Free Reads 2023-24 open for London writers


We are thrilled to announce that this year’s Free Reads is now open for applications!

Spread the Word is proud to be an official partner for The Literary Consultancy Free Reads scheme, supporting applications from London writers. In the last 13 years, we’ve supported 67 writers with receiving professional editorial feedback via Free Reads.

Shahema Tafader tells us about her experience of getting a full Free Read last year, which you can read here. You can also read about Kayleigh Cassidy’s experience of applying for and receiving a Free Read here.

Free Reads is managed by The Literary Consultancy (TLC) and funded by Arts Council England. It offers writers on low incomes the opportunity to receive professional, editorial feedback on their writing, alongside other support on their writing journeys.  The scheme is open to writers of fiction, non-fiction, short stories, poetry, children’s fiction including picture books, playscripts and screenplays. Free Reads particularly welcomes applications from writers belonging to groups currently under-represented in publishing including disabled writers, writers of colour*, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

What can you apply for?

This year, we are excited to announce that TLC are offering two new offers to the Free Reads scheme, alongside their manuscript assessment service. Here is what you can apply for in this year’s scheme:

  • Manuscript Assessment

For writers who have a complete or partially complete manuscript they would like professional editorial feedback on. Writers can apply for the chance to have a full or partial read of your manuscript and given feedback by a TLC reader via an assessment report.

  • Submission Package Report (New!)

For writers who have a completed manuscript and have had editorial support, and are looking to polish their submission package before sending it out into the world. Writers can apply for the chance to be matched with a TLC Industry Editor who will read their first 8,000 words, synopsis, and ‘Dear Agent’ letter, providing them with a written report and mark-up or commentary on the submission material.

  • Editor One-to-Ones (New!)

For trouble-shooting and generating ideas, writers can apply for the chance to have a one-hour session with a TLC Editor. One-to-ones are also popular with writers who have had an editorial service and need post-feedback support, or motivation to get through writer’s block. The writer has one hour with their editor plus one hour of prep time where your editor reads up to 2,500 words (or the equivalent in poetry/script/treatment)

To apply for these additional services, you will go through the standard application process – there is more information on this in the ‘how to apply’ section below. If selected, you’ll need to have your additional documents – for example, your ‘Dear Agent’ letter – ready by the end of January.

Spread the Word’s Free Reads is open from 12pm (midday) on Monday 24 July until Monday 2 October 2023, 10am.

Who is eligible for a Free Read via Spread the Word?

To apply for a Free Read via Spread the Word, you must live in Londonand be on a low income, meeting one of the following criteria:

– You are in receipt of Job Seeker’s Allowance, Disability benefit, Income support, Working tax credit, Universal Credit or Child benefits
– You earn up to or less than the London Living Wage of £11.95 per hour or a £23,000 annual salary
– You are a full-time student
– You are aged 60 or over**

If you identify as being on low-income but do not meet one of the criteria listed above, then please get in touch as we are able to evaluate applicants’ eligibility on a case-by-case basis.

How to Apply

Please apply via our Submittable page:

All applicants must submit:  

– The first 1,000 words of your writing if it is prose fiction or non-fiction, or up to 20 pages if your writing is poetry or script writing

– A complete synopsis of the written work submitted. The synopsis must clearly show your story’s outline and should not exceed 1,000 words. We highly recommend that you check out our Pocket Guide to Writing a Synopsis before sending yours in:

– Documentation that shows you meet the criteria to apply for a Free Read. This may be in the form of a benefit letter, payslip, HMRC self-assessment paperwork/tax statement, confirmation of your student status or a pension. Please check out our FAQs for more information on this.

– A completed TLC Free Reads Scheme form (available to download here as a PDF and here as a Word document). For those wishing to apply for a submissions package report or an editor one-to-one, please complete this form and where we ask you to write a brief statement in support of your application, please state which of the new offers you are applying for, why this would be beneficial for you and your writing, and why the time is right for you to access this opportunity.

The window for submitting: Monday 24 July – Monday 2 October 2023.

We have an FAQs page for any enquiries on applying for a Free Read, but if yours is not listed there, please get in touch with Emily Ajgan: [email protected] and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

We look forward to receiving your submission.


*Writers of colour: Black, Asian, and Global Majority ethnicities

**You must have an annual income of £23,000 or less, including pensions and other forms of income.

Updated: 27 September 2023