Brit Writers issue...

edited November 2011 in - WM and WN
You may have seen this being discussed on blogs recently, but especially today.

http://writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/

http://quillersplace.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/a-word-about-the-brit-writers-award/

An organisation that resorts to legal threats when it is asked legitimate questions about its services and its published statements, does itself no good and rings warning bells.

Comments

  • So now it seems also Sally Quilford distances herself from them:

    "I have now taken the personal decision not to include the Brit Writers Awards on my comps calendar or in my comps listings in Writers Forum again"
  • I have been in contact with Brit Writers in an attempt to address some of the concerns at the root of all this. Hopefully will have some news to report soon.
  • Thanks Webbo.
    It will be interesting to see if they say anything substantial.
  • Quite. It's a vicious circle. The whole thing would be a non-story if they would just give a straight answer.
  • Awaiting developments with interest!
  • edited November 2011
    So right Webbo.
    The fact they aren't so far giving any sort of answer to the questions and started going legal, just creates suspicion that they have something to hide.
    Hopefully they will realise that they need to be straight with people.
  • hmm, how interesting! I've added their blog to my reader in order to follow along. If there isn't anything dodgy going on, they are making it worse by slamming the gates and threatening legal action! All it does is make people even more suspicious!
  • edited November 2011
    I've just posted a thread re the latest news, a national newspaper is investigating and the journalist wants to speak to people who have had any involvement with them.
    Thread is called 'Passing on a help request relevent to Talkbackers'
  • The results of my attempt to get answers from BWA are on the news page. Share your thoughts here please.
  • Thanks for letting up know Webbo.
  • "they should only be known to the client that they’re providing a service to."
    Not exactly an encouraging use of English from a publisher!

    I'm not sure how they conflate the release of the writer's personal details, and the professional credentials of an agency or publishing house, as a reason for non-disclosure.
  • Unbelievable...

    I'd love to know who is supposed to have accused them of forging letter from the PrimeMinister- I must have missed that one...:)

    Unfortunately the jusifications given- for not revealing names etc- doesn't wash.

    Writers don't want to annoy or persecute agents, they want agents to take them on, and you aren't going to be considered by an agent you've hassled or harrassed.

    From the statement: " 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 majority' does not neccesarily mean all of them have gone through this 'assessment', nor does it mean those who aren't in the majority have gone through this process.

    ( Okay I'm being picky, but in the commercial world we live in, words used can suggest one thing but in reality mean something entirely different- I'm NOT saying that is the case here, just that I'm cynical sometimes...)

    Which large publishing house? They don't need to reveal the name of the individual. But if the former director overseeing the assessment is from the big six, that would actually provide reasurance.

    I also must have missed her personal details being exploited...

    I would take issue with a number of the things in her statement- just too many to comment on- I want my lunch. :)

    But I'm fairly certain that even I could track down who had probably funded adverts that appear in WM/WN. And likewise the chain of ownership of the magazine- and somewhere the names of who does what job, and info about them- if I so wished or had any interest in finding out.
    So there's not much problem with transparency at WM/WN I'm sure.
  • [quote=Carol]I also must have missed her personal details being exploited...

    I would take issue with a number of the things in her statement- just too many to comment on- I want my lunch.

    But I'm fairly certain that even I could track down who had probably funded adverts that appear in WM/WN. And likewise the chain of ownership of the magazine- and somewhere the names of who does what job, and info about them- if I so wished or had any interest in finding out.
    So there's not much problem with transparency at WM/WN I'm sure.[/quote]

    I'm not sure of the rationale behind posting Zareen's personal details, but believe it may have something to do with the registration of the britwriters url - a physical address is tied to each URL's WHOIS information, which is in the public domain. If that is the source of it, it could quite easily be changed at WHOIS.
    You're quite right Carol, we are quite transparent about who we are, and answer relevant questions when they are asked. In answer to Zareen's analogy, I put forward one of my own:
    Writing Magazine is an apple. You don't like the look of the apple, don't buy the apple.
    The Agents Division is a mystery bag of fruit. "Buy my lovely bag of fruit," says the salesman. "I like lovely fruit. What's in it?" you ask. "Well, you'll find out when you buy it, won't you?" Would you buy the mystery bag of fruit?

    As a comparison, take our own Home Study division. The tutors involved are all named, and we detail their relevant experience and backgrounds, so writers know what they're getting.
  • edited November 2011
    Exactly Webbo.
    I like the mystery bag of fruit idea.:)

    Transparency is the issue for me, and as far as I'm concerned any company- IN ANY AREA OF LIFE- that won't answer reasonable straightforward questions and uses non-disclosure terms, is a company I personally would not trust or want to do business with.
  • [quote=Carol]any company- IN ANY AREA OF LIFE- that won't answer reasonable straightforward questions and uses non-disclosure terms, is a company I personally would not trust or want to do business with. [/quote]
    Precisely, Carol. That's not an attack in any form, just a statement of choice: by refusing to supply the information if requested, the company would be denying you that choice. Or rather, it would be making you choose based on what you know - and you wouldn't touch that company at all. When all's said, if you are being asked to pay for a service, you need to know where your money is going, and what it is buying. If you are putting your work in someone's hands for consideration for a contract that could eventually earn you some money - no matter how small - the same applies.
  • Just so we've got this here, the post Carol made reference to earlier is Harry Bingham's appeal for anyone's experiences of the BWA - positive and negative - here: http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/bwa-brit-writers-request-for-help/
  • Thanks Webbo.
  • Carol,
    The prime ministers letter thing is because for a long time on the BWA website there was a letter of support from Gordon Brown, Prime Minister on Downing Street letterhead, but dated 26th June 2010 (which was after he left office).
    Of course that could just be some kind of administrative error, the date of publication of the letter on the site somehow being superimposed on the letter for example.
    I have a copy, but not sure I can post it here.
    Best wishes,
    Claire
  • Thanks for taking the time to give me an explanation Claire, that explains my confusion.
    The answer Jonathan received didn't make it clear that she was referring to the former PrimeMinister-obviously she assumed everyone would know what she was referring to...
    Don't worry about the letter. :)
  • Thanks for clarifying Claire.
  • "All of the BWA's activities are conducted behind non-disclosure agreements [...] they would rather uphold these agreements, even behind closed doors, than allow their credibility to be verified" - that probably says it all. This kind of suppression of freedom of information is what one would expect of a cult, not an organisation that exists for the benefit of writers.

    In Zareen's response:

    "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" doesn't square entirely with 'Shirley December 8, 2010 | 9:06 am' at http://howpublishingreallyworks.com/?p=3682 "I entered four books in the BWA competition last year [...] I went to the evening award’s ceremony with a friend. For us it was a real let down. We had standard tickets and were shown to the balcony seats and just left. We were offered no refreshment or nibbles. We didn’t see an exhibition area, but more importantly there was no opportunity to mingle with publishers, authors or agents as had been promised [...]"

    “I think it’s extremely naive of anyone to expect us to share the details of potential publishers of authors we’re working with.” What would be naive would be giving money to, and signing a contract and a non-disclosure agreement with an organisation who aren't prepared to tell you what kind of outfit will handle your hard work.

    "I'm sure you would agree it would be wrong of me to a) Disparage your organisation publicly and insult you personally." I have seen attempts to clarify the BWA's products, but none to disparage the organisation. I have seen people complimenting Zareen, but no personal insults. Is this analagous to 'I'm sure you would agree that pink is pink', or is Zareen implying actual disparaging and insult? If so, where?

    "b) To demand that we and our members have the right to know who your full list of advertisers are? [...] [...] 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."

    Nobody, that I can see, has asked for any of those things. Writers are being asked to pay money for access to experts. People have asked who those experts are, and what their expertise is, so they can judge whether or not it's worth paying for access to them. This is normal, so no, I can't see why the BWA are upset.

    I like to cook. If were to see an organisation called Brit Cooks offering me access to 'top chefs' to help me perfect my technique and recieve a 'job in a leading restaurant' in exchange for a fee, I would be entitled to know before parting with my fee if the 'top chefs' were Heston Blumenthal and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal or top chefs at the local McDonalds. Similarly, I could rightfully expect to know if 'leading restaurant' was the McDonalds in question, or The Fat Duck.

    "we have also made attempts to meet, discuss concerns and work together [with Claire King, Jane Smith and Harry Bingham] which have been turned down." They seem to say that this is simply not true.

    "while safeguarding the interests of our members, entrants and partners we have been extremely open and transparent." No, they haven't. They have surrounded themselves with non-disclosure agreements and legal threats. Regrettably, the legal implications of both of these things will clearly need to be put to bed before the rest of the facts can emerge, but for now simply compare "it’s extremely naive of anyone to expect us to share the details of potential publishers" with "we have been extremely open and transparent". Doesn't add up.

    "However, when we are falsely accused of being a scam," The nearest I have seen to this is from a site that examines scams saying "it is too early to call this a scam" - did I miss an actual accusation?

    "forging letters from the Prime Minister," again, I've seen no such accusation, just a question, covered above.

    "and our organisation is constantly under attack, by the same individuals [...]" I can see no attack, only repeated requests for clarification. Given the continuing lack of which, it is of no surprise that those requests should be repeated. As far as I know, nobody including the lawyers on either side of the issue has been able to point out anything specific that is defamatory, or any other kind of attack.

    "we have no choice but to take legal action." There was a far more obvious choice: for the BWA to answer the perfectly reasonable questions that were put to it, to enter into dialogue with influencers in their marketplace like any other organisation would have done. One has to wonder why they still can't do that. The more this thing goes on, the more I look forward to the moment when *all* of the facts emerge.
  • edited November 2011
    Wow! Could someone please tell me what is going on? Reading the comments from our TB colleague, she had a good night out, and I assume the winner DID receive her cheque (didn't bounce).[EDIT} I was seriously thinking of entering next year, but now.... However, I personally find Harry Bingham an oddball, and came to the conclusion I would not submit anything to writers workshop for critique. I do hope no one is going take legal action, as the only winners are the lawyers. Let's hope this nasty spat is soon over before the media have a field day.

    EDITED by WEBBO: Let's not have any wild speculation please TL
  • Just a reminder that this is a public thread and thus available to Google and other search engines, so we all need to be careful what we say.
  • Timely words
  • (I've only just got back on the computer.)

    Rosalie's reminder is timely for all of us.
  • No speculation, Webbo, as the writersworkshop blog suggests that legal action is a possibility. Reading the comments emanating from 2010, a lot of rumour is being said. This surprised me, as our own TB member reported an excellent evening with no hostility. I did use Amazon to get info about the 2010 winner, and it would appear she is an experienced writer,with good support from her readers. As anyone reading my own post about Callio Press will know, I am naturally suspicious of any new writing outfit claiming great success. Yes, it appears the 2010 results evening was somewhat a disaster, but this year seems to have been well organised, and-certainly-the top five in each section had a great time.
    As regards my comment about a cheque, I was maybe a bit flippant, but knowing my own situation with my prize (modest by comparison) am naturally wary when so much bad mouthing is now apparent. It would certainly help if the organisers of the Brit Awards would end their silence and counter the accusations, especially the figures suggesting they have made a fortune from these awards. Silence is not always golden, as the song says. It can also be construed as guilt by the accusers.
  • Just to be perhaps overly clear on a couple of things, Toothlight:
    • I removed some of your comments that would have no place anywhere in Talkback, let alone in this thread.
    • Legal action is already more than a possibility.
    • the only thing BWA are accused of here is a lack of transparency. BWA is a commercial operation, but estimates that have been made elsewhere about figures earned are guesswork without information that only BWA has - number of entrants, proportion of free entries, etc.
  • Yes I had a great evening at Madame Taussauds, very well organised this year.
  • And much of the current concern is about the statements they've made re their services.
  • BWA have been in touch with Harry Bingham at The Writers Workshop, and their statement is printed in full.

    http://writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/
  • They sent the same statement to a number of concerned parties. Great, they've dropped the legal action (haven't actually notified Jane Smith though). But all that does is put us back to the position we were in two weeks ago... without answers to the same pertinent questions that have been asked all along, it is impossible to discern how credible their claims are.
  • Agree Webbo.
    They just seem oblivious to the issues that are the most concern to writers, and presumably see their statement as adequate.
  • edited November 2011
    I put any emails I get from them straight into junk now. Don't bother reading 'em.
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