Penguin X BBC WriteNow submissions are open

Penguin and BBC Studios team up to find new commercial fiction writers through WriteNow. Submissions are open until 8 January.

Penguin X BBC WriteNow submissions are open

Aspiring authors with commercial fiction story ideas – from love stories to comedy and crime – can apply to take part in this year’s programme. All applicants will have the opportunity to attend a free online workshop to hear from published authors, literary agents and industry experts to hear about the pathways to publication.

WriteNow, Penguin Random House UK’s award-winning programme to seek out, nurture, and publish new under-represented voices on the UK’s bookshelves, has joined forces with BBC Studios to find new writing talent in commercial fiction.

Aspiring authors can apply to take part in the 2022-2023 programme until Sunday 8 January by submitting 1,000 words of sample writing, which will be assessed by editors across Penguin. This year’s programme will focus exclusively on commercial fiction: books with a fast-moving plot, a page-turning narrative, and a gripping hook that will intrigue readers. In particular, editors are looking for compelling crime novels, thrillers, family dramas, comedy, romance, and love stories that will engross and captivate readers.

WriteNow is designed to give participating writers the skills, knowledge, and access needed to navigate the publishing industry and launch their career as a successful author. The partnership with BBC Studios also offers participants the opportunity to expand their understanding of the television industry, and the potential for their writing to take shape in both the written and visual form.

Everyone who applies to the programme will be invited to a free online workshop on Saturday 21 January, where guest speakers will break down and demystify both the publishing and TV industries. Applicants will learn about:

  • The publishing process from start to finish; hearing from a published author, literary agent, and editor
  • How published authors write – including balancing writing alongside other commitments, self-editing, and personal stories on getting published
  • How to pitch your book to literary agents, and how to write an effective cover letter, with advice from an experienced literary agent
  • The opportunities available for writers in TV, from industry experts from BBC Studios

After this stage, 50 writers will be shortlisted for the WriteNow editorial programme and asked to submit a further 5,000 words from their book by Thursday 23 February 2023.  The shortlisted writers will then receive tailored one-to-one feedback on their writing from a Penguin editor, and the chance to get their work in front of BBC Studios.

A final cohort of around ten successful applicants will then be asked to join our year-long editorial programme, which matches a handful of writers with a Penguin editor to work on their manuscript. These writers can expect:

One-to-one support on their manuscript from a Penguin editor with expertise and experience in the genre they are writing

  • A £1,000 writing grant to help them further develop their craft. For example, by putting money towards buying a laptop or writing software, or to go towards a working space or writers' retreat
  • To gain connections and networks in the publishing industry
  • A year’s free membership to the Society of Authors, the UK trade union for writers at every stage of their career, which offers impartial advice and support
  • If a writer’s book is acquired by a Penguin Random House imprint, BBC Studios will have an exclusive first look for TV and film adaptations; offering the potential for the work to be developed for major international broadcasters and streaming platforms.

To date, 20 writers discovered through WriteNow have been published by Penguin Random House UK, and seven writers have gone on to be published elsewhere.

Charlene Alcott, WriteNow alumnus and author of More Than a Mum and The Single Mum’s Wish List said: 

"Write Now is the ultimate boot camp for aspiring writers. I entered with a dream and left with a plan."

Louisa Burden-Garabedian, Senior Social Impact Executive at Penguin, said: 

“We're really excited about what WriteNow has on offer for writers this year, which comes following five successful cohorts and a recent programme review to better understand where we should develop and improve the programme’s focus. WriteNow is one of the ways we aim to ensure that the creators of our books represent UK society, and this partnership with BBC Studios will allow us to shine a light on the TV industry alongside publishing and offer writers unparalleled advice and insight as they set themselves up in a successful career as an author.”

Mark Linsey, MD of Scripted Content, BBC Studios said: 

“BBC Studios is a longstanding champion of new writing talent, and we are delighted to be partnering on this year’s WriteNow. With more platforms than ever before looking to commission top tier content, the competition for IP has never been fiercer, and our producers are hungry for new, bold ideas to dramatize.  We’re delighted to secure a first look on the WriteNow finalists’ books, which always produces such high calibre storytelling, and can’t wait to see the shortlisted books.”

Below are several books already published by the 20 Penguin Random House authors discovered through the WriteNow programme:

  • The Single Mum's Wish List and More Than A Mum, Charlene Allcott
  • Music Love Drugs War, Geraldine Quigley
  • A Love Story for Bewildered Girls, Emma Morgan
  • The Million Pieces of Neena Gill, Emma Smith-Barton
  • The Hollow Sea, Annie Kirby
  • The Grassling, Elizabeth-Jane Burnett
  • How To Be Extraordinary, Never Show A T-Rex A Book!, and How to Change the World, Rashmi Sirdeshpande
  • Run, Rebel and The Crossing, Manjeet Mann
  • A Dutiful Boy, Mohsin Zaidi
  • My Daddies, Gareth Peter
  • Amazing Muslims Who Changed the World, Burhana Islam
  • The Secret of Haven Point, Lisette Auton

Seven writers have gone on to be published or acquired by other publishers. Since launching in 2016, the programme has welcomed 950 writers to 11 publishing workshops and received just under 12,00 applications from writers across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

About WriteNow

WriteNow is Penguin’s programme to find, nurture and publish writers from backgrounds under-represented on the nation’s bookshelves. This includes writers across from socio-economically marginalised backgrounds, LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) writers, Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic writers, and disabled writers.

In 2022, WriteNow is aiming to find writers working on commercial fiction including romance, thriller, crime, and comedy. WriteNow will open for applications on Monday 7 November, and close at midnight on Sunday 8 January.

To date, the programme has welcomed over a thousand writers to nine regional events across the UK (and online for 2020 and 2021) and received just under 12,000 applications from writers around the UK and Ireland.

Find out more about WriteNow, tips on making the most of your application, and how to apply at www.penguin.co.uk/writenow 

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