The vice president of the Association of Authors Agents (AAA), Lizzy Kremer, has said it is important for the trade to draw up industry guidelines on behaviour following the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal.
She was speaking to The Bookseller after penning a personal blog on the subject, urging the trade to “rout out sexual harassment” and “start reading one another better”.
The AAA is currently working with the Publishers Association and the Society of Authors to draw up the guidance.
“We all agree that it is important to have some industry-specific guidelines,” Kremer said. “This is a very sociable industry, the success of which relies heavily on good personal relationships. Creative work requires a safe and trusting environment in order to thrive.
"It's not enough for us to tell one another that we all know what good behaviour is, and that we won't tolerate abuse of power: writing down our beliefs and intentions explicitly and sharing that manifesto widely amongst our whole community of publishers, authors and booksellers gives us an opportunity to think through the challenge of a creating and maintaining a safe workplace for all and of holding one another to account when we fail. We all believe in the written word, so let's write. There is no more powerful way of effecting change in a community of readers."
Writing on her blog, Publishing For Humans, the leading literary agent described how she was asked by colleagues for her views on what an industry behavioural code might look like, after stories of sexual harassment in the book trade in the UK and US emerged following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which set in motion an international conversation about the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.
An uncomfortable experience at a recent social event helped to narrow her thoughts on the issue, Kremer revealed. Following the experience, the David Higham Associates agent said her “industry code” was starting to come together. She advised: “When a woman wears a dress at a book party that reveals part of her body, she doesn't mean: ‘My body is yours to touch.’ She means: ‘My body is beautiful and it's mine’.”
She continued: “When a junior person asks someone more senior in publishing for professional advice, they don’t mean, ‘I'd like to socialise with you after work, and maybe even fool around.’ They mean: ‘I respect your experience. Please share some of it with me, so I might learn from you.’ When a woman laughs at a colleague's joke, she doesn't mean: ‘My god, you're sexy. I'm so vulnerable to your sexiness right now.’ She means: ‘You're a tolerable colleague. Thank goodness you're not someone who likes to corner me in the stationary cupboard’.”
Kremer, who represents bestselling authors such as Paula Hawkins and Kate Morton, also urged: “Don’t exert power over others in order to take what isn't yours. Be a human being. Learn to read one another.”
She ended the personal piece by saying that book publishing needed to “rout out sexual harassment”.
“Let's be a place where everyone can tell their story,” Kremer said.
A survey into harassment in the book trade conducted by The Bookseller in November following the Weinstein scandal found that 54% of women and 34% of men have suffered abuse in the industry.
A Penguin US art director Giuseppe Castellano resigned from his post following allegations of sexual harassment in December 2017 and Lorin Stein, the editor of the influential literary magazine the Paris Review, resigned following an internal investigation into his behaviour towards female employees and writers in the same month.