Claire King


Too Good to be True?

Posted on: December 3rd, 2010 by Claire - 49 Comments

I received an email today from the Brit Writers Awards, essentially inviting authors of completed fiction novels (sic) to apply for their Publishing Programme:

We are looking to work with 15 unpublished authors over the next 12 months on an intensive one-to-one basis, who we guarantee will be published with a top publisher before Christmas 2011.

These 15 writers will be sharing their progress on the BWA website, while at the same time, behind the scenes film footage will document their journey to getting published.

What will this programme include?

  • Guaranteed to get your work published with a top publisher within 12 months or your money back.
  • A senior personal consultant with you throughout the process, who will act as your agent, mentor and will be on-call for you to provide support and guidance until you are published.
  • Formal fortnightly planning and review meetings with you until you are published.
  • Facilitation of meetings and advice from a range of top experts from the publishing arena for you.
  • Developing you, the author as ‘The Brand’
  • Critiquing and developing your concept
  • Editing (prior to publishing)
  • Production of the book including cover design
  • Sales and marketing strategy
  • Promotion through our networks, partners and recognition at the next BWA gala awards event.
  • All legal, ISBN, copyright services as required

· All of the above for a one off fee of £1,795. This is fully guaranteed and fully refundable if you are not published within 12 months.

OK. This troubles me. How many aspiring novelists are there in the UK that would spend that kind of money for ‘guaranteed publication within a year’? I imagine there are thousands.

I have put my main questions to the Brit Writers. Thanks to Zareen for her replies which you can see below. See what you think:

Questions to the Brit Writers Awards:

1) What do you mean by a top publisher?

BWA:The BWA works with a number of traditional publishers and many imprints. This will not be a self-publishing route.”

2) It often takes more than 12 months for a novel to go from being contracted by a publisher to hitting the shelves. How can you bypass this length of time and still have an effective book/career launch?

BWA: “This is why we have specified that the draft needs to be complete or almost complete. We are working with some fantastic experts from the publishing industry who are all confident that this can be achieved and we will obviously only select/take on books that we think we can succeed with.”

3) Would the 15 chosen novelists have any further expenditure before their ‘guaranteed publication’?

BWA: “Only their travel to meetings, gatherings and phone bills.”

4) What kind of publication contract can they expect?

“A traditional type of publishing deal.

We believe that this will work and that’s why we’re offering a full refund if we fail. We have even committed to document the progress with a behind the scenes film – so everything will be completely transparent.”

UPDATE OCTOBER 2011: Brit Writers now apparently has an ‘agents division’. Please see this post for the discussions.

49 Responses

  1. Catdownunder says:

    Definitely too good to be true! I would like to see the fine print in the contract because I am sure there would be a great many escape clauses – for them and not for the writer.

  2. Fiona Joseph says:

    I would guess the ‘top publisher’ is some kind of vanity outfit or perhaps a subsidy press. Will you let us know the response from Brit Writers Awards? Thanks, F.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Well done for raising the issues with them. I wonder if you will get a reply.

    I was always under the impression that if someone asks for that sort of money you should run for the hills.

  4. Martha says:

    Favourite line:

    Editing (prior to publishing).

    …as opposed to… editing afterwards?

  5. Avis HG says:

    That’s a very modest total (quoted) of £26,925 aim.

    Of course the more aspiring authors they ‘mentor’ the more they ‘earn’…

  6. Avis HG says:

    Out of interest (OK I’m nosey) I had a quick look into this. The Brit Writers’ Awards run by the same company who ‘hosts’ the Muslim Writers’ Awards. (ever heard of them?) They declare they had a 2010 award ceremony at the O2 dome, winner was Catherine Cooper. who formed her OWN publishing company to get her books to market. Pengridion Books. Only four titles published – all Ms. Coopers. Interesting?

    • admin says:

      They did run a 2010 competition, I entered it. And they did have a ceremony. The whole thing was rather shambolic but the icing on the cake for me was that they published Catherine Cooper’s winning novel – without her permission, without a contract – as a ‘surprise’ for her.

    • Mike says:

      Catherine Cooper set up Pengridion books prior to entering the BW awards. She self published the first book and the subsequent books were published by Infinite Ideas. She may be the only legitimate winner of BW but the way they did it, without a contract and without telling her was I agree, strange.

  7. Avis HG says:

    Well if you look up the lady she says she did it herself – no mention of this comp and the Brit Writers’ Awards.

  8. Sara Crowley says:

    This is very interesting indeed. I entered the Brit Writers Awards last year & I apparently made the Top 30 of the longlist, as did a writing colleague of mine, and we were both more than a little sceptical. In my experience they don’t reply to queries (I asked which of my stories made the top 30) and will be following this with interest. Who are these “Top Publishers” and how on earth can they guarantee publication before next December?

    I received one of their emails this morning and it screams DODGY at me. Thanks for posting about it, please keep us updated.

  9. Richard Barber says:

    Hmm, had a similar experience with BWA: Apparently shortlisted for the 2010 awards but they never responded when I asked what they’d shortlisted.

  10. AliB says:

    Fascinating. ‘Brit Writer Awards’ just sounds kosher doesn’t it? They did run a comp in 2010 , but a bit of Goggling suggests there were questions raised even then. The current offer may just be a sideline to raise funds, but still casts doubt over the whole thing. AliB

  11. admin says:

    So, people are starting to be ‘chosen’ for this process. What can I say? I’m sure your novels are wonderful but, you know what? In that case think about trying to get an actual literary agent who will help you get a publisher and all of the points listed above will be done….for free. And then *and here’s the thing* the publisher will pay you. It may not be guaranteed to happen within 12 months, but that’s life.

  12. This all has a very slick look about it but I am beginning to think it is a highly dubious operation of which writers would do well to steer clear. What amused me on the website was that they had a letter purporting to be from Gordon Brown at Number 10, but dated 26th June, well after the Camerons had moved in!
    Much better spend your money on giving yourself time to work on your manuscript and research how publishing actually works than sign up for what looks like it is very probably a scam.

  13. Eiry Thomas says:

    I totally understand that a degree of scepticism about the BWA is healthy, but I can only respond with an account of my personal experience:
    > I got through to the third round of judging in the first competition and attended the Awards Ceremony at the O2.  My dealings with the BWA have been transparent from the start and I have every confidence in their integrity.  

    For my part, the fact that I write in a lyrical fashion has worked against me time and time again because co-editing versus profitability issues prevail.  This situation results in children being short-changed and deprived of a medium that they so enjoy.
    BWA are attempting to redress the balance in order to help struggling authors who might otherwise never see works in print.
    I read the Q and A section with Zareen and I can personally vouch for her integrity.  My dealings with her have been totally professional and I have no reason whatever to doubt her honesty.
    > The fee involved is nominal when all the costs are considered.  They amount to far less money spent compared to the costs of self-publishing.

    I don’t fall for scams readily and would not continue an association with an opportunistic venture purely for the sake of seeing my books in print. I would add that claims alluding to the first competition winner’s contract being set up falls wide off the mark.
    > Given time, the outcome will be what it will be.  Meanwhile, a rather tempered approach by all might help to keep a perspective.

  14. claire says:

    I have had a very comprehensive email from Zareen today. I share it below. This is a cut and paste, so…sic to it all:
    Dear Claire

    I hope you’re well.
    We have been following your blogs and I thought it would be useful to clarify further with you.

    We are not in the habit of getting into arguments on online writing forums – we want our work to speak for itself, but as with all innovative bold initiatives that challenge the status quo, we do expect controversy and debate, so when people that have had positive experiences come out in defence of the BWA, it’s really encouraging.

    Regarding the comments being made about the BWA and in particular our Publishing Programme, I just wanted to let you know of the following facts and hope that we can count on your support.

    As this is a groundbreaking initiative we know there are lots of questions out there, but you’ll appreciate that we’re creating a new model here which we believe will revolutionise the way people get published in the future. What everyone knows for sure is that the current system is not working – as a result, the publishing industry is overly complicated, elitist and inaccessible and even the ‘top’ publishing houses are having to resort to publishing trashy celebrity novels to make ends meat, rather than find those gems THAT WE KNOW EXIST OUT THERE.
    We know that the ‘one-stop-shop’ model that we’re developing here is difficult to come to terms with for an industry that is so set in its ways and we will have to be forgiven if we don’t answer all questions as we do not want to give it all away at this early stage – but over the next few months, we are going to unveil lots of new ideas as part of this programme. This is the reason why we’re making a documentary. We are in discussions with a few TV channels who may broadcast the behind the scenes documentary. These decisions will be finalised once the programme is underway and we have some tasters/snippets of the documentary to demonstrate. But the idea of the documentary is to show/track the progress of each author and the development of this model to support new writers.

    As part of the publishing programme, the BWA’s substantial network of experts, agents and publishers (we do not work with vanity publishers and this programme will not involve self-publishing) will work with the author in an intensive way according to the their needs, to ensure the authors work is published by a traditional publisher, but not necessarily via the traditional route and that’s where the difference lies.
    It is through these agents and experts, their connections within the publishing industry and the relationships that we have built up over the last 18 months, that we will ensure the success of the programme. It would be unprofessional of us at this stage for us to share our confidential plans and contacts. However, any expertise that we do not have in-house we will buy in at no additional cost to the author.
    The fee of £1,795 is not to pay for publishing, it is to pay for all the expertise, meetings and resources that we’ll provide to support the author. We will then broker a deal between the author and the appropriate publisher for that book. (If we fail to find a publisher that will take the book on, we promise to refund the fee).

    Again, as above, we are working with experts from our partner organisation, agents, PR, marketing and business consultants – people like yourself who have many years of experience within the publishing industry and understand what works and what doesn’t. I don’t know if you have been keeping up to date with our Your Book Your Way™ division, but we have a growing consortium of partners from the publishing sector, that deliver many services for us including free creative writing workshops, marketing services and all sorts of technical and publishing advice to budding writers. Again, the mentors/consultants for each author will be decided from this pool of experts once the authors have been finalised and their needs have been closely examined. Please see our November update for more information:

    We are only looking to recruit 15 for this first programme and many of these have already been selected and informed. Contrary to what has been said on forums, we are not making decisions based on the initial description sent in by applicants. If they interest us at this stage, we then ask for a full synopsis and the manuscript so we can study the application further and make a decision.
    We’ll be documenting the development of these 15 over the next year and keeping our networks and partners informed of their progress and by Christmas 2011 we would have proved that our model works by successfully brokering publishing deals for each author. Regarding publishers, we’re working with many as you know and we will facilitate a deal with the most suitable publisher for each book. As the 15 authors have not yet been finalised, we obviously can’t say anymore at this stage.
    We have had many applications and we will be announcing the final 15 on Monday 13 December so do look out for that.

    Please feel free to share this information with your networks.

    Many thanks again for taking the time to read this and please get in touch if you require any further clarification.

    Kindest regards


    Zareen Roohi Ahmed
    Brit Writers Head of Operations

  15. Eiry Thomas says:

    Thank you for your good wishes Claire. Like you, I intend to keep any posts factual and courteous. I don’t wish to get drawn into anything other than that based on my experience, truths and facts. So much is being assumed at the moment. Everyone is entitled to their say, just as I am entitled to make decisions.

  16. Claire, thanks for posting this.

    Folks, please be aware of the difference between real publishers and firms like this. Real publishers will offer authors money, and won’t ever ask for money from the author. What is the money going towards? I’d bet a fair chunk goes straight into the pockets of the business people running this show. The rule of thumb is, look at all those who’re supposed to have won previous awards and see their “guaranteed” sales by going to Waterstone’s and looking on the shelves. None there? There’s your answer.

    The truth is, publishers will want to publish real books and will pay if there is merit in your work. If you cannot interest a publisher in your current work, then start a new book.

    If you want to look at a competition that may end in your being published, go to the Crime Writers’ Association site and look at the Debut Dagger. Every winner of the Debut is now published. Yes, they had to pay. All entries cost about £10. Not over a thousand.

    And finally, if this company is serious and still makes simple errors such as “publishing trashy celebrity novels to make ends meat” I really cannot see them succeeding in selling your work to real publishers.

    Save your money. Write well, write hard, and approach real agents and publishers.

    Michael Jecks – author of the Templar Series

  17. […] is becoming big business. At least for the people who are selling it. BWA, as far as I can gather from a bizarre message from one of its executives here, sees itself as much as a training organisation as a literary prize, not that I’ve seen this […]

  18. Imran Akram says:

    It’s always distressing to see something being run for genuine reasons being misunderstood and misrepresented. When we ran the inaugural Brit Writers’ Awards earlier this year we saw a lot of impressive talent that showed signs of writers with the potential to become published authors but who needed to be developed to reach that stage. This raw talent couldn’t win the BWA – but maybe with a year’s work and support it could lead to that writer being published. But we felt that the publishing industry’s doors seemed to be kept too tightly closed for this talent to emerge. The idea of our new publishing programme came out of this – we believed and still believe that we could pick the best 15 writers and help them develop their writing to publishable point. The fee charged for our programme is for that – the development, the mentoring, the tuition from professionals who could help take those writers there – a costly exercise for a private individual, which is why we decided to set this project up and to underwrite it so that if we did not secure the author a conventional publishing deal with a mainstream publisher we would refund their money in full. Too good to be true, except that it is true. What this does mean is that we are not using their fees to pay a publisher to publish their book – and also why we can’t say who the publishers will be until the books are chosen and in. We will be helping the authors secure that deal – with whichever publisher it might be. It is not a scam – it is not a ‘stitched-up’ deal – what it is is a statement of our confidence in the writing talent we have seen and in the quality of support we will be able to deliver to these authors. We hope to open doors and make the route to getting published easier and more accessible, that is all.

    • claire says:

      Imran, No distress was meant by this post or any of the comments. Nor did I intend to suggest this is a scam.
      However, the veil of secrecy over your partners in the publishing world, alongside credibility issues from the 2010 Awards does not make us feel confident in the face of your very bold claims of publication (not self publication) within 12 months. Even that timescale is a huge warning.
      From my point of view, much of the raw talent that is around can be developed OUTSIDE of ‘the industry’ via online support, writing groups, and a lot more practice. All of these things are free.
      If young writers are going to pay to develop their writing skills I believe that credible and proven organisations such as Arvon are a safer bet.

      • Tony Stowell says:

        I have been involved with a Writers Circle for twenty years, and we have among our numbers some distinguished people, some published novelists, some have self-published and many of us have had work published locally. We all work to support and develop our efforts.
        Many of us have also sent our work for critical analysis to one of the many businesses offering this service, and we have paid sometimes large sums for their advice. Experience has shown this to be a futile decision. We have had replies which suggest the way to success is to write like the critic does (buy my book!0, some which give a brief analtsis which would barely achieve a GCSE D grade, and athers which suggest a rewriting which, when done, receives a negative response from yet another critic. One of our members received a comment that the plot was excellent, but the characterisation weak – yet the same work was returned saying the characters were brilliant, but the plot weak. None of these expensive exercises brought anyone nearer to publication.
        The Brit Writers awards- and I am one of the Fifteen, cut through all this nonsense and marshal a particular book written by a particular author to a published who, their deep research indicates, will be interested. They are doing this to prove their point -it can be done.
        All the indications are that they will succeed. True, they ask for some money up front, but that money could just as easily have been spent on futile crits from well-meaning but impotent sources. If it works, I shall be delighted, and they will have proved their point. If it does not work, I shall get my money back and they will have failed.
        I somehow don’t think they will

  19. Zeeshan says:

    All this cynicism and negativity makes me wonder if the freeze has come in from outside!

    This BWA scheme sounds wonderful. For those of you who may not be aware there are more established agencies running similar schemes.. One was Adventures in Fiction a few years back and another is The Literary Consultancy

    The latter charges around the same fees as the BWA scheme but does not guarantee a publisher. In fact, it will only recommend when if they see fit.

    Finding a mentor is hard enough in creative sectors and it’s sad to see so many wet blankets. I tried a few years ago and mentors wanted £200 a session!

    If BWA are trying to help writers live their dreams, what’s all the fuss about? As for the fees involved – somebody, anybody do the math! It’s a year long scheme and will barely cover the costs.

    Yes, I did enter the awards and I didn’t get shortlisted. Yes, I did go the Awards and it was a great evening with some hitches. But that’s life.

    • claire says:

      Hello Zeeshan,
      Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment.
      I am not trying to be negative, but I do think a healthy dose of cynicism is very useful as a writer, when your twitter feed is regularly blocked by ‘Writers Needed!’ pay schemes and others trying to take your money under the guise of helping you be published. The need, as a writer, to see your work in print and being read by others is a powerful and compelling urge. We are sometimes very easy prey.
      I think that following Eiry’s example of being polite, considered and professional and avoiding name calling would be extremely helpful to what is obviously a heated debate.

  20. Bella Connolly says:

    Hi. I wanted to comment as my experience with Brit Writers has been a very positve one. I can understand that their offer could seem ‘too good to be true’ and I suppose it’s healthy to question it. All I’ve experienced is honesty and generosity. I entered the awards and got down to the final 100, a great boost to a new writer wanting to break into this diffifult world. Since then I’ve had a consultation, which was conducted in a professional manner. My consultant was extremely knowledgeable regarding the publishing world, helpful and inspiring. I’m confident that the experience I’ve had has been invaluable to the progress of my book and my development as a writer. Since then I’ve had numerous telephone calls and emails (for no extra fee) all with the intent to support and encourage me. I’m so grateful that I made contact with the Brit Writers, as for me it’s been a highly constructive process and I truly believe that with their help I’ll reach my ultimate goal. The confidence and advice they’ve given me will go a long way.
    Thank you.

  21. Aspiring Writer says:

    I have a simple comment for whoever doubts the intentions of Brit Writers – Are you or do you see anybody else leading such initiative?

    It opens doors and opportunities for aspiring writers, nothing in life is free, and so what if it changes?

    Critique is healthy to some extent.. but not pessimism. Nothing goes without criticism, and to be honest I dont see anyone else complaining?


  22. admin says:

    Dear Aspiring Writer,
    I’m not sure I understand your comment.

  23. Eiry Thomas says:

    Here’s an update. It’s self-explanatory:

    Congratulations on your book deal Claire.

    • claire says:

      Thanks for the congratulations, Eiry! I hope all is going well with you on your journey.
      Who does Liza write for? Will she be publishing her interview outside of the BWA site?

      • Eiry Thomas says:

        All is going really well thanks, Claire. As a group, we have much work to do and the others in the group are a great bunch. I’m at a stage that I would have struggled to reach on my own. I’m delighted about that because my concept is quite far-reaching and I would have floundered. I don’t have answers to your queries though, I’m sorry.

      • Hi Claire. In response to your question, I thought I would pass this link on to you. Please allow me to congratulate you, too. I wish you the very best of luck.

        • claire says:

          Hello Leanne,
          Thank you for your congratulations. I have seen the link. I’m afraid I do have a problem with this link though. It does not strike me as a piece written by an established journalist for a reputable magazine or newspaper. It seems, in fact, like a PR exercise which was presumably paid for by BWA, using…erm…the money from where exactly?
          Please do correct me if I’m wrong.
          Best wishes,

  24. […] to add: Harriet Smart has pointed out on Claire King’s blog post about this that the BWA website proudly displays a letter from Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street […]

  25. […] previous thread on the same organisation please see Too Good to be True (about their publishing scheme) Tweet This […]

  26. […] The BWA lists partnerships with schools, claims to have a ‘substantial network of experts, agents and publishers’ and even displayed an […]

  27. […] an increasing murmur of concern at some of the BWA’s business practices (for example here, here and here). As an organisation active with new writers, we need to know how to respond to […]

  28. […] (Max Dunbar's blog provides a summary of some of these allegations.) I was especially worried about the BWA's Publishing Programme, which offered unpublished writers mentoring and publishing for £1,795 apiece. (Nearly a year […]

  29. […] sources, it seems that BWA put out some strong marketing messages about their competition, their mentoring system for new authors, and their new liaison service to help authors find agents. Some of their methods were a touch […]

  30. rebu says:

    This all very curious. I did fall for the 10 quid membership, and submitted a few chapters of a couple of books, for their (Brit Writers) agent quest. Not a proverbial dickie.
    I am also self-published, through my own imprint, so thought perhaps they didn’t like that, or my writing was deemed unworthy. Fair enough, but still nothing to tell either way. When I rang up, a woman, with a disarmingly comfortable voice, apologised for the lack of communication, and assured me that they ‘get back to everyone’. I couldn’t bring myself to challenge her.
    My password is now disabled; I got stroppy with them – after the last tranche of words I sent down for another agent quest disappeared – but still sent the invites for the nether-nether land of something or other, or to be invited to other writers being awarded. No, no, stampy foot, I’m not that generous. I want to be at my award ceremony, well not even that, just some feedback would be fanfare enough.
    There is so much money to be made in writers’ desperation to be published. But even if you are, you’ll still have to do the leg work.

    • claire says:

      There are several other posts on this site where you can see how this all progressed…it’s not an organisation I would recommend. As you say, there is a lot of money to be made out of writers. Writers beware.

  31. Rebu says:

    This thread may be becoming slightly frayed, however britwriters are now offering a: publish your work on kindle for £99
    Why? You can do it yourself for nothing. Best spend the cash on a good editor before so doing, then upload your word doc, and serve.
    Britwriters also promise 70% royalties, even tho the gift of a@ 50p is not theirs to promise.
    My concern is for authors, who, rather than taking control of their work, are parking it with these agencies who in turn get grants to advise the bleeding obvious.
    Well earned money should be extended to create a well organised manuscript, a strong pitch – the rest is basically advertising. Will cuckoo britwriters do that?

    • claire says:

      Publish on Kindle for £99? I hadn’t heard of that one yet (I’m finally off their mailing list). That doesn’t sound to me like it’s changing the face of publishing to me, despite all their rhetoric. Nor is it supporting writers. Taking money off writers is what that sounds like, as you say, for something that can be obtained cheaper elsewhere.
      I hope that there is sufficient information on this site and elsewhere on the web that the savvy writer can make sensible, cost effective choices.

  32. Sue says:

    Brit Writers applied in @ March 2013 to be struck off the UK Companies Register, on the basis they are no longer doing business. Yet they owe creditors thousands – each of the participants in their Publishing Program who they screwed out of around £1800. Only a few participants got published, the rest were treated v shoddily. Suggest you steer clear of all those people involved in Brit Writers, lest they go on to start new writer-rip-off schemes, hot on the heels of their success at ripping people off. The past directors of Brit Writers were Imran Akram, Zareen Roohi Ahmed and Matthew James Wood. Some people think MJ Wood doesn’t exist as although Imran claims he’s current CEO of BW, his name wasn’t on their website and he’s not even facebook friends with Imran. Also, if you look at the details of Brit Writers registered office, in Derby, several other companies are run from the same address, including one that specialized in retailing Halal meat. They seem to churn through an awful lot of companies.

    • claire says:

      Thank you for this update. As always with these things it’s a terrible pity for writers who lost money through their hope and faith in such an organization.

      • Sue says:

        Thanks Claire. RE Brit Writers, not everyone in this world is honest, some people are really bad. I hope other writers will look out for these bad characters and avoid them. Brit Writers has just taken down its Facebook page, yay! Hopefully they will take down their website soon. All those writers posting details on that rip-off site, it just tarnishes them. Brit Writers doesn’t deserve the support of anyone with talent, and thank you for your good wishes towards those writers who have been stung. Imran Akram seems to be on a pilgrimage to Mecca at the moment, I wonder if any god is willing to save his grubby little soul.

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