Development agency Spread the Word is launching a new annual development programme for London-based writers.
Through The London Writers Awards, Spread the Word intends to increase the number of authors from currently under-represented communities being taken up by agents and publishers.
A spokesperson for the agency said: "There are multiple barriers for writers from underprivileged and diverse backgrounds to getting their stories heard. Despite operating in one of the most diverse and creative cities in the world, we often don’t hear the stories that are truly reflective of London’s citizens’ voices."
In 2015 Spread the Word’s Writing the Future research into the UK publishing industry revealed that 57% of the industry agreed the sector was "not very diverse at all" and 27% of literary agents had "not thought about diversity until now."
Opening for applications on Monday 4th June 2018, the London Writers Awards will work intensively with 30 writers each year and support authors of literary and commercial fiction, narrative non-fiction, YA/children’s and poetry, and are focused on backing London-based writers of colour and working class, LGBTQ and disabled writers. Winners will be selected via open application and participation is free.
Author judges for the 2018 Awards are Diana Evans, Vaseem Khan, Cathy Rentzenbrink, Daljit Nagra and Patrice Lawrence. Industry judges are Aimée Felone, founder of Knights Of; Lucy Luck, literary agent, C+W; Ella Kahn, co-founder of Diamond Kahn & Woods Agency; Rukhsana Yasmin, deputy editor of Wasafiri; and Rachael Allen, poetry editor of Granta.
Vaseem Khan, writer and 2018 judge, said: "As the world changes around us, the need of the hour is for a generation of diverse literary voices to come to the fore, reflecting our modern societies. But such voices need to be encouraged, nurtured, and given the same opportunities as those traditionally favoured by the industry."
The London Writers Awards receive support from Arts Council England and sponsorship from the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).
Barbara Hayes, deputy chief executive, said: "ALCS is delighted to be a sponsor of the London Writers Awards. Writing shouldn’t be just for the privileged few; being as representative as possible of our wide-ranging society can only benefit the industry, increase market reach and ensure that minority voices are heard."
Rishi Dastidar, chair of trustees, Spread the Word, added: “Thanks to an ambitious, long term commitment to working intensively with 30 writers each year, from backgrounds too often overlooked by the publishing industry, I expect the London Writers Awards to have a significant impact – not just in increased diversity in the authors of books published, but the stories those books tell. I’m especially excited that we will be helping to bring many new voices from London into the world.”