Arts Council England Free Reads Scheme

Arts Council England Free Reads Scheme

“I found [my TLC reader’s] feedback incredibly useful and so insightful- it has made me feel excited to write again after seeing someone (especially a REAL WRITER) engage with my work so thoroughly.”

Free Reads recipient 2014

What is the Free Read Scheme and how does it work?

In 2001 TLC received its first sum of ongoing core funding from Arts Council England. This enabled the provision of bursaried manuscript assessments for talented writers on low income. The scheme is known as ‘The Free Read Scheme’ and offers access to TLC’s core services to writers who under normal circumstances might not be able to afford them. Free Reads are selected by a range of literature development bodies coming from as wide a spread across the UK as possible. There are currently seventeen regional literature organisations benefitting from the Free Reads Scheme. We work with partners who are proven to work well, but will also from time to time open the process up to include new partners and ensure the best possible national spread.

The Free Reads scheme runs on the financial year (April-April). Each regional writing organisation arranges its selection of submissions through writing competitions, open submissions or individual systems that work for their areas, so application guidelines will vary, though eligibility criteria remain the same: the scheme is for low-income writers, writing in English (fiction/ non-fiction/ short stories/ poetry/ scripts/ screenplays/ radio plays), who are resident in England. Deadlines and submissions processes vary, so please contact your regional writing partner before sending your submission. Please read all information here carefully, including what a TLC Manuscript Assessment is. If you have any questions about the scheme in general please contact TLC on info@literaryconsultancy.co.uk. Please DO NOT send your application to us directly.

Am I eligible?

The Free Reads scheme is for low-income writers resident in England, writing in English, who would not be able to afford TLC’s commercial fees (the commercial service is open to all), and prioritises those from marginalised backgrounds (BAME, disabled, LGBTQ and other under-represented groups). If you are not sure what low-income means, the Citizens Advice Bureau has some useful guidelines here, and there are some helpful calculations here to show how these margins are measured by the Government. If you are a full-time student or pensioner, or in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance, Disability Benefits, Income Support, or Working Tax Credits, you are eligible to apply. You may also submit HMRC self-assessment paperwork to show you are low-earning if you are a freelancer and not in receipt of income support. If none of these apply but you feel you are still eligible, you may be asked to submit a signed declaration outlining your circumstances. It is a necessary requirement of our funding paperwork that we show we are serving those most in need, so there is some paperwork to fill out, however we do not wish this to be a barrier, so if at any stage you have any issues with the application process, please get in touch with TLC directly on info@literaryconsultancy.co.uk

Submission rules and guidelines
How do I apply?

Quality Writing For All Campaign 2015-2018

The Literary Consultancy is dePrintlighted to announce that we are among the 9% of National Portfolio Organisations to have been granted an uplift in funding from Arts Council England for the period 2015-2018, during which time we will be expanding our offer of free manuscript assessment, mentoring and events to talented, low-income writers, with a focus on reaching writers from a diverse range of backgrounds. For the Quality Writing For All campaign, we will be working toward promoting TLC’s role in supporting quality writing across the literary community through events, discussion, and widening the reach of our services.

We will be working with award-winning PR company FMcM, in particular focusing on supporting talented, low-income writers from BAME and disabled communities. This work will include improving access to professional services to these writers, and championing their work where appropriate, via showcases, events (for which we have a £2,500 access bursary to allow writers to travel to the Free Word Centre for TLC events), and talent management support from our in-house team for those whose work our readers identify as having real commercial potential. We will also be working with new diversity-focussed partners from 2015 as announced at our launch event on June 16th 2015 which featured performer, writer and disability arts activist Penny Pepper alongside Peepal Tree Press Associate Editor Jacob Ross, and novelist Liam Brown (Legend Press), whose work was critiqued by TLC through the Free Read scheme and whose TLC Writers’ Showcase can be found here, with a little information about his experience of the Free Read scheme.

We will continue to work closely with our twelve existing Free Read partner organisations, with whom we are proud to collaborate. We are also pleased to have confirmed new partnerships with five diversity-focussed partners for 2016. Information and a map showing where these organisations are in operation, with links to their websites to find out more about their work, can be found below. The Quality Writing for All campaign was featured in The Bookseller here.

Sponsorship 2018-2022

As part of our commitment to the Quality Writing for All campaign, TLC is seeking strategic sponsorship in the period 2018-22. We are currently able to provide bursaries for 80-120 writers per annum with the support of Arts Council England, and are keen to expand the reach of the Free Reads scheme which provides vital editorial support for writers facing barriers, as well as developing a number of key initiatives including a soon-to-be-announced ‘What’s Your Story’ proposal and commitment to supporting unheard and marginalised voices to publication. If you are interested in being involved in the scheme as a sponsor, or to discuss creative partnership across TLC’s editorial service and events provision for writers, please get in touch with Editorial Services Manager Aki Schilz at aki@literaryconsultancy.co.uk, or call the office on 020 7324 2563.

The Impact of the Free Reads Scheme for Marginalised Writers

We have included a selection of key testimonials that reflect the quality and impact of the Free Reads scheme for writers facing barriers.

“Over this last year, I have learned a vast amount, and I am about to put together a pamphlet of the best poems we worked on together, plus possibly a few others to tie the collection together. This wouldn’t have been possible without my TLC mentor’s input. This mentorship has made me a better poet, but it’s also had an invaluable knock-on effect on my novel-writing, which I wasn’t expecting. The last month of the mentorship coincided with NaNoWriMo, so I cobbled together a novel, and reading back over it, I can see the influence of Ahren’s suggestions about form, and writing to my strengths. I have leapt forward writing-wise this year. I have the skills, I have the enthusiasm. I’m going for it.

Cathy Edmunds, poet, novelist, Free Reads poetry mentee 2016

TLC truly changed my life. I believe their QWfA campaign will do this for many other disabled writers, and those facing other barriers to the mainstream. Through the support of the QWfA campaign, my contacts have broadened hugely. This is crucial for disabled people, in particular as there are many physical and attitudinal barriers that prevent access to the normal outlets of networking. It has also been hugely beneficial to have access to people within literature who genuinely support what you do, don’t patronise you but nurture you to be the best you can be. Through TLC I met a literary agent, pitched my memoir, and finally got a positive response to my concerns about it being about the uniqueness of my journey, rather than an impairment-focussed, tragic but brave piece of inspiration porn. ‘First in the World Somewhere’ is being published by Unbound in 2017.”

Penny Pepper, poet, novelist, disability rights activist, TLC Free Read recipient

I don’t believe that voices like ours are heard enough in society. Being an Asian woman with disabilities (cerebral palsy) has many complex issues in itself. I understand that writers generally find it tough to get into the mainstream. For people like me, it proves to be even more difficult as we have a lot of restrictions and physical/social/financial/cultural barriers. I, therefore, am very grateful to TLC, especially to be taken seriously as a writer. This has been so important for my self-esteem to feel significant, valuable and accepted in the world of writing and publishing.”

Kuli Kohli, author of ‘Rag Doll’, TLC Free Read recipient

Free Read Success Stories

“TLC INTRODUCED MY WORK TO AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS ON MY BEHALF. I SUSPECT NO-ONE WOULD HAVE LOOKED AT IT OTHERWISE.” 
JENNY DOWNHAM, Best-selling author of BEFORE I DIE (filmed as Now is Good starring Dakota Fanning), David Fickling Books 

“THE TLC READ WAS A BRILLIANT OPPORTUNITY TO GET DETAILED AND USEFUL FEEDBACK. EVIE WYLD’S REPORT WAS COMPREHENSIVE AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING. TEN THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT LOVE HAS NOW SOLD IN FIFTEEN TERRITORIES, AND WAS SELECTED AS BOOK OF THE WEEK ON OPRAH.COM AFTER IT WAS PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN PRESS IN THE US.”
SARAH BUTLER, TEN THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT LOVE, Picador

“I RE-READ THE MS, AND, WITH THE HELP OF ANNA’S EXCELLENT ADVICE, RE-WROTE. WHEN MY AGENT SENT THE BOOK OFF AGAIN, WE SECURED A DEAL WITH SERPENT’S TAIL.” 
BETHAN ROBERTS, THE POOLS, Serpent’s Tail

“THE FEEDBACK FROM SARA MAITLAND (TLC) WAS INVALUABLE AND GAVE ME THE CONFIDENCE TO BEGIN CONSIDERING MYSELF AS A WRITER.” 
VALERIE MASON JOHN, THE BANANA KID, British Association for Adopting and Fostering

Please note:
  • That the scheme is designed for low-income and high-quality writers.
  • The Free Read may consist of either a partial or full manuscript assessment (including poetry, short stories and scripts) and is dependent on budget.
  • All submissions must meet the TLC submission guidelines and eligibility criteria.

ACE Regional Writing Partners

Click on your location on the map to be taken
to your regional writing partner’s website
or use the key below.

Commonword
Literature Works
Dorset County Council
New Writing North
New Writing South
Writers’ Centre Norwich
Spread the Word
Writing East Midlands
Writing West Midlands

All of UK– Arvon and TLC

Quality Writing For All Partners:

Creative Future Literary Award
(working with marginalised writers)
Exiled Writers Ink
(for UK-based exiles, refugees and asylum seekers)
Wasafiri Magazine
(working with BAME writers)
SABLE LitMag
(working with BAME writers)
Shape Arts
(working with writers with disabilities)
NAWE Young Writers’ Hub
(working with young writers)

Quality Writing For All Supporters: 

English PEN
Disability Arts Online
Bernardine Evaristo
Ellah Allfrey