Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Literary Shake-up In Wales


In the last year I have written about the Government-supported literary scene in Wales. The picture has been one of little support for independent authors, and prejudice in the awarding bodies that had excluded many Welsh authors from publicly-funded prizes. I have been working with organisations and giving evidence in order to raise these previously-hidden forms of discrimination.
Well, things have been shaken up in the last few weeks, that's for sure. The Welsh Government's review was completed: Review into support for Publishing and Literature in Wales, and it has been highly critical of the current setup: Literature Wales to have funding cut after damning report. (The full report can be found here.)

Amongst the many recommendations I spotted this one: Responsibility for Wales Book of the Year awards transferred. I had asked for reform, though would have been happy for Literature Wales to keep running the prize as long as they removed their inbuilt discrimination and exclusion criteria. It looks like the Welsh Government didn't trust Literature Wales to make the changes they wanted, so the prize will probably be transferred to the Welsh Books Council

This isn't necessarily a good thing though. The Welsh Books Council has a reputation for being just as prejudiced against independent authors, and rather than support authors directly it focusses on supporting publishers, which is a very different thing.

The Welsh Books Council website. It is clear that their focus is on publishers (third parties), not authors directly. This skews a number of their policies, and means many Welsh authors are excluded. Perhaps this will change? Note that their site uses Flash, which is an unreliable relic of the past.

What is needed?

Firstly, an increase in support directly for authors, not just support for one of the intermediaries (publishers). To take one example - some time ago I was experiencing severe financial problems. I know many other authors who have gone through this. But when I looked into it there was no emergency support at all available from Literature Wales, the Welsh Books Council, or the Arts Council of Wales. No emergency or hardship fund. No useful help, from any of the organisations. Nearly all the services were focussed on publishers.

Secondly, support and opportunities should be available to all authors equally - trade-published, new authors, independent authors, ghost writers, and so on. None should suffer prejudice and discrimination from bodies that are meant to support them, as has been the situation in the past. An example of this would be that the Wales Book of the Year prize should treat all books by Welsh authors equally, whether trade-published or independently-published. An author should not be forced to sign away many of their rights in order to be considered. If the prize excludes many Welsh books, it is a lie to call it Wales Book Of The Year.

I will contact the Welsh Books Council and the Welsh Government to ask about these issues, which should be central to the review and the proposed changes. There are many simple ways to extend support without removing anything from existing services - in many cases the organisation just needs to incorporate authors more (of all kinds, independently-published, trade-published, and not-yet-published), and ask them for their opinions and ideas and what they'd like to see. Keep watching this space!

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2 comments:

Alis Hawkins said...

I agree about the non-representation of indie authors, Karl but there's also the fact that Welsh writers who are published by English - or, in my case, Scottish - publishers are ignored. So a lot of Welsh-set fiction is going unrecognised.

Karl Drinkwater said...

A very good point, Alis. Welsh literature is the total of all works published in Wales (however that occurs) AND the total of all works by Welsh writers (wherever they are in the world).