Little, Brown's Sphere and Piatkus imprints are teaming up with digital marketing consultancy The Tandem Collective to launch a new writing prize that champions underrepresented voices in the romance genres.
The Fresh Ink Award will offer two winning writers a publishing contract with either Sphere or Piatkus, with an advance and royalties, plus a cash prize. It is open to Black, Asian and minority ethnic writers and has been developed in response to statistics showing a lack of diversity in commercial fiction specifically, as highlighted in Spread the Word's "Writing the Future" and "Rethinking 'Diversity' in Publishing" reports.
Gemma Shelley, deputy marketing director at Little, Brown, thought up the award. She said: "I've worked in the publishing industry for over 15 years and the lack of diversity has always been troubling. As a publisher we need to reflect the world, the whole word, and all voices. We all need to do more to make a change."
Entrants will be required to submit only the first 5,000 words of a novel along with a synopsis; longlisted and shortlisted writers will be asked for further word count from their manuscripts at those stages in the process. The shortlist will be revealed next April, and the announcement of the overall winners will be made at London Book Fair 2021.
Fresh Ink will also work towards demystifying publishing processes, providing a useful resource for writers alongside the award itself. The submission stage will include an event led by industry professionals, including advice and presentations from all areas of the business including design, marketing, sales, editorial, production and rights. All shortlisted writers will all be offered a one-to-one session with an editor (either in the office or via Zoom) and detailed feedback on their submissions.
Anna Boatman, publisher of PCR fiction, said: "Commercial fiction is supposed to be the genre that most aims to reach all readers, everywhere, and yet it’s often the fiction genre that offers the least diversity, with a lower percentage of authors of colour published in the UK than within literary fiction or YA fiction. I’m very glad to be part of the Fresh Ink award, where we are not only looking to discover and publish brand new bestselling authors from Black, Asian and mixed race backgrounds, but to broaden our range of submissions, and offer mentoring and information about the publishing process to new writers."
Lucy Malagoni, publisher of Sphere Fiction, added: "It’s vitally important that our publishing reflects the world and speaks to all readers... I can’t wait to discover a shining new star of the future.’
Naomi Bacon, co-founder of The Tandem Collective, said the company felt "absolutely honoured" to have been asked to partner with Sphere and Piaktus on the award. "As a company, we endeavour to create campaigns that are representative of everyone within our community and the ethos of Fresh Ink aligns entirely with this aim. We can't wait to see the submissions," she said.
The full Fresh Ink submissions criteria can be found here.