Open Letter to Publishers on Virtual Event Harassment | by New Leaf Literary & Media | Aug, 2020
August 24, 2020
You may or may not be aware of the recent series of hateful attacks being made toward authors during virtual events over the course of the past six months. In most instances these events were coordinated by their publishers. Sadly, these occurrences are not only happening during store-coordinated events — we’ve seen similar incidents happen during festivals and school-sponsored events as well.
In many cases, these attacks are racist (slurs, racially charged and out-of-context music or sound effects, etc.). If we as an industry are committed to the principles so many of us have espoused, especially in the wake of this summer’s protests, we must take action to protect our creators of color from these incidents.
But in every case, these attacks are hurtful, violent, humiliating, and terrifying. This is true whether the authors experiencing them come from a marginalized community or not. Attacks like this can also be triggering to the authors and illustrators being attacked, as well as to attendees in the audience. It’s unacceptable, and we demand that our publishing partners take action to ensure safety and security for all promotional activities requested of authors and illustrators.
Going forward, we must insist that publishers guarantee that the following actions — at a minimum — are taken when planning virtual events:
- The publisher must commit to a zero tolerance policy for harassment or intimidation of any kind toward its authors and illustrators. This harassment includes, but is not limited to: vulgar, obscene, and abusive language; name-calling; taunting; and any conduct that demeans a person/group on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, creed, age, or disability.
- The publisher must further commit to enforcing such zero tolerance policy among staff, social media followers, event attendees or others by providing public statements, removing staff from campaigns or attendees from events as needed, and by ensuring the hosting venue commits to the same.
- A clear code of conduct must be developed and include this zero tolerance policy, which also must be stipulated to any hosting entity, whether it be a store, school, festival, library, media platform or other.
- The Code of Conduct must appear on the event page itself, the registration page for the event, and that all attendees must agree to follow the Code of Conduct when registering for the event.
- If a violation of the Code of Conduct occurs, the author or illustrator will have the right to terminate their appearance without consequence to themselves, their careers, their business or the return of any honorariums or speaking fees.
- All events must include formal registration and will be held via a secure platform with a non-public link to attend.
- All events will have a host assigned, and the host’s duties will include: managing the chat room, immediately deleting any language that would be considered harassment or intimidating, immediately removing and blocking the sender of such language from the event, and screening and monitoring all questions for the participating authors and illustrators. This must be a separate staff member than any moderator who might be acting as interlocutor.
- Under no circumstance should any virtual event attendees have audio or video access of any kind. The authors and illustrators should only be able to see the host and their conversation partner(s).
- A breakdown of the steps that will be taken to ensure a safe and secure event will be presented to the author and/or illustrator at the time the opportunity is presented. This must be a consideration of their participation in the first place. And both the publisher and hosting entity must consider and address all questions and/or concerns about safety and security being voiced by the author /illustrator participating in the event.
All of these criteria are easily met given the platforms available on the market for virtual events. The fact that these weren’t already being done is a deep disappointment thus far. To not correct this going forward in light of the clear evidence before us on the matter would be completely irresponsible.
We demand you protect authors and illustrators when they are promoting under your purview. Otherwise we will have to inform our clients and author/illustrator colleagues of the house’s decision not to take these necessarily protective steps.
To our colleagues, from any aspect of the industry, who would like to add their signature, please do so in the comments. Include your name and, if desired, your affiliated organization. And feel free to share with others who might like to add their voice.
Joanna Volpe, President, New Leaf Literary & Media
Suzie Townsend, Vice President, New Leaf Literary & Media
Meredith Barnes, Business Development, New Leaf Literary & Media
Jennifer Udden, Literary Agent, New Leaf Literary & Media
Stephanie Kim, Literary Agent, New Leaf Literary & Media
JL Stermer, Literary Agent, New Leaf Literary & Media
Jordan Hamessley, Agent, New Leaf Literary & Media
Kathleen Ortiz, Agent, New Leaf Literary & Media
Kate Sullivan, Content Development, New Leaf Literary & Media
Abigail Donoghue, Literary Assistant, New Leaf Literary & Media
Jordan Hill, Literary Assistant, New Leaf Literary & Media
Dani Segelbaum, Literary Assistant, New Leaf Literary & Media
Jenniea Carter, Literary Assistant, New Leaf Literary & Media
Jenny Bent, The Bent Agency
Molly Ker Hawn, The Bent Agency
Patricia Nelson, Literary Agent, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency
The Andrea Brown Literary Agency Staff
Kristin Nelson, President of Nelson Literary Agency
Quressa Robinson, Nelson Literary Agency
Danielle Burby, Nelson Literary Agency
Joanna MacKenzie, Nelson Literary Agency
Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Marietta B. Zacker, Co-owner and Agent, Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency
Gemma Cooper, The Bent Agency
Christy Fletcher, Fletcher & Company
Jim McCarthy, Vice-President, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret
Victoria Marini, Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Diana Fox, Fox Literary
Kate McKean, Vice-President & Literary Agent, Howard Morhaim Literary Agency
Lucienne Diver, The Knight Agency
Michael Bourret, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret
Peter Knapp, Park & Fine
Juliet Mushens, Director, Mushens Entertainment
Patrice Caldwell, President of People of Color in Publishing, agent Howard Morhaim Literary Agency
DongWon Song, Literary Agent, Howard Morhaim Literary Agency
Barbara Poelle, VP Irene Goodman Agency
Beth Phelan, Founder of #DVPIT and Literary Agent at Gallt & Zacker
Linda Camacho, Agent, Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency
Tara Gonzalez, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Miranda Paul, Associate Agent, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Steven Chudney, The Chudney Agency
Tracey Adams, Adams Literary
Josh Adams, Adams Literary
Jessica Faust, President, BookEnds Literary
Jessica Alvarez, Bookends Literary
Laurel Symonds, Agent, The Bent Agency
Natalie M. Lakosil, Bradford Literary Agency
James McGowan, BookEnds Literary
Rachel Brooks, BookEnds Literary
Moe Ferrara, BookEnds Literary
Emily Forney, BookEnds Literary
Amanda Jain, Bookends Literary
Tracy Marchini, Literary Agent, BookEnds
Naomi Davis, BookEnds Literary Agency
Kate Testerman, President of KT Literary, LLC
Sara Megibow, Senior Agent at KT Literary, LLC.
Hannah Fergesen, Agent at KT Literary, LLC.
Hilary Harwell, Agent at KT Literary, LLC.
Renee Nyen, Agent at KT Literary, LLC.
Kelly Van Sant, Agent and Contracts Manager at KT Literary, LLC.
Chelsea Hensley, Associate Agent at KT Literary, LLC
Aida Z. Lilly, Associate Agent at KT Literary, LLC.
Jas Perry, Associate Agent at KT Literary, LLC.
Kate Linnea Welsh, Royalties Data Manager at KT Literary, LLC.
Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio
Peter Ryan, Stimola Literary Studio
Nick Croce, Stimola Literary Studio
Erica Rand Silverman, Stimola Literary Studio
Allison Remcheck, Stimola Literary Studio
Alli Hellegers, Stimola Literary Studio
Adriana Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio
Claire Draper, agent, The Bent Agency
Elizabeth Bewley, Sterling Lord Literistic
Ayesha Pande, Ayesha Pande Literary
Anjali Singh, Ayesha Pande Literary
Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency
Kari Sutherland, Literary Agent, Bradford Literary
Whitney Ross, Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Eddie Schneider, Vice President, JABberwocky Literary Agency
Kim Lindman, Stonesong
Pam Gruber, Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Amy Stapp, Wolfson Literary Agency
Michelle Wolfson, Wolfson Literary Agency
Brent Taylor, Triada US
Regina Brooks, President, Serendipity Literary Agency
Savannah Brooks, The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
Yfat Reiss Gendell, Foundry Literary + Media
Chip MacGregor, MacGregor & Luedeke
Penny Moore, Aevitas Creative Management
Roseanne Wells, The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
Jennifer De Chiara, The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
The Pippin Properties Team
Erin Clyburn, The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
The Book Group
Folio Literary Management
Sarah Landis, Sterling Lord Literistic
Zabe Ellor, The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
Janna Morishima, JANNA Co.
Mandy Hubbard, Emerald City Literary
Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency