Free Reads
A Manuscript Assessment Service

Spread the Word supports talented, low-income London writers to receive professional manuscript assessments.

Funded by Arts Council England, The Literary Consultancy’s Free Reads scheme offers low-income writers access to The Literary Consultancy’s long-running manuscript assessment service, available for partial or full manuscripts across fiction, non-fiction, short stories, poetry, scripts and screenplays.

Selected writers are hand-matched to a suitable reader from its list of 80+ professional editors, and writers can expect to receive feedback in the form of a written critique by TLC, sent within 4-6 weeks of the application being processed. The Free Read scheme particularly welcomes applications from writers belonging to groups currently under-represented in publishing including women writers, disabled writers, BAME writers, and members of the LGBQT+ community.

Spread the Word is delighted to be an official partner for The Free Reads scheme, supporting applications from London writers. Over the last 10 years, we’ve supported 47 writers with receiving professional feedback. The scheme is open throughout the year with two deadline windows: 1 July and 1 December 2019.


To apply for the Free Reads scheme via Spread the Word, you must live in London and be on a low-income, meeting one of the following criteria:

– You are in receipt of Universal Credit, Job Seeker’s Allowance, disability benefit, income support or working tax credit
– You earn less than the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour or a £23k 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.

All applicants must submit:

– A completed TLC Free Reads Scheme form (available to download here)
– The first 1,000 words of your writing 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
– Documentation that shows you meet the criteria to apply for a Free Read

Applications have closed for 2019-2020 Free Reads scheme. We will update this page with more information regarding dates for the 2020-2021 Free Reads scheme.


‘Being selected for a Free Read has definitely been a boost to my confidence – someone, somewhere (namely the brilliant folk at Spread the Word!) thought that my work was worth investing in. When I submitted my manuscript, I was not working due to ill health, and making a financial investment in editorial support would have been out of the question. I’m awaiting the results of my report with a mix of excitement and anxiety, but the process has already been an overwhelmingly positive one. If you meet the criteria, seize this opportunity and apply. You never know where it might lead.’

Ruth Goldsmith, TLC Free Reads recipient