The Literary Consultancy’s
Free Reads Scheme


Established in 1996 as the first service of its kind in the UK, The Literary Consultancy (TLC) offers writers the opportunity to receive an honest, market-aware appraisal of their work through its long-running manuscript assessment service, available for extracts or full manuscripts across fiction, non-fiction, short stories, poetry, scripts and screenplays.

TLC has helped a number of writers on to publication, but its main aim is to support writers in developing their work. TLC hand-matches each incoming manuscript 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, sent within 4-6 weeks of the application being processed.

Since 2001, TLC has been in receipt of funding from Arts Council England to extend its offer to those unable to pay the fees for its commercial services. The Free Reads Scheme is open to all writers resident in England through a range of partners. You can find a map of the partners operating in each region, as well as more information about the scheme here.

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 LGBTQ+ community.

Spread the Word is The Literary Consultancy’s regional partner for London and will be processing entries from writers living in London. Applications are now open for the 2018-2019 submission period.


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

You earn £23,000 or below
You are a full-time student
You are a pensioner
You are in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance, Disability Benefits, Income Support or Working Tax Credits.

You may also submit HMRC self-assessment paperwork to show you are low-earning if you are a freelancer and not in receipt of income support.


You must be based in London to apply via Spread the Word.
Applicants cannot apply for a Free Read two years in a row.
Applicants must be over the age of 16.
Free Reads are subject to TLC’s manuscript assessment T&C
We only accept single authored work.
We only accept writing in English.
Spread the Word’s deadline date is midnight on Friday 30 November.

All entrants must fill out a Free Reads Application Form (available in both word doc and PDF versions below). You’ll also need to submit 1000 words of writing, along with a synopsis. If you’re entering poetry or a script into the scheme, then please send in up to 20 pages of your writing. This must be the writing you wish to have assessed for a Free Read.

All entries must have an application form with evidence of eligibility attached.

Alternatively, you can send your entry to us via post. Please address it to:

Aliya Gulamani (Free Reads Scheme)
Spread the Word
The Albany, Douglas Way,
London, SE8 4AG

All postal entries will receive a confirmation of receipt via email. We aim to notify all participants of the outcome by the 19 December 2018.

We’ve created an FAQs document, but if your question or query is not listed, please do get in touch.

Good luck!

Free Reads Application Form (doc)
Free Reads Application Form (pdf)


‘There’s nothing worse than reaching the end of a long, winding road filled with high hills and potholes only to find you’ve been going in the wrong direction. With Free Reads, I felt I could reach the peak of my creativity due to the depth of the feedback. Getting help so early on in my writing definitely set me down the right path and made for a more enjoyable journey!‘ – Sharena E. Dee, TLC Free Reads recipient 2018

As a low-income writer with PTSD, I couldn’t have afforded experienced, literary feedback and suggestions on my work without this. I had spent six years writing my novel, so I wanted it to be in safe hands! My reader was fantastic – critical but supportive, specific, and explained her comments well. It was easy to take the next step of a clear edit from this point, and feel more confident whilst my novel is on submission. I can’t recommend it highly enough!’ – J L Hall, TLC Free Reads recipient 2017

‘The Free Reads Scheme gave me access to one of the most experienced team of writers and editors in publishing.  TLC reader and award-winning author Monique Roffey’s assessment of Custom and Practice was both insightful and empowering.  It gave me a sense of how my novel might be received by readers as well as those in the publishing industry. I’m grateful to Spread the Word for providing opportunities like these for writers from diverse backgrounds.’ – Anne Hawk, TLC Free Reads recipient 2017

My manuscript assessment was a wonderful boost for me. It was great to have access to a professional reading service which I would not have been able to afford if it weren’t for the Free Reads scheme. In my report I received many useful suggestions which helped me in the subsequent editing of my book, Singing to Seals. I am so grateful for the comprehensive feedback which I received from a professional reader with experience in the publishing industry.’ – Gill Haigh, TLC Free Reads recipient 2017



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