I have thought long and hard about writing this.
I have always been a feminist. I come from a single parent family, and my Mama always brought my sister and I up to believe that we could do whatever we wanted to and become whoever we wanted to. My 10th birthday gifts from my father were a skateboard and a book about feminism.
Today, I run the UK’s most successful book subscription service for women. I set this up more or less alone, with zero investment. We’ve never had any investment.
We have always supported the Women’s Prize for Fiction. We’ve featured them on our blog and social media, run competitions, mentioned them in features. In 2018, we even included the prize winner – Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire – in our boxes. After an incredibly successful competition last year, we agreed that in 2020 we’d organise something even more exciting, and would get together to discuss in January or February..
After three ignored emails earlier this this year, the WPFF team passed me on to their PR agency, Stand. We discussed the partnership with Stand over various emails and phone calls. In mid-April, we confirmed the scope of the partnership over email – the Women’s Prize team were cc-ed in on this. At this point, we had spent hours working on the project, talking to partners who would be part of the Women’s Prize for Fiction Experience, and organising books with each publisher. We’d shot imagery for the partnership, and created a campaign. And then, our contact at Stand was leaving the company, so a call was organised with the WPFF team. They had been cc-ed into emails, so there wasn’t any particular concern on my part.
I confirmed to them that we would be announcing the Women’s Prize for Fiction Experience in our newsletter that weekend, and that it would be fantastic if they could look at speaking to the shortlist authors about content for our blog. Over 1,500 of you signed up to find out when the Women’s Prize for Fiction Experience would be launching.
So imagine my shock when one of our followers sent an image of another book subscription box announcing their ‘exclusive collaboration’ with the WPFF, and talking about Books That Matter as the WPFF’s first ever brand partner. I was aware that BTM were creating a subscription box, but had been told that it would be featuring one of the previous winning titles, along with a notebook and tote bag – all items which I knew wouldn’t really be of interest to any of our members. I was more than a little surprised at the venture, as it doesn’t look like BTM have ever mentioned the Women’s Prize at any point – not on their blog, or social media.
Emailing the WPFF team, I received this response:
‘Having spoken to the wider team just now, we are in agreement that we sadly cannot partner with you on this, given our other commitments. If you would like to theme bundles around the shortlist this year, you are of course free to do this, and we welcome further exposure for the shortlisted authors and their brilliant books. We just ask that you do not speak about this as a collaboration, however, since it’s not something we’re able to be actively involved in this year.’
The partnership had already been agreed weeks before this. I was utterly, utterly stunned that an entity that purports to support women would conduct affairs in such a way. The rest of the emails from the WPFF team have been offhand at best.
I had intended to go on and launch the Women’s Prize for Fiction Experience regardless – we have so, so, so many exceptional, talented partners (all but one female) who I’ve spent time working with. It would be unfair to have used their time for nothing too. In the course of the discussions, Stand had confirmed that there wouldn’t be anyone else offering a package of all of the shortlisted titles – that would be exclusive to Reposed.
The final straw was finding out that BTM were selling exactly that. Of course, not an immersive experience as we had planned, but the opportunity to purchase all six titles nonetheless. So no, we won’t be launching the Women’s Prize for Fiction Experience. We’ll be spending our time doing other, more exciting projetcts – starting with Reposed Salon, which launches tomorrow.
I bear Books That Matter no ill will. We offer very different products, for very different people. I have no idea if their founder is aware of any of this.
I am sharing my experience as I think it’s important. I was brought up to stand up for what’s right. And this is wrong, on so many levels. I am someone who stands by my word, and if we tell you we are going to launch something, I don’t want to let you down. I work incredibly hard, and you deserve the truth. The Women’s Prize for Fiction purports to be about supporting women. I guess that they hoped I’d just go away quietly