Placement Spotlight: The Republic of Consciousness Prize

I was fortunate to undertake a self-sourced placement during the third year of my PhD. Based on my interests in contemporary fiction and experimental writing, I approached an organisation whose work I admire greatly: the Republic of Consciousness Prize. I’m grateful for the OOC’s support and the placement structure to make possible this opportunity to spend two months working with a literary charity aligned with my research and professional interests.

The Republic of Consciousness Prize (RofC) is an annual literary prize specifically for small and independent presses in the UK and Ireland. The organisation supports and recognises the work of small presses which are vital to the UK’s literary culture. These publishers are often at the forefront of experimental, commercially risky, and innovative forms of writing. Yet, unlike larger publishing houses, small presses don’t have the revenue from high volume commercial titles to underwrite potential losses of books that, while possessing high literary merit, struggle to turn a profit. The prize aims to reward fiction in the UK which is as vibrant, surprising, challenging and diverse as is possible.

My placement involved supporting the RofC’s communications and promotional work which helps to grow and sustain the prize and a broader community of small presses and their writers. I wrote editorials and copy for regular newsletters, where I compiled and featured updates from a wide range of publishers. I liaised with publishers to draw attention to their events, initiatives and opportunities, and book releases while reaching out to presses of all sizes to raise awareness of their work.

My role also involved in-depth research to curate the 2024 ‘book of the month’ series: a subscription service which spotlights particular books/presses and fundraises for the prize fund which is split between all long- and shortlisted publishers. It has been a rewarding experience to offer this boost to selected publishers while requiring a careful balance of different factors, with a socially inclusive approach towards a wider public awareness of innovative small presses and the diversity of writing they publish. If you’re interested, you can see the 2024 list here:

Attending to contemporary writing from the perspective of how it circulates has been fascinating. This placement was a fantastic opportunity thanks to Neil Griffiths for hosting me at a busy time for the organisation in the run-up to the next prize. The role offered valuable insights into British publishing and literary prize culture in the UK. The insights I’ve gleaned will make their way into my future research, and I’ll bring what I’ve learned to my teaching practice and into course reading lists.

Before beginning, I had a sense of there being great small presses in the UK but the placement has allowed me to discover and appreciate just how many different presses are out there and the myriad ways they’re giving space to diverse voices, international authors in translation, and boundary-pushing fiction.