LGBT+ book industry workers hit back at JK Rowling’s publishing house standing by her freedom to be ‘anti-trans’

Pride in Publishing hits back at Hachette’s support of JK Rowling

Pride in Publishing has hit back at Hachette’s support for JK Rowling in an open letter reminding the publishing house that freedom of speech “does not entitle an author to a publishing contract”.

It was reported on June 16 that JK Rowling’s anti-trans views had prompted staff at Hachette to threaten to stop working on the production of her children’s book, The Ickabog.

Hachette backed JK Rowling, releasing a statement saying it supported her “freedom of speech” and would not permit staff to down tools on her children’s book.

The publishing house told The Bookseller: “Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of publishing. We fundamentally believe that everyone has the right to express their own thoughts and beliefs.

“That’s why we never comment on our authors’ personal views and we respect our employees’ right to hold a different view.”

Pride in Publishing, a network of LGBT+ people working in the industry founded in 2017, has hit back this interpretation of free speech and Hachette’s statement in an open letter.

“Let’s clarify what free speech is and is not,” the letter begins.

“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.

“Transphobic authors are not a protected group. Trans and non-binary people are.”

The letter says that Pride in Publishing was formed to create “a safe space for the queer community working across the trade” but that “we have a lot of work to do to fulfil that mission”, something that will be familiar to the four authors who quit JK Rowling’s writing agency, The Blair Partnership, yesterday.

Drew Davies, Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir, Fox Fisher, and one writer who has remained anonymous, all quit the agency over its failure to stand up for the trans community after JK Rowling’s anti-trans tweets and essay.

The London-based agency responded to the authors’ resignation by saying that it was proud of the diversity of views among its authors but that it would not compromise on the “fundamental freedom” of allowing its authors to express their beliefs.

The Pride in Publishing letter continued: “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), it is a commercial one driven by cold and hard P&Ls.

“Book publishing is, of course, a business, and each publisher has to follow its own moral compass in terms of factoring in potential reputational harm when standing by a controversial figure.

“But as many other big book deal collapses have shown, no-one should be immune to scrutiny.”

“We stand in total solidarity with those at Hachette Children’s Books who voiced their objections to JK Rowling’s recent conduct.

“No one should be mocked or dismissed for standing up for their owned experience as part of a minority community.”