Weidenfeld & Nicolson (W&N) is launching Hometown Tales, a series of short books which will publish authors from underrepresented regions across the UK to bring new voices to a national audience.
W&N editors will provide mentorship to unpublished authors and the diversity initiative will also see an unpublished writer paired with a high-profile author, resulting in a book containing work by each writing about the same place or theme.
The series aims to "open up the publishing industry" by pairing unpublished talent with recognised names and the initiative aims to provide a platform and launchpad for new writers who "wouldn’t necessarily be found through conventional channels", the publisher said.
W&N is now calling for submissions of 15,000 words based on the idea of ‘hometown’, asking authors to write about a place where they were born or have lived. The deadline for submissions is 31st January 2017, with the chosen "new voices" to be announced in April 2017 and first titles in the series scheduled to appear in paperback and e-book in summer 2017.
W&N is aiming to release the names of the established writers involved with the scheme this autumn. Authors may be paired by theme, rather than place, with unpublished authors to be drawn from regions W&N feel are currently "underrepresented in the publishing landscape".
Simon Savidge, blogger, industry commentator and co-founder of the Green Carnation Prize, has joined forces with W&N for the initiative and will act as editorial consultant for the series, with the project being led by an editorial team comprising senior commissioning editor Sophie Buchan, editor Jennifer Kerslake and Creative Access intern Ian Wong. They will be working closely with organisations New Writing North, the Reading Agency and Literature Works on the initiative, as well as libraries, literary festivals and local writing groups, to encourage the widest possible outreach and pool of talent.
Katie Espiner, m.d. of the Orion Publishing Group, said: "With the launch of Hometown Tales, we hope to open up our publishing further and actively seek out the many diverse voices that are not currently being heard across the creative industries. I am thrilled to be working with Simon Savidge and with so many great partners who already do so much in their own regions to promote creative writing and new voices from all quarters."
Savidge said: "As a reader I love the diversity of literature and the power it has; all the amazing places we can travel and experiences we can share whilst curled up with a book. Yet there are so many voices, too many some might say, that we are not hearing enough of. I come from a working class Northern family, brought up by my mother while she studied in Newcastle; the childhood and life I saw growing up I rarely see reflected well in the publishing world, let alone the stories of my friends who come from all sorts of complex, fantastic and varied backgrounds. Working with Orion on this new venture is an amazing opportunity to help celebrate the diversity of narratives and get these out to fellow readers; looking for authors and voices from all walks of life, with all sorts of backgrounds. Some you will know, some you should know much better and some you (and I) have yet to discover."
W&N claims Hometown Tales will be the first initiative of its kind to focus on geographical diversity, with a guarantee of publication for the chosen authors.
Penguin Random House recently launched a nationwide campaign WriteNow, with charities Spread the Word, Writing West Midlands and Commonword in June, which aims to find and publish new writers who are "underrepresented in books and publishing”, targeting groups from "socio-economically marginalised backgrounds". These extend to writers from LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) and BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) communities, as well as writers with a disability.