NOTE: I use the royal “we” and “us” terms in this post, but I only speak for myself.
Yesterday I learned of the Ethical Author campaign from The Alliance of Independent Authors’ Self-Publishing Advice Blog. I was all for it at first – a voluntary Code of Standards that authors from all publishing types (traditional, self, and other) can pledge their participation. They can download the Ethical Author badge and post it on their various digital homes.
Yes, I was all for it at first, and my immediate reaction was…well, in the blog post’s own words as to why the Code is proposed:
“…to reassure readers, reviewers and bloggers, when they see the badge on a book or website, that they are in the presence of an ethical author…”
I connected to it on an EMOTIONAL level. But as I followed discussions on Twitter, I THOUGHT about the Code…and realised that without enforcement, the Code is essentially just nice, cheap words. An agreement that can be easily broken, without punishment.
“This is a voluntary act, conceived as an agreement between equals. The Ethical Author Code is not industry regulation from the top down.”
And the Code is rather non-specific. Which actions are professional and ethical, and which aren’t? Clarification is needed, so that authors know exactly for what they’re volunteering, and so that readers know what – and NOT – to expect from participating authors.
The discussion led to looking for industry-regulated groups with a Code. We couldn’t find one for authors. Talk turned to journalism, and I remembered that we still haven’t heard anything from The Guardian or HarperCollins regarding KH. I hadn’t realised it had been a whole MONTH since the infamous article, until Katiebabs pointed it out. I’d put #HaleNo to the back of my mind mostly, except for when word spread that KH’s book is a nominee for a Book of the Year award. (The magazine’s publisher listened to criticism of the finalist, and replied with dignity and respect.)
And yet still no word from The Guardian, who published KH’s article, and HarperCollins, who published KH’s first novel in hardcover and are scheduled to release it in paperback in 2015.
Actually, HarperTeen left this one Tweet:
“We were not involved in this incident, and we do not disclose our blogger contact information as a general matter.”
Note the word “general” – which means that in certain circumstances, they DO disclose blogger contact information? Many people have asked for clarification, but of course there’s been no reply. So that one Tweet is all the publisher has deigned to say on the matter.
The silence from HarperCollins and The Guardian – as well as those applauding, defending, and complimenting KH on her stalking behaviour and subsequent article – sparked the Blogger Blackout, “a movement calling for accountability, victim advocacy, and privacy protection” (well said by Jeanne). It was also a time for bloggers to take time off to consider why they began blogging in the first place, and to refill the well of enthusiasm for reading and reviewing. It was a peaceful protest that didn’t intrude into anyone else’s space.
And still nothing from The Guardian and HarperCollins. But what exactly do we want from them?
By publishing KH’s article, The Guardian breached their own Editorial Code of Conduct.
WHAT WE WANT FROM THE GUARDIAN
-To publically acknowledgement that they wilfully breached their own Code.
-To apologise for said breaches.
-To donate a matching amount of money (if KH was paid for the article) to a charity providing help for victims of crime.
-To answer the question: Does The Guardian condone KH’s actions?
The damage is done, but this may assist making amends. In the meantime, some have uninstalled The Guardian‘s app from their phones. (Confirmation in the link’s comments.)
Why are we turning to The Guardian and HarperCollins for accountability? I have no knowledge of the U.S. legal system, but I’m guessing that unless the victim presses charges (and there are many reasons why victims of crime do NOT always report crimes to the relevant authorities, and we should respect the victims’ decision), KH won’t face legal consequences for stalking.
Needless to say, many people who know of KH’s actions refuse to promote, review, or read her books. But she wasn’t exactly a household name before her stalking, so the result from not-buying after the event is not particularly quantifiable. The only way to tell is when the paperback edition of her novel is released in January 2015, and to monitor sales figures where possible. As far as the public knows, HarperCollins still has KH’s second novel contracted to publish.
WHAT WE WANT FROM HARPERCOLLINS
To answer the questions:
-HarperCollins does “not disclose our blogger contact information as a general matter”, but in which specific situations do/would you?
-Who at HarperCollins has access to blogger contact information?
-In case of a blogger contact information leak at HarperCollins, who would be accountable, and what would be the consequences?
-Does HarperCollins have a Code of Conduct for your authors? And if so, will you post the Code publically, please? And in case of a Code violation, what would the consequences be for that author?
-Does HarperCollins condone KH’s actions?
-Does HarperCollins still intend to publish KH’s second novel?
-Does HarperCollins still intend to publish the paperback edition of KH’s first novel?
Yes, answers are what we really want from HarperCollins. Only then will readers, bloggers, and the public at large be able to make informed decisions about the publisher (e.g. whether to read, review, or promote HarperCollins titles).
Of course, KH’s novel was the brainchild of book packager Full Fathom Five, who came up with the concept and hired KH to write the novel. FFF have their own digital publishing arm now, so even if HarperCollins breaks the contract for her second novel, the book will still have a publisher waiting in the wings. And there’s always self-publishing. Also, there’s the option of KH taking on a pseudonym, and continuing her publishing career that way.
Unfortunately, KH has sympathisers, defenders, and supporters, which means that society has a long way to go. Attitudes to reviews/status updates, victim-blaming…a lot needs to change.
WHAT WE CAN DO
-Send letters of complaint to The Guardian and HarperCollins.
-Is there a newspaper industry regulatory group? If so, find out who they are, and send letters of complaint to them.
-Attend industry events featuring panellists representing HarperCollins, and ask them our questions publically. (See list earlier in this post.)
It’s been suggested that “The best way for people to address their displeasure is at the point of sale.” Theoretically, yes. However:
-Most people had never heard of KH before her article (and of those who had, not everyone bought her book). So refusing to buy KH’s book is not quantifiable, if we weren’t going to buy it, anyway.
-I’d rarely clicked on The Guardian‘s website before, and have rarely visited it since the article, so again – that’s not quantifiable. (Never bought their physical newspaper, either, if they publish one.)
-A number of people refuse to buy or promote HarperCollins books until they make a statement (and they haven’t made a statement yet). But not everyone will agree to NOT purchase/promote HC books, and thus it’s difficult to make a point-of-sale point if people still continue to buy those books. (And I don’t often buy books – my reads are mostly from the library, so this isn’t quantifiable, either.)
Oh yeah, and refusing to purchase/promote HC books may affect authors who AREN’T KH, and thus any point-of-sale protest is seen to be an “attack”, and thus the conversation goes off on a tangent, thus distracting from the point trying to be made.
We’ve sent letters to The Guardian. We’ve posted countless blogs, and commented directly to The Guardian and HarperCollins on social media. We’ve participated, or supported, in the Blogger Blackout. We’ve stopped reading, reviewing, or promoting anything published by The Guardian or HarperCollins. We’ve done everything we can do peacefully, but nothing’s changed.
They remain silent in response.
Basically, there’s not a farking thing we can do to get a statement or answers from The Guardian or HarperCollins.