Brit Writers gave a response to Writers On-Line (https://www.writers-online.co.uk/inf...n/britwriters/) in respect of queries about its new Agents Division (one of the matters that led to the latest round of nastiness):

Brit Writers: (BOLDING MINE)
Regarding your specific questions, the Agent’s Division is a trial service that we are piloting in partnership with a number of Agents and Commissioning Editors who have become our friends over the last few years. As you know from last year’s awards ceremony Jonathan you could see the wide range of partners, sponsors and publishing industry insiders who were there for all to see and meet and everyone took away an awards magazine which clearly promoted some of our partners. In the same way, people that attended this year’s awards would have met many of our partners, and again were given an awards magazine to take away. Brit Writers is not growing on its own, it is only growing because of our relationships and the trust that individuals, agents, publishers and partners have in us and the mutually beneficial ways in which we work with them. Any business, and indeed all agents and publishers are businesses and therefore compete in the market place. Thus we have signed non-disclosure agreements preventing us from disclosing our agents and publishers as they too are competing with one another to find the next best thing. I can’t make myself any clearer on this matter.


I've got to say (and it's purely a matter of opinion based on my personal experience) that I don't understand why legally, a NDA would be needed in this respect. If a website such as Brit Writers is seeking to operate a new service of benefit to the public, then it makes sense that Brit Writers be able to disclose to the public who it is dealing with. Likewise, if an agent or commissioning editor is keen to partner with Brit Writers and be seen to partner with Brit Writers for the purposes of bringing new work to its attention, then it should have no issue with that fact being publicised.

The fact that agents and publishers are competing with each other is neither here nor there because it should not have any bearing on their relationship with Brit Writers.

Indeed, given that certain agents and publishers were proud to publicise their partnership arrangements and support of Brit Writers for the purposes of the awards, it is difficult to see what could be so commercially different as to warrant secrecy when it comes to the specific agenting services (which, in any event, no acquiring editor should have an interest in).

Brit Writers:
It is entirely up to the author to act upon the recommendations, and no fee is charged for this feedback. We ask the author to find their own literary consultant/service provider and if they cannot, only then do we assist and refer to one of our partners. Again, some of our partners are promoted in our awards magazine, and again, they too compete in the open market to provide the best quality service and we feel that they should only be known to the client that they’re providing a service to.
Given that Brit Writers are in partnership with some of these consultants/service providers, as a writer I would want to know whether Brit Writers receives any remuneration for referrals it makes to the same. In this case, I could see why the relevant parties would want such arrangements to be confidential because they may go to a commercial arrangement but as a writer, I'd be interested in knowing how they deal with Data Protection law with regard to the sale/transfer of personal details to third party organisations.

Brit Writers:
I have spoken to a couple of our consultants about whether they would be willing to allow us to say who they were, but unsurprisingly, given the current situation whereby my personal details are being shared on public forums, and with accusations of us forging the Prime Ministers letters etc., they do not agree to this and believe that their relationship should be with their client/author and it is no one else’s business, especially a competing editing company’s. And I agree with them entirely as it would be wrong for us to risk their privacy to be exploited in the same way as mine has and it would be detrimental to the authors they are currently working with.
It is a client's business to know whether the person referring them to a third party has received any kind of consideration for that referral. This may be a confidentiality issue, but I find it interesting that the reason here is couched in terms of privacy, which is an entirely separate head of claim under English law. Possibly this reflects the fact that the person making the response for Brit Writers is not a lawyer, but I would repeat that as a writer I should have the right to know whether money is being made from a referral of me or my work to someone else. This is certainly not uncommon and I don't think it's unreasonable to want to know.

Brit Writers:
With regard to the Publishing Programme, again you ask us to talk about which publishers we’re working with in respect of our authors. I think it’s extremely naive of anyone to expect us to share the details of potential publishers of authors we’re working with. Once the contract is signed and book launch is arranged, that is the time for any author to go public about their book and publisher, however, even at that stage, no author would talk about the kind of deal they have with their publisher – that’s a private matter between the author and the publisher! In terms of who the partners are that we would recommend authors to, again I am not going to jeopardise our relationships with them by dragging them into this debate, but I will say that a number of them are regular contributors in your magazine Jonathan.
Again, this leaves me very confused. Book publishers in general don't leave it until the date of the launch to announce their deal with an author. Many publishers report their deals on sites like The Bookseller (sometimes before contracts have been signed), others may prefer authors not to say anything until contract signature has occurred but afterwards they are absolutely free to discuss who they have signed with, when their book is to come out and so forth.

In any event, the relationship between the publisher and an author is a completely matter to what is being asked for here, i.e. the relationship between the publisher and Brit Writers. Again, it goes to establishing that Brit Writers can put an author in touch with a publisher worth getting in touch with. That can only be in the interests of both the publisher, Brit Writers and the author.

Brit Writers:
I’d like to add at this stage that many bloggers are speculating huge profits from entries and sponsorships, so I think it is important for them to know that although you were promoted as a sponsor at last year’s awards, given free promotion through our networks and promoted in our magazine with free entries for all your subscribers, no money was exchanged. In return you promoted us in your magazine. This arrangement worked for both of us for a period of time. This is what partnership working is about.
If that's the kind of partnership arrangement that Brit Writers are entering into, then it's absolutely the kind of thing that a writer would want to know about in the sense that it's positive that money isn't changing hands, but it still goes to establishing what the nature of that partnership arrangement is.

All in all, I personally found the response to raise more questions than answers. I can understand why this might bother them (and for the record, I still don't believe that they are a scam) but someone should have advised them just how counterproductive it would be to launch legal letters left, right and centre at people asking perfectly legitimate questions.

MM