• Increase in preference for authors from “under-represented groups”.
• Ash Literary states not interested in stories from “privileged” perspective.
• Good Literary Agency seeks applicants understanding “structural inequality”.
UK literary agencies have declared their preference for authors from under-represented communities such as people of color, disabled writers, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Ash Literary, for example, states that they “are not interested in stories about white able-bodied WW2 evacuees but would welcome that story from a disabled, LGBTQ+ or BIPOC perspective”. The Good Literary Agency was set up to explicitly represent British writers from backgrounds under-represented in UK publishing, and Bell Lomax Moreton is “interested in hearing from authors traditionally under-represented in the industry”.
Kathleen Stock, a feminist philosopher, commented on this shift in focus: “This is about the performance of moral goodness and guilt-expiation by posh, publicly-school educated people, and not much else. There is no link between talent and identity, though you can market identity to a certain kind of gullible reader.”
Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, echoed this sentiment, saying that “the ideal client from the point of view of these literary agencies” seems to be someone who ticks certain identity boxes, regardless of their writing talent. He added that if the “woke capture of the UK publishing industry continues unabated, the UK won’t have a publishing industry left in about 10 years.”
According to Charlotte Gill in the Telegraph, U.K. literary agencies are prioritising authors from ‘under-represented’ communities, such as people of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals, over those considered ‘privileged’. Here’s an excerpt:
An investigation by the Telegraph has found examples of literary agencies making clear their preference for authors deemed under-represented or marginalised – normally meaning people of colour, disabled writers and those from the LGBTQ+ community – prompting concern that authors who do not meet the criteria are becoming “ostracised”.
Ash Literary, an agency looking “for extraordinary stories for children that reflect and celebrate the diversity of our world”, states on its submissions page: “We are not interested in stories about white able-bodied WW2 evacuees but would welcome that story from a disabled, LGBTQ+ or BIPOC [black, indigenous and other people of colour] perspective.”
It adds: “If your book is about an identity that is not yours, we will not be a good fit. This includes books based [sic] the experiences of family members and friends.”
The Good Literary Agency, which receives funding from Arts Council England’s National Portfolio 2023-26, was set up “to explicitly represent British writers from backgrounds under-represented in U.K. publishing”. It lists jobs that ask for applicants who understand “the issues within publishing and society more generally that have led to structural inequality and writers who are BAME, working class, disabled and LGBTQ+ being under-represented”.
Julie Gourinchas from Bell Lomax Moreton, which represents authors and illustrators, says she is “interested in hearing from authors traditionally under-represented in the industry, including but not restricted to writers of colour; queer, trans and nonbinary writers; working class writers; disabled writers; etc.”
On Ms Wishlist, a website in which literary agents state the types of literature they’re after, one writes that “BIPOC, queer and minority groups are always the most welcome”, and another said that he is “specifically looking for [works] written by #LGBTQIA + and/or #BIPOC authors”. Both were contacted for comment, the latter declining.
Kathleen Stock, the leading feminist and philosopher, told the Telegraph: “This is about the performance of moral goodness and guilt-expiation by posh, publicly-school educated people, and not much else. There is no link between talent and identity, though you can market identity to a certain kind of gullible reader.
“I’m lucky that I found a brave agent and editor to take me on in this otherwise suffocating climate, where people who think genuinely differently from the herd are often ostracised, and conformist authors doing the same thing as everybody else are lauded as iconoclasts.”
Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, said: “It seems the ideal client from the point of view of these literary agencies is a non-binary person of colour with a disability and a trust fund. Whether or not they can write seems largely immaterial.
“The problem is, the book-buying public knows when they pick up a book by an unknown author from an ‘under-represented group’ that, nine times out 10, it’s been published because of the identity boxes the author ticks and not because it’s any good. Consequently, they’re unlikely to buy it. I worry that if the woke capture of the U.K. publishing industry continues unabated, the U.K. won’t have a publishing industry left in about 10 years.”
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: In another victory for the Free Speech Union, Sybil Ruth, who was pushed out of a literary consultancy for questioning whether someone with a five o’clock shadow could really describe themselves as a ‘woman’, has been awarded compensation and given an apology. Read more about that here.