Claire King

Author
Claire King Edited Choices (10 of 10)

Brit Writers 3 – The plot thickens

Posted on: November 7th, 2011 by Claire - 247 Comments

As you know, I’ve been active in discussions about the Brit Writers recent ventures into a ‘publishing programme’ and their ‘agents division.’ But so far we have been unable to get any information straight from the horses mouth.

I thought perhaps that was going to change this weekend – Brit Writers started following me on Twitter – so I asked them if they would be willing to answer some questions I had about their organisation. They said of course, and asked me to email them.

So I did.

Please read the questions and their response, and if you have any thoughts, add a comment or email me if you would prefer.

Here are the questions I sent:

Dear Brit Writers,

I’m emailing you as you suggested on Twitter, to get your answers to some questions that are bothering many of us. I am sure that it is simply a lack of information, rather than anything to be worried about, so I look forward to your responses.
1) BWA in general
a) Who are you? Do people in your organisation come from the writing and publishing world? Could we have more transparency on this?
b) What is the status of BWA? Besides the competition and the community work there seem to be a number of ‘for profit’ spin-offs. Do you publish accounts?
2) Legal action.*
I understand that Harry Bingham has had to take down a blog post and a forum discussion on his WordCloud site after you threatened him with legal action. I’d seen both of those postings before they were removed, and whilst I saw plenty of people voicing concerns about BWA, I had not picked up on any defamatory statements. Could you please say what your concerns were in this matter? As you know there are also discussions on my own blog, which as far as I’m concerned are healthy internet debates about something we are unable to get clear information on, but if you are being libelled then of course we need to know.

*Note – This question in direct response to this blog post on another website:
Brit Writers Limited
Published by: Harry on 4th Nov 2011 | View all blogs by Harry A short note to state that I have received a letter from Brit Writers’ solicitors requesting that I remove all references to the BWA from this website. I have therefore done so. I request that all Word Clouders refrain from mentioning the BWA in any way on this site. Any new posts or comments will be removed.I reget having to take this step, but I am being threatened with legal action so have no sensible alternative. We continue to wish all writers entering the BWA Awards the best of luck with their submissions.Please DO NOT reply to this post. Sorry!
3) Brit Writers’ Publishing Scheme
This is something we are having trouble getting information on, which is unusual in the world of social media, blogs and so on. Could you please tell us, as your authors come to the end of their year, how this scheme is going? Are there any successes out there? Has it not worked out with others? Will you be doing it again in 2012?
4) Brit Writers’ Agents Division
a) Please could you name some of the agents who have asked to work with you on this?
b) It seems that many of those who submitted work to you for consideration have been told their synopsis needs work, and you have proposed consultancy services, at a fee, to fix that. Who, in your organisation is responsible for this advice? Do they have the relevant qualifications? Who/which organisations are then going to provide the (paid for) consultancy on those manuscripts and synopses?
5) Passing Off
Are you aware that someone has posted on Jane Smith’s blog defending BWA and attacking Jane using my name (Claire King)? Clearly this is a criminal offence as it it is an attempt to pass off as me in my professional capacity as an author. We are looking into contacting the person via their IP address, but in the meantime what advice would you give to this individual?
Thank you in advance for taking the time to respond to our questions. Are you happy for your responses to be posted on my blog?

And here is their response:

Dear Claire

I’m afraid that this matter is now  being investigated and dealt with by our solicitors and they will be contacting you.

Sincerely

Corporate & Legal

Brit Writers

 

10th November, update:

BWA’s solicitors have contacted me by email, requesting that I remove this post and all other references to BWA from my website. 

I have taken legal advice, and responded to them. Having reviewed all three of my posts which refer to BWA, I do not see any statement contained therein that would be regarded as defamatory.  Comments made by third parties on these posts seem to me to constitute fair comment or honest opinion. 

I am therefore not proposing to remove any of the posts at this time.
However I do take allegations of defamation seriously, and have therefore outlined a number of things I would be prepared to do, including consider posting a statement from Brit Writers Ltd. on my website.
Thank you to everyone who has commented so far. 

247 Responses

  1. Nettie says:

    Goodness me! If they had nothing to hide they wouldn’t be getting so litigious. I personally wouldn’t go near them with a barge pole. Thank you, Claire, for bringing this to our attention.

  2. Sherri says:

    Blimey!
    So they’ll bring in solicitors when you’re simply asking for information? Didn’t realise that was against the law.

  3. Kate Boardman says:

    WOW! What a response. I see nothing but valid questions being asked. Nothing inferred or defamatory.
    Rearrange these words Smell I Rat A
    :-(

  4. Yes, what Nettie said! I’m not sure at all what they need to investigate. You just asked them some questions! Can they possibly think you’ve done something illegal? Is it illegal to talk about an organisation?

    You may want to talk to Mumsnet, Claire, because you may or may not remember they had a bust up with Gina Ford and had to stop people talking about her on there for similar reasons.

  5. janetyjanet says:

    If in doubt, hide behind the lawyers – says it all really…

  6. Orna Ross says:

    Ye Gods! I think we’re going to see a lot more of this kind of thing… There’s a lot of people making money out people’s dreams of writing success — thanks for your efforts on this, Claire, on everyone’s behalf.

  7. Beyond words. Shocking. You are aware I assume, Claire, that having supported the organisation and competition in 2010 Writing Magazine withdrew their support in 2011. The magazine stated that for legal reasons they were unable to disclose why.

    • claire says:

      Thanks Laura, I was aware of the withdrawal of support but not of the ‘legal reasons’.

      There’s a lot of legal shutting up going on.

      • I just wanted to clarify that we did give our reasons for withdrawing our support for BWA in the February issue of Writing Magazine.
        A combination of factors (including the judging process and lack of transparency – with us, their supposed partners) made us uneasy, culminating in the introduction of the Your Book Your Way and Publishing Programme schemes. I am pleased we made that decision when we did.

        You’ve clearly done nothing wrong Claire, and your questions to BWA are exactly what I would like to know the answers to. Hiding behind lawyers and dodging perfectly reasonable questions is not doing their reputation any favours.

  8. martha says:

    Be interesting to see if they respond. As regards solicitors, this is probably standard protocol since you referred to a couple of potentially litigious issues.

    Re: who they are, and their accounts, you can access public information files on the company — Brit Writers Ltd Company No. 06890917
    The company and website were set up by Zareen Ahmed. (See WHOIS and company details are available at Companies House. )

    I’d be interested to know who their partners are — agents, judges, publishers etc; I haven’t been following their bulletins but their website is strong on marketing and awards with little information accessible on the folk involved.

    It will be interesting to see how this progresses. They’re still quite new. I had them down as ‘one to watch’ if they were still around in a few years’ time. That, in itself, will be interesting.

    • claire says:

      Zareen Ahmed seems to be a really interesting business woman who does a lot of good work. That’s why I’m surprised all this is such hard work.

      • I met Zareen in January this year. Brit Writers were offering people a chance to discuss – on a one-to-one basis – where to take their writing next. She looked at the novel I had self published and the first three chapters of another novel and appeared to be very enthusiastic about both. She kept the novel to show the ‘main man’ who apparently ‘liked it a lot’. They wanted me on this year’s publishing programme, and the apparent enthusiasm was encouraging. I liked Zareen and at the time was convinced by her. However, after seeking advice, I turned down the offer and found it interesting that I didn’t hear another word despite all that enthusiasm.

        • This is fascinating and very worrying! Vanity publishing will always feed on writers’ dreams and insecurities, but, however glossy and impressive their website, you can always tell because there’s a tab or heading that says “packages” or something similar. So most of them are honest. Sort of. However, Brit Writers are just another vanity publisher- plain to see if you are looking from the outside, and not trembling with your precious MS clutched to your bosom. As many of your commentators say, they are obviously doing something they don’t want us to know about, or they wouldn’t hide behind their solicitors’ skirts. CAN they do anything? I can’t see anything anyone has said which is derogatory. Unless me saying they are vanity publishers is derogatory? Keep up the very good work Claire. I don’t think you should remove your post. Writers need to know what they are getting into!

  9. Debi Alper says:

    How ironic – and sad – that an organisation whose stated aim is to encourage writing should be seen to stifle debate in this way.

  10. Jane Smith says:

    Claire, well done for putting this correspondance up for all to read. I hope that the BWA comes to its senses and answers your perfectly reasonable questions instead of lawyering up: it would be far more appropriate.

  11. Bloody hell. Good luck with this, Claire. All looks very odd indeed.

  12. Wow, this is just nuts. I am embarrassed that I was ever associated with them as a judge, never again. Why not just provide information? Why the paranoia? Taking legal action to stop anyone mentioning them is a surefire way to promote their authors and their books, eh?!

    • claire says:

      Thanks, Tania. It’s all very baffling. And doesn’t reflect at all well. Am I allowed to say that? Oh I don’t know what I’m allowed to say anymore…

    • Yes, Tania. It’s mad, isn’t it? I was a finalist in the 2010 novel category and while the prize giving event was chaotic I believed their intentions were good. They had so many great people (like yourself) associated with the competition. Very sad indeed. Why be all cloak and daggers? Just answer the perfectly reasonable questions!

  13. Irene Mathias says:

    So, they invite you to e-mail them and, after you submit your questions they tell you that “this” matter is being dealt with by their Solicitor. Which matter does the “this” refer to? Perhaps the “this” means “all of your questions”? Claire, it will be interesting to see how this pans out. Personally I think they are putting the first nail (or is this the second nail) in their own coffin. I for one, and I’m sure there are many more out there who feel the same, will not be giving them my £10′s worth of entries in 2012.

    • claire says:

      Thanks Irene. All writers I’m sure would love to see a such a high prize writing competition as a regular feature on the calendar. But only if it is above board and correctly run. We just want to ensure our (limited) money is spent wisely. Right?

  14. Hi Claire

    Fascinated by this whole thing! I linked to it over on my blog, if that’s okay? Good luck …

  15. Gina Parsons says:

    Oh my goodness. This is awful and a real concern. Why would they dodge questions if there’s nothing wrong/suspicious? I used to think BWA was a good thing but became concerned when hearing (as mentioned above) Writing Magazine withdrew their support. I really hope you get somewhere with this because those questions need answering.

  16. [...] update: It looks like Claire King has also been threatened with legal action. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  17. Janet O'Kane says:

    I can’t believe they’re reacting so badly to perfectly reasonable questions. Madness!

  18. Rachael Dunlop says:

    Well, this seems to me just foolishness on BWA’s part. In what way have you or the posters on the Word Cloud done or said anything that could be actionable by lawyers?

    What part of your email has been referred to their solicitors. How can a private email be considered for legal action? Are they even threatening you with legal action? Yet again BWA are being vague – even while trying to scare people into silence.

    • claire says:

      It’s terribly vague. But I suspect when I do hear from their solicitors there will be threats to not say what they say, if you see what I mean. If of course there are threats. Which at the moment there are not, just regretfulness and litigiousness.

  19. Bang goes my quaint and romantic idea that everybody has the right to speak freely and ask questions.

  20. Rowley Files, QC says:

    I find myself reminded of the case of Arkell v.Pressdram

    For those for whom this might be legal arcana, I qote from Wikipedia. I hope they don’t mind:

    An unlikely piece of British legal history occurred in what is now referred to as the “case” of Arkell v. Pressdram (1971). The plaintiff was the subject of an article relating to illicit payments, and the magazine had ample evidence to back up the article. Arkell’s lawyers wrote a letter which concluded: “His attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of your reply.” The magazine’s response was, in full: “We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell. We note that Mr Arkell’s attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.”

  21. Irene Mathias says:

    @Rowley Files, QC
    Hahahahahaha – priceless. :0)

  22. Lol Barnes says:

    Seems a little odd that people associated with writing, and therefore knowing the legal ins and outs of the written word, are being threatened with legal action for asking perfectly reasonable and normal questions, in order to clarify things for other people who might want to enter the competitions. There is no way I would enter one of their competitions now, having seen their replies, and I suspect a lot of other writers will feel the same, so they may have shot themselves in the foot but their quickness to resort to litigation rather than giving simple answers to anyone who asks.

  23. Pete says:

    I think questions are just fair ‘due diligence’. Quite intrigued to see that a business has built up a Corporate and Legal Affairs Dept in such a short time. I’d have thought a PR dept might be less expensive?

  24. Serena says:

    Perhaps they think this will add to their intrigue?

    It is rather unfortunate that I see a lot of negative comments about the Brit Writers on the internet, from disappointed competition entrants, ex-judges and people who don’t appear to have any knowledge other than what they have gleaned from various forums.

    It is also unfortunate that the people behind the Brit Writers, rather than take time out to reply to people’s concerns, reply promptly to enquiries or improve their actions, seem to threaten people with legal action – that only makes those already suspicious people more suspicious, and adds fuel to the fire that is spreading across the world wide web.

    From what I know, Brit Writers are pushing boundaries of publishing, writing and literacy – they are just doing it in a very bad way. Climbing to the top is great, it’s just not so great when you see how many people they’re trampling over to get there!

    • claire says:

      I fully agree with you Serena, it has never been my intention to put down any organisation. What started as a tiny question in 2010, as an entrant, on how the competition was run – the delays, the judging process etc – has simply snowballed as questions were never answered and more questions arose. So today I am not along in finding it odd that not only are questions still unanswered, but that solicitors are in some way becoming involved.

  25. Serena says:

    Pete, I tend to follow the old saying “If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is”. I think that could well be applied to their various departments!

  26. Charlie says:

    Thanks Claire, and Jane & Harry, for looking out for us aspiring writers.

    I’m on the Word Cloud regularly and there was nothing in the post justifying the BWA’s threats. I hope you know that many of us budding writers have seen the articles raising legitimate concerns about the BWA in the blogosphere. I’ll be steering clear, even if an innocent explanation for the bullying turns up, because I am allergic to people who try to intimidate dissenters.

    I do think it’s in the BWA’s interests to answer your questions. Hope your post can stay up so others can learn what to ask before submitting their work.

  27. Violet B says:

    Claire,

    I have been following your blogs on BWA with interest as I am a member of the initiative.
    I became aware of them through the LEA ( Local Education Authority ) I contract with due to the work they do with schools. Mostly because we liked that they had:
    * free membership to all special needs schools and any school who cannot afford the 100 pound annual fee, which includes lesson plans etc for teachers, parents and the child
    * they’re doing more to increase literacy levels without any government funding than most funded programmes.

    Always good to get a well rounded view of anything that interests the self I think and particularly where our children are concerned – a totally impartial and professional view here I must add as I do not come from a writing or publishing background.

    Do correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that Defamation is the ‘false and unjustified injury of the character of another’ – be it an individual or an organisation.
    Its fairly clear why BWA are taking the action as described where it is clearly deemed by them that what others write is an ‘unjustified injury of thier character.’
    Rather than providing a balanced/diplomatic opinion, you too are posting blogs which scream ‘watch out!’ – without clear evidence and just mere speculation,
    you are opening yourself up to the very act of defamation. I hope that helps as it’s not that suprising to me that you may face this action.

    My intrigue in reading your blogs lies in the want of knowing what your intention is with this? Do you know something we don’t hence the probing?
    The danger is, I am afraid you may be speculating too openly about what in essence is a creative writing initiave like so many others out there.
    I have seen regular updates on thier numerous streams about some of those being published. So, no secrets there really.
    They have always seemed fairly transparent in what they offer, whether free or not – but sharing business models and the nuts and bolts to new initiatives would be very naive, don’t you think? I like what they do and the progress they have made. We think end result for our pupils as educators.

    But I go back to your intention of writing what you do, as although it was intriguing at first, I have come on today and wondered ‘What’s the point of this fairly loose forum?’. I’m not learning anything new or that which is deemed as ‘of public interest’ here.

    Please do clarify your intention if you can – and be careful not to ‘defame’ when you do. ;)

    • claire says:

      Violet,
      I am not a lawyer, and I suspect neither are you. But I do have legal advice available should I need it, so let’s not worry about defamation since no-one has accused me of it.
      Most people commenting here are well aware what my intention is.
      I would love to have balanced opinion on this site. I would love to have the Brit Writers opinion. *I have invited it.*
      All I have posted above is that they said they would answer some questions I had, and instead it has become a matter referred to solicitors.
      Open speculation is called freedom of speech. That is a good thing, no?

    • David says:

      It’s good of you to come along and share some positive information about the BWA, Violet.

      You don’t actually say so directly, but I infer that you say that you are a customer of BWA working in a special needs school, and that they provide you with lesson plans to contribute to your literacy curriculum. Would that be right?

      I would like to hear more about how “they’re doing more to increase literacy levels without any government funding than most funded programmes” – not only would that speak highly of the BWA, but also it would imply that many (or most) of the government funded literacy initiatives that the taxpayer funds (like, for example, the national curriculum) need review.

      I would say that any organisation that makes a positive contribution to teaching should be applauded. I also feel it worth mentioning that, in my opinion, creativity will be the single most important attribute of school leavers in the immediate future, and more so as time goes on. Organisations, therefore, that make a positive contribution to the encouragement of creativity in education are a Good Thing.
      I don’t see anyone here, or elsewhere in the blogosphere, suggesting otherwise.

      I also feel that it would be a sad thing if any organisation that was genuinely capable of making a positive impact in this arena were to fall foul of its own clumsy PR or damaging industrial age protectionism.

      I don’t know what you mean by Its fairly clear why BWA are taking the action as described where it is clearly deemed by them that what others write is an ‘unjustified injury of thier character.’(sic.) Do you mean that it is clear to you that something that someone has said is clearly and unjustifiably injurious of the BWA’s character? If so, what?

      My understanding of the UK defamation laws is limited. It is gleaned from Wikipedia, legal sites, some freedom of expression lobby groups, and some interesting discussions that I’ve had about them with lawyer acquaintances as a result of this issue surfacing in my circles.

      Saying “National Foobaa Inc(*) are a bunch of poo-poo heads” would be defamation if it were said within earshot of someone else, and that a reasonable person would be likely to think less of National Foobaa Inc as a result (i.e. reasonable people should not already hold that opinion, and the manner of its expression should be persuasive to them).

      Asking “Why do National Foo Inc want to charge their customers 1800€, and what do their customers get for that money?” is not defamation. Neither is “I asked National Baa Inc what their customers get for their money and they refused to answer, which makes me wonder if they represent good value”. Nor, come to that is “Geoff and I have been questioning National Bile Inc’s value for money, and they have threatened to sue us”.

      All of which interesting stuff fails to address what to me is the fundamental point: why is the Brit Writers Awards not answering questions that are being put to it by the industry in which it works (normally companies love the chance to crow about their products to their potential customers), and why are they seeking to stifle such inquisitiveness with legal action?

      Accepting (even inviting) challenge to their products in social media and, by talking about those products, proving them to be sound is PR gold. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere I’d be delighted to help with this kind of thing :)

      In the true spirit of the pyrrhic victory, it seems clear to me that the greatest injury to their character would come from visibly seeking to quash discussion about them with writs. (cf. Simon Singh and the British Chiropractors Association and the ‘McLibel Case’ – McDonald’s Restaurants v Morris & Steel)

      You say that Claire’s posts are neither balanced nor diplomatic, while it seems to me that she is simply reporting that she has some questions for the BWA, what those questions are, and what the BWA’s response has been. “I am sure that it is simply a lack of information, rather than anything to be worried about, so I look forward to your responses” is not the language of lambast.

      In previous posts, where she has had concerns she has detailed what those concerns are, and why she has them, and has invited the BWA to comment. Where the BWA has commented, she has published their comment in full. Would ‘The Daily Mail’, as a random example, do the same? How long did it take for your comment in favour of the BWA to pass this site’s moderation process? Would it have been as quick if this site sought to injure the BWA? I find it difficult to see where the balance is lacking – can you clarify what you mean? If you feel that Claire’s reporting of the facts screams ‘watch out!’ to you, wouldn’t that have rather more to do with the facts than with the reporting of them?
      You warn Claire of the danger inherent in speculating too openly about a creative writing initiative. For my part, I feel that speculation is essential before I engage in any scheme that proposes to charge me money, don’t you? What speculation do you feel is ‘too open’, exactly, and what danger precisely do you foresee?
      You say that you have come on to this forum today and that you don’t as yet understand its intent. Given that you are an educator, I find that surprising. The blog post to which you have commented sets out its intent in its first paragraph: to seek information from the horse’s mouth about the Brit Writers Awards ‘publishing programme’ and its ‘agents division’. The questions and the response to them are then given verbatim, and they all seem quite clear to me – both prima facie and in their intent. Which parts do you feel require clarification, specifically?

      I apologise for waffling, again, Violet, but I would love to engage you in healthy constructive debate about the merits of the BWA’s initiatives. I would have liked the opportunity to engage directly with them, but seeing as that looks unlikely, perhaps you’d be a valuable advocate for their products?

    • Pete says:

      I am pleased you find working with BWA rewarding. I did look on their website for information re their schools programme but couldn’t find anything. It seems a lost opportunity. Perhaps you could tell us more about how you became involved with them, how they work with the schools you’re involved with and the results you’ve got?
      As an aspiring author interested in getting my work published, I am interested in understanding the potential relationship between BWA in its various enterprises and myself. I’ve been trying to find the answer on several writing forums. Here’s just a few questions I have.
      Established writing competitions are very clear about how entries will be judged, how any winning entries will be published and the ownership of rights. How does that work with BWA given a winning author was surprised (and delighted) to find she was being published? Alternatively if I pay to enter, am I free to win the prize without entering into a publishing contract or any other kind of relationship?
      If I entered the writers development programme, what would I get in return? Who would be helping me and how? What is their track record in publishing / business? Where would my work be published and by who? What success have the first 15 writers had, where have they been published, with what agents are they working?
      These are pretty simple but fundamental contract questions which any writer should be asking and which could be answered by representatives of BWA on various writing forums such as this site and Wordcloud. Perhaps a more efficient way would be to put answers on their website and then refer people to the appropriate sections.
      I think I would speak for most people when I say that I would welcome any scheme which promotes literacy and writing talent providing it is well run and in a way that is beneficial to all parties, in particular not offering false hope to writers who are simply not good enough (of which I may be one!). Indeed I would do my best to promote it.
      I have no reason to question BWA as a legitimate operation but equally the information / answers I have seen from BWA on their website/ various writers forums and their manner of engagement with writers etc hasn’t convinced me to take part or endorse them as yet.
      I do hope that BWA consider the wisdom of the use of solicitors as a matter of course. Any company is entitled to take legal action should it feel that it has been wronged but they would need to balance their chances of winning (?) and any potential damages (small) vs the resultant scrutiny on the company and key individuals by both the mainstream press and the courts.

  28. David says:

    First off, a word of calm: we can’t take their action against Harry Bingham, and “this matter is now being investigated and dealt with by our solicitors”, and add them together to make “Claire is being threatened with legal action”.

    Their reply, perhaps carefully, doesn’t contain any real information at all.

    We don’t know which of the several matters that Claire raised with them, for example, ‘this matter’ is. We note, of course, that they don’t answer *any* of the questions that they invited, ‘this matter’ aside. That looks like a lost opportunity to talk positively to an interested audience about what they do. Many marketers would rather like that.

    “They will be contacting you” might be a benign promise, after all, rather than a veiled threat.

    I am not a lawyer, so I have to imagine – for the sake of argument – that it could be that the BWA’s solicitors have ascertained that one of their employees was “passing themeselves off” as Claire in some other forum and advised them that such an offense – should it come to light – may put the BWA in poor light (especially if they had in any way condoned it): they *could*, under such circumstances, be contacting Claire to apologise formally for such behaviour and putting in place the amends to ensure that it doesn’t blow up in their faces.

    We just don’t know. As yet.

    The BWA have however made Claire a promise, and I’m sure that we will find out sooner or later.

    What we do know is that now that the industrial age is behind us, and the information age is in full swing, such Dark Satanic Mill Owner behaviour will do its author far more harm than good.

    This is the age of Social Media, I need hardly tell you lot, and it’s misuse can break an organisation as readily as its adept use can make one.

    I fear that the BWA are victims of some rather passé thinking somewhere in thier organisation, and I would urge them to seek help in turning this sort of thing around before it bites them in the bottom.

    I would like to think that there is some noble intent at the heart of their mission, and it would be a pity if that became lost to greed, vitriol or an over-reaching lust for control.

    Successful organisations now, and in the future, know that it is dialogue, not dictate that will win the day. Check out Dell, for example, or Ford, or Cisco, or Ben and Jerries, or any one of hundreds of companies who are good at this kind of thing.

    You can throw as many writs at the Cloud as you like, but Social Media will happen about you whether you like it or not.

    Far better to step up and influence the conversation positively, than to try vainly to stifle it, or hurl invective from the wings.

    These days, everyone can *see* what one is up to. The only real answer is to be up to something genuinely good, and to tell people all about it.

    I’d be delighted to consult the BWA in such matters, if they’d like. For a fee, of course.

    From a legal point of view, on the other hand, it is my understanding that the law *does* allow reasoned debate of matters like these, including the questioning of a company’s products and motivations, and that the legal profession takes a dim view of – and action against – those who would seek to abuse the law to intimidate people who are not in breach of it.

    Oh dear, I appear to have waffled a bit. Sorry about that.

    • claire says:

      Thanks David, for your considered response on this. As you say, as yet I have not been threatened with legal action. All I know was that when Harry was, suddenly the blogs and discussions had to be removed. So I’m delighted that this post is being well viewed, just in case I too need to take it down in the coming days.

      We will see soon enough. I hope that the solicitors getting in touch is benign, and merely legally thought out responses to the questions asked.

    • Pete says:

      David,

      I’m sure many of us would be prepared to offer well meaning advice to BWA . However, given the circumstances here, I should advise anyone not to do so in any professional capacity without the appropriate professional indemnity insurance.

  29. Imran Siddiq says:

    All I will say is that I am disgusted by the actions of BW

  30. Amanda Smith says:

    These are mostly assumptions until you hear back from the legals. Good luck with it all.

  31. Hey Claire,

    It is a little concerning that they refuse to enter into a dialogue. I’ve dealt with several organisations including Harry’s Cloud and all have been friendly and transparent.

    But i do feel that there has been a degree of over reacting on both sides – For instance your accusations of a criminal offence for pretending to be you. I saw the post on Jane’s Blog and, although i haven’t checked this morning to be 100%, there was nothing there that made me think they were trying to be you, they simply had the same name.

    A quick search on facebook says there are more than 5000 FB users in the UK called Claire King – I thought it was pretty poor show to start posting ip addresses on twitter in a response to this. However, if i misread and they have plainly and deliberately tried to pass themselves off as you then this would be serious and extremely dumb on their part.

    It seems the BWA are a really contentious company and they do seem to be very concerned about anyone looking very closely at them – that is enough to keep me away from dealing with them. But as someone said above, this drawing of solicitors ‘like a pistol’ will just drive more people further away, especially in the writing world which is a very friendly place (among authors i mean – not when trying to get published! lol)

    I think as long as what we write/blog is fair and balanced then we cannot be touched by the long hand of the BWA solicitors – I was disappointed that Jane took down a post a few days ago as i thought it was just an opposing opinion which did edge on being a little personal, so i understand her upset, but if we want BWA to be transparent the argument has to balanced on our side too – I felt that the post Jane removed did more damage to the BWA argument than any i had seen (before this one about solicitors) the comment was just petty and i tweeted Jane urging her to leave it be. It stank of a BWA employee trying to strike back.

    Anyhooo, that’ll be my tuppence for the day. I’ll watch the blog with interest and see what comes of their promise – i suspect it may well be not a lot. ;-)

    Your in writing

    James

    • claire says:

      Hello James, and thank you for your very reasonable comment. Of course you are right, it is perfectly feasible that there is another Claire King who is a writer, a member of Authonomy and interested in this debate. I get emails meant for other Claire Kings in the UK all the time. I guess I was feeling sensitive after the strangeness of blog posts being taken down under legal threats, and some unusual activity on my own blog around the time that comment was posted.
      When I’ve seen comments posted by Imran, Zareen and other BWA employees I find that encouraging. I wish there were more two way dialogue. After all, social media, blogs etc make it so easy and quick.
      All the best.

    • Jane Smith says:

      James, you wrote,

      “A quick search on facebook says there are more than 5000 FB users in the UK called Claire King – I thought it was pretty poor show to start posting ip addresses on twitter in a response to this. However, if i misread and they have plainly and deliberately tried to pass themselves off as you then this would be serious and extremely dumb on their part.”

      I felt very strongly that the person who posted as Claire King on my blog, whose IP address I made public, was trying to pass him or herself off as THIS Claire King, and was trying to cause trouble in so doing. If I was wrong then I apologise wholeheartedly: but I really don’t think I was.

      “I was disappointed that Jane took down a post a few days ago as i thought it was just an opposing opinion which did edge on being a little personal, so i understand her upset”

      First up, I wasn’t upset by the remarks made about me in the comment you’re talking about: it was a very ill-informed attempt to sneer at me, and a very poorly-written one too. I was, however, angry that someone was trying to discredit Claire.

      Onto the posts you say I took down: three draft posts were published in error when my cat clambered over my keyboard which does sound like the blogging equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”, I’ll agree, but she is a very determined cat. I think we discussed it on Twitter at the time so I don’t understand why you’re suggesting I removed them because of censorship now–unless I’ve entirely misunderstood your comment, in which case I hope you’ll clarify your meaning for me.

      Going back to the posts I took down: they were draft posts; I hadn’t verified all the facts in them; and they were incomplete. Removing them from public view was the only reasonable thing for me to do: they’ll reappear at an appropriate time, once I’ve ensured they’re fully accurate.

      “I felt that the post Jane removed did more damage to the BWA argument than any i had seen (before this one about solicitors)”

      Although I think you intend to be supportive of me there, James, I have to make it absolutely clear that I do not wish to cause damage to the BWA. That is not my intention, and I dispute completely your suggestion that it is. I just want to know how useful the BWA might be for writers. If the BWA is a bunch of nasty deceptive scammers then let’s find out; if they’re well-intentioned people who have the skills to really help writers improve and get published, then let’s find that out instead. But let’s do so with an open mind and an open heart, and without the intention to damage or distress anyone involved—especially the writers who have signed up to their various programmes, who deserve our respect and praise for their efforts.

      There is, of course, a third option: that despite their very good intentions the people involved with the BWA don’t have the skills to help writers improve, but they know so little about writing and/or publishing that they can’t see how limited their abilities are. I’m sure that we’ll find out one way or another how useful the BWA can be to writers before too long, and I sincerely hope that the BWA will start responding more openly once they realise that people like Claire and me have the writers’ interests at heart and are not out to cause damage to the BWA.

      “the comment was just petty and i tweeted Jane urging her to leave it be. It stank of a BWA employee trying to strike back.”

      I agree that the comment was petty, but I have left it intact. I have not edited or deleted the comment. I have, however, blocked the commenter’s IP address from my website in order to prevent them from commenting again and if I remember rightly your tweet to me was to suggest that I was wrong to do so. Well, it’s my website and I don’t like having people there who arrive with negative intent, and so I don’t want that person on it. And I strongly disagree with you that it “stank of a BWA employee trying to strike back”; my bet is that the poster concerned had an altogether different agenda and no, I’m not going to be drawn on that any further.

  32. Sorry – I should add that it wasn’t you (Claire) who was posting ip addresses, to my knowledge.

    James

  33. martha says:

    Hang on, I’m not sure I’m following this…

    Am I right in thinking you sent a query letter to BWA about a couple of legal issues, and they referred it to their legal department… is that not just completely normal?

    I’d interpret their response as a holding letter saying that your query letter has had to be passed on to the correct advisors, who will contact you directly.

    Looking at your letter, I wouldn’t have expected the admin secretary or a short story judge, for example, to be able to answer queries such as those… it would have to be the legal advisors.

  34. Jo Carroll says:

    Such bullying. My mother would have described them as ‘all mouth and no trousers’ – hold that image and soon we will be laughing.

  35. Tim Pope says:

    I predict not a riot, but that entries to the BWA competition will be at an all time low next year. I won’t articulate what I know everyone is thinking but any emails from them are going straight in my trash bin.

  36. Nicola Morgan says:

    And still no answers to your very reasonable-sounding questions, Claire. And if you had the answers to those, there wouldn’t need to be all this worry or speculation by anyone on either side.

    Referring quite ordinary questions to lawyers just seems rather odd.

  37. Rachael Dunlop says:

    Here’s the thing that strikes me. BWA ostensibly set themselves up to help writers. What they offer – a huge prize for an unpublished writer, fast-track access to publication via their publications programme, referral to agents – are all things that writers should be falling over themselves to take advantage of. Some resistance from ‘traditional’ publishers might be expected. Yet with their recent behaviour, it is the very writers they are supposed to be helping that they have alienated.

    • Jane Smith says:

      Rachael, you wrote,

      “Some resistance from ‘traditional’ publishers might be expected.”

      Why do you think that? I’m not trying to be difficult, it’s just that I’ve seen this sort of claim before in other similar contexts and it never makes sense to me.

      I don’t see why trade publishers would “resist” the BWA’s initiatives if what the BWA is offering is well-informed and effective; surely it’s good for trade publishing if the BWA succeeds in its endeavours to help writers improve their work and submit it more effectively? It would mean better submissions of better books, and ultimately more choice and better quality for publishers and the readers they supply to. What is there for trade publishing to resist? Unless, of course, the BWA’s initiatives are somehow misguided, and are probably not going to result in those things.

  38. Rebecca Emin says:

    Good grief. I am quite shocked at their inability to respond to your questions. How bizarre. A few words in response to each one would have been far easier, I’m sure.

    I hope you are ok, Claire.

  39. claire says:

    This public statement from Brit Writers’ CEO Imran on the lovely Claire Kinton’s blog.
    http://claire-kinton.blogspot.com/2011/11/message-from-ceo-of-brit-writers-awards.html

  40. Susie says:

    The thing is, BWA make many grand statements but offer little in the region of hard facts. For instance:

    “our Publishing Programme authors are securing publishing contracts.”

    Why EVER, this being the case, wouldn’t they name these authors, and those publishers? In doing so, they would dispel so much ‘fog’ around their Publishing Programme.

  41. Rachael Dunlop says:

    Jane – you are right, I don’t have any evidence that trade publishers are resistant to the BWA initiatives. So I am probably guilt of repeating hearsay. The point I wanted to emphasise is that the last people you might expect to be resisting BWA’s charms are the writers themselves. If we are, it is because of the way BWA have conducted themselves, especially in the last few weeks, starting with the email promoting the ‘agency’ division.

    I have just read the statement by BWA on Claire Kinton’s blog. There is a lot of positive sentiment there, but not much of it is back up with facts. I hear a lot about their schools programme from the BWA themselves. I’d love to know how many schools are involved and what their experience has been. It seems like a great programme, especially now that many literacy advisors have been made redundant by local authorities.

    I had a quick look at the BWA website to see if I could find out more. It has been redesigned, and two new pages, for ‘Publishing’ and ‘Services’ are under development. Perhaps when they are complete we will have more answers.

    Elsewhere on the website, there are glowing statements like:

    ‘The Brit Writers’ Awards has become the biggest annual event on the UK’s literary calendar.’

    Sounds great, but can they back this up? That’s all we are asking for, I think. Less fluff, more facts. Then perhaps BWA wouldn’t feel that:

    ‘we have had our fair share of challenges – some natural but many created by those who have felt threatened by our vision’.

    • Pete says:

      I’m fascinated by the schools programme too after Violet’s post.
      I followed the first comment on Claire Kinton blog to another blog writer who happens to have been to the BWA Awards. Apparently according to the BWA they’ve helped 1.8m children which is pretty impressive in just over 2 years.
      Looking at the DofE stats, there’s about 4m state primary places spread over all years (one would have thought that primary needed most help with literacy in UK) so they are either helping out a very large % of the UK school population now or they have an extensive overseas programme.
      It would be really interesting to see how this works. It sounds a very ‘Big Society’ thing to be doing.

    • Pete says:

      Further to this, I found an article on the Brit Writers Award website.

      ‘The current 1.5 million children involved is on track
      to become 5 million by the end of the year, thanks to our Schools Territory Partners across the
      country.’

      Now that is ambitious.

  42. Debbie Moorhouse says:

    You should be able to find information about Brit Writers Ltd and Brit Writers Awards Limited at Companies House http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk just FYI :). Use the WEBCHECK service.

  43. I’ve been following your discussions with a great deal of interest, Claire and took a moment to research the word academy – the charity they promote on their website. It does exist. It was registered with the Charity Commission on 13 Sept. 2011. Here’s the link [hope it works, if not put in the search term 1143781 - THE WORD ACADEMY on the charity commission website search box]
    http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/CharityFramework.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=1143781&SubsidiaryNumber=0

    I wonder what the CC will make of their registration? I don’t know the rules or time-frames but I do know that charity regulation is controlled v. strictly.
    On the whole, wouldn’t it provide reassurance to professionals and beginning writers if writing coaches and literary consultants were regulated? We need a professional body that’s thorough and rigorous, then everyone would know who[m] they could trust.

    • claire says:

      Hello Janette,
      Thanks for that. I had a look and I don’t know anything about charities, but it all looks above board. Wondering who operates the charity I googled a bit more. If you follow this link you will see who the trustees are…
      http://opencharities.org/charities/1143781

      Usually writing coaches and literary consultants can be chosen based on their credentials, that’s one of the reasons I asked the questions that I did.
      I hope the answers will come soon, and be reassuring.

      • Serena says:

        So one of the Trustees of The Word Academy is Zareen Ahmed, who is Head of Operations of Brit Writers, and one of the Trustees is Imran Akram who is the CEO of Brit Writers.

        How are Brit Writers working in conjunction with The Word Academy if they are run by the same people???

  44. Rachael Dunlop says:

    I think The Word Academy is just a rebranding of their schools programme, to separate the charitable part of their activity with the rest of the business.

  45. Whisks says:

    I entered last year’s competition and was told I’d made the Top 30 for non-fiction.
    Given that they said they’d had 21,700 entries overall, I was pretty chuffed.
    I told anyone who stood still long enough while I bounced up and down. One friend even thought I’d won the Booker Prize.
    Their natural next question was, ‘Can I read your almost-winning piece?’
    And there was the rub. I’d entered two non-fiction pieces, and had no idea which one glowed with such promise.
    I had to say, ‘Sorry, I don’t know.’ It took the edge off it, I admit.
    I phoned BWA to ask and was told that they were snowed under, they’d get back to me. Fair enough, they were bound to be busy. I was sure I’d find out in the fullness of time and they’d already said this in a previous general email:
    ‘Dear BWA Member
    Over the last few days we have been overwhelmed by emails asking the same questions so I thought it would be a good idea to send a personal response out to all members that are through to the third round… saving me lots of work! 
    I’m afraid, we can’t give details at this stage of which of your entries have gone through, but at least one of your entries will have been selected.’
    I didn’t understand the secrecy then, and I don’t understand it now.
    I was invited to the Awards Ceremony at the O2 – perhaps there’d be a longlist posted somewhere? No, there wasn’t. I asked a BWA girl how I could find out and she said to email her afterwards. Fair enough again.
    I emailed. Five times. I was blanked. I phoned. Many times. I was told, ‘the system’s down / the person who knows isn’t at her desk / I’ll find out for you and get back.’ Nobody ever did. Weeks went by then the phone wasn’t answered, it went straight to voicemail – I left messages; to no avail.
    It didn’t seem an unreasonable question, so I persisted. Why couldn’t they tell me? Surely there was a spreadsheet somewhere? A hand-written list? Every reputable writing contest publishes a longlist, from one to aid a local charity through Fish and Bridport, to Booker. Why couldn’t they tell me easily? To get rid of me, all they had to do was answer that simple question or publish the list on their website.
    After months of nagging, I finally got an email response. I was told that they didn’t usually ‘give out such detailed information …’ Pardon? The name of a longlisted piece counts as detailed information? The email went on to say that ‘however, … the entry that got through to round 3 and went through to the Top 30 was your short story …’
    I had entered several pieces and the story cited was the first on my list. Surely they hadn’t fobbed me off with the first title that came to hand?
    I replied with thanks but I was puzzled; had they made a mistake, or had I got pieces in the Top 30 in TWO categories? Non-fiction and Short Story? Woohoo!
    It’s over a year later and I’ve never received a reply.
    Why was it so very hard to find out?
    Then when Jane and Claire began blogging about BWA last year, I saw that several other Top 30 winners who’d entered more than once, hadn’t been able to find out either.
    In the absence of any further information (which seemed stonkingly easy to provide), I could only conclude that the reason they couldn’t publish any Top 30 lists – was that there weren’t ever any lists – or that the lists contained more than 30. Were we being patronised with a meaningless pat on the head?
    So how about a straw poll? How many people were told they were in the Top 30 and for which category? I apparently had two: Non-fiction and Short Story. Are there more than 29 others?
    The email to me had concluded with, ‘I hope this has encouraged you to enter again.’
    No, quite the opposite. Their reluctance to answer a simple and reasonable question was alarming; I felt I’d been ‘had’, and my ‘success’ has been taken away from me by these unaddressed doubts and left me disappointed. My unease grew exponentially as the silence lengthened; the whole thing reeks of deceit.

    • claire says:

      You’d think when you’d got down to a shortlist of 30 that writers could be emailed personally. That’s what happens in all the other short story competitions I’ve had the fortune of being longlisted or shortlisted in.
      I’m sorry that you had that experience and I hope you’re not discouraged. For information, my novel The Night Rainbow was entered in their novels category that year and made it, I dunno, a few vague emails into the process. But hey, when I put it on submission it quickly got agented and Bloomsbury bought it.
      I’m just saying.

    • Nicola Morgan says:

      Wow. Just wow. What on earth is going on? You needed to know, as a writer trying hard to be professional. We all need to know. Writers need to know whether to enter and those of us trying to help writers need to know whether to recommend it.

    • Whisks says:

      Thank you Claire, and very well done for getting your book out there. Go girl!
      Yes, a public longlist is common practice, so why were they so cagey? I don’t understand why telling me (and others) the name of the piece that stood out, is such an insurmountable obstacle for them. My imagination runs riot.
      And Nicola, indeed. Do I have something for my Writing CV or not? *shrugs* Not knowing is worse than an outright fail. Goodness, I’ve had practice at not winning competitions and it’s OK – I trip over my lower lip for a short while then move on. C’est la vie. But this is a festering sore that could be so simply salved. ‘Something you wrote was a bit good, but we won’t tell you what.’ How is that acceptable for a national (nay, international) writing competition? I won’t be entering again.

  46. jaxbees says:

    Whisks, you can put me down for one of the ‘top 30′ slots for full length fiction. I was so excited – and then so embarrassed that I’d been so excited! The jury (excuse the pun) is out with me as to whether something isn’t right with this organisation or whether they’re merely hopelessly disorganised. Either way, the ‘top 30′ ranking doesn’t hold the kudos I thought it did. Like many, I find the cloak and dagger nature of it all so frustrating. I’d just like to understand more about the company, just as I would about any agent, publisher or competition I might be interested in. Why is that so difficult and so seemingly offensive?

    • Whisks says:

      Thanks Jaxbees – another 29 to go for novels then. Just to be clear, I’m talking about 2010 – the first year of the competition. I know of a couple of others who made Top 30s as well. I don’t know if that’s odd or not – that several in my on-line circle made Top 30 rankings? That’s why I’m curious how many are in each Top 30, and if this might explain their reluctance to publish the list.

  47. Violet B says:

    Wowser! You people have waaaaay too much time on your hands in a crumbling world…..
    I would need a fair bit of time, which is too precious, to delve into further ‘speculation’.

    You didn’t explain your intention. Us non-creatives prefer a direct, logical and reasonable perspective on matters.

    Have you invited an actual conversation in person with them before writing any of your blogs re your concerns?
    That’s what folk from our sector do. We flushed out our scepticism face to face about thier resource as opposed to discussing it to death between ourselves.
    I’m not at liberty to or want to delve into our relationship with them – thats so unprofessional and I like my job, thanks! lol

    Bitching isn’t really speculating is it? From an academic educators perspective, I’m in a Publishing World playground it seems where the spectators are the bullies and the BWA is the bait of the day. I should write! ;p

    *yawns* I didn’t scroll down and skim read a single comment that was informative except that which we already have access to via public information. Nevermind.
    Thank goodness for Google eh you researchers?!?!

    Go on Claire – grow a pair, grab a plane and meet him! Go to the source of your whims and woes, I say.
    I would! Bit direct like that…..

    • claire says:

      Hello again Violet,
      How hard it is, sometimes, to have an actual conversation with people, when emails go unanswered, phone calls are not returned, communications are a one way push of rhetoric, solicitors are called in, and even those who advocate the organisation one questions use clandestine language such as “I’m not at liberty to or want to delve into our relationship with them – thats so unprofessional and I like my job, thanks! lol”
      I have published your comment because I want this to be a forum where everyone has their say, but in future please refrain from using offensive language. There’s no need for it.

    • Serena says:

      “Grow a pair, grab a plane and meet him”?

      I know people who have tried to meet the CEO. They have had emails unanswered, phone calls unreturned, meetings arranged, rearranged and cancelled.

      He doesn’t make himself easy to get hold of!

    • David says:

      Violet – I see you have taken the time to post a lot of invective, and absolutely no replies to any of the questions that were put to you.

      That seems very odd. Why would you do that?

    • Pete says:

      Oh dear, I had such high hopes for Violet. I thought she might just tell us how she’s involved and some (or even just one) of the great results she’s achieved with BWA but sadly:

      ‘I’m not at liberty to or want to delve into our relationship with them – thats so unprofessional and I like my job, thanks! lol’

      But what could be so secret about a schools programme. Surely that’s just an altruistic activity? A ‘Big Society’ thing in modern parlance.

  48. Debi Alper says:

    Violet – Claire most certainly has explained her motivation and intentions. Maybe your skim reading, as you called it, is the reason you haven’t seen this.

    As for you asking if Claire has asked for a conversation with BWA, well that’s the whole point of this post. She has asked and a ‘conversation’ has been refused. For an even more glaring example of this, I strongly advise you to check this link, which demonstrates BWA’s response to people who want to communicate directly and respectfully with them. http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/bwa-brit-writers-the-current-position/

    Oh, but you haven’t got time, have you? You have time, however, to comment here, using the word ‘bitchy’ to refer to others but your words ‘grow a pair’ are the only offensive comments I have seen here.

  49. Hi Claire, I was in the shortlist. I also made it to the final seven in the novels category, though you won’t find me in the brochure because BWA forgot to include my photo and profile. They did print an apology in their subsequent newsletter. However, I entered two novels (my entries were free with my Writing Magazine subscription) and it was not until I had received the call to tell me I was in the final that I discovered which novel. I’d received other mails to say made it to this stage, and to that stage, final 30 etc. After the telephone call I received a mail to say that as my novel had made it to the final 30 (so I’m assuming my other one as I had VIP tickets to the event by then) and would I like complimentary tickets to the event at the o2. Sorry for prattling on. I have the emails too btw.

  50. Lisa says:

    WOW – All rather odd behaviour.
    Perhaps they are just posturing and been very foolish. If one thing super injunctions have taught us is one thing you cannot do is silence the internet.
    Thank you for bring it to our attention and please keep us updated.

  51. Rachael Dunlop says:

    I just spoke to a friend of mine who was a senior literacy advisor in a large London borough and now works freelance over a number of London boroughs. She has never heard of the Brits schools programme. Which doesn’t mean anything per se, but odd given that they claim to have reached nearly half the primary school children in the UK. I’ve emailed BWA to ask for clarification on those numbers.

    • Pete says:

      Interestingly I’ve been back to their website today and there’s something new to read. (http://www.britwriters.com/sign-up-your-school-today/)
      ‘Around 2 million children got involved from Schools across the UK in the Brit Writers Creative Writing Programme for Schools.’ (presumably over 2 years).
      I put in the 4m state numbers for primary kids off the DofE as I would have thought personally most of the effort in literacy would go towards primary school.
      However the post indicates they do Key Stages 1-4 so conceivably that reach could well extend into state secondary schools and of course there’ could be private schools, non maintained schools (but why?).
      Let’ play with some numbers here to give ourselves a sense of scale. Let’s just use a round number and make it 10m pupils in UK to make the maths easy. 20%, 1 in 5. They’ve been going two years so that muddies the water a bit but I would have thought 15%-20% of UK pupils have been involved.
      So does that mean one in every 5-6 schools in the UK has signed up to the programme? That’s a lot. I don’t know what basis the ‘around 2m’ is calculated on and what ‘involvement’ means but I’m curious to know because clearly the other 80% of schools are missing out.

  52. Can I just say a huge thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention, and for taking the time to follow it up?

    I’m very new to the industry. Being able to learn from the wisdom and experience of others makes the journey so much easier to navigate!

    • claire says:

      I think what is wonderful about the writing community on the internet is that we do all try to help each other, because the publishing world is sometimes not an easy place to navigate. It is done out of a sense of community, and of course there’s no exchange of money, just a sense of ‘pay it forwards’. Thanks for your kind comments.

  53. Debi Alper says:

    Claire – for some reason I can only see the most recent comments. Is there any way I can access the earlier ones?

  54. Hattie Hendersen says:

    Claire – I can’t seem to see the earlier comments either, so I’m aware that I have probably missed some posts. Please may I make a suggestion? (I apologise if this has already been suggested in the posts I haven’t seen). Could a page be created somewhere, with a list of the Entry Categories for the BWA2010? Then those who were lucky enough to be in the Top 30, could add their name to the list? There could also be an ‘I was told I was in the Top 30, but not told which category’ column? If the existence of this list was spread through social media, we could see whether any of the categories DID have more than 30 people in the Top 30, which (as I’ve read on different sites on the internet) some people suspect. Just a suggestion? I, like many others here, just want complete transparency.

  55. claire says:

    It should be working now (thanks to the IT monkey in the boiler room xxx)

    • Charlie says:

      It seems to be a problem related to this particular WordPress theme – I’m working on it, although an elegant solution may have to wait until I have finished The New Theme.

      For the time being I have removed comments pagination, and the comments page will just continue to grow indefinitely.

      My apologies for the increased load-times that this implies, especially for those of you on dial-up or limited 3G connections.

      - The IT Monkey.

  56. claire says:

    Update: the BWA solicitors have contacted me by email, requesting that I remove this post and all other references to BWA from my website.

  57. Sara Crowley says:

    In response to whisks: I was apparently shortlisted in the short story section of the 2010 BWA’s. They neglected to inform me which of my entries was shortlisted – obviously I was keen to know which story shone with such potential, so I emailed and enquired. I have yet to receive a response. I work in a very small online writing group, at that time I believe we had only 6 members, and one of my colleagues was also apparently in the top 30. We were hugely cynical about the chances of that happening and neither of us attended the BWA ceremony. I haven’t entered since as I felt it so odd not to have a published list of names and/or titles.
    I find the more I read about BWA the more my unease grows.

  58. Sara Crowley says:

    Woah! Hang on. Why? And what happens if you don’t? Do they have legal justification to do so?

  59. [...] 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. [...]

  60. Peggy Riley says:

    They may request that you remove it, due to their own discomfort or embarrassment, but you should not feel compelled to do so. I believe you should keep it up and keep the questions in circulation as long as possible.

  61. Hattie Hendersen says:

    Well, I hope you don’t remove it Claire. I also hope that you don’t get into trouble for asking questions! If you do remove any mention of BWA, then perhaps the way forward is to ask an investigative journalist to look at the matter – I know one or two who might be interested in taking it up. They must have far more experience of dealing with solicitors and gagging orders, although quite why BWA has resorted to this, I really don’t know. Threatening legal action is not going to allay anyone’s fears. However, answering genuine questions may well do. I really don’t understand why they refuse to do so. Particularly with the new charity they have created. I thought the charity commission was a stickler for transparency? Perhaps I’m wrong? I can understand the BWA wanting to keep some information to themselves, for example the success of the publishing programme (perhaps for a big announcement at the end of the year) but the questions you have asked seem to be very general and surely that information doesn’t need to be kept secret?

    • Rachael Dunlop says:

      I would think the BBC might be interested in this for one of their consumer affairs programmes – such as Face the Facts on Radio4. There is a public interest element, given that BWA works in our schools. And a celeb angle as they gave a prize to Sir Terry Pratchett in the first year, so his name is now attached to the BWA.

      I’m sure the BWA would be happy to answer questions if put to them by professional journalists from the BBC. If all is above board, they would have nothing to worry about and we could all rest easy that our concerns were unfounded.

      • claire says:

        Perhaps that is the way forward? Perhaps they would rather speak to the press than to authors and publishing industry professionals who perhaps they consider to be ‘the competition’?

    • Pete says:

      I fear it is heading the way of the press in one form or another. They have considerably larger ‘Commercial and Legal’ departments than BWA and I think I know who would blink first.
      Why don’t they just answer the questions? It’s just so much easier for everyone.

    • claire says:

      I’m pretty confident that indeed you cannot get in trouble for asking questions. No-one has issued a gagging order. So as yet I am ungagged. Hurrah for that.

  62. Rachael Dunlop says:

    I just received this reply from BWA about their schools programme. It makes clear that they operate in both primary and secondary schools. Here is the email in full. I checked before I copied it that there was no request not to share this information:

    Dear Rachael

    Many thanks for your email.

    Our schools programme includes Primary, Secondary, Special Needs, Independent/Private/Faith Schools and Pupil Referral Units.

    Membership is always free for Special Needs Schools and to schools who can’t afford the £100 annual membership fee (which allows pupils, parents and teachers to enter the awards for free and benefit from lesson plans, resources etc). Thanks to our Schools Territory Partners, we are now able to offer free membership to ALL schools in the following regions: Buckinghamshire, Cheshire, Gloucester, Nottinghamshire, Brighton, Leeds and more partners are coming on board all the time. If you are a parent Rachael, please ask your child’s school to get in touch if they are in any of the above areas for automatic membership, and of course, if they are struggling financially, we would still like them to join.

    Also, we have just set up a new Charity called The Word Academy which will support this work by developing and providing some of the resources and services to schools. This is very new and we’re in the process of appointing board members from various educational backgrounds.

    I hope this helps and please see this short video of snippets from our awards night in October at Madame Tussauds, there were lots of Children there from member schools with their families celebrating their achievements: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVWO0qHLtrY

    Kindest regards

    Nathalie

  63. Steve Moran says:

    The whole thing sounds like a rip-off to me and parasitism on schools is almost the lowest thing imaginable. If they were non-profit it would be a different matter, if they were a charity organising volunteers, say. The fact that might have got Gordon Brown to sign something lauding them proves nothin. Politicians have been duped into condemning “cake” as a new drug. They will jump on any bandwagon if they scent votes in it.

  64. Having worked in enough law firms, I can tell you that the phrase “dealt with by our solicitors and they will be contacting you” means this:

    They consider you to have violated their rights, and they have asked their solicitors to begin action against you.

    Your letter was private communication, and therefore nothing in it could be taken as libel. You would have to have made the statements public in order for it to be libelous.

    As you only published it to your blog after they sent the letter about their solicitors, clearly they were instructing their solicitors to sue you without any legal grounds.

    Now that you have made the contents of your letter public, they have stronger grounds for a libel action against you.

    The only flaw in that plan of course is that nothing you have said in that letter constitutes libel. The threat of libel is usually sufficient to make people acquiesce in the face of it, as it can be ruinously expensive to defend the action. But it is groundless so far as I can see, and is being done purely to pressure you into removing all fair comment about the BWA from this site, and to spare them any negative publicity or embarrassment, neither of which amount to libel.

    Arkell v Pressdram has already been cited, and it is good law in this instance…

  65. I sent in an entry for the 2011 round and paid the entry fee, plus £50 for the 3 chapter and synopsis review.

    I’ve got an email promising delivery of the review by 11 November, in two days time. The entry fee certainly wasn’t unreasonable at £10.95 and £50 is broadly comparable with what literary agents are charging.

    Other than that, I have heard nothing directly concerning my own submission. Fair enough, it is a competition, although my novel is now complete has been picked up independently by a small press and will be published next month.

    So that’s £60.95 sent to Brit Writers. I’m in employment and could afford that without screaming too much and it seemed a reasonable investment in my novel at that time. However, I’m starting to feel ever so gently fleeced… I will wait until Friday before pursuing this further. I’ll happily share the review and a review of the review on my blog, if I feel it is inadequate then I will say so and chase them for the £50 fee using the small claims procedure.

    As for their legal department … anyone can pay a solicitor to send a letter and anyone can file such a letter in the bin. A court action costs a lot more.

    • claire says:

      Many congratulations on the forthcoming publication of your novel! Let us know when it launches!

    • Jane Smith says:

      “sent in an entry for the 2011 round and paid the entry fee, plus £50 for the 3 chapter and synopsis review.

      “I’ve got an email promising delivery of the review by 11 November, in two days time. The entry fee certainly wasn’t unreasonable at £10.95 and £50 is broadly comparable with what literary agents are charging.”

      Black Dog Tales, what do you mean that “£50 is broadly comparable with what literary agents are charging”?

      Reputable literary agents don’t charge fees. They earn their money by taking a commission from the sales that they make. If you’ve heard of a literary agent charging anyone £50 for anything, then you’ve heard of a dodgy literary agent.

      • claire says:

        Not withstanding that certain literary agencies also operate Creative Writing Courses or consultancy. I am represented by an agency that does offer such services, using the experienced authors on their list to provide critiques. You can see more here, where pricing and what you get and with whom you would work are all laid out. The price for 15,000 words plus synopsis is £190. http://www.annettegreenagency.co.uk/page_2379103.html
        I asked Annette what prompted them to set up their consultancy offer, and how this sat alongside agenting work. You can see her responses here: http://www.claire-king.com/2011/04/06/interview-with-literary-agent-annette-green-and-author-maria-mccann/
        Whether you agree or disagree with the idea of agents branching out into other areas, what we have here is transparent, published and open to questions. I have no doubt at all that if you have further questions on this, Annette or David will respond personally and clearly to you.

      • Hello Claire, poor wording on my part… “consultancy” rather than “agency” … I paid £60 for a pitching workshop in January which included a review of submission letter plus synopsis and sample chapter. I was pleased with the result and keen for similar feedback from BWA as part of the competition. Still waiting! I’ll lodge a small claim for the £50 if I don’t get it or if it is sub-standard.

  66. There’s always an element of “you b******s” from the 99% of people who don’t win a competition as well! But this seems a little bit more, and I’m more bothered about the £50 plus the various other bells and whistles, rather than the £10.95 entry fee.

    • claire says:

      I disagree, I think if you enter enough competitions, and – with my editors hat on – when you are selecting work for publication in a journal, you become very aware that it is all so dependant on taste. Work that is rejected in many places can eventually find a home in a very reputable publication or publication house. I strongly disagree with the BWA point of view that saying you entered a competition but didn’t make the shortlist is detrimental to your credibility as a writer. Far from it. It shows that you are writing and putting your work forward. If you look into when Bloomsbury signed JK Rowling, they knew that she must have been turned down in many other places, and that they were perhaps one of the last publishers to be approached. But they made the decision to sign her based on the merit of her work and their passion to make it a success. THAT is publishing.

      • I think there are two levels of competition … the Brit Writers Award for debut writers, and other competitions (Bridport etc) for experienced writers. I entered a crime writing competition (Alibi) back in 2010 and I wasn’t successful … obviously disappointing, but such is life. However, I was shocked by the outrage from some of my fellow competitors who took it personally. I entered another crime competition (Debut Dagger) and also fell by the wayside, but the shortlist was very interesting, a spread of literary/crime novels with an international slant, very different from my own effort (slasher crime!) However, if BWA are saying that *not* making a shortlist is detrimental to one’s credibility as a writer, then that is outrageous! I can see why competitions embargo shortlists (Bridport announce it after the winner is announced) but that seems disgraceful. There are fragile egos and psyches in writing, it takes time to develop a thick skin, and this does seems exploitative and manipulative. Most competition entries will not win (I’ve won three minor prizes in my time and it is a very nice feeling) and this should certainly not be discouraging to writers.

  67. Janetyjanet says:

    No further balanced comments from Violet?? Perhaps trolled off somewhere else for now.

  68. Claire, I’m just posting to offer my support. I would advise you DO NOT remove this post until/unless you absolutely have to. It is not libel to ask reasonable questions.

    If the BWA feel they have legal justification to ask you to remove the post, let them pay a solicitor or complain to your blog provider (who will have their own solicitors). As someone has already said, anyone can pay a solicitor to write a letter about absolutely anything. Believe me, I’ve worked for the CAB and seen the type of letters sent out to people. They can be very scary. But it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a legal leg to stand on if they wanted to make a case out of it.

    I’ve posted about it too, and a few friends have retweeted it, and posted on FB. You’ve got lots of supporters here.

  69. claire says:

    Please also visit Harry Bingham’s post here, for his set of questions, posed also whilst under threat of legal action and once again simply asking for answers:
    http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/bwa-brit-writers-awards/

  70. Effie says:

    Full support here too. I speak as one who has spoken up and been where you are over a very serious matter unconnected to writing. It is very hard but you know you haven’t done anything wrong. A lot of people back you and all the others who have spoken up on this.

    I enter a lot of competitions and sub to a variety of markets. I am very interested in any answers Brit Writers can give. I’m keen to know about all decent avenues out there as a writer and also as an owner of a children’s nursery where we promote positive literacy opportunities. We have lots of marketing material from various companies but havent had anything yet from Brit Writers. I look forward to this being resolved soon for all involved.

  71. You have my unqualified support, Ma’am. xx

  72. [...] Really Works and author Claire King also weighed in, and last February, the UK's Writing Magazine withdrew from its association with the BWA, citing concerns over the judging process and a lack of transparency. Now more questions have [...]

  73. Steven Poore says:

    Stand firm. All they are doing is showing everybody how scared they are to answer any questions at all. And I wouldn’t trust people who don’t want to talk with anything I produce.

  74. Rachael Dunlop says:

    For those who paid £50 and are waiting for feedback, I wonder which of the following judges they will get it from:

    ‘ We’re creative writing awards and we’re trying to bring a democratic approach to the judging process. Yes, we had agents, publishers and authors judging. Some were paid; others kindly donated their time and expertise to this campaign. But there were also judges who were not from the publishing industry per se, including academics, lawyers, teachers and just avid readers who brought the perspective of the consumer. ‘

    (from a statement by the BWA CEO, September 2011)

  75. Rachael Dunlop says:

    Have you all seen the post by the CEO on the BWA’s facebook page this week? Similar to postings on their website – we are new, people are threatened by us, but it’s all about the love for the writers (in summary).
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brit-Writers-Awards/104296700741

  76. Elpi Pamiadaki says:

    Claire,
    Full support on this ridiculous issue. I too am a little fed up with shady organisations trying to make money out of writers.
    If they have nothing to hide, then why all the intrigue?
    Will be emailing you.
    Elpi
    x

  77. Red Iris says:

    @ Violet – You claim that
    ” * they’re doing more to increase literacy levels without any government funding than most funded programmes.”

    Where is the evidence to support this?

  78. Sali Gray says:

    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 Claire) 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.

  79. I got my report after a slight hiccup. I’m happy enough with the quality of the review, and the critique is constructive and fair with some guidance points. No concerns with regard to that issue, although the reliance on lawyers is concerning, plus the grand promises on the back of the best part of £2K.

  80. claire says:

    As per my update:

    I have taken legal advice, and responded to Brit Writers Ltd.’s solicitors. Having reviewed all three of my posts which refer to BWA, I do not see any statement contained therein that would be regarded as defamatory. Comments made by third parties on these posts seem to me to constitute fair comment or honest opinion.

    I am therefore not proposing to remove any of the posts at this time.
    However I do take allegations of defamation seriously, and have therefore outlined a number of things I would be prepared to do, including consider posting a statement from Brit Writers Ltd. on my website.
    Thank you to everyone who has commented so far.

  81. Claire, I hope for everyone’s sake that the response is positive.

    Just to revisit Violet’s point about the BWA being run without any funding, I was pretty sure that they did receive funding from the Arts Council, as it was one of the things that impressed me when I first listed their comp. So I googled it, and found this article, which suggests that the Arts Council, amongst others, are, or were, indeed their sponsors:

    http://www.thebookseller.com/news/brit-writers-awards-recognise-nine-new-voices.html

    The Muslim Writers Awards also had sponsors including the Arts Council(as of the time of this article)

    http://muslimwritersawards.org.uk/about-us/our-partners

    My point is that whatever the situation is now (and I notice that on their ‘partnership’ page they are now asking for sponsors) the BWA and the sister organisation the MWA have not done everything without funding in the past.

    I just post this as a matter of interest.

  82. Jane Smith says:

    Arts Council England lists all its awards on this page:

    http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/grants-arts/grants-arts-awards/

    I’ve taken a quick look at the three most recent years’ reports and can find nothing listed for either Muslim Writers or Brit Writers, but I performed only the most basic of searches. Others might have more success.

  83. claire says:

    Please could anyone who is reading this who has has had any dealings with Brit Writers go here ASAP please: http://bit.ly/v19h2A
    Your experience is wanted urgently by an investigative journalist who is putting together a balanced report on what is actually going on.

  84. claire says:

    Whilst Brit Writers Ltd has declined so far to respond to my questions, they have made a response to Writing Magazine.
    So if you would like to go and take a look you can find a summary here and there’s a link to the full text of Zareen’s response.

    https://www.writers-online.co.uk/News/Brit_Writers_offer_guarded_response_to_Agents_Division_queries/

    A question that intrigued me was “You stated that you had asked for meetings in the past with Claire King, Jane Smith and Harry Bingham. Please could you confirm when these offers were made, and what was on the table for discussion on each occasion?”

    I’ve never been asked to have a meeting with BWA, so that was a surprise. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find an answer to that in Zareen’s response.

  85. CA says:

    Hi Claire

    I keep seeing your posts on the FB writers support group so I thought I’d come along to see what exactly was going on.

    I’m horrified! I was one of the people who “got through to the 3rd round” of 2010 Poetry Category. I received the same email as that said they couldn’t tell me which entry got through. Luckily I’d only entered once so I overlooked the “teething problems” as the WM put it. I never made it through to the the final gala evening.

    I almost put my first novel forward for YBYW publishing program but something slapped me round the back of the head and reminded me if someone else thinks its good enough to publish “I” shouldnt be the one paying to publish it.

    I was suspicious, even more so when I read WM’s february issue saying they’d withdrawn their support. Still I entered for 2011 … I’m guessing I got nowhere because the only information I received was “Judging is delayed” and the marketing emails about the programs they offer.

    When I received the email to reregister upon the launch of the new website – I made the decision that “teething problems” can be forgiven the first time around but the second is just not the type competition I want to put a £10.95 entry fee in to.

  86. Whisks says:

    @ Sara Crowley: Sorry not to have responded earlier – I’ve been distracted.
    Thanks for adding a couple more to the Top 30 list for 2010 – were they both for the novels category?
    I know another for Non-fiction now.
    I recall several people saying similar things on Jane’s blog of last year – need to trawl that to confirm.
    Thanks again.

  87. Janet O'Kane says:

    I recently signed up for BWA’s free writing magazine. Have not received that but did get an email this morning. Among other things it included this:
    “Referrals to Agents:
    We had an incredible response to this pilot initiative and we are still going through the initial assessments, so please bear with us. Only a few have been referred, but most are being returned with feedback and recommendations on how to improve the submission. As part of our feedback, if you have been recommended to have your work edited or appraised, then please visit our wonderful editing partners – http://www.theoxfordeditors.co.uk quoting ref: BW-12.

    We highly recommend these fantastic workshops from two of our partners:
    How to market, promote and sell your book effectively: Sunday 20 November 2011, London.
    Legend Press Writer Workshop – Getting Published: Saturday 26 November 2011, Manchester.”
    The links to the workshops have been lost in my copy/paste process. They are: http://www.getpublished.tv/book-marketing-selling-exclusive-london-workshop-for-just-16-people-sun-20th-nov-2011/
    and http://forward.legendpress.co.uk/files/legend-press-writer-workshop—26th-november-2.pdf
    I imagine this email has dropped into a lot of people’s inboxes overnight.

    • claire says:

      Thank you, Janet. Surprisingly, I received the same email. What interested me particularly was the naming of the partner organisation recommended for consulting on agent query packages.

      It’s my understanding that this is a new relationship (past 3 days) and to be welcomed. A quick look at their website seems to show a set of consultants with appropriate credentials, and reasonable fees.

      This is good to know, and now covers my question 4b above.

    • Cherry Mosteshar says:

      Just to explain our role a little. We are an independent Literary Consultancy offering a variety of services to writers and publishers. We are here to support and encourage good writing. You can see bio info on our regular editorial team on our website. When we get a manuscript that needs expert help we can call on a long list of published authors and academics.

      We have a good relationship with many writers’ groups and organizations, to which we offer special deals and discount to encourage and help new writers. Our relationship with Brit Writers is no different. We offer a 10% discount on all our services to members of established writers’ groups, clubs, people on a creative writing course and our Twitter followers. This we would of course extend to any member of this forum. We made contact with Brit Writers online and are happy to help anyone who has been involved in their awards. Our relationship is with the writer and not any group or company.

      However, we always appreciate it when others recommend us, and pass on information about our offers and services.

      If anyone has any questions I would be more than happy to talk to them, just visit our website http://www.theoxfordeditors.co.uk for contact information.

      • claire says:

        Thank you, Cherry, I appreciate you coming over to introduce yourselves. Your website is very clear and it’s great to have your editorial team along with their credentials up on display, as well as prices. That’s exactly the kind of transparency that sets an organisation up in a good light.

  88. Janet O'Kane says:

    Oh and that email I mentioned above is also inviting people to become Brit Writers Area Coordinators. Here’s the link to a document explaining that role:
    http://www.britwriters.com/what_would_an_area_coordinator_do.pdf
    Part of the selection process appears to be agreeing to donate £100 each to 5 schools over the next 2 years.

    • claire says:

      So to become a paid area co-ordinator you first have to make a donation of £500 to local schools, and then you earn:

      “… between 10% – 50% of all income generated through your Brit Writers activities in your area: 10% of any entries to Brit Writers’ Awards from your area website, 20% of all referrals to writing services (you retain 90% of all services you provide yourself if you are a qualified and experienced provider),
      50% of all Schools signed up and 75% for local businesses advertising on your website). Please remember, ALL special needs schools and those schools who cannot afford the annual fee must be allowed to become FREE members.”

      Right.

    • Pete says:

      I would advise anyone thinking of participating in that to seek legal advice on the contract before signing it, (particularly on the terms of that donation) even if one thought that the business model provided a realistic return for the time invested.

  89. Julia Bohanna says:

    I am watching all this unfold, with something of sinking heart. I was a finalist this year and it felt like an achievement. Hopefully, it still is..

    I would disagree that Brit Writers Comps are for beginners. The unpublished simply refers to the fact the entrants have not had a whole book published under their name. I am a well-published, award-winning writer and journalist.

    But I digress. My feeling was that they had taken on a lot, had a vision and at times, they struggled to bring to life all those promises. I am sad that they haven’t spoken up…it would make everything so much better. They are without a doubt passionate people, but we all need transparency. Of course.

    There were promises made on the night of the awards, such as the schmoozing session with agents etc after the main event. It over ran and this promised and well-anticipated event did not happen. More by disorganisation than deliberate deception, I hope. We were told that all the finalists would be interviewed. They were not – only the winners. Again, it was time that got in the way.

    So, as you can see, I have splinters in my bum from this fence. But I did see some writers being encouraged, one woman who had all but given up and is now in full flow. I felt her happiness and I cheered for her.

    So please please Brit Writers, step forward and tell us your intentions…be open and see this as a dialogue not an attack. I was proud to be nominated, as I always am in competitions. Please don’t sully my achievement by making things all cloak and dagger now. I cannot be blindly loyal if I am not 100% certain. Passion is not quite enough.

    You are all about words, literacy, encouragement. You should be able to put some together and make everyone feel a hell of a lot better. No?

    • claire says:

      Julia, I am sure everyone here would agree that being a finalist WAS an achievement. I can only echo the rest of the sentiments in your comment. Thank you for taking the time to contribute.

    • Serena says:

      Like Claire says, becoming a finalist out of that number of entrants is a huge achievement Julia, so I do hope you aren’t disheartened.

      A friend of mine was a finalist and was also thoroughly disappointed not to have the promised schmoozing session, but from what I can see it would almost certainly have been due to disorganisation!

      I’m surprised though that your post has been up for a few hours and you haven’t had a ‘completely unrelated’ email from the Brit Writers telling you of some initiative to help you as a finalist of the awards, or the classic telling you that they’re happy to answer any questions you have!

  90. Lucia says:

    Re: area co-ordinator

    Quote: ‘This is a self employed role’ – so presumably one will have to pay for their own CRB check too.

  91. Whisks says:

    @Sara Crowley again. Sorry, I’m a plank; you already said ‘short story’ Top30, didn’t you? Duh *blushes* I assume your friend was also a short story Top30? (That’s what I meant to say).

  92. claire says:

    I’m posting the link again to the PDF about being an area co-ordinator, for those who are interested.

    The links in the email that was sent out track who (by email address) clicked on the link, which whilst probably a perfectly normal practice of database/mailing list tracking nevertheless makes me uncomfortable.

    http://www.britwriters.com/what_would_an_area_coordinator_do.pdf

    • David says:

      A quick note: for those of you who would like to give some money to Brit Writers so that they can ‘sponsor a local school’ on their behalf (perhaps so that you can go on to be considered for the commission-only role of Area Coordinator): the link that the Brit Writers gives in their pdf is broken. (The text of the link is correct, but the code behind it has a typo).

      The actual link is: http://www.britwriters.com/sponsor-a-school/

    • Pete says:

      It is normal marketing practice to track openings (if you have the technology) although there is some new legislation introduced this year around the use of ‘cookies’ and user permissions to obtain the ‘track back’. However the new legislation hasn’t really been tested and is proving a bit of a minefield especially for smaller organisations in its interpretation.

      There’s all sorts of legislation around the use of personal data and you can ask a company for the personal data they hold on you and the purposes they use it for (subject access request) for a small fee.

      However the best thing if you’re not comfortable with a company tracking you is to unsubscribe from mailings and UK/EU companies must offer this facility.

      The Information Commissioners Office website is a good starting point and sets out what the public can expect and what companies have to do.

      • claire says:

        Thanks Pete. I’ve been asking to be removed from the mailing list for many, many months. To no avail. I would have thought that since (on the request of BWA) all contact between us should be conducted via their solicitors, that they would have stopped sending me their marketing mails now. But no.

  93. Charlie says:

    @Claire and anybody else who knows about the business side of being a writer.

    Without doubting that BWA will deliver on their promise, I’m wondering if you can answer this question I have about their publishing programme:

    For an investment of £1795 in my writing career I get marketing and editorial advice, and presumably also help in negotiating a contract with a publisher. There is no agent to be paid as the BWA acts as one without further fees being deducted from my receipts.

    So, given that only small publishers appear to be involved for now and advances of any significance seem to be rare for unpublished writers,

    how many books will I have to sell to recoup my initial outlay?

    I’ve got a good sense for business, but don’t exactly know the size of an advance and what percentage of sales a debut author would receive. I just want to understand whether this programme leaves an aspiring author with a realistic chance of being better off financially or not.

    (Admittedly, my question ignores the valuable experience participants can be expected to gain in the course of the programme. However, I have found excellent resources online where agents, publishers and fellow writers give advice on writing and editing, synopsis, cover letters and pitching to agents, contracts and even marketing. Therefore I am reluctant to pay that much for something I can get for free.)

    • claire says:

      Hi Charlie,
      I’m not with a small publisher, so I can’t comment on the royalty rates, but I would presume they will be in the same ball park as ‘big six’ publishers, the only difference being (someone correct me if I’m wrong) that as you say you’re less likely to get an advance on royalties. We can do a bit of a ‘back of a fag packet’ calculation though.

      The average advance for a debut novel these days is £2000 or thereabouts. If we assume that you make £1 per book on average, then the publisher is saying it’s a safe bet that you’ll sell 2000 copies (with the marketing and sales effort being picked up by them). So, add travel, hotels, your own website/marketing efforts to the £1795 and perhaps you would effectively cover the cost of your investment. But of course that is without being ‘paid’ anything for your actual writing efforts.

      You could get a bigger advance than that, of course, you could also earn out your advance and sell lots more books. If you go on and win a prize like Orange, Galaxy or Booker then you’re looking at a nice earner, probably.

      As I understand it, authors become a going concern around about book 3, when sales of one book can also lead to knock on sales of the back list.

      Have a look at this post from Nathan Bransford on the different economic scenarios of publishing print vs ebooks
      and this page about the economics of self-publishing
      and this one on can you make money writing novels.

      Writing does not pay brilliantly for most authors. Which is one of the reasons we need to be very careful what we pay out up front, especially for advice that we can find for free, from credible sources.

      • Charlie says:

        Thank you Claire, I’ve followed the links and read up on the economics of publishing. Very interesting posts, and the comments are also good to read. I’m not planning on making any money from my writing at the moment, I’m exploring my options so to speak. I am also not willing to pay to get published, so all this information is going in my research folder for the future.

    • Rachael Dunlop says:

      I think that’s a really good question, Charlie. Writers invest in their writing in lots of ways, it’s good to have an idea of how the figures stack up.

      In terms of publishers involved with the BWA Publishing Programme, I don’t think we know who they are, yet. You mention small presses being involved – have any been named? I understood that BWA were promising publication with a ‘top’ publisher or your money back. According to their Facebook page, at least one writer on the programme has got a book deal, but we don’t know yet with whom.

      • Charlie says:

        Georgina Kamsika is the only one with a book out in 2011 so far. Sulphur Diaries has been published by Paperbooks Publishing

        A few of the participants in the publishing programme seem to have been shortlisted in the novel category in 2010, and quite a few have self- or vanity-published the novels they introduce on their websites. So they’re either working to re-publish with a traditional (if small) publisher or they’re working on new novels. Hard to tell from the websites as a lot of them haven’t been updated for a while.

        Claire Kinton has had a very good review from the Guardian for her novel, but again this was self-published and I think BWA might be looking to offer her second novel to publishers.

        After looking at all these writers and their work I can’t help feeling that they might well have found representation the normal way, without paying for it upfront; they seem to be quite a talented bunch.

        • claire says:

          I haven’t read of of the books mentioned.

          With the Guardian, Claire had her book reviewed by ‘starburst’ someone signed up to their ‘by children, for children’ community, rather than a Guardian journalist.

          I point this out not to disparage Claire’s book, which I haven’t read, but just for the sake of clarity.

        • Jane Smith says:

          It should be noted that Paperbooks Publishing is an imprint of Legend Press, which partered YouWriteOn in its “Publish The 5000″ vanity publishing scheme.

        • Rachael Dunlop says:

          According to BWA’s Facebook page Spencer Ratcliffe has also got a publishing deal, but there are no details yet and a quick google search didn’t throw anything up.

  94. Back from the NAWE conference, (National Association of Writers in Education) – Brit Writers was not featured or mentioned, as far as I know, in any of the 42 brilliant professional sessions, led by – er – writers and teachers, working in the education industry.
    Of course, that is not to say that many organisations represented weren’t using their services – its just that over two days of networking and sharing initiatives and ideas, strategies and so forth, one might have expected the name to be on many lips…

    Here is the NAWE website. http://www.nawe.co.uk/ If you search for Brit Writers, there is no mention. Which is odd. You’d expect there to be closest of links, especially in this time of limited cash flow…but maybe they just haven’t found each other yet. It might be a fruitful partnership. Just saying…

    re comps:

    I know several writers who were really thrilled to be ‘shortlisted’ in BW comps both last year and this. However, as a tutor, who works hard for aspiring writers, and as a writer who is more than happy to share good advice and tips about getting on in the difficult world of writing – I do not feel secure recommending this organisation, and I don’t. I am unsure what it really means, professionally – when you have no idea who has read and judged your work as ‘better than’ someone else’s. That is easily remedied, by putting a list of final judges and their qualifications on the website. Panels of readers are fine – all big comps have them. but the final judges ought to be named, in an organisation as glitzy as this one…

    But of course, as with all things, I may be wrong making negative judgements. What I will do is link to this conversation on my blog. I’d like my followers, writers who feel I have something to say, to come here, read, and make their own minds up. They can follow the links to what Brit Writers representatives have said elsewhere (although my goodness, wouldn’t it be easier if they just addressed each question directly, here?! It’d be SO much more effective. – This is a PR disaster par excellence!)

  95. Not that I heard.

    I do know several writers who work closely with First Story. One of them, the acclaimed poet Lemn Sissay, was so inspirational that one of his young students blossomed under his tutelage and won the Foyles Young Poet comp – its on the First Story website. The writers I know love working with them – and talk about it rather loudly!

  96. Pete says:

    Just been reading BWAs response to questions put by Writers Online.

    https://www.writers-online.co.uk/information/britwriters/

  97. Well, it is only my opinion, to which I believe I am entitled, and entitled to express it… but much of that sounds like fudging the issue.

    It’s fairly obvious that Brit Writers aren’t going to answer anything directly – and the longer this goes on the more worrying it gets.

    So here is a call for any independent agent, publisher or literary consultancy who works happily and fruitfully with Brit Writers, to say so.

    I do not include in this call any agents, publishers or literary consultancies who have been set up by, financed by or run by anyone linked to the Brit Writers organisation.

  98. claire says:

    In case anyone missed it, as the comment was nested, not here at the end, The Oxford Editors gave this response (for which, my thanks):

    Just to explain our role a little. We are an independent Literary Consultancy offering a variety of services to writers and publishers. We are here to support and encourage good writing. You can see bio info on our regular editorial team on our website. When we get a manuscript that needs expert help we can call on a long list of published authors and academics.

    We have a good relationship with many writers’ groups and organizations, to which we offer special deals and discount to encourage and help new writers. Our relationship with Brit Writers is no different. We offer a 10% discount on all our services to members of established writers’ groups, clubs, people on a creative writing course and our Twitter followers. This we would of course extend to any member of this forum. We made contact with Brit Writers online and are happy to help anyone who has been involved in their awards. Our relationship is with the writer and not any group or company.

    However, we always appreciate it when others recommend us, and pass on information about our offers and services.

    If anyone has any questions I would be more than happy to talk to them, just visit our website http://www.theoxfordeditors.co.uk for contact information.

  99. Impressive website – and very impressive CVs for their editors.

  100. “fits perfectly with the BWA’s aim to get everyone into creative writing”

    A laudable aim, so long as it stops there – and does not include the add-on of persuading the writing students to spend a lot of money on Brit Writer products.

    • Rachael Dunlop says:

      Is BWA a crusading and altruistic organisation aimed at getting ‘everyone involved in creative writing’ or are they a (perfectly legitimate) business offering what they perceive as an innovative model and services for getting unpublished writers published?

      It seems to me that much of their difficulty with dealing with the questions raised here is that the tension between wanting to see themselves as the former, but actually being the latter.

  101. claire says:

    Look at this programme:
    http://www.writerscentrenorwich.org.uk/uniquewritingprizeautumn2011.aspx
    It resembles the Brit Writers Publishing programme, except it costs £5 to enter and there is no guarantee you’ll be published in a year. But it is very transparent and has been running for 6 years.

  102. David says:

    I mentioned above (http://www.claire-king.com/2011/11/07/brit-writers-3-the-plot-thickens/#comment-6693) 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.

  103. I am giving a talk about use of social media tomorrow, how to, and how not to… things like that. This will make an interesting case study. I’ll pass on the link – most publishers (mainstream) will be represented at the talk.
    Expect a leap in stats, unless your stat counter has exploded already!

    • David says:

      Vanessa, a bit late for tomorrow, I know, but if ever you need material on that subject… I have lots, and would be happy to share.

      Meanwhile, it’s clearly not escaped your notice that there’s rich pickings hereabouts for both ‘how to’ and ‘how not to’.

  104. claire says:

    I had 1000 new visitors just from Simon Singh’s one tweet!

  105. Pete says:

    Came across this today. I’m not sure what to make of it.

    http://theungirlygirl.com/2011/11/13/brit-writers-awards/

    Can’t say that would have helped me much but don’t know the circumstances in which it was produced.

    • claire says:

      It looks to me like the £50 feedback from an entry into the BWA 2011.
      Personally, I would like any feedback to give me clues as to why I’m not 250/250 for publish-ability, but perhaps that’s a different service.

  106. claire says:

    I’m now in discussions with Zareen at BWA, regarding the withdrawal of litigation and the answering of questions. I hope to post a final post on this later today.

  107. [...] you have been following this blog the last couple of weeks you’ll have seen that Brit Writers Limited contacted me via their solicitors, threatening legal action for comments (unspecified) which they deemed to be potentially [...]

  108. [...] and contention between BWA and a handful of writers. Why had Harry Bingham, Jane Smith and Claire King all allegedly received letters from BWA’s solicitors, asking them to take down posts? (Retracted [...]

  109. Whisks says:

    @Pete – that link you posted yesterday with the BWA review – was that for real? Really for real?

    I’m speechless.

    • Jane Smith says:

      That feedback doesn’t actually suggest anything that could be improved, does it? It’s little more than a series of very brief summaries of various aspects of the writing. But it’s not a useful critique which gives a writer anything to get her teeth into.

      The reviews I do for free on my little blog are more helpful than that, and that’s saying something.

    • Pete says:

      I found it via a Google Alert I set up for BWA as there are quite a few different forums active. I can’t really say anything about its origin / authenticity / cost etc. but I can’t see what the motive for making it up would be and the recipient did seem genuinely pleased with it. Personally I wouldn’t have been.
      Like anything on the Internet, however it pays to be wary of any one thing in isolation so it would be wrong to say it was typical but I thought it was worth sharing.

  110. A concerned writer says:

    It is interesting that many people who criticise the BRIT writers are in positions of competition with them. I would also like to point out that while it is easy to criticise the entry fee, the majority of people who enter do so through the various schemes that involve schools, and thus enter for free.
    I also find it interesting that if they are as hopeless as some like to portray them, it is interesting that bloggers such as … ( Edited: you are not welcome to level personal assaults on my blog) … feel the need to follow them on facebook, and then make heavily loaded comments, which do not actually highlight any issues with the company.
    You can censor my comment if you want to, after all, I’m just a 15 year old boy who has a passion for writing and feels that those who actually make an effort to get others involved need a little support, regardless of who they are. If you have nothing to hide though, you will let the world see what I have to say.

    Thanks

    • claire says:

      If you are genuinely ‘just a 15 year old boy’ then please join the discussion correctly, using your real name and a valid email address. And refrain from making personal attacks. This is not the right forum. As you know, the entry fee is the least of our concerns.

    • Janetyjanet says:

      “just a 15 year old boy” – but why go to the trouble of a bland pseudonym and then insert spurious personal detail into your post, how curious…

  111. Serena says:

    Is anybody else concerned that the BritWriters are now promoting AmericaWriters on their Facebook page?? Is this about to go global?

  112. Robert says:

    I am a former member of the BWA’s Publishing Programme. Also, I worked for a short time as a Publishing Consultant for them. Having waited ten months to receive payment for work done in January 2012, I am now struggling to get a refund. Regarding the Publishing Programme I long gave up and found my own deal. Promises upon promises have been made but not substantiated. I will be taking the BWA to court, as will, a whole bunch of others. Strongly recommend that everyone avoids any dealings with the BWA. In my eyes they have proven themselves incompetent and although not intentionally a scam, may as well be regarded as such. I wish I had never heard of them. Imran Akram is a man of many an empty word.

    • Claire says:

      Hello Robert,
      I really appreciate you coming over to leave a comment. These pages regularly get hits, and it’s clear there are many writers and other people in the world of publishing ‘discovering’ Brit Writers and wondering if they should get involved. As you’ll have seen from the threads, we were all hoping that the 2010 situation was just teething problems, and in 2011 perhaps over-enthusiasm. But it does seem that even 3 years on, things just don’t get any better. Sorry you had a bad experience. Good luck with your writing in future.

      • Robert says:

        Hi Claire,

        I have been meaning to add my piece for a very long time now. Was just waiting for the right moment.

        The writing is going well thanks. In fact, the whole BWA affair has resulted in two positive developments, namely: my first novel out next year, and the founding of wonderbookland.com.

        Thank you Claire for allowing others like myself to voice their concerns, and above all, of warning the unsuspecting about the BWA and what they might be getting into.

        Really it’s a great shame that it has all come to this. I once believed in the BWA and all what they ‘said’ they stood for. Unfortunate above all that they didn’t believe it themselves.

  113. I wish I’d seen this article before parting with £10.95 via PayPal for the review service they offer with promise of contact with agents. As is, I made the payment and their system still wouldn’t give me the promised access afterwards. I logged out, back in, all to no effect – it just kept demanding of me that I make the payment again and again and again. So, I emailed the BWA and got an automated response telling me that nobody would be getting back to me before Feb 5 – which is unacceptable as today is Jan 31 and, in professional terms, I think that kind of delay is simply inexcusable.

    I’m an indie author working hard to try to make a living and £10.95 is not a small sum for me. I’ve contacted PayPal asking them to not only open a dispute but to escalate it immediately as it is apparent I cannot reach a resolution with the payee as s/he is unreachable at present and will be for several days.

    As far as I am concerned, it is quite simple: I paid for an instant-access service that I did not receive this evening. As a consequence, and in line I am sure with UK consumer protection laws, I have every right to say that the ‘goods’ were not as ordered or promised, and I wish to change my mind and get a full refund. I suspect it’s up to PayPal now to do the right thing by me, rather than these BWA people who, judging by my experience today, are not going to be rushing to resolve matters within an acceptable timeframe if at all. Whether this is an incompetent business or something darker, I cannot say but it doesn’t matter – the end result for people like me is unacceptable frustration, stress and cost we need to fill forms in and probably struggle to get back, if we are lucky.

  114. [...] some of you might know, some of us have had a bit of trouble with Brit Writers Limited recently. I’m not going to discuss that here–I have another post or seven in the works which [...]

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