Introducing the Writers’ Advisory Council
Since we launched in February 2020, a growing number of writers have come to us for advice and support – Gillian Philip, Julie Burchill, Helen Joyce, Allison Pearson, Holly Lawford-Smith – and over 250 authors have joined as members.
It has become increasingly clear to us that freedom of expression is under severe pressure within the literary world, with publishers and literary agents often failing to defend their authors when their speech rights come under attack.
The threats that our writer members have flagged up include:
- Morality clauses being included in publishing contracts
- Manuscripts being vetted by sensitivity readers
- Editors removing content to avoid giving offence, e.g. ‘cultural appropriation’
- Publishers reneging on a contract, e.g. after a book has provoked controversy before publication
- Publishers refusing to properly distribute or promote books because they’re judged to be ‘difficult’
- Grant-giving bodies withholding or withdrawing funding after an author has said something of which they disapprove, e.g. defended sex-based women’s rights
- Publishers recalling books after they’ve provoked controversy and insisting their authors make changes, or simply pulping the books
- Amazon refusing to stock books, or reorder them when out of stock
- Bookshops refusing to stock books or, if they do, their staff refusing to display them properly
- Authors being no-platformed from speaking events, e.g. literary festivals, at the behest of other authors, sponsors or venue staff
- Malicious reviews being posted online by anonymous trolls
- False and defamatory things being said about authors on social media by people who disapprove of their views
- Successful authors being dropped by their publishers and agents after they’ve engaged in ‘hate speech’, e.g. tweeted #IStandWithJKRowling
- Authors being removed from judging panels after saying something ‘problematic’ (see above)
These issues are of great concern to the Free Speech Union and not just because they directly affect our writer members. The freedom of authors to express themselves and of people to read their work without interference or mediation by self-appointed censors is a fundamental human right.
To ensure these issues are given a proper airing in the public square and our writer members are protected, as well as authors more generally, we have set up a specialist Writers’ Advisory Council. (You can read about it in the Telegraph here.) Our hope is that this will lend the FSU’s voice authority when it speaks out in defence of freedom of expression and comes to the aid of beleaguered authors.
To better support our writer members, the FSU will make sure that a member of our case team specialises in the kind of issues listed above and is always available on the phone. We will also develop relationships with third party providers of specialist advice to authors regarding contracts, tax and insurance. All of these services will be provided either pro bono or at below market rate.
In addition, any writers who join the FSU will have access to all our usual benefits, such as invitations to members-only events with people like Kathleen Stock, Jack Dee, Andrew Doyle, Graham Linehan and Helen Joyce, discounted tickets to parties and comedy nights, and, should they need it, individual advice from our two full-time case officers, two full-time lawyers and specialist media advisors. They’ll also have access to paywalled content on our website – such as FAQs on what to do if you’re asked to declare your gender pronouns in the workplace or take an unconscious bias training course – and you’ll receive our weekly and monthly newsletters.
We hope that as many authors as possible will join the FSU, whether to protect themselves, to defend their peers or build a public voice capable of putting the case for freedom of expression as robustly as possible.
Writers’ Advisory Council
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- Academics For Academic Freedom (AFAF)
- Article 19
- The Campaign for Free Speech
- Fair Cop
- The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
- Free Speech Champions
- The Free Speech Club
- The Free Speech Union (New Zealand)
- Heterodox Academy
- The Institute of Public Affairs
- The National Association of Scholars
- Scholars at Risk Network
- Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (Canada)
Contact the FSU
Before getting in touch please look at our Frequently Asked Questions, as that may answer the question you have. If you still want to get in touch, please use one of the email addresses below:
Help: If your right to free speech is being infringed or you are being penalised in some way for exercising your lawful right to free speech please email [email protected].
Technical support: [email protected]
Anything else: [email protected]
The Free Speech Union
85 Great Portland Street
London W1W 7LT
+44 (0)20 3920 7865