The Chickens are Working Overtime

Many questions have been raised in the past few months about writer and publisher ethics. Major publishers have been called to the carpet by the Department of Justice regarding collusion and price fixing, three of which settled out of court last week to the tune of $69 million. Authors and their agents have been lashing out at negative reviews all across social media. (I won’t provide links to these for the sad fact that there are so many. Simply Google “authors behaving badly” if you wish to follow these sordid tales) And most recently, a handful of authors have admitted to paying for reviews and using fake accounts to post positive comments regarding their own work and/or negative comments regarding another’s work.

Reactions to all this have varied from shock to cynicism.

Everyone does it. This is a defense most commonly resorted to when we’ve seen someone else profit from a practice we know in our hearts to be wrong, yet we succumb to the temptation and do it ourselves. This line, or a paraphrase of it, was used in the article above about fake accounts, also called “sockpuppets” — a term I’m sure we’ll all be very tired of hearing and seeing in the next several months. Does everyone do it? Of course not. But enough people engage in the practice for the idea to be relatively commonplace. Books and writing are by no means exclusive users of sockpuppets. Reviews and reviewers have become big business. Just ask Angie’s List or any number of other similar sites on the web.

My reaction to all this? Sadness, mostly. On two levels. First, I’m sad that this profession I enjoy immensely has become mired in so many unethical quandaries. From the largest publisher, all the way down the chain to the individual author, examples of poor judgement and behavior abound. Shame on all of us for allowing things to progress this far without speaking up against things we know to be wrong. Second, I’m sad that so many folks feel this is an opportunity to capitalize on by proclaiming their own innocence, or worse, by fighting fire with fire in some cases. Bullying the bullies solves nothing.

So many folks in the industry have egg on their faces right now, the chickens are having to work overtime to keep up with demand. Before you heft an egg to toss at someone else, have a look in the mirror and realize some of that egg might just land on your face someday. None of us is perfect. Were the individuals and entities mentioned in the articles linked above in the wrong? Yes, to varying degrees. Some of the transgressions were more heinous than others. It’s easy for me to say I never paid for reviews because I simply didn’t have the money to buy them! Does that make me morally superior? Or just broke? I like to think even if I’d had the money, I wouldn’t have used it in that fashion. As for sockpuppets, I don’t have enough time in the day to spend on my legitimate social media accounts, let alone fake ones. Does that mean I’m honest? Or just bad at time management?

For me, what it boils down to is this: I enjoy telling stories. I also enjoy when other people read those stories and gain their own enjoyment from doing so. As I mentioned in my last post, no one is universally liked, and I’m no exception to that rule. Would I like to be as popular as a Rowling or Patterson some day? Sure! But, if I’m not, will I consider myself a failure? Absolutely not.

As an addendum, I’d like to thank Joe Konrath and his recent post on this subject which provoked me to look deeper at my own feelings. “Thought provoking,” is one of the highest complements I can think of to give a writer.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

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About Alan Tucker

Writer, Dad, Graphic Designer, Soccer Coach … not necessarily in that order!

Posted on September 4, 2012, in Books/Writing, Random/Rants and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. My thoughts are that integrity counts for something in this business, Alan. Stay true to your personal ethics and morals, and trust me you’ll shine brighter than any of those writers who are now washing the muck off their faces. Stay true, my friend! As always, a great post! Shared!

  2. Great post! I wanted to stop on over and thank you for following my blog! 🙂

  3. Great post, Alan. I’d add that the publishing industry has never been immune to deceptive practices, from gender-bending pen names to ghostwriting to buying bookstore real estate, newsletter placement, and, now we’ve discovered, phony book reviews. All of these things are designed to sell books in one way or another and all of them deceive the reading public.

    So are we calling for author/publisher honesty only on one level or on all? Does any of it, as Joe says, actually HARM anyone?

    I, too, believe in personal integrity. I would never dream of paying reviewers or reviewing my own books. But I’ve certainly sent out free books in return for honest reviews. And I’ve written under pen names and been the beneficiary of publisher funded placement in bookstores and newsletters.

    Why are some of these things acceptable and others not?

    • Thanks Robert! Yes, I think those of us who work in and around publishing realize the seedy side of it, but now, with the e-publishing revolution in full swing, the general public is being exposed to some of these practices that, as you mention, have been occurring for many years.

      I don’t know that any of it is “harmful”, but certainly doesn’t mean it’s right. : )

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