BWA Brit Writers Awards – Some questions

The Brit Writers Awards sprang from a noble intention: a desire to honour and support new writers. Unfortunately, we have noticed  an increasing murmur of concern at some of the BWA’s business practices (for example here, here and here). As an organisation active with new writers, we need to know how to respond to those concerns and, at present, we don’t.

Because we want to give the BWA / Brit Writers every opportunity to address those concerns in a public forum, I’m happy to list the questions which are in my view arousing the greatest anxiety. I have already supplied those questions to the BWA (more backstory here). The BWA is welcome to post their responses directly in the comments to this article. Alternatively, they can contact me and I will transmit their response in full myself. If I am factually incorrect on any point, I will correct the matter instantly.

Because I am operating under the repeated threat of legal action, I need to make it clear that all allegations reported are merely allegations. The BWA vigorously denies all wrongdoing (whether legal or ethical). I am not myself in possession of the facts, so do not seek to express any view. I’m just keen to get some answers. We have nothing to gain but the truth.

My questions to the BWA are as follows:

1. Your ‘partner literary agents’
In one of your communications (full text here) you state that ‘a number of partner agents have asked us to help them identify potential literary gems’. Can you please state which agents have asked you for this help and state which literary agencies they represent.

2. Poetry and short stories
You state in the same communication that literary agents have asked you to help them locate poetry and short stories. I have never heard of an agent wanting to find new poets. Equally, although I do know some agents with an interest in short stories, I’ve never met one who would be interested in one-off pieces for anthologies.

It would therefore be good to know which agent at which literary agency is interested in poetry, and which agent at which literary agency is interested in one-off short stories.

3. BWA Agents’ Programme: value added
Any writer can approach any literary agent with their work. Nearly all major agencies take the work of new writers seriously and will give real consideration to debut novelists and authors of non-fiction.

Can you please explain what value you add to unpublished novelists by getting involved in this submissions process. What do they get by submitting to you that they cannot get by submitting work directly?

4. Form responses
It has been suggested (see Jane Smith’s round-up of internet discussions here) that your response to some of those submitting work to your ‘agents division’ follows, at least in part, a standard template. That template is said to include the following text:

from what you have submitted, the assessors could not refer your work to agents immediately, but they see great potential here. The issues highlighted above can be rectified easily, so before you go any further with this, we suggest that you need a consultancy to advice on your synopsis, positioning the book for an agent/publisher, highlighting USPs and ensuring that the main plots are woven into the synopsis which also needs some basic formatting.[…]

 You need to find an experienced literary consultant/marketing expert that can help you with this. […] If you would like us to arrange this for you, please let me know immediately.”

Can you please confirm if you do use (or have used) this text as part of a standardised response. Please also provide answers to the following questions:

What proportion of new writers are told that their work has high potential? Is it your view that the formatting and presentation of a synopsis is likely to sway the decisions of your ‘partner literary agents’. (And again, please, it would be good to know who these agents are.) Do you derive a financial benefit from referring writers to ‘experienced literary consultant/marketing experts’ and, if so, what is the benefit, who are the consultants and what is their literary background?

5. The Brit Writers Awards
In relation to the BWA Awards, it has been alleged (here, for example) that ‘Writers were being notified left, right and centre that they had made it through to the various shortlists; very few writers who entered ended up being told that their work hadn’t made it that far.’ You can see the reported experience of one prize entrant here.

Given these reports, it would be good if you were to publish your shortlists in full – and indeed the names of the judges who drew up those shortlists. After all, if it’s good enough for the Booker …

6. Publishing Programme
In December 2010, various writers have claimed that they received an email from the BWA / Brit Writers stating that:

“We are looking to work with 15 unpublished authors over the next 12 months on an intensive one-to-one basis, who we guarantee will be published with a top publisher before Christmas 2011. These 15 writers will be sharing their progress on the BWA website, while at the same time, behind the scenes film footage will document their journey to getting published.”

I have not been able to locate the relevant progress updates on your website, so could you please supply the link. (It may well be there; I just couldn’t find it.) Please also state who specifically has carried out this one-to-one work, and what their qualifications are. Additionally, please state who the ‘top publisher’ is. Can you confirm that this publisher is either one of the Big Six (Hachette, Random, Penguin, HC, Macmillan, Bloomsbury) or part of the Independent Alliance? If the top publisher is not in this elite group, can you please explain what makes them, in your view, a ‘top publisher’?

Also, 12 months is a very short time to publication even when a manuscript is effectively complete and polished. To attempt such a swift run to publication even when the manuscript has not been written seems extremely fast. Can you confirm that your publisher will be operating a normal “sell-in” with the trade? And if not, why not?

7. Website & partners
The BWA / Brit Writers website has largely blank pages under the “Publishing” and “Services” tabs. The “Partnerships” tab contains a request for partners, but does not disclose the names of any current partners.

Could you please state your current list of partner organisations and the nature of your relationship with them. Could you also give a date at which the “Publishing” and “Services” tabs will have complete information. And can you confirm that the names of supportive literary agents will be included prominently on those web pages.

On a related topic, I understand that Writing News withdrew from their relationship with you. (I will publish their statement in the comments immediately following this post.) Could you please comment on that withdrawal.

8. Who are you?
For that matter, it is not altogether clear from your website who is behind the BWA or what their literary background is. Please could you confirm the names and backgrounds of your principal officers and employees. Will you keep that information prominently displayed on your website at all times?

10. Impersonation
There have been a number of curious incidents of mistaken identity related to the BWA. Somebody calling themselves Claire King commented on Jane Smith’s blog, but it wasn’t this Claire King. Equally, your colleague Hari Kumar is alleged to have written to certain Word Cloud users signing himself off as ‘Harry’ – which is my name, not his. These things are probably just one of those internet oddities, but, for the sake of clarity, can you confirm that there is no deliberate attempt on behalf of the BWA, its owners, employees or associates, to disguise or confuse their identities in online or emailed communications?

11. Finances
I note from Companies House (here) that at the time of writing, your next return is more than 1 month overdue. Can you confirm that you are a going concern and that your financial accounts are in order.

12. Philosophy
As you know, the Writers’ Workshop operates The Word Cloud, a social networking community for writers. That network is, and always has been, free, friendly and supportive. It has been founded on the philosophy that writers need a place to share concerns, air questions, and get advice.

Following discussions among certain writers on the Word Cloud (discussions now deleted), you asked Andersons Solicitors to write to me, Harry Bingham, threatening legal action and a possible ‘claim for damages for defamation’. (You did not tell me what the supposedly defamatory comment related to, so I still don’t know.) My understanding (here) is that you are considering comparable action against Claire King.

So my last question is this: do you believe that such legal thuggery is consistent with your published philosophy of ‘encourag[ing] and inspir[ing] unpublished and self-published writers of all ages’? (text from your website here). Do you believe that it is appropriate or honourable to use legal force to prevent unpublished writers from discussing in public whether your services and awards are right for them? Is that part of the philosophy your awards seek to embrace?


To reiterate: these are questions only. There are, in principle, honourable answers to all of them. (Except perhaps the last, where I think a retraction and apology would be in order.)

Indeed, let me be even clearer than that. I run a literary consultancy, which makes money by selling consultancy services to first time writers. We’ve run some (small) prizes. We work with literary agents. We have, on occasion, dealt directly with publishers. None of these activities is wrong or shady in any way. People ask us questions about them all the time, and we’re happy to answer. Our website discloses the backgrounds of our employees and consultants. We regularly name – with joy, pride and delight – those lovely agents who help our clients on the path to publication. We will explain any aspect of our business to anyone at any time.

We’re pretty conventional in the way we operate. That is, it’s pretty rare we think an author is not best served by getting an agent and then getting a conventional deal from a top publisher (Big Six, Independent Alliance or other obviously outstanding player). On the other hand, the world IS fast changing and I’ve no reason to think that other publishing models might not work. They’re certainly worth experimenting with.

In short, I know tremendously little about the BWA and its operations, and have no reason to think that its activities are any less honourable than our own. If its model is non-conventional, that’s fine too.

On the other hand, the torrent of internet gossip and implication threatens the BWA’s reputation and, to some degree, the reputation of all those who, like the Writers’ Workshop, do their damndest to help the new writer.

In conclusion – and here I’m addressing the BWA / Brit Writers directly – your current non-disclosure of information is, in my view, causing legitimate concern amongst the community of new writers. We will always vigorously champion any organisation or initiative which helps the new writer. I hope we can champion you. But at present we need some answers. I invite you to supply them.

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  • Harry

    The Writing News editorial in full (see point 7 above).

    After a long and difficult deliberation, Writing Magazine and Writers’ News have withdrawn from our association with the Brit Writers’ Awards. The Awards, launched in 2009 and with a glittering first prize ceremony last summer, were billed as Britain’s biggest awards for unpublished writers, offering a £10,000 prize for the eventual winner, Catherine Cooper, whose children’s novel Golden Acorn was also published by Infinite Ideas.
    WM and WN were initially enthusiastic to get behind an exciting new competition to help unpublished writers. The Awards drew criticism for their organisation and doubts about the quality of the judging process, but we felt that we could overlook a few teething troubles in their first year. Since then, we have become increasingly concerned at Brit Writers’ development into a financial operation. The introduction of Your Book Your Way, a paid scheme to help authors self-publish, using partners approved by Brit Writers, raised doubts, but we conceded that, for some authors, it could be a helpful way to guide them through the production process.
    We took the decision to end our involvement after the introduction of another scheme, the ‘Publishing Programme’, which claimed to offer fifteen writers a year’s editorial development followed by ‘guaranteed publication’, without revealing which organisations or companies were involved.
    Participation in the programme would cost each writer £1,795.
    For over twenty years, WN and WM have acted in the best interests of writers. We would not be happy to recommend such a service to our readers, and did not want to implicitly support it by continuing our association with the Brit Writers’ organisation.

  • Jane Struthers

    Excellent, Harry! I hope the BWA will soon reply to your fair and straightforward questions, and in doing so clear up all these queries.

  • I really hope that we will see the answers to what any objective person would agree are legitimate questions.

  • Well asked, Harry. It’s not always easy to have the courage of your convictions when solicitors letters drop on the (virtual) doormat. But we have the right to ask questions. Let us hope that the answers come soon and save us all a lot of time and trouble.

  • Nicola Morgan

    Very important questions, Harry. Well put. Aspiring writers and all those who advise them surely need to be reassured on all these points before they can make good decisions.

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  • Hannah Kaner

    Good luck with this. The questions are objective and completely reasonable! This whole situation is incredibly odd; I’ve just stumbled across it recently and been, well, flabbergasted.

  • This is a great piece of initiative.As a new writer myself, still without an agent, but having had an astonishingly positive ebooks experience on Amazon uk ( 12,000 downloads in a three month period) I am still looking for an agent of my own. This is a timely piece /warning for new guys like me of some of the not so savoury elements in the business out there. `
    Again. well done again. Thanks for all of this

    Seumas Gallacher

  • Leila Rasheed

    I look forward to their response with great curiosity.

  • Its crazy that these questions even have to be asked by an organisation like this one. Not knowing who is behind a business in 2011 and a world of social community makes no sense. What is also crazy is the fact that they send the ‘big dogs’ with legal threats after anyone who dare question the organisation. I hope you get a helpful response from them.

  • To retain any degree of credibility with the writing community the BWA should give full and open answers to all your answers. Thank you, Harry, for the time you have given to this.

  • Harry

    Whoops, two more questions for the BWA, please. Thanking you in advance …

    1) Have you ever had a county court judgement against you, and if so under what circumstances?
    2) How many people or institutions have you, in total, threatened with an action for libel? Just asking …

  • Thank you, Harry and Claire, for your work and initiative. I look forward to some answers from BWA.

  • Matador (the self-publishing imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd) got involved with Brit Writers as a ‘partner’ in their self-publishing ‘Your Book Your Way’ programme, paying several thousand pounds for promised referrals from their programme publicity and series of workshops that they were to organise. Six months later and we asked for a refund as there had been no referrals, no workshops… in fact nothing at all. Brit Writers agreed, but several months later they had failed to pay. Troubador took them to the County Court and we obtained a judgement against them for the debt, interest and court costs, which they subsequently paid. We now have nothing at all to do with them, and do not recommend that any of our authors have anything to do with them.

  • Nan Bovington

    I second that. Thanks Claire and Harry for taking the flak on behalf of aspiring writers. I too look forward to the answers to your entirely reasonable questions.

  • Lorna

    I was under the impression that the internet is THE place for free speach. Fraudsters, con-artists, governments (same thing), and/or the “powers that be” don’t like it of course (Sorry Mr Assange).

    Publishing warnings made by individuals and raising questions seems like good sense to me, not reason for threatening legal action. That bullying reaction immediately raises red flags in my mind.

  • Harry

    The Brit Writers got in touch with me to say that some elements of the above comment are factually incorrect. I first published their statement, as it was presented to me, but have removed that statement at the BWA’s request.

    I can’t comment on who’s in the right and wrong here, as I don’t know, but simply note for the record BWA’s denial of the accuracy of the statement above.

  • You may be interested to know that the domain “ is registered to:
    Zareen Ahmed (full name believed to be Zareen Roohi Ahmed)
    [Address and some further info removed from comment to protect ZA’s privacy – HB]

  • Harry

    I’ve met Zareen – and that is indeed her. I very much liked her, for what it’s worth. There’s a biscuit thread on the previous post which tells you more.

  • Matador … County Court Judgment … this is turning out to be even sadder that I thought. Such a disappointment.

    BWA – if you are reading this PLEASE respond. This isn’t going to go away and the less you say now, the worse it’s going to be in the end. Believe it or not, people want to be reassured. They’re not out to ‘get’ you.

  • Harry

    True, all true. All we need is some answers. I’d also add that any company can screw up from time to time; there’s no shame in the odd screw-up. What matters is openness and a commitment to provide value for the writer.

  • Sally Zigmond

    This just gets worse and worse. Whenever people issue writs to (as it seems in this case) to silence legitimate and well-reasoned discussion, then I begin to feel sick. Thank you, Harry, for standing up to bullies. Let’s hope it all has a happy ending and no hopeful writer ends up out of pocket with nothing to show for it. That’s my (and every decent person’s) concern here.

  • Veronica Stallwood

    Perhaps this is just a coincidence but ‘Hari Kumar’ is the name of one of the main characters in The Jewel in the Crown.

  • Wow. Excellent work, Harry – I admire your bravery in sticking to your guns.

  • This lameness is so weak it has made all my pubes fall out. Can’t believe how up themselves some people are!

  • I paid my £10.95 earlier this year for a work-in-progress novel and a couple of other things I’ve forgotten about now! I got the email offering review of my entry (3 chapters plus synopsis) for £50 and signed up to this as it seemed in line with the going rates for literary consultants.

    I heard nothing regarding my entry until I got an email saying that most of the reviews had been sent out and mine would be sent out by 11 November – this coming Friday.

    The novel is now complete and has found a publisher (small press who had published me in an anthology, not vanity or e-publishing!) I’m interested in the feedback and will chase the £50 using the small claims procedure if it doesn’t arrive or is a tick-sheet. I’m increasingly worried by the range of services they are offering built around the high-profile competition (that doesn’t bother me … you win some, you lose plenty!). But I will reserve judgement until I get my review and can compare it with similar critiques, both paid-for and free…. agents are helpful even if they don’t want to sign an author up. Watch this space (or that space).

    Oh, and any idiot can pay a solicitor to send a threatening letter!

  • I was one of the performers at the 2009 Brit ceremony and had a very odd feeling about it myself. In particular, I was amazed to see that the winning novel (whose name I don’t remember, sorry) was printed and presented to the author on the night as a finished product, without (I assume) any opportunity for her to input into the design, proof-reading or marketing of the book in advance. This struck me as highly unusual.
    It was mentioned by several people as an award particularly aimed at raising the profile of black and Muslim writers – a commendable aim indeed, and there was certainly no bias towards any particular race or religion in the awards given – but it seems odd that this isn’t stated more clearly, if it is the case. My feeling was that these were business people who knew how to stage a very high-profile, glitzy event but had little awareness of literary circles. Perhaps they were simply trying to bypass the usual literary circles, which again may be a commendable aim in some ways.

  • David

    Bravo for taking this stand Harry. I imagine that Violet ‘Grow A Pair’ Whoeversheis would be most impressed.

    I’m thinking hard of more practical ways in which I may be of assistance, and I am shaking all of the social networks that I have to see if anything useful falls out.

    Meanwhile, I’m rooting for you.

    It appeals to my values of fair play to see someone squaring up to the playground bully.

    I have the feeling that now would be a good time for them to back down and rethink. If not sooner.

  • David Elliot

    I was one of the many (along with every one else that I know who entered) who (apparently) “made it through all the early rounds”, falling at the final hurdle. It wasn’t until I received a list of the winners that I realised they couldn’t possibly have put me through all the rounds as they had at no stage ever had a full copy of my manuscript! I also went to the winner’s ‘book launch’ at Blackwell’s in Oxford – which was a complete farce where a few people turned up, put some copies of the book on the shelf, took some photographs and then left. Blackwell’s staff new nothing about the event and did not have the book in stock – (neither did Waterstone’s across the road either). It looked to me that Blackwell’s had simply been used as a credible backdrop for an alleged launch – which was actually no such thing. I would think the least BWA can do is give answers to these questions. If all the 6 or so (non-BWA or winners) people who had turned up had bought a copy there wouldn’t have been enough for them! There was no signing either. I have had bigger audiences at lunch talks with Rotary Club members and sold more books. Actually I didn’t see any book sold at all!

    Mind you they were very proactive in chasing me to buy expensive tickets for the prize awards at the O2 – that seemed highly successful! – one might even think that was the true reason for the entire programme – but that cannot possibly be the case can it? I’m sure when they answer all the questions in a full and frank manner – we will be reassured it was all entirely altruistic and above board.

  • Hmmm – I did think that the BWA’s current behaviour didn’t square with the description of her on that page. Odd. Decidedly odd. With or without bicuits.

  • Or even biscuits

  • I had a similar problem with Salvador Caetano in Portugal threatening legal action to get me to remove my website. We checked and got around the problem by putting at the top of the site that if you come from Portugal you are not allowed to read it. Problem solved on that issue, but you probably have take the “write” course.

    Tony Harmsworth

  • This makes sober reading, Harry. I hope you get the answers instead of more solicitors’ letters.

    I’m the comps calendar columnist for Writers Forum and whilst I can only speak as an individual and not for all of Select Publishing, who publish WF, I can promise that I won’t list the Brit Writers’ comp on my website or in my article comp listings again.

  • Edwina Fearnley

    This has opened my eyes. Harry has asked some pertinent and interesting questions, and I too would like to see the answers.

  • Has anyone met Hari? Given him (or her) biscuits?

  • M Louise Kelly

    Thanks for doing this. As an aspiring writer I need clear information and need to know whose guidance I should follow. Unless the BWA can respond to these questions they’ll never have the credibility they’d need for someone like me to trust them.

  • As someone who works in brand and corporate communications alongside being an aspiring writer, I know that transparency is a basic requirement for any company or organisation operating today. I hope that you soon receive answers to what are reasonable and pertinent questions.

  • Harry

    I have biscuited no Kumar. And Kumared no biscuits.

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  • Have they got a Daphne Manners working there, too?

  • May I add my support, and echo the thanks of others, for your incredibly reasonable and reasoned list of questions. I look forward to the answers too.

    The world of writing is not easy. It takes hard hard work. There are precious few short cuts to meaningful publication, and as well as the writers, there are a lot of hard-working people out there running quality competitions, quality consultancies, and many other initiatives with a genuine desire to help writers, based on skill, knowledge and in-depth experience.

    It may well be that this organisation ought to be listed among that number, and it would be nice to think their representatives might take this opportunity to address some of the issues that are standing in their way.

    I knew a few writers who were overjoyed at being shortlisted in this organisation’s 2011 competition. Let’s hope for their sakes, the reputation of the comp is restored – whether or not that happens would seem to be entirely in the organisers’ own hands. Not in the hands of their lawyers, whose actions could be said to be inflaming things.

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  • Whisks

    IMHO, it was all about drumming up a huge mailing list of aspiring writers, so that they could then sell all their subsequent products: unclear publishing / vague mentoring / undefined PR / nameless agenting / mysterious consultancy / whatever it is. The competition must have paid for itself, surely? What they have now, is a hugely valuable mailing list. Job done.

    Apart from the BWA guff, I now regularly receive emails from Ruth @ Five Stop Story inviting me to submit stories to their competitions. They apparently provide short stories to iphones and the like. All well and good, except from my point of view, the ‘comp’ arrived in my inbox as unsolicited spam. I had no idea who they were. Their website ( says that Ruth had her novel selected for the Brit Writers Awards Publishing Programme. However, nowhere in the emails I receive, does it declare any affiliation with BWA – or quote any explanation for them having my email address. I know that BWA supplied my email address to her and can prove it if required.

    I wonder if this could be a clue as to why BWA expressed an interest in acquiring short stories?

  • Nicola Morgan

    The longer the silence continues, the deeper the concern. Don’t they realise that by not engaging in conversation with the people who could be their biggest supporters – because writers are a really supportive community – they are damaging themselves? Maybe they should send themselves a solicitor’s letter.

  • Helen Hardy

    Harry – thanks as others have said for having the courage of your convictions. I too am convinced there is no crime in open debate, and would like nothing better than for the Brit Writers to answer these questions.

    As the short story winner in 2010, like Debi I gave Brit Writers the benefit of the doubt over some chaotic administration (I only found out I was a winner from a friend who checked the list). I also forgave the 6 months it took to receive my prize (a laptop), though wondering why they bothered to have prizes if it was such hard work to provide them. I found the repeated promises that my prize would arrive by a particular date harder to stomach – for me the mantra in any business is ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ not the opposite – but I put that down to a different way of operating than my own.

    Brit Writers wrote to me that:
    ‘…we regard you as a gem we have found and we feel a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that you now go on to getting published and recognised for your amazing talent…Imran Akram our CEO will be in touch with you very soon…’
    I found it rude at best that despite this and similar messages, nothing ever materialised except the standard mailings inviting me to apply for Brit Writers (chargeable) services. Had I been the one marketing those services, I would have considered some free help to winners a great place to prove myself and build a base of advocacy for my service – but again, that’s just me.

    I was not surprised, though still disappointed, when despite several times offering me a free ticket to this years event as an apology for the late prize etc no invitation arrived – just another email suggesting I apply for the privilege of paying for one.

    And yet, I never publicly criticised the Brit Writers because I wanted to believe their hearts were in the right place – if they inspired me, they must have inspired others. What has changed my mind is their latest approach to criticism i.e. their attempts to silence it. It is genuinely painful to me that the organisation who gave me my greatest success to date as a writer also gave me my first taste of censorship.

    On 24th October the Brit Writers published a comment on Facebook that said:
    ‘Just had a conversation with a publisher who has cancelled a contract with an author because he saw her comments on a writer’s blog disparaging other writers and organisations. His reason… “If she can say that about others, she’ll say that about me one day.” Do you think he was right to drop her?’

    Several responses assumed that the writer in question was being libellous or at best very unprofessional. I felt I should weigh in and posted the following:

    ‘This sounds like a rumour to me and it depends what you mean by disparage. No one should be unprofessional but people should know some context which is that there’s a fair amount of Internet debate about BWA itself. As a former winner I’ve stayed out of this til now but I think posts like this raise quite legitimate questions I would love to see BWA give clear and professional answers – I still believe they do a lot of good encouraging writers but my own experience is that they don’t always deliver what is promised or show themselves to be open to debate. Writers support writers- and free discussion.’

    That comment has been removed, although the thread remains here

    Following that, I saw that the Brit Writers had forced removal of discussions from this site.

    I hope that they will come to their senses and realise how little their own actions live up to their stated aims of inclusiveness and a positive approach. Writers should not be afraid of open debate – nor of allowing readers to make up their own minds, and providing them with the evidence to do so.


  • It’s been said before, but it needs to be said again: no matter what the upshot of this whole sad business, it should not detract from or undermine the genuine achievements of the winners. I don’t know what the process was (in spite of having been a judge in 2010 it was far from clear to me) but, one way or another, I have no doubt that the winners entries were recognised for having genuine merit.

  • Sad. BWA’s silence is deafening, and more damaging to them the longer it goes on.

    Hang in there, Harry.

  • MarkR

    Bravo Harry – you should be proud of your words and actions, as we are proud of you.

    Freedom of speech allows the right of reply of course and like many others, I am very interested to hear the BWA exercise that right.

  • Jane Struthers

    And the clock ticketh on …

  • louisa young

    Harry –
    Just wondering – Clearly this is a can of worms, and not one I’m familiar with – but
    why is there a picture of you on the BWA facebook page under the heading ‘Meet the Judges’?

  • Harry

    Well, ain’t that interesting. I have never acted for them as a judge. Never. Not once. I have judged not so much as a molecule. (*)

    * – that’s Oxfordshire slang for a baby mole, I think. They like worms of course, but fresh, not canned.

  • Jane Struthers

    They’ve got my pic on that page too, even though I am no longer a judge for them.

  • Pete

    “We are looking to work with 15 unpublished authors over the next 12 months on an intensive one-to-one basis, who we guarantee will be published with a top publisher before Christmas 2011. These 15 writers will be sharing their progress on the BWA website, while at the same time, behind the scenes film footage will document their journey to getting published.”

    Could I ask, as a new writer, what is the standard interpretation of ‘published’ and ‘unpublished’?

    Three of the writers who have had ‘success’ with BWA looking at their Facebook page have had a book published previously (they appear to be self published tracking back the publishers to their websites) and, according to his website, one has three publications (two of which seem to be still available – one as a book and one as an e-book).

    Similarly how would people interpret ‘being published by a major publisher’? As Christmas is coming, we don’t have long to see these books being published so I’m keen to compare the promise against what established authors might expect.

  • I’ve just clicked that link to get a message saying that the content is ‘currently unavailable’.

  • The term unpublished varies, and is a sticking point for many writers. In most comps that I link, ‘unpublished’ means not having had more than three short stories published in paying magazines. It generally does mean ‘unpublished’ by a major publisher, and also unagented.

    The problem comes from the difference between unpublished and unprofessional, and really I think (though I can’t say for sure) what most organisers mean when they say unpublished is unprofessional. That is someone who doesn’t earn their living entirely from writing (and let’s face it, few of us can).

    Regarding ‘major’ publishers, I’d expect to see the titles published by publishers like Bloomsbury, Macmillan, Orion, Simon and Schuster and other publishers of that ilk.

    I hope that helps.

  • Harry

    There are some suggestions being made (and I presume these suggestions are being vigorously contested by the BWA, from whom we have not yet heard) that those judges with a credible professional background were asked to do very little actual judging. So it is being alleged – and denied – that the roster of judges in practice was very much less prestigious / credible than the roster being presented to prize entrants. Again, I’d love to have the BWA’s comment on this, because they alone are in a position to know the truth. And for all I know, the judging process was excellently managed. It’s just that rumours will fly until we have a credible statement of the facts.

  • Rachael Dunlop

    I clicked earlier and it worked. Now it doesn’t.

  • Sali Gray

    I think we are all aware that information, once it has been uploaded to the internet, is available for ever. This means that any ‘google’ search for the names of the writers on the Brit Writers Publishing Programme, will produce a full list of the 15 people who embarked on the scheme. For this reason alone (and I hope you don’t mind Harry) I just want to say that I chose to leave the Programme at the beginning of August and I received a full refund. Although I cannot remove my name from the list of those on the Programme, perhaps by posting to the Blogs where this scheme is being discussed, this comment might appear on any future ‘google’ searches. I did sign a confidentiality agreement, when I joined the scheme and I need to take legal advice as to whether I am still bound by it, so although I would love to join in this discussion, I currently feel unable to do so, for fear of legal action. Sali Gray.

  • Jane Struthers

    Well, I can tell you that I never did any non-fiction judging in the end in 2010. I was very busy with a looming deadline when the initial judging began, and when I had more time to do the judging I was unable to do so because the BWA didn’t send me the required online registration info, despite several requests for it on my part. In the end I gave up because all my emails received a generic email response that didn’t contain any of the information I’d asked for.

  • Pete

    Thanks for replying – the question around published / unpublished has been vexing me for a while and I thought I would ask.
    I haven’t seen any announcements on publications as yet and would have thought anything that was going to be published before Christmas would have been confirmed by a major publisher by now? Has anyone seen anything?

  • Here’s a link to the cached version of that page.

    You’ll see a note at the top of the page which states,

    “It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on 9 Oct 2011 03:24:29 GMT”

    Harry is the person on the far left of the screen, five rows down.

  • Harry

    Hold on – that’s not me. I’ve got a mouth, I’m sure I … oh, the photo’s cropped? You mean I … slinks off ….

  • Well, I was a judge in 2010 but I’m not sure under the circumstances how much I should say about the concerns I had at the time about the process and the submissions I saw. I was told that my name was still listed this year (I didn’t see it myself) but I took no part in the 2011 awards. In fact, I can’t see a list of this year’s judges anywhere. On the home page there’s a link for people to register as judges, but the form only asks for basic contact info. It’s all very unclear and I do hope BWA will take this opportunity to clarify who the judges are, which is standard practice for any competition.

  • Harry

    I believe that the publisher will be Infinite Ideas, which is (as I understand it) part self-publishing company, part book packager, part real publisher. But a top publisher? Not what I could call a top publisher, anyway.

  • Whisks

    Here’s an oddity:

    The headline news on the BWA website contains a feature heralded as ‘Publishing Programme’s David Logan wins the Sir Terry Pratchett Prize!’
    It’s also to be found on facebook, twitter and other websites if you google away.
    The article underneath the headline, is actually from The Guardian, and makes no mention of BWA.

    The Publishing Programme was launched (according to my invitation email) on 3rd December 2010, and wouldn’t start until the 10th January 2011.
    Yet the Terry Pratchett competition closed on 31st December 2010 and required a complete, finished manuscript to be sent in by then; the shortlist was announced in March, I believe.
    So the winning book was written and submitted to the TP comp several weeks before the BWA programme even began.

    Therefore, BWA’s implied association with it by using the headline, ‘Publishing Programme’s David Logan wins the Sir Terry Pratchett Prize!’, is misleading is it not?

    Well done David for winning, btw.

  • David Logan comments on that towards the end of this comment tread (July 29, 2011)

    -I guess you’ve already seen my comment about it here 😛

  • Whisks

    Ah! Thanks Weirdmage,
    I knew I’d seen David’s comments somewhere (where he confirms that he was – and is – mentorless) but I couldn’t remember where – and when I looked on Jane Smith’s excellent blog to check, I couldn’t find it again. I didn’t feel comfortable quoting him without being able to support it. Duh! Sorry. Couldn’t see for looking.
    I also note, in fairness, that he still has a good relationship with them and that they refunded his money after his impressive achievement when he no longer needed to find a publisher.

    I hadn’t seen your comments though – thanks very much for the link.

  • Rachael Dunlop

    A full list of the BWA Publishing programme authors can be found here:
    This is the blog of one of the selected writers. Most of the blog is dedicated to the BWA publishing programme and she provides links for the websites / blogs of most of the writers on the programme.

    There are actually 16 authors listed (17 if you count the pair that write together). There is no mention of David Logan on that list, although there is a link to the article already mentioned where he wins the Terry Pratchett prize (well done, David!).

  • It was Rachel Dunlop, who comments below, who had the links to David’s comments.

    I wondered if I was the only one who found the Pratchett Award article on the BWA site a bit strange. Looks like we think alike on that one 🙂

  • Rachael Dunlop

    Tracking down references for this discussion is the best writing-avoidance tactic I have found in a long time.

  • Charlie

    Apart from Sali Gray, who posted earlier, Robert Coles, at one point a writer on the Publishing Program lists another 30 writers on his webpage:

    Claire Kinton lists 12 writers on her website, with status updates and links to the writers in question:

    It’s possible that the second link is also the most recent, it does not feature Sali Gray, or David Logan, whereas the first one does. Robert Coles is also missing from this list.

  • No, no, folks. That isn’t right. According to the interview with the CEO: ‘There are two groups, the first is on a 12 month programme and the second is on a 24 month programme.’

    The full list is here, though it includes David Logan and Sali Gray, both of whom have left the programme. Nevertheless, do count them. There are certainly more than 15.

  • Harry

    Is it just me, or is it weird that the BWA has still not answered one of my original questions? I note that there are now more than 70 comments on this post – a post which the BWA saw more than 24 hours before it went live, and which they told me (via the inevitable solictor’s letter) they would respond to shortly. I mean, that’s quite longly for shortly, isn’t it?

  • MothWing

    I agree Harry, I have been keeping an eye on this blog, and have posted over at which links to this one. I too am eager to hear the response – although as explained on the other blog, as far as I am concerned they have fulfilled their obligations regarding feedback and replies… although answers to the questions you have raised will affect my future entries. I wonder, as I come from a marketing background and can see the ‘opportunity’ they would have here to set the record straight, that perhaps they have no marketing department? I don’t mean to sound critical, as people are entitled to market as they please – however i have noticed that their use of social media is to ‘broadcast’ not ‘engage’ – their tweets seem to be constantly recycled and repeated at different times – i see retweets, but not much dialogue going on. It is, I think, possible that to transfer what a gut reaction may see as a bunch of writers launching an attack on them – over to a legal, external department – may not seem that illogical to them, and if they have no marketeer eager to boldly step in then – as we are seeing, no one does? It may seem like a large company, but all my emails have come from the same person…

    Just a thought,

  • I found this list of the fifteen writers–there are actually thirty-two of them, or thirty if you count the two writers who are collaborating as one, and knock David Logan off the list as he’s now withdrawn from the programme.

  • Harry, I hope that the reason the BWA is taking so long to respond is that it’s preparing a thorough and dignified answer to your post. Despite all of the problems we’ve seen it would be great if they could do that, wouldn’t it?

  • Whisks

    I also find it strange that they’re still linking themselves so prominently to that success, despite having nothing to do with it.

    And Racheal – indeed! Tee hee. Tracking down references to cite can consume much time – especially when you know you’ve read something pertinent, but can’t remember where 🙂

  • Whisks

    There is an interview posted on the BWA website, and dated September.
    In it, is stated that there are two groups of people – one on a 12 month programme, the other on 24 months.
    Perhaps that’s the answer?
    But why is it so bloomin’ hard to find out?

  • Pete

    They don’t seem to have much a track record in fiction though. Looks to be mainly business / lifestyle. Obviously a change of strategic direction?

  • Hear, hear.

  • Mothwing, you suggest that this is just a huge mix-up by people who don’t understand marketing? If that’s the case then that has implications with regard to the marketing advice the BWA seems to be dishing out to writers who responded to its Agents Division email; but it the BWA might well be using external experts or consultants there, so that might not be an issue here.

    If you’re right, and the BWA has dug itself into a hole here from which it can see no escape, then I hope the people behind the BWA will take a deep breath and say so: it’s nothing to be embarrassed about and I bet they’ll get a much kinder reaction than they expect. In fact, I’d love to host an interview with them on my blog about it and I’ll do all I can to ensure that the discussions which follow remain respectful at all times.

    Whatever the reasons for this mess, though, I hope they’ll answer Harry’s questions and stop issuing solicitors’ letters. Engaging in conversation is much more effective than trying to stifle it.

  • I think what is very interesting is that, so far, not a single author, literary agent or publisher (or employee etc etc) has come forward with a ‘i worked with them and found them very professional’ or ‘they were true to their word with me and here’s the link to my book’ etc etc

    I have been watching this blog and all the others, back to the original WW blog, and i think i have yet to see anyone really come out in defence of this company (except one person who spoke positively of their involvement with special needs schools? – which, assuming it is true, is admirable). This is very concerning! The BWA is being asked to answer some questions and, elsewhere on the net, is the subject of web chatter etc of a less than complimentary nature – and no one at all has stepped up to defend them? no one??? anyone?? crikey! there must be someone with a positive word or experience???

  • Harry

    Yes, just to be really clear, BWA is a tiny company – just as the WW is. Any micro-company will look a wee bit ragged under intensive focus. For example, all the editors listed on our website have indeed worked for us at one stage, but have we been rigorous about weeding out any who have not worked for us for 12 months or so? Well, I don’t know. We’re probably reasonably good, but I doubt if we’re perfect. But then it’s only me, Laura, and 1/2 of Nikki & Deborah who work there – and I don’t spend much time doing WW things, cos I’m meant to be writing books. So., inevitably, at times things will slip between the cracks. Any small company is like that.

    So let’s keep perspective. It’s still completely possible that the BWA has some strong connections with agents etc, but that some of their ventures haven’t worked properly, that some of their events management has been a little ragged, and so on – yet overall their company is still strong, ethical and they have their heart in the right place. The single thing that still bothers me the most is their use of legal threat to repress comment, the way they seem to make clients sign non-disclosure agreements (why, for heavens sake? We’ve never required one ever), and the way they won’t simply answer the questions that have been put to them.

    It’s perfectly valid to ask of the Writers’ Workshop: which agents do you work with? (This week, for example, on behalf of clients or potential clients, I’ve interacted with Caroline Dawnay @ United Agents, Piers Blofeld @ Sheil Land, Bill Hamilton and Victoria Hobbs @ AM Heath, and Emily Hickman @ the Agency.) It’s totally valid to ask the same question of the BWA – presumably they’d expect to be asked it. You’d think, if they were as proud of their connections as we are of ours, they’d be open to these questions. But still. Let’s keep things in perspective and wait for the BWA’s answers. There are two sides to every story. They insist that they have done nothing at all wrong. And we have yet to hear from them. That hearing is important.

  • Absolutely Harry,

    I don’t think that any of your questions imply anything at all, except that we’d all like to know the answer. Writers tend to be a committed group – most have no problem with paying to gain help or advice – but transparency is the key.

  • David

    I know that the BWA have had genuine offers of assistance from people well qualified to help them constructively with these matters. Their response to these offers has, to my knowledge been non-existent at best.

    The handling of these concerns in all of the social media in which I have seen them covered has, in my opinion, been so far from adept as to border on the parody.

    I’m only aware of two actual employees of the BWA that people I know have encountered in the flesh and, reports would have it, they both seem like intelligent people. The manner in which they seem to be handling their PR/Marketing in the social media sphere is so poor, and its remedy must be so apparent to people of even average intelligence, that one must question whether they actually want to fix this, let alone turn it around. I wonder what their motives really are?

    One doesn’t need any real acumen in business to know that one would resort to legal measures against key influencers in one’s own marketplace only under the most dire of circumstances, if at all. Far less because they ask you to clarify your product proposition.

    Normal companies LOVE to talk about their product proposition.

    I would dearly love to dig deeper into the why this is an odious mess but, like many, I fear attracting more knee-jerk litigation. The real pity, and please forgive me if this is over-naive, is that it seemed that shrouded within all of this mire was an initiative that could have been refreshing, exciting and positive. People seemed keen to see that.

  • Tony

    “Not to ask, is not to learn”
    And so I asked, if that be so.
    “No answer,” the reply so stern,
    Which told be all I need to know.

  • ron

    Personally, I think this piranha-like attack on the BWA is becoming too gory to watch. Freedom of speech is one thing but don’t forget that other cornerstone of our society which is ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

    Whisks, you think BWA is all about drumming up a huge mailing list of aspiring writers, but doesn’t the same apply to the the Word Cloud?

  • I agree, Harry, we need to keep all this in perspective. It’s still a relatively new company and I imagine that many new companies experience teething troubles. But it would be helpful if you could get some answers to your questions!

  • Joint MD and co-founder of Infinite Ideas here. I see we’ve been mentioned above so I thought I would join the debate and explain our position.

    We became involved with the BWA last year as their ambitions seemed to match ours-to break the stranglehold of the mega-corp publishers and to do something interesting. There are quite a lot of accusations on this blog and on others about the BWA and it is not for me to defend or otherwise their position. All I will say is that they do generate extremes of opinion which is interesting in itself.

    As you’re probably aware we published Catherine Cooper’s The Golden Acorn last year and have just published her third book in the series. Agreed, this was a departure for us as we traditionally haven’t done much fiction or indeed children’s publishing. Have we been successful with it? I think the best person to answer that is Catherine herself. I believe her postings on various blogs and her speech at the BWA awards this year make her position towards us clear.

    In terms of our ongoing relationship with the BWA, we are not publishing any of this year’s winners. Sensitive soul that I am, I slightly bristled at the “top publisher” gibe from Harry. No, we’re not Harper Collins or Penguin-but isn’t that part of the issue? New writers are in the main ignored by the “top publishers” and I suspect Catherine has received a lot more TLC and support from us than she would have done from a big house. Never mind, I’m over the hurt already.

    Further, we are indeed guilty of offering a variety of services (I’d probably dispute “book packager” but we’ll let that go). Why do we make these offers? Well, put simply, we set the business up 8 years ago to do things differently. The implosion of most of the old publishing (and bookselling) models in that period has presented both opportunities and challenges. We are merely trying to respond accordingly.

    We pride ourselves on our openness. If anyone wants to contact me direct with any specific questions or issues please do. I find often that to be more effective than blog speculation. My email is

  • Pingback: BWA Brit Writers – request for help | Write Edit Seek Literary Agent()

  • Harry

    Hi David – not a gibe. Wasn’t meant to be. My concern is for those entering the comp. if they’re writing fiction and are told they’re going to be published by a “top publisher”, anyone would assume that a Big Six / Indie Alliance type publisher is being referred to. I happen to know that Infinite Ideas does some cracking work – and I agree with you that old models are capable of change, now more than ever – but it’s the BWAs’ presentation of its services to its clients which seems dubious.

    If the BWA said, “We are working with a really innovative small publisher to bring fiction to market via a different type of publishing model,” I’d applaud them for the innovation. I don’t think the big publishers ignore debut writers at all, but I DO think that smaller presses can often provide more one-on-one attention.

    So I’ve got no beef AT ALL with Infinite Ideas. On the contrary, let me be really clear that I think it’s a great small press who does some wonderful work. I just think the BWA should be much clearer in what it offers.

  • Tony

    Woops. Which told ME all I need to know.

  • Harry

    The Word Cloud is provided free to users who very seldom, as it happens, receive a marketing mail from us. But sure: we provide something for free and occasionally make use of the mailing list. Which is presumably fine with our happy users. What we don’t do is tell everyone that (for example) they’ve been shortlisted for a competition and then press them to buy add-on services because they’re clearly on the cusp of something. I’m not saying that the BWA does do that – because I don’t know – but it’s clearly a question worth asking.

    Oh yes – and they threatened us with legal action because writers were discussing them. Not pretty.

  • For those who don’t know me, I’m last years overall winner. I will always be grateful to the BWA for introducing me to Infinite Ideas.

    I was not promised a ‘top publisher’ in fact it was made clear from the start Infinite Ideas would publish the winning book. I did what any other finalists would do… I googled them. I also consulted with the Society of Authors and the information I got back was very positive.

    I have nothing but praise for Infinite Ideas and have a professional relationship with them, which includes a lot of TLC. (I took a selection of biscuits with me on a recent visit and got a lovely thank you too)

  • natasha king

    I have spoken and interacted with the BWA on numerous occassions and I think they are all fantastic. They are professional and willing to assist any writer. I think this has blown out of proportion and i feel sad that a organisation which is trying to do good is being critised like this!!! I truley believe that BWA are doing the right thing for our society today. I find it amazing how people can find the time to blog constantly when there are more pressing things to deal with in society….

  • Whisks

    Ron, I don’t mind anyone making a profit out of me provided they do so honourably; I’d *expect* them to make a profit. I’m more suspicious of someone who professes altruism as a main motive.
    I’m well aware that the (free) Word Cloud is a wing of the Writers’ Workshop business and don’t doubt that WW has felt the benefit.
    The difference being that WW/WC has been completely transparent in its dealings with me. They’ve answered my questions promptly and personally, both on and off-line, in public and in private; they’ve been extremely helpful over several years, despite not making a penny piece out of me apart from a trip to the Festival of Writing; and at that, I knew precisely what I was paying for in advance, and got it in spades. Yes, I receive mailings from them, which I’m happy to receive as I know exactly where the mailing comes from and that’s fine.
    I’m also aware that the Word Cloud is nothing without its participants (which includes me), but it’s a transaction in which I’m happy to participate as I get much out of it. I’ve given my time for free and so have all the others, to our mutual benefit. The whole association is a win-win from my point of view. Things get sticky from time to time, but we mostly resolve it – usually by talking, because of a level of trust and goodwill, founded on experience.
    Contrast now, my experience of BWA.
    They haven’t returned my phone calls, they haven’t answered my emails. When invited to spend just shy of £1,800 on a ‘publication programme’, I asked for the small print, the T&Cs, and they ignored me.
    They have steadfastly refused even to tell me (and others) which of our entries was so good that it made the Top 30; they have left me dangling for over a year while claiming to encourage new writers. This strikes me as disingenuous at best. They have passed my contact details on to a third party without that third party acknowledging the association in their email. In fact, I only discovered it when I googled the third party’s website in preparation for my post above. Yes there’d been a clickable link to Five Stop Story in the email, but who clicks on links in apparent spam?
    Moth Wing makes a very good point in that they ‘broadcast’ rather than ‘engage’. My relationship with BWA started from a position of extreme goodwill. I gave them the benefit of the doubt many times, telling myself that it was their first year, things were bound to come unstuck here and there, I’d live with it – up to a point.
    ‘My door is always open, come and talk to us’ is a common proclamation. Well I’ve been knocking and talking for too long without a satisfactory response, for me to want anything more to do with them. Trust is earned. Trust requires dialogue.
    I could say more.

  • Whisks

    Lucky old you to have ‘spoken and interacted’ so often. I’d like to have done so. They could have ‘assisted’ me by telling me which item on a list of 30 was particularly good; I’d have found that extremely encouraging and spread goodwill around. They could have ‘assisted’ me by answering emails and phone calls.
    I didn’t start off grumpy, I’ve become that way. I was deliriously happy at first. It’s only when I feel I’m not listened to, that I become grumpy.
    Yes, it’s blown up out of proportion, but why is that?
    If only they’d answered simple questions right from the beginning – or some time in the last year or two, or even now – then everyone would have been happy and all this could have been avoided. Why on earth didn’t they?

  • ron

    Yes, please tell us more, Whisks.

  • Whisks

    I find that the threat of legal action tends to stifle open discussion, Ron. Also the absence of any response.

  • Hey Natasha,

    welcome to the debate. I think it’s great that you have had a good experience with the BWA (i have non – either bad or good – just an interested and as yet unpublished author) – could you expand though, in order for a balanced view to be given, on how you interacted with them? I mean were you a competition entrant or do you deal with them through the schools initiative? etc.

    If you have had a good experience then, if you have the time, it would be great to read about it.



  • natasha king

    hey i was just giving you my personal experience. My child is in a school that was promoting the competition free of charge, we had a BWA rep that attended the school and explained what BWA was about very interesting….we also as parents had the chance to enter for free…

  • Annie jones

    i have been following this blogg and it’s clear to see how you are slandering BWA! It is no wonder that solicitors are involved. I attended the awards night and had an exceedling good night. I had the pleasure of meeting Imran who I can honestly say is one of the most genuine and charming individual that I have ever met. It is a great shame that you don’t have the same work ethic’s as Imran. It is not surprising that the BWA is not responding to your questions, I feel that there should be a format and an order of etiquette to observe which you clealy lack. One of your editors had the audacity to suggest that BWA were faking a letter from the prime minister. The BWA have maintained their level of professionalism on all levels.

  • Carrie-Anne

    Hi Helen,

    This particular debate on FB sticks clearly in my mind because a few weeks before I held a social networking debate on my blog for aspiring authors and one of the guest bloggers posted about professionalism. And for the record … I saw your post, so that’s disgraceful. By trying to silence people and censor the negative comments the BWA are just hurting their reputation and anyone who knows anything about reputation especially in the online world knows reputation is everything.

  • Annie

    I would also like to say that I believe this blogg is totally biased. You must all be feeling threatened and that is a shame as I think that the BWA is actually doing good for our society lets face it in the current climate that we live in there are more pressing things in society to address. However the little hope and joy that BWA brings to us as a society can not be a bad thing so why knock our joy! I also feel that there appears to be a handful of people circulating the same biased information through your three related sites i.e Jane Smith and Claire King.

  • Whisks

    I’m sorry Natasha, if my reply came over too strongly. It truly wasn’t directed at you, but the result of long frustration to elicit a simple answer to a simple question from a over a year ago: to confirm the title of my Top 30 piece, since I entered more than one.
    I can’t imagine why the identity of the Top 30s are kept secret from their authors, or why lists weren’t published on their website, at least. If they’d done so, I’d have cheered them on – and probably defended them here. There might be a very good reason; I just don’t know what it is.
    I’m sure that they’re kind, decent people and this is just a failure of communication. There *must* be simple answers, and people would like to hear them very much. Trouble is, writers *like* communication; and have vivid imaginations.
    We’re all grown-ups and would love to clear up the mis-understandings which are causing so much angst.
    I’m glad that you’ve found it useful at your school and thank you for offering your perspective. It’s great to hear.

  • Pete

    Thank you David (and Catherine – see below) for coming on here and sharing some information with us whilst respecting your relationship with BWA. Openness and the exchange of biscuits are so much nicer than solicitors’ letters and I wish you every success with your collaboration.

  • Whisks

    Well said.

  • Harry

    Hi Annie, Just to be clear, the sequence of events has been this:

    1) Various writers discussed the BWA amongst themselves on a social networking site, owned by me and open to all writers.
    2) The BWA threatened me with legal action for permitting that debate to take place. Though Imran and Zareen both know me, neither of them bothered to call or email to discuss things first.
    3) I sent them some questions, well before I aired anything in public.
    4) I got no answer.
    5) So then I published my questions and let anyone who wanted to chip in to the debate to do so. I haven’t censored a single comment. (Except to delete one comment from someone who was being threatened with legal action by the BWA, one of many to be so threatened.)

    The BWA has, at ever stage, been invited to set out its case, to explain how it does business, to name its partner literary agents, to publish its prize shortlists, and so on. That invitation remains open now. I hope they get in touch and I will publish all their responses in full. I’m not setting out to accuse – I can’t accuse, because I don’t know the facts. I just think there are some legitimate questions and I am inviting the BWA to give those answers publicly, so we can lay this whole thing to rest.

  • I would also like to add that my site is not related to this site, or to Jane Smith’s site. We are three independent professionals in the publishing world, who have raised similar questions. That is all.

    Please compare the (not defamatory) language of: “Here are the questions I sent (to BWA)”

    To what you wrote in your post above “it’s clear to see how you are slandering BWA! “

  • Violet B

    Harry, Harry, Harry!

    What are we going to do with you and your few musketeers and many minions who are repeating your mantra without any real
    depth? After simply reading and following for a few days, all posts bought me right back here!
    The core root to what seems like a bit of a pointless endeavour to some of us.
    But not you, which I do respect though don’t understand fully.

    Firstly, can you please explain this phenomenon of people who respond to comments within blogs that are either wanting
    even MORE clarity or completely dismiss the positive press for another whiney ‘but we just want to know’ –
    who wants to know??? The few followers you have got together?

    ( you will know me from your friend Claire’s blog – Strategic Educator happily advocating BWA’s resource with schools hence the interest )
    The intention of these blogs still isn’t clear to me. You want to warn people…..Warn them of the very bureaucratic and lengthy processes the industry does entail? Or….

    Do you know of the East Africa Crisis by any chance that Huge Worldly organisations like our very own government are not doing very much about whilst they exploit the oil out of good old Libya? Now THERE is something worth writing and protesting about….warn me about that Harry!

    I am just dropping by to say Hi and will share later ( busy day! ) my thoughts on all the waves of posts you have had set up out
    there to raise concern over what you think is an initiative us educators and writers need ‘to be warned’ of.
    Fairly Patronising, but we’re letting that naivety go this end.

    Claire assumed I didn’t have a legal background in her blog – I do actually.
    Assumptions and insinuations – the true bearers of the lies that filter any society – wherever!

    We were alarmed at the need to post the personal details of people online and have made our very own networks aware of this type of behaviour by yourself and your team. As you know within education due to the level of privacy in practice for the sake of Children and teachers – it is key for us to make sure schools are protected from organisations who are willing to go to these lengths to damage others. Who cares if the domain name is registered at the same address of a Director??? BTW – School networks & departments are all internal and that would have been an email alert –
    blogs just don’t cut it in our world!

    I will write in more detail later, but just wanted to make sure your mates didn’t think I had done one!

    One confusing niggle in my head – you ask above in one of your questons ‘Who are you?’
    Erm….. they had Tea and Biscuits in YOUR garden?!?!?!?!?

    Until Later Dear Harry.

  • Harry

    Hi Violet, Thanks for this post. I’m not quite sure how to respond, but perhaps it’s worth saying that there is extensive concern across the internet at BWA’s offerings for writers. The BWA seems to respond to those concerns with a variety of legal threats but remarkably few answers. I’d agree with you that many of the questions which have been raised in this surge of concern are trivial – as you say, who cares if a domain name is registered to a company director?

    On the other hand, some of the questions raised are rather significant. The BWA apparently tells people that ‘partner literary agents’ have asked for help. So it must be valid to ask who those agents are. I mean, why wouldn’t anyone be proud to answer that question? Why wouldn’t you want to tell your potential customers?

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think I’ve seen a single meaningful complaint arising from the schools programme or the BWA’s charitable arm. Those things probably have glitches here and there because everything does, but I’ve not seen anything to raise an atom of real concern. But the rest of it – the Agents’ Division, the Publishing Programme, the Awards themselves – there are genuine concerns about these things, and ones that could in principle be addressed by a little openness. We continue to ask for that openness.

    I should also add that everyone involved in this campaign for openness acts with total independence. I’ve never met Claire King, for example, and didn’t even know of her until the past few days. If there’s a movement here, it’s one that has been propelled by concern not conspiracy.

  • Tony

    This is an odd reaponse. It uses the word ‘patronising’ at one stage and I can’t help the words ‘pot’, ‘kettle’ and ‘black’ coming to mind, but perhaps I’m over-reacting. I’ve been following the issue under discussion since the start, with great interest, as a ‘new’ writer – the sort of person that BWA, and indeed, WW exist to help. Hence my interest. I know nothing of BWA apart from what I have read in blogs like these. So what I ‘know’ is that BWA may be a great organisation that I could turn to for help at an appropriate time, but that some who have used their services have had issues. So before I would use them I would obviously want various questions answered to put my mind at rest.
    This is what another member of The Word Cloud aksed a little while ago. They were thinking of using BWA and wanted to know if any other members had had any dealings with them. A discussion thread grew from that with various people telling of their experiences with the company. Out of the blue, Harry informed us that he had received a letter from BWA’s legal representatives asking for the thread to be deleted, with which he complied, although they would not say which particular comments (if any) they found to be litigious.
    So Harry was forced into the discussion that Word Cloud members were having by BWA. I find it a little offensive to be reffered to as one of Harry’s ‘many minions’. He hasn’t ‘drummed up any of this. Harry, as a result of BWA’s action, has simply put together a short list of the questions that the hundreds of other new writers like myself would want to have answered before deciding whether to take up BWA’s offer of assistance with getting published. I can see nothing wrong with that at all and I’m sure BWA would much prefer to have one spokesman to respond to rather than have hundreds of email queries all asking for the same information.
    You mention the good work BWA are doing with schools, which has been mentioned before, and that’s great. It doesn’t answer any of my questions, but that’s OK. I await BWA’s answers to the questions Harry raised on our behalf and, hopefully when they come, they will allay any doubts that the prolonged delay in such a response might have caused.

  • Whisks

    Thought peeps might be interested in this:
    There are some interesting comments under the ‘Talkback’ button.

  • Wow!! Minions! 🙁 you certainly know how to win over a crowd Violet!

  • David

    Hello again Violet.

    Your style and depth of content are marvelously consistent, aren’t they?

    You are doubtless already aware of this, but I’m taking the opportunity to give a bit of a plug: a national newspaper (a proper one, too) has asked Harry for contributors to an article about this. I’m sure that insightful and positive feedback from a Strategic Academic Educator with a Legal Background will fill a much needed gap in her research.

    You can find out how to contribute at

  • Soapybubble

    Well done Harry, good to know there is someone out there keeping an eye on things

  • David

    I mentioned over on Claire King’s blog the ‘shooting oneself in the foot’ kind of victory that would be the BWA’s best possible outcome from their shotgun litigiousness in the face of reasonable questions, and drew comparison with Dr Simon Singh’s battle with the British Chiropractors Association.

    I notice this afternoon, that Dr Singh is tweeting about this very thread to his followers who number some 30,000. Among them is Ben Goldacre who has taken up the baton, linking to Harry’s blog over at the Writer’s Workshop for the benefit of his 150,000-odd followers.

    If I were responsible for PR over at the BWA, I would be wishing for a way to undo some of my organisation’s clumsier actions in the recent past.

  • Dr Singh has now said on Twitter that he has emailed the BWA to ask them why they’re doing this. I look forward to reading their reply.

    Hands up who thinks he’ll get a solicitor’s letter.

  • There are some interesting new points raised in this discussion.

  • Nicola Morgan

    Well, I’ve almost run out of patience. With every day that passes without any answers to these utterly reasonable and very important questions, my belief that the answers could possibly be adequate diminishes. It is now as small as the smallest thing I can think of. And that is very small. Indeed.

  • David

    Surely they couldn’t be that daft? Surely?

    That said, It’s only through reading Simon Singh and Ben Goldacre’s tweets (btw, isn’t it Ben who wrote to BWA? Simon retweeted Ben’s saying so I think, although I am easily confused by retweets) that I noticed a nugget of due diligence that that the BWA’s solicitors possibly ought to have uncovered before advising their client to rattle Harry’s cage.

    In their position, I’d want to be very sure of myself indeed.

  • Janetyjanet

    Violety Violety Violety

    What are we to make of you with your excessive use of punctuation and Distracting Random Capitalisations????!!!!!!

    I look forward to your promised return to this forum, when you have completed the busy day at your end, and have the time and attention to engage with this debate in a balanced, articulate and non-patronising way.

  • No, it was definitely Dr Singh who emailed the BWA:!/SLSingh/status/136428774609797121

    I do hope they respond promptly.

  • Me too.

  • I’ve posted on my blog here. There are links to the other posts I know about, all in one place. Hope it’s helpful.

  • Thank you Rachel and Whisks. It’s taken twenty-five years to become an overnight success – too useless at everything else to give up.

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  • Harry

    Whoops. Another change. The BWA got in touch with me to state, in writing, that Jeremy was incorrect in some of of the key points of his short statement above. Because I couldn’t reconcile the two opposing versions, I made the short note above, to maintain neutrality.

    Since then, I have incontrovertible evidence that the BWA lied in writing to me and that Jeremy Thompson’s statement above is true in every key particular. In short: the BWA is willing to lie even when it knows its statements are likely to come under scrutiny. It lies and lies and lies.

  • Hi Charlie,

    You are right in saying the list of BWA Publishing Programme authors is older than that on Claire’s page. I am a member of the second group, and, as such, decided to open a blog detailing the progress of the programme. This is why I have not updated the list. I must admit that this was done with some initial sceptism on my part to how the programme would pan out. However, I can say that my doubts have since turned to great enthusiasm for the project.

    We should all be encouraging attempts like this by the BWA to open up the market and encourage new voices and talent.

  • Harry

    Mark, if you’d like to blog for us at some point talking about your personal experience of the project, I’d be happy to post that as a separate article on this site. It would be great to have the other side of the story!

  • Julie-Ann Corrigan

    I knew I recognised that name!
    Sorry, but all this sounds … well, just ‘not right.’ Many aspiring writers are vulnerable, and I think it’s great the people (in the literary/consulting/publishing business) in these posts are being more than honourable. We aspiring writers appreciate it!

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  • Jenny

    I entered my book in the agent referral service on BWA and can say with no shadow of a doubt its a con. I had two emails telling my my book had potential but that they would like to help me market it further. Then I had an unsolicited phone call which after a long winded conversation about how the writing and editing of the manuscript is actually unimportant but the marketing is, got down to the “just pay us £300 and we will get your book ready for referral” line. To which I promptly told them that since I had sent in my book I had two agents request the full book. There was a stuttered pause and then the women on the phone said well when they fall through perhaps you would like to reconsider our offer.
    So two questions.
    How can a writing organization say the books not important as long as you have good marketing appeal (after offering you a marketing service)?

    And have they ever referred a book to an reputable agency or publisher?

    Finally how long till they put an injunction on me?

  • Jenny

    These comments are specific to the agent and publishers referral service, as I have not dealt with the actual competition.

  • freddie

    I was a wee bit concerned by the well upfront fee; you wouldn’t do it with any other professional consultation. A deposit, perhaps, but the full monty did not have the relaxed, ‘ we have enough interest to lose one or two wasters’ etc. Noticed a difference in timbre of voice, when the dosh was mentioned, a sort of flint in the tone. Apart from that betrayal of motive, they were sweet as anything and wish I could’ve afforded to be proved paranoid. Anyway, there are now offers to BECOME one of those consultants. Can’t see the writers for the professionals looking for writers soon. Mind you, that did sound good value, 17 hours for £425
    But then, if you want to make money, law or dentistry might be a better choice.
    As for writers writing, we just do it, anyway. I mean, we do, don’t we?

  • Hi Harry,

    I’ve just received an invitation to enter the BritWriters Awards for 2012!

    The full email (which looks professionally produced) says:

    Dear Writers, Publishers and Friends,

    National & International Submissions Deadline – March 30th 2012
    Unpublished, Self Published (£10,000 prize) and a Published Writer category.

    Click Here to Enter your work today!

    Click here for some very useful advice.

    Could you be the Brit Writers’ Awards Writer of the Year 2012?

    For Agents & Publishers

    We identify work from writers from all genres that can potentially be referred to agents or publishers. If you are an agent, publisher or literary consultancy and would like to become a Referral Partner for work submitted to the ‘Agents and Publishers Referral Service’, please click here to register for free by completing the enquiry form.

    Are You A Published Writer, Editor or PR Expert?
    Register Now for the popular ‘Today’s Publishing Consultant Training’!

    This intensive training course will provide you with skills to develop further in the Publishing Industry as a specialist advisory consultant to writers. If you are already a writer, business consultant, teacher or trainer in another industry with transferable skills and fancy something new, this could be a career change, a great way of subsidising your income or simply to gain a deeper insight into the industry. Click here to book your place on Today’s Publishing Consultant Training – Application Form

    Brit Writers is built on partnerships and is not publically funded so we’re always looking for forward-thinking individuals and organisations to help us fulfill our objectives and to grow with us. We are looking for:

    Sponsors for Awards Categories for the 2012 Brit Writers Awards Ceremony
    Strategic and delivery partners for national and International projects
    Writing group advocates to encourage all communities to write
    Schools Territory Partners to support local schools, teachers, parents and children
    Click here to become a Partner today!

    For partnership/sponsorship enquiries, please email

    Kind regards

    Nathalie Banks
    Brit Writers Support


    Reading through this thread it looks like this was never resolved last year…and so it goes on again.

    All the best,