On May 30, following blowback she received for her tweeted responses to the protests in her hometown of St. Paul, MN, Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary posted a note of apology on the agency’s website.
Between then and now, Frederick seems to have changed her mind–at least, about her critics.
Today, three of the people who responded critically on social media to Frederick’s tweets–agents Beth Phelan and Kelly Van Sant and author Isabel Sterling–received a letter from Frederick’s lawyers threatening legal action unless they remove and retract their responses, which the lawyers allege are “false, harm [Frederick’s] reputation and are defamatory”.
here is the letter that i received via email… pic.twitter.com/npDb7q12gC
— beth phelan (@beth_phelan) June 11, 2020
Phelan, Van Sant, and Sterling are refusing to comply. In an open letter to Frederick, they detail why they believe Frederick’s threatened defamation action is without merit, and also why they are taking the matter public.
We are making this public because the book industry still lacks the necessary transparency to fully see and address the many faults in our whole institution. We want to push back against these intimidation tactics so that we can help foster an environment where we can speak our truth about racist practices and other insidiously problematic behaviors without fear of retribution. We need to continue to call these things out. And we need to see people accept responsibility and engage in actual growth, not pandering.
We ask for the community’s support in breaking this cycle of silence. This is not just about one agent, one threat, one voice, but about delegitimizing threats of lawsuits as tools of silencing overall.
Apparently Phelan, Van Sant, and Sterling aren’t the only ones who have heard from Frederick’s lawyers. Author Foz Meadows, who last week wrote a long blog post about her experience with Red Sofa, reports getting a letter too, though possibly in error:
I received one of these, too – with my name on it, but also an incorrect name, the wrong address, and with a quote of something I never said. It was then “recalled” by Dawn’s lawyers. Will I be sent an updated one? Who knows! Either way, I stand with Beth, Kelly and Isabel. https://t.co/CwV9wqZeLV
— Foz Meadows (@fozmeadows) June 11, 2020
Phelan, Van Sant, and Sterling have launched a defense fund to help pay for potential legal expenses.
Tweets about the protest from Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary Agency also generated controversy last week, prompting two of her agents to resign.
Yesterday I made the difficult decision to leave Corvisiero Litereary Agency, while others have made the same decision, others were systematically let go today. While my heart is hurting, there is a bigger truth that we all have to stand behind.
— Amy Giuffrida IS OPEN TO QUERIES❤️ (@kissedbyink) June 4, 2020
Today I made the very difficult but necessary decision to leave Corvisiero Agency. To my colleagues, I wish you the very best in the future & know the industry will be better with your voices in it. To my clients, we will forge ahead. The best, I truly believe, is yet to come.
— Saritza’s Closed to Queries (@epubagent) June 4, 2020
That same day, Corvisiero made the abrupt decision to fire her entire remaining staff–claiming, basically, that it was for their own protection:
Some of the former employees have issued a joint statement, apologizing to clients and alleging longstanding problems within the agency.
If you’re a Corvisiero client with unsold work who has been orphaned by the firings, you can add your name and manuscript(s) to this directory, which “is meant for literary agents and editors to help ease the blow and economic hardship this has placed on these writers by finding them home for new work.”