Publishing bodies revise charter for values and mental health

Publishing bodies revise charter for values and mental health

UK literary sector redefines Professional values to foster inclusivity and respect

by Suswati Basu
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In an industry-wide move to foster a more inclusive and respectful work environment, the UK’s leading publishing bodies have jointly released an updated statement of professional values. This comes in the wake of social movements that have swept across various sectors, calling for a major shift in workplace culture.

The statement, revised for the first time since its original inception five years ago, is backed by the Publishers Association, Society of Authors, Booksellers Association, and Association of Authors’ Agents, among others. It sets out ten key points that emphasise respect, diversity, inclusion, and mental health awareness.

Read: Authors’ mental health and publishing: navigating an emotional journey

A number of new organisations have also endorsed the statement, including the Association of Illustrators, the Translators Association, Publishing Scotland, the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) and the Writers Guild of Great Britain.

Publishing bodies professional values charter updated
Publishing bodies professional values charter updated. Credit: Suswati Basu

Natalie Jerome, a literary agent who played a pivotal role in the statement’s redevelopment, commented on the changes, saying, “Building on the foundations of the original 2018 statement, this new version lays out our commitment to celebrating and actively promoting diversity and inclusion in all its forms, and a zero tolerance approach to abuse and the incitement of hatred of any kind. Post BLM and Me Too, we wanted to address the need for an expanded and robust set of professional values and we hope this will unite and take the industry forward.”

“We do not seek to impose or enforce professional values but to assist and encourage all in our industry to model and live them.”

Nicola Solomon, Society of Authors CEO

The revision is not just a symbolic gesture but a direct response to contemporary challenges faced by the industry, according to Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors. “Since then, we have lived and worked through a pandemic and an ongoing cost of living crisis, challenged ourselves around diversity, inclusivity, representation and free speech, and we have become more acutely aware of the difficulties faced by too many individuals trying to make and sustain a living,” she stated. “The new Book and Publishing Industry Professional Values is a worthy, thoughtful, practical successor to the work we did five years ago.”

The statement’s refresh includes a stronger stance on online behaviour, a nod to the significant role social media plays in the professional sphere today. It seeks to offer guidance for professional interactions both within and outside of the traditional workplace.

Read: Diversity in publishing: moving past a tick box exercise

Dan Conway, CEO of the Publishers Association, emphasised the importance of collaboration. Five years on, the time felt right to reconvene and look carefully at this document to see what could be done to further improve and embed it,” he explained. “We will all be taking this opportunity to raise further awareness about this strengthened statement within our memberships and throughout the industry.”

The updated professional values are a testament to the industry’s commitment to not only tolerate but celebrate diversity, fostering a culture where every individual feels respected and valued. The initiative is not just about creating a list of ideals but about instilling a living practice within the very fabric of the publishing world.

The statement’s renewed focus on mental health and the recognition of less visible disabilities signal a broader understanding of wellbeing in the workplace. It also extends its ethos to encompass respect for personal privacy and safety, aiming to create a supportive network for individuals to speak out and be heard.

Read: Cost of living crisis’ impact on publishing industry – authors lose out

Listening, allyship, and awareness of company policies are some of the active measures the statement promotes. It’s a top-level, aspirational, and collective declaration of what is expected from professionals in their interactions, irrespective of the platform or setting.

The publishing bodies’ professional values are:

  • Support and champion creative expression and freedom of speech.
  • High standard of professional behaviour expected from those across the sector.
  • Professional communication will be respectful to all parties.
  • Celebrate and actively promote and cultivate diversity and inclusion in all its forms.
  • Ensure that everyone in the industry is treated with dignity and respect.
  • Support and are sensitive to the mental health of those in the sector, as well as those with chronic illness, neurodiversity, disability and other physical challenges.
  • Work towards improving inclusion and access for everyone.
  • Professional behaviour is thoughtful and anticipates consequences.
  • A right to personal privacy, and to feel safe and valued in the working environment.
  • Supporting one another by: being allies, supporting one another, and being aware of company policies.

By reinforcing these professional values, the industry bodies involved are setting a clear expectation: the UK’s book and publishing sector should not only be a hub for creative expression and intellectual freedom but also a model of inclusivity, empathy, and respect for all.

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