful, see the cover of my book on amazon and the publisher’s website, revel in this process of seeing my words come to print during which many of my published writers lose heart and each day struggle to maintain hope—a process in which I never felt my artistic creativity threatened in any way, I realize I have already received more than money could ascertain.

I hope my long-winded remarks bring some clarity to those reading this. I have tried to be as honest as possible.


Susan Henderson June 11, 2007 at 8:03 pm

Welcome to LitPark! And thank you so much for telling your story and showing us another way to look at Writer’s Relief and other submission services. You sound well on your way to realizing your dream!


Joan Gelfand October 29, 2007 at 1:06 pm

I was just googling Writers Relief and found your blog. IN answer to your question of a mentoring group that doesn’t charge: the SF Chapter of the Women’s National Book Assoc. has just started a ‘submission support group’ as a service to members. It’ like a lead sharing group for business people. I run it – once a month. check out
Also, I have used writers relief for 3 years and have had over 20 publications including a story which won an award published because of them. I equivocate every year about whether I will continue but the truth is I would never have gotten out the volume of submissions if they didn’t keep me organized! my 2 cents ; )
I like your blog and will put a link to you on my CIEL blog. Best,


Brian January 7, 2008 at 12:23 pm

I think a lot of the criticism of WR comes down to the stubbornness of some people in the writing community that we writers are somehow mystical figures who must not spend one dime until we are “discovered” and made to feel like a real writer.

Don’t pay anyone to edit. Don’t pay anyone to help you submit. Don’t pay anyone to publish. God forbid, don’t pay anyone to publish or a pox will come down on your house

Meanwhile, independent filmmakers who pay for their own projects are hailed as groundbreaking. Musicians who produce and release their own CDs are paying their dues. And artists who create their own exhibitions are avant garde.

I haven’t used WR and am still not sure if I want to pay out that money, but I feel bad for the people who might not look for a little extra help because someone else told them real writer’s simply don’t pay money in order to get a leg up on the competition.


Robert January 12, 2008 at 6:18 pm

The staff at Writers Relief are not mentors. The WR staff are professionals who take care of the grunt work that, for me, isn’t writing. I stopped writing for a number of years because I was truly daunted at the prospect of researching the journals, crafting the cover letters, and keeping track of the responses. To have someone else take that responsibility is, for me, a blessing. The poster who said we should be immersing ourselves in all the journals has much more time than I could ever have. And while I love to read, I love writing more. And I know I can’t do both. … WR’s staff are demon proofreaders, and I’ve learned a lot from them. And after I receive their marked-up copy, we always have a good arm wrestle. I win what I need to win to keep my style intact. … For me, the dollars spent are in line with what I would spend to have a crackerjack administrative assistant who would provide the same service. And I think their track record of helping their clients achieve successful placements speaks for itself. I’m happy not to have to do more than assemble the mailing and send a story out every couple of months. Because, as an editor friend once said, “The best day is a day when I’m writing a story.” WR frees me up for a lot of best days.


Antoinette Constable April 29, 2011 at 12:54 am

Hoorah for Robert! I’ve had several publications thanks to W.R. I have no time for researching magazines either, and their editing is fine, thorough
and prompt. Yes, we do pay for the service, but it’s worth it, because we can then present a professional piece of work to an editor, free of typos or spelling mistakes, faulty punctuation etc.
We are all free to try publishing without help. It’s a very slow process, frustrating more than rewarding.
Our good writing friends can help with suggestions, but the perfect manuscript is not produced by friends, however good they may be. It’s not their job to make our work perfect…
If in doubt, give it a try, to see how it works. I for one do not regret having joined Writer’s Relief.


thesinger2 January 20, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Wow, if people are really going to pay this type of money for those types of services, I can start the same from my office at home.

I am a writer with a self-published fiction novel. I did the writing, editing, proofing, etc. myself, because I couldn’t afford to hire someone to do that. I have 3 kids and a mortgage, not to mention the current cost of gas across this price gouging nation – after food, gas, electric etc., there’s not much money left at the end of the month for proofreaders etc. and not much time either.

With everything I had to do, I still managed to write and keep track of what I’d sent out, who I’d contacted etc. I’ve received more than a few great reviews, and have gone the route of trying – and still trying -to get a literary agent on my own; I’ve done 2 internet radio shows that deal with interviewing authors both known and unknown, been voted the book of the year by one, and done so many other things in the course of a 1 year period to get my book out there; did I mention during that year that my mom died and I had to make the final arrangements for her services and contribute money to bury her? I did it all and still had to get my kids to school, basketball practice, football practice etc.

Wow, if there really are people out there who pay for those types of services, than I’m certainly in the wrong business. Unless you can GUARANTEE me that paying you will net me a reputable agent with a track record, I won’t pay for your services.


D.B. Pacini March 3, 2008 at 7:18 pm

Hi Writers,

I found Susan Henderson’s interest in learning more about Writer’s Relief today because I wished to learn more about WR and was doing on-line research. I appreciate what you all have shared. (Big thanks Susan.) A part of me knows I can do the work that WR does, I am doing it. Another part knows that it takes a lot of time that I’d rather use writing. Like Mark Hughes I subscribe to Ploughshares, Zoetrope, One Story, Night Train, etc. Also, I have ZERO interest in vanity presses.

I am a California songwriter/vocalist, poet, and the author of two unpublished novels, The Loose End of the Rainbow and Emma’s Love Letters, as well as numerous short stories. I am currently querying literary agents and diligently writing my third novel. I also mentor young and/or new writers. My website address is:

I’m fifty-five. I have been writing since I was nine. I’ve seldom been published. I’ve rarely tried until recently. For about eleven months now I’ve queried approximately 200 literary agents and a few publishers that accept submissions from agent-less authors. I’m confident that I will secure a terrific agent within the next hour, day, week, month, or decade. I share the following with you all to make you groan and chuckle. I wish you all joy and success with your writing endeavors.


From an agent: I’m not available because I’m getting married and I’m too busy for new clients. Your novel, Emma’s Love Letters is too short for my consideration anyway. Increase the word count by 25,000 words. Good luck.

From an agent: I apologize; I’m not available to unpublished authors. I only accept new clients that already have published success. Your novel, The Loose End of the Rainbow is interesting. Unfortunately, it is the first in a trilogy and I don’t like the working title you have for the second novel. I wish you the best.

From an agent: Dear Ms. Pacini, Regarding your question about titles for your novels I must say that the last thing that matters at this point is what your titles are. I believe you will find that publishers often change titles for numerous reasons. Don’t be married to a title.

From a publisher: Thanks for your query. Emma’s Love Letters is a bit longer than novels we publish. Can you shorten it by 5,000 words? Your novel, The Loose End of the Rainbow is much too long for our consideration, especially since it is the first in a trilogy.

From My “Dud Agent” List:

At one point I decided to email agents and ask if they were accepting queries because a high number were not. Most agents have explicit query instructions. It takes time to query precisely as an agent wishes and it’s disappointing to receive a quick response that the agent is not accepting queries.

An agent responded to my email that asked if she was accepting queries. She curtly told me to follow the query instructions on her website. I carefully followed the elaborate instructions. One minute after I emailed her my query she sent me a “Dear Author” email saying she is not accepting queries at this time.

Fortunately, most agents are not this petty. There are undesirable or disreputable agents out there for many reasons. Authors must be careful. You want an agent that will love your work, an agent that will develop a mutually respectful relationship with you. Always research, be smart. Securing an exceptional agent is as important as writing an exceptional book.

Getting Published (Factual Accounts:

My friend’s niece: One day a doctor casually mentioned to a patient that she was concerned about her struggling writer-daughter. The doctor did not know the patient was a literary agent. He offered to read the manuscript, liked it, and signed the young author.

A man I know bought a “to go” cup of coffee and a muffin each morning after having breakfast in a small café. Outside he gave the coffee and muffin to a homeless mentally ill woman. After a while the café’s owner asked why he did this. My friend said that he has empathy for the woman, people consider him mentally ill too because he is striving to be a writer. A few weeks later the owner’s cousin was there. They shared a pleasant breakfast and my friend gave him a copy of his nearly finished novel. (Like many writers he carries extra copies of manuscripts, just in case.) The cousin said he knew a brilliant literary agent that may be willing to read it. A couple of weeks later the cousin was there again, with a woman and some good news. The agent loved the novel and wanted to sign him. Who was the woman? She was his wife, the agent.

A woman I know had the great pleasure of meeting Rod Serling in the early 1970’s. She was a young woman and she was delighted to talk with him about The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Planet of the Apes. Rod Serling preferred to hear about her short stories. He really listened to her when she described her characters and story plot ideas. When he was leaving she thanked him for his kindness. He told her that she has something to say that is worth listening to. She still strives to make sure that his generous statement remains true.

A woman I know tried to secure an agent for years. She finally gave up and decided that at least she had written her book for family and friends. Last year her grown granddaughter happened to be sitting beside an agent on a plane. When it landed the agent had agreed to read the manuscript. He liked it, signed the author, the book was published, it hit the best seller list, she’s been asked to write more books, and they are now considering movie offers.

A woman I heard about (from another writer) was in a park. She found a friendly dog with an address on his collar. She drove him home. The frantic owner was a literary agent. He offered a $$$ reward for the return of his beloved dog. She asked him to read her manuscript instead. He read it, referred her to another agent, and that agent signed her.

I now wander around parks searching for lost dogs.



Maryh Holland January 1, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Wow. I’m so naive that I still believe in my heart and mind that I’ll get my books published. Now after reading all the comments it looks more and more hopeless. I have a series of four, so far, sci-fi books, the first not quite 500 pages and the others roughly 400 each, with a fifth on the way. I let my 33 year old daughter give the rough manuscripts to some of her friends to read since they don’t know me and would not flatter me or pull their punches. The feedback I got was phenomenal; they thought the books were great and want more. One of them, an independent film maker wishes he had a big studio and lots of money sop he could make them into blockbuster movies. Since then I have cleaned up the rough spots and have begun a fifth book in the series. But I am very shy, nearly house-bound with life-long chronic depression, still trying to tell myself that I am worth something. I don’t think that I can do all the leg-work and I have no money to spend with WR or anything like it. I’m 62 years old. I’d better begin looking for lost dogs, too! Any positive suggestions would be appreciated.


Rob Mayette April 17, 2009 at 10:42 am

Maryh Holland – My positive suggestion would be to join Backspace ( Backspace is a pay-to-join forum that is dedicated to helping authors navigate the publishing process. Membership is $30 a year and there are hundreds of fellow authors on the site who can can help steer you through the nuts and bolts of submissions, effective queries, etc. A few agents are active in the forums as well. What will generate interest in your book is a good query letter and a targetted submission to an agent – Backspace will definitely help with the first, and you’re likely to pick up a few leads on the second if you post some information about your project. I have had my query workshopped there and (for that alone) I received feedback worth at least ten times that annual fee.


Brian Dear July 17, 2009 at 6:40 am

There seems to be a considerable amount of hostility towards the Writers Relief folks within these comments. I am a former Reuters journalist and the best training for writing I ever received was from experienced editors on a super-tight wire service deadline. Although I consider myself a good journalist, the reality of that business is that editors are absolutely essential.

Respectfully, I must disagree with the folks that would suggest a writer should be his own editor. Before a book is even sent to anyone it should be edited and rewritten as much as needed by the writer, but after that, editing by an outsider is essential. The main reason is that most writers have large egos and are too close to their material, so they are often unwilling to make tough choices on their manuscript. There’s a good reason guys like Oliver Stone, Speilberg, etc. don’t edit there own films.

A good editor is as important as paper. The WR people aren’t “mentors” and they aren’t agents. The services that they provide include editing, which is essential before sending out a manuscript. They also handle the time consuming process of finding appropriate markets for your work.

I read all the time, but frankly, I don’t want to limit myself to only the publications I personally read all the time. Also, reading publications and tailoring your submissions to a specific publication is putting the cart before the horse. Why write to fit within someone else’s publication’s mission or style? Why not write the stories you want to write and then submit to the journals that would like your writing? It seems like writing a story designed to be published in a specific journal is really not doing yourself any creative justice.

I like Spin Magazine, but I’m not going to start writing indie rock articles just because I want to be published in that book. Instead, I’d prefer to be published in magazines/journals that want what I’m writing, not the other way around.

Writers Relief is a great service, especially for new writers trying to build credits. Disparaging the service is simply literary snobbery. The bestselling authors in the world nearly always have assistants that handle mailings, etc. Are they wrong for using the services of a professional? WR is simply a submission assistant for people who don’t have a well-connect agent or skilled literary assistant. They free people up to write what they want to write, instead of spending countless hours on non-creative secretarial work. Also, they know markets with whom many writers may not be familiar. I’d rather be published somewhere in a journal that I’ve never heard of then be constantly rejected by those journals in which I “think” my work fits.


Theresa Monn June 29, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Thank you, Brian. You spoke exactly what I have been thinking. I currently have ten poems submitted to WR, and I know I cannot afford $500 to go any further; but it matters to me at this point whether or not they even accept me. I will figure out the rest later. I also have two books in the making that may only be important to my family. I’m just beginning, but I have not ruled out WR – thanks for all the posts – they have been infinitely helpful.


Mark Childs September 11, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Greetings all. I was looking for feedback on WR and happened upon this site. I published a novel titled, Devilution with Xlibris a year ago. Locally, it sold well but through Xlibris and their Amazon-Barnes and Noble connections, not a single copy was sold. Xlibris offers a decent editing service and if you catch them at the right time when they are offering 50% discounts, you will break even if you are fortunate enough to live in a small town where everyone knows you. For $1,600.00 they offer a complete package which includes 80 paperbacks. Sold at $19.95, it is a break even proposition. Beyond that, the odds of winning the lottery are better than becoming a successful writer. I am fortunate, having a business that pays the bills. I love to write. For me, it’s the art of storytelling. If I strike it rich someday, that would be a nice bonus that will buy me an island with dozens of naked women serving ice-cold Samuel Adams. I love to write. I hate book work, hence the attraction to WR, but after doing the math the only relief I am looking forward to is the bowel movement I am about to enjoy. Keep writing and remember to be patient or you will become a patient.


John M March 13, 2012 at 10:24 am

Thank you Brian Dear and Joan Gelfand for helping me make up my mind about using Writer’s Relief. I just got my approval email from them today, and I’ve been worrying about if I could afford them or not. I’ve decided to jump in and swim…… It is very, very hard to be able to read enough from different journals to ascertain who might have an editor that will respond positively toward my work. I saw both Joan and another published poet speak at a recent writer’s conference in SF, and both were very positive about WR. The cost is high, but then so is the cost of self-publishing and self-promotion. It seems I am constantly doing readings these days (which I like, but gas prices are expensive) to help promote my work. I’ve also invested in a writer’s conference (at $500 for three days), but then, I learned a lot, and I walked away with the poetry award, which has already opened several doors for me and gotten me published as well. I am a public school teacher, and my money is very tight, to say the least, but I love writing, especially poetry, and I really want to be in solid journals which fit my style of writing, as Brian D. mentions above, and not the other way around. I didn’t start this journey to fail, or to be slowed down by the constant rejection from editors who may not be in tune with my work. I will try WR. If it can successfully free up my time to do more writing and get more publishing exposure, it will be well worth the effort….and the money!


Meredith Fuller October 24, 2015 at 3:32 pm

I am interested to know more about Writer’s Relief with respect to help with publishing novels. It sounds like the site is oriented mainly toward short stories and poems. I have an MFA and head of that program is kindly working toward finding an agent for the 2nd novel I completed during my years there. There were strong responses to the 1st novel by good agents, and yet by the time I completed suggested edits those agents had moved on. My mentor works with well-established agents, and I am wondering if I need to send the works out much more widely with simultaneous submissions. I know it is time to roll up my shirt sleeves and work at getting published. I welcome people’s experience.


Vanessa November 11, 2015 at 1:40 pm

I received an acceptance e-mail from Writer’s Relief and am considering the pros and cons of joining. I have to decide by next Tuesday. My question is the following: has anyone used it, gotten published and actually made money from the publications? Do they send short stories to competitions or only to literary journals? Does anyone think it could be a sound financial investment?


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