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• Please could you reveal the names and agencies of some of the agents who have approached you seeking new writers?
• You were unwilling to pass on the details of any of the experts and consultants who do your manuscript assessments without clearing it with them first. Please could you check with some of them and let me know who they are?
• Who are the partners you would recommend to authors needing editorial improvements?
• Please could you give me an update on the progress of the Publishing Programme? What part did the Programme play in securing deals for authors A, B, C and D? When will you be able to confirm, beyond x, which publishers have signed them?
• 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'd just like to repeat my plea for more transparency here. Writers are a suspicious lot, and dodging questions only makes us more so. In particular, concealing the identities of your publishing consultants and partners can only damage the credibility of Brit Writers.
Zareen's full response:
As discussed our priority is to ensure that any author, entrant or partner organisation’s private discussions and arrangements are kept strictly confidential, it is on this basis that we build long term relationships based on trust and mutual benefit.
Although the partnership with Writing Magazine ended last year, at no point, as above, have we discussed our partnership details with anyone. In fact we continued to allow all your subscribers (and even people who said they were not subscribers but just readers) to enter the 2011 awards free of charge even though our agreement had ended. As I mentioned to you earlier, as a result of this, one of your subscribers that entered for free was a finalist at the awards this year and was invited as our guest to Madame Tussauds. We hope you do a feature on her in your magazine and give her the recognition she deserves.
Regarding your specific questions, the Agent’s Division is a trial service that we are piloting in partnership with a number of Agents and Commissioning Editors who have become our friends over the last few years. As you know from last year’s awards ceremony Jonathan you could see the wide range of partners, sponsors and publishing industry insiders who were there for all to see and meet and everyone took away an awards magazine which clearly promoted some of our partners. In the same way, people that attended this year’s awards would have met many of our partners, and again were given an awards magazine to take away. Brit Writers is not growing on its own, it is only growing because of our relationships and the trust that individuals, agents, publishers and partners have in us and the mutually beneficial ways in which we work with them. Any business, and indeed all agents and publishers are businesses and therefore compete in the market place. Thus we have signed non-disclosure agreements preventing us from disclosing our agents and publishers as they too are competing with one another to find the next best thing. I can’t make myself any clearer on this matter.
The way this project works is simple. Once the submission is received, it goes through an initial assessment. This is carried out by one of a pool of experienced editors, in fact, the majority have been assessed by a former director of a large publishing house. The main points are then noted and sent back to Hari to communicate to the author. It is entirely up to the author to act upon the recommendations, and no fee is charged for this feedback. We ask the author to find their own literary consultant/service provider and if they cannot, only then do we assist and refer to one of our partners. Again, some of our partners are promoted in our awards magazine, and again, they too compete in the open market to provide the best quality service and we feel that they should only be known to the client that they’re providing a service to. I have spoken to a couple of our consultants about whether they would be willing to allow us to say who they were, but unsurprisingly, given the current situation whereby my personal details are being shared on public forums, and with accusations of us forging the Prime Ministers letters etc., they do not agree to this and believe that their relationship should be with their client/author and it is no one else’s business, especially a competing editing company’s. And I agree with them entirely as it would be wrong for us to risk their privacy to be exploited in the same way as mine has and it would be detrimental to the authors they are currently working with.
As I explained to you Jonathan, we used the expertise within your organisation last year and we are certainly not using anyone who is any less experienced now.
With regard to the Publishing Programme, again you ask us to talk about which publishers we’re working with in respect of our authors. I think it’s extremely naive of anyone to expect us to share the details of potential publishers of authors we’re working with. Once the contract is signed and book launch is arranged, that is the time for any author to go public about their book and publisher, however, even at that stage, no author would talk about the kind of deal they have with their publisher – that’s a private matter between the author and the publisher! In terms of who the partners are that we would recommend authors to, again I am not going to jeopardise our relationships with them by dragging them into this debate, but I will say that a number of them are regular contributors in your magazine Jonathan.
In terms of an update on the Publishing Programme, any contracts that have been secured so far and those in discussions are 100% due to the programme. B’s publisher was named and promoted at our awards in October, but out of respect for B, as a debut author, and to give her book the best possible start we would rather you didn’t involve her or any of her colleagues on the publishing programme in this debate please. The other author’s publishers will be named in due course when the authors are good and ready for the same reasons as I’ve stated above. Jonathon, we use many partners including editing organisations, similar to the ones we are in dispute with. We answer any questions from our members and partners and we will not entertain a discussion on their forums and be bullied into sharing the nuts and bolts of our business for them to copy.
Jonathon, we respect you and your organisation. But please try to understand this scenario -
We have a magazine for our members called 'Write Now!'. I'm sure you would agree it would be wrong of me to-
a) Disparage your organisation publicly and insult you personally.
b) To demand that we and our members have the right to know who your full list of advertisers are? How much they pay? What the deal is for each partner/advertiser? Who the directors and shareholders are and then paste their personal details on public forums? How much have they all invested? Show us your full accounts? Provide us with your full business plan so that we can see if your model is working? Explain the full business model of your magazine and organisation giving us full details including the processes? What your plans are for distribution? Who are your distributors and how much do they charge and can we have their full details for us to verify? We demand you provide us with accurate readership and circulation figures for us to verify? Provide a full list of everyone who works with you and/or is remotely associated to your organisation and we demand that you explain their backgrounds and qualifications in the magazine sector? We'd also like to know who copy edits your magazine? Who are your designers and how much do you pay them? Where do you print your magazines? How much do you spend? Why aren't all these questions answered clearly on your website so that we can see and copy for our magazine? How qualified are your printers, designers, editors, sales reps, delivery drivers? Oh, and we demand that you post your answers on OUR forum for your other competitors to also see. I'm sure you get the picture of why we're so upset.
As I said, last year after the launch of our Publishing Programme, we made a public statement which was posted onto Claire Kings blog and was shared on Jane Smith’s and Harry Bingham’s blog answering questions about our Publishing Programme and we have also made attempts to meet, discuss concerns and work together which have been turned down. In Imran’s interview with Liza Adams earlier this year, he reiterated the fact that our door would always be open for healthy discussion for the sake of promoting creative writing and for the benefit of writers, especially unpublished and new writers.
At the end of the day Jonathan, while safeguarding the interests of our members, entrants and partners we have been extremely open and transparent. We are not a government funded initiative but we are endorsed by government ministers. However, when we are falsely accused of being a scam, forging letters from the Prime Minister, and our organisation is constantly under attack, by the same individuals again and again, we have no choice but to take legal action.
I’d like to add at this stage that many bloggers are speculating huge profits from entries and sponsorships, so I think it is important for them to know that although you were promoted as a sponsor at last year’s awards, given free promotion through our networks and promoted in our magazine with free entries for all your subscribers, no money was exchanged. In return you promoted us in your magazine. This arrangement worked for both of us for a period of time. This is what partnership working is about.
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Last Updated: 10th May 2012