J K Rowling's agency The Blair Partnership has lost four of its author clients over the controversy surrounding the Harry Potter author's views on transgender law reform.
Fox Fisher, Drew Davies and Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir–all of whom identify as LGBTQIA authors–quit the agency saying they were unconvinced it "supports our rights at all avenues". One further author, who opted to remain anonymous, has also departed.
According to the Guardian, Jónsdóttir–who is also known as Owl Fisher and is the co-author of the Trans Teen Survival Guide (from the Hachette-owned publishing company Jessica Kingsley Publishers) –suggested the literary agency should conduct staff training with the group All About Trans but "these requests weren’t met positively by the management". The Blair Partnership declined to comment to The Bookseller on whether such a suggestion for staff training was rebuffed but as part of a broader statement said it would not "meet [the authors'] demands to be re-educated to their point of view".
The authors leaving the agency wrote in a joint statement: "This decision is not made lightly, and we are saddened and disappointed it has come to this. After J K Rowling’s — who is also signed to the agency — public comments on transgender issues, we reached out to the agency with an invitation to reaffirm their stance to transgender rights and equality. After our talks with them, we felt that they were unable to commit to any action that we thought was appropriate and meaningful. Freedom of speech can only be upheld if the structural inequalities that hinder equal opportunities for underrepresented groups are challenged and changed.
"Affirmations to support LGBTQIA people as a whole need to be followed up by meaningful and impactful action, both internally and publicly. As LGBTQIA writers ourselves we feel strongly about having an agency that supports our rights at all avenues, and does not endorse views that go against our values and principles."
In their statement, the authors said further that agencies and publishers "need to create platforms for underrepresented groups from the ground up and make meaningful change within their culture" and "representation must extend into real and authentic representation of diverse voices".
Expressing "solidarity" with the trans community, they added as part of their statement: "Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid."
Like Rowling's publisher Hachette UK, where staff threatened to boycott her latest project as a result of her comments, The Blair Partnership has emphasised its commitment to freedom of speech and said it does not comment on authors' individual views.
A spokesperson for the Blair Partnership told The Bookseller: "We support the rights of all of our clients to express their thoughts and beliefs, and we believe in freedom of speech. Publishing and the creative arts are dependent on these things. It is our duty, as an agency to support all of our clients in this fundamental freedom and we do not comment on their individual views.
"We are disappointed by the decision that four clients have taken to part ways with the agency. To reiterate, we believe in freedom of speech for all; these clients have decided to leave because we did not meet their demands to be re-educated to their point of view. We respect their right to pursue what they feel is the correct course of action.
"We value all our authors’ voices and, as an agency, champion equality and inclusivity. We remain committed to making the agency the most welcoming environment it can be for everyone. The diversity of our clients’ voices is our strength and we take enormous pride from each and every one."
Meanwhile industry LGBTQ+ network Pride in Publishing has said in an open letter that it "stand[s] in total solidarity with those at Hachette Children’s Books who voiced their objections".
The network said free speech "does not entitle an author to a publishing contract. But it does protect the right of a worker to raise the alarm when they’re asked to participate in something that can cause them or someone else harm or trauma".
"Publishing a globally famous author with a controversial record is not a moral decision around freedom of speech (particularly for a billionaire well versed in self-publishing their own content)," Pride in Publishing said, "it is a commercial one driven by cold and hard P&Ls."