Literary agent says ‘no-go’ claims untrue

Literary agent says ‘no-go’ claims untrue

Literary agents by Jenni Frazer March 2024

A leading literary agent says that claims that “much of literary London is a no-go zone for Jews” are “not my experience — it’s really not the case”.

Stephanie Thwaites, head of the book department at the Curtis Brown Group, and is working with the Jewish Literary Foundation on its emerging writers programme, was commenting after a story appeared in the national press based on the remarks of an anonymous literary agent.

This agent, according to independent publisher Stephen Games, said that “half of British publishers are refusing to take books by authors who are identifiably Jewish”. Games said that it was an ““emerging problem” that had been “exacerbated” since the Israel-Gaza war began in October. He told the Daily Telegraph that the anonymous agent had said that there was “no point putting proposals up to commissioning editors as they just are not interested.”

But Ms Thwaites told Jewish News: “This is really not the case. It’s not been our experience and I do find it troubling that it draws attention away from what the real issues are. We have a Jewish publishing group which we formed after October 7, so I hear a lot from other Jewish publishing professionals, and that just isn’t anyone’s experience”.

She said she had worked in the industry for more than 20 years and observed: “What’s reflected in that article is not the mainstream publishing experience”.

She said that the Jewish publishers’ group had been formed after the Hamas attacks because some people had expressed concern about feeling “isolated”. Johnny Geller, chief executive of the Curtis Brown Group, had written about the issue in the Bookseller magazine and a number of people had got in touch to share their views.

Now the group meets on a regular basis, frequently with guest speakers such as Curtis Brown client Dr Dave Rich, the CST head of policy. Plans are in place to meet during next week’s London Book Fair, together with international Jewish publishers.

Ms Thwaites did say, however, that she was seeing “increased hostility” in some quarters, towards Israeli publishers and Hebrew language deals. “We have seen that before October 7, but this cultural boycott is increasing — authors choosing not to have their book published in Israel or in Hebrew. And it’s being done quite casually, as though this were an acceptable thing to do. I think it’s a great shame, because it targets completely the wrong people.”

  • 6 March, 2024