Penguin seeks new authors Write Now

Would you like to be an author but haven’t got round to writing your bestseller?

Then Penguin Random House UK would love to read your 1,000-word synopsis.

This isn’t a joke but a serious offer to Eastern Eye readers from Britain’s and probably the world’s biggest publishing house.

But people need to hurry – the closing date for online submissions is midnight, October 28.

Non-fiction ideas, such as biographies, memoirs, science, health and personal development, are especially welcome.

“We’re looking for new writers – so you won’t have published a book in the last 10 years through a commercial publishing house,” the rules state.

“You’ll come from a background that is currently under-represented in books and publishing,” the rules continue.

“As part of your application we’ll ask you to tell us about your book. What’s it called? What’s it about? What makes it special? How would you ‘sell it’ to a reader in two sentences? We’ll also ask you to send us up to 1,000 words – it could be the opening chapter, or a later section of your book which you’re particularly proud of. It’s up to you. In 500 words, we will also ask you to tell us why you write and how you meet our criteria.”

The idea behind the “Write Now” initiative is that of Tom Weldon, CEO of Penguin Random House.

He feels strongly that his company has a special responsibility to find authors from the British Asian community and other marginalised sections of society whose voices are not being heard and whose stories have so far remained untold.

“So if you are sitting on a fantastic manuscript, we want to hear from you,” said Weldon, who argues that the radical reforms he has launched will be good for society and good for his company which employs 2,000 staff in the UK and has eight divisions with no fewer than 60 imprints.

“Books and publishing simply do not reflect the society we live in,” added Weldon. “Not only is that bad for the future of books, reading and culture, but it’s also a commercial imperative for us to change. If we don’t, we will become increasingly irrelevant.”

The details of how to apply and how a pool of 150 would-be authors would be selected were explained by the person in charge – Rebecca Smart, managing director of Ebury Publishing, which is part of Penguin Random House.

One workshop with 50 talented people of all ages was held In London on October 1 when “12-15” editors were present. A second workshop with another 50 would be-authors will be held in Birmingham on Saturday November 26, and a third, also with 50 selected applicants, will be convened in Manchester on Saturday February 4, 2017.

According to Smart, the workshop in London “allowed us to have deeper conversations with writers and hear directly from them about the barriers they see to getting published. The 50 writers brought such a rich variety of stories and ideas for a wide range of audiences. Our editors are incredibly excited to work with some of them over the next year – and to find new writing talent in Birmingham and Manchester, too.”

She promised that “after getting to know you and your work, we’ll ask 10 exceptional writers to join our new year-long mentoring programme. While there are no guarantees, ultimately we would love to publish these 10 writers.”

Smart sees the project as almost a personal one.

“The reason why I am involved is I grew up in Hull and went to school with lots of people who would not in a million years have thought about writing or going into publishing,” she confided. “I went to university in Leeds and did a degree in linguistics and then I was never going to come south but because I decided I wanted to go into publishing I did. Publishing is very much about London so we are reaching out beyond London with Write Now.”

The three workshops are being supported by inspirational authors, among them Abir Mukherjee, Nikesh Shukla, Sathnam Sanghera, Bali Rai, Sufiya Ahmed and Kit De Waal.

Mukherjee’s debut crime thriller, A Rising Man, set in Calcutta in 1919, has been published by Harvill Secker, a Penguin Random House imprint.

His book has been optioned to a film company and is being developed for television. The same is true of A A Dhand’s Streets of Darkness, which is set in the mean streets of Bradford and introduces Harry Virdee, an Asian detective.

Dhand will do a bit of hand holding at the workshop in Manchester, while Mukherjee, who attended the one in London, observed: “British Asians are perversely less well represented in literature and writing than people from India, who have more books published in the UK.”

“We are a large community but our stories are not being told and our voices are not being heard,” declared Mukherjee. “That is an issue for us but it is also a commercial opportunity that is not being tapped.”

At the London workshop, he was very taken with a “Muslim woman who was writing science fiction”.

Details of how to apply are available on http://www.write-now.live/apply-now/ and further information provided on http://www.write-now.live/

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