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Monday, April 10, 2017

What are 'sensitivity readers' and is freedom of thought now under fire in the publishing industry ?

This article in PUBLISHERS WEEKLY addresses those questions.

Some excerpts... That I will soon render readable...

“Politics is a dangerous thing to be candid about,” said one agent, who has worked with conservative authors. “It’s now acceptable to ban speech on college campuses; this is the world we live in.” Although this agent did not equate what happened at schools such as the University of California, Berkeley and Middlebury College in Vermont—where protestors, some of them students, violently opposed appearances by Yiannopoulos and Bell Curve author Charles Murray, respectively—with what is happening in publishing, he feels the industry needs to pay attention to these events. He cited, as a trend to watch, the appearance of “sensitivity readers,” who are being hired by some publishers and authors (largely in YA and middle grade) to ensure accuracy and sensitivity in portrayals of characters who have marginalized identities or experiences. (In most cases sensitivity readers are hired when authors are depicting characters with backgrounds or identities different from their own.) “It’s a short trip between [sensitivity readers] and trigger warnings.”

"While the major New York houses have consistently and successfully published conservative authors for decades, many sources saw some truth in Ross’s [Marji Ross, president at Regnery Publishing] comments. Some cited the existence of conservative imprints (at all Big Five publishers) as proof that right-wing authors are treated differently than liberal ones. One source described the existence of these imprints as something that “balkanizes” conservative authors. He said, “I’ve had editors tell me they wouldn’t possibly consider a book by a conservative, and I never would hear that if the politics were flipped.”

Another agent, who handles a number of conservative authors, said the industry’s longstanding “double standard” for right-wing authors is evidenced by the fact that “there are no quote-unquote liberal imprints in publishing.” In other words, books espousing liberal ideas often land at general-interest imprints. This, more than anything else, means there are fewer places to shop conservative books and authors. “A liberal senator has dozens of options [when it comes to imprints and editors that will publish his book],” he said. “Conservatives have a much smaller pool.”

Another agent, who also has conservative clients, said he believes the author reaction to S&S’s deal with Yiannopoulos—more than 100 of the house’s authors wrote a letter to CEO Carolyn Reidy requesting the publisher drop the title—will be the thing people in the business remember. “I think part of the internal calculus [on future deals for controversial conservatives] will be trying to take the temperature of the author community,” he noted. “Publishers will have to be really smart in deciding who’s an alternative voice who has a right to be at the table, and who’s just a vile person.”
Ross predicts that what happened with Yiannopoulos “may, indeed, be the start of a new trend: liberal authors demanding not only their own right to offend others but the silencing of those they find offensive.”

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