BWA Statement – full text

I promised that I would print in full any statement presented by the BWA. I have just this minute received one and the full text is reproduced below. I’ll comment at length – and I hope for the last time – on all this tomorrow. HB.

From the Brit Writers:

Brit Writers has decided to withdraw its legal action against Writers’ Workshop, Claire King and Jane Smith. We felt compelled into this course of action because of the accusation that the Prime Minister’s letter of support to Brit Writers was fraudulent. Subsequently, this accusation has now been withdrawn for which we are grateful. We would further request that the accusation that Brit Writers is a ‘scam’ organisation also should be withdrawn.

In keeping with the spirit of generosity and good will Brit Writers are more than happy to answer any questions from anyone; however we refuse to indulge in internet mudslinging particularly since we are sensitive to the interests of our partners and writers.

Brit Writers works with multiple organisations from a broad based spectrum of backgrounds. We work with these organisations to further the best interests of our writers and partners; however we do not feel it is necessary to go into the exact mechanics of how our aims are achieved. Brit Writers is a private company and the way it conducts its business is aimed at the interests of its clients and the successes and results are self evident and in the public sphere.

Brit Writers is committed to bringing forth literary talent from undiscovered sources, which we hope will lead to a new culture within the world of publishing. As a part of this ethos we fully believe in freedom of speech and have supported many unfashionable and potentially controversial writers. As we know the world of publishing is rapidly changing and needs new forces to re-energise it. This may seem to outsiders and the establishment as being unusual and innovative and therefore may lead to confusion. However, please be rest assured Brit Writers is fully committed, not only to promoting literary gems within the mainstream publishing industry, but also we are fully mindful of the ethos that we have previously espoused, in that, writers who have been outside of the mainstream published industry are given a fair chance to prove themselves within the literary world. We are particularly proud of our previous winners and published authors who are well on their way to being read across the world, whereas without Brit Writers they may have remained as unheard voices.

As far as agents and publishers giving a fair chance to unpublished and unsolicited manuscripts goes, our experience strongly suggests, and we think most writers would agree, that writers in this category are not taken seriously or even given fair consideration. That is why we were inundated with submissions for our agent’s referral pilot and, in fact, most agents and publishers do not wish to plough through numerous slush piles and therefore value the service we provide them.

Brit Writers, despite its best and most sincere efforts accepts that there may have been systems in place that led to some lack of clarity in some processes. However, we are always willing to learn and take advice and we would invite comments and suggestions from any interested and concerned parties, so that we may improve our quality of care to our writers.

Brit Writers will, despite these recent misunderstandings, continue to work in the best interests of writers. We also wish that all concerned parties in the publishing world should continue to cooperate and work together to build a sustainable and ever-growing publishing industry. We hope that this will lead to more people, old and young alike, irrespective of background to read and write, which has been the main goal of Brit Writers from its very inception.

To this end we would invite and welcome organisations and writers to get in touch with us and discuss any issues, so that they may help us to discover ways in which we may support them.

Brit Writers firmly believes in this ethos and we invite all to the table to work together to help build a cohesive, expanding and rewarding future in the world of publishing.

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  • I am delighted to see that Brit Writers (BW) are withdrawing their various ‘legal actions’. Sadly, when it comes to answering the questions put to it by various forums, I am reminded of Goethe ‘Yet here I stand poor fool what more, not one wit wiser than before.’
    I don’t recall anywhere seeing accusations that BW is a ‘scam’ but some very simple questions have been already asked and the statements given to date fail to provide any real information and invite further questions.
    I am sure BW believe that answering questions in the way it has is in ‘the interests of its clients and the successes and results are self evident and in the public sphere’ but I think many of the people on the various forums, with considerable experience both of business in general and publishing in particular, would have to disagree.
    As an example, a simple question on the BWA website such as ‘Who are the judges for the Brit Writers’ Award Unpublished 2011’ is answered currently as follows:
    ‘Our judges are high-profile people from publishing, media and many other professional backgrounds. We don’t have the definitive line-up yet, but for an idea of the diversity and calibre of our judges.’ [sic] By contrast the judges for next years’ 2012 Bristol Prize are listed on the website along with their biographies and links to further information about the judges and their published work. I am sure the ‘man on the Clapham Omnibus’ would say the latter answers the question fully and the former leaves something to be desired.
    Most people would agree with the high aspirations of BW and BW has the right to run its business as it sees fit but, without clear answers to the questions already posed, it is difficult to see how BW will avoid further media scrutiny and attract wholehearted endorsement from the community it seeks to engage with.

  • Anon

    I am confused. I didn’t see it claimed anywhere an “accusation that the Prime Minister’s letter of support to Brit Writers was fraudulent”.

    I saw in one of the comments in response to one of these blog entries a commenter (not the original blogger) expressed the opinion that the letter might mean little, since the commenter was of the opinion that a politician would endorse anything that looked OK on the surface if they thought it would “look good” for them and garner votes. That’s a far cry from claiming that it was “fraudulent” (and again, this comment did not come from any of the three people threatened with legal action).

    Neither have I seen any of the three people who were being threatened with legal action call BWA a “scam operation”.

    This whole thing is so surreal, I wonder if there is some kind of cultural disconnect at play? From where I’m sitting, their recalcitrance looks like incompetence whether it’s coming from an incompetent well-meaning organization or an incompetent scam (since both types of organization would need behave in a more reasonable manner in order to gain trust).

    Their behavior looks so nonsensical to me that I’m wondering if there are somehow a completely different set of cultural expectations in play? And thus the criteria on which I am interpreting their action is completely different than the criteria on which they are choosing it.

    It’s reading to me like “well meaning organization with no clue” rather than “scam operation with no clue”. But either way, they are clearly operating on an entirely different set of “clues”. I’m sure what they are doing seems logical and reasonable to them. But I’m completely baffled by their behavior.

  • Anon

    Actually, I think I can phrase this more clearly and concisely than I did in my initial post.

    Their behavior is to me, (and to many others), utterly baffling — their refusal to answer questions, and the obvious offense they are taking at being asked. It makes no sense whatsoever, regardless of what they are trying to accomplish.

    It’s not how I would expect either a well-meaning operation or a scam to operate. The behavior is utterly inexplicable.

    Behavior that seems to me to be so persistently unreasonable indicates they are operating on a completely different framework for what “reasonable” means than I am, a framework with which I am utterly unfamiliar.

    One possible explanation for such a deep disconnect would be cultural differences, with both groups interpreting the other’s behavior through their own cultural assumptions.

    It’s the only way I can make any sense at all of how they are taking such obvious offense at what seem to me to be perfectly reasonable queries.

  • Rachael Dunlop

    I think they have highlighted the Prime Minster’s letter issue as it is the only thing that could lend some credibility to their threat of legal action. The only problem is, it was barely mentioned in any of the online discussions, and only (that I saw) to highlight that the date was wrong for when Gordon Brown was in power. And mentioned in a comment, not the main body of a blog (as far as I remember, correct me if I’m wrong). It would have been fine if they had asked for a comment that specifically accused them of fraud to be removed (in my opinion), but that is as far as it should have gone.

    All the questions that have been asked of BWA remain unanswered. This is just like all their other public statements: Don’t be hating on us just cuz we is different.

  • This looks like absolute rubbish to me. Did they actually have “legal action” in hand. Or was it just a nasty solicitor’s letter. Date on former PM’s letter is a matter of fact, as is his status at the time of writing, and it is entirely credible that Brown signed off a letter as PM after he left office.

  • I’ll ignore the comment about them ‘believing in freedom of speech’ as it’s really too easy to pick up on and I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees the irony of the statement in light of recent events.

    When I first listed Brit Writers on my comps calendar, I was under the distinct impression that it was a non-profit making organisation. I have no real idea why I thought this, but I think the company name Brit Writers, and the Brit Writers Awards, along with sponsorship from the Arts Council and other places leant me towards that way of thinking. So I’m rather surprised to hear that they now say they’re a private company. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but I do think they’ve gone a long way to presenting themselves as a government backed Arts inititiative rather than as a private company. So assuming many people thought as I did, it’s hardly surprising that people were a little suspicious to suddenly be offered authors’ services.

    I’m glad they’re no longer holding the threat of legal action over you, Jane and Claire, Harry. None of you did anything wrong as far as I could see.

  • Rachael Dunlop

    I agree, Sally. When they first launched, it seemed to be a philanthropic endeavour. I assumed the ‘entrepeneur’ behind it was putting in his own money and doing A Good Thing. There is nothing wrong with being a private company that offers services to writers, but it is the disparity between how they present themselves and what they do that has prompted this whole hoo-haa.

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one who got that impression, Rachel, as it could quite easily have been my mistake.

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  • Anon

    I was promised many things with the BWA. They never happened. Glowing e mails mean nothing and nothing is what the BWA is.