Friday, August 01, 2008

Who Died and Left You In Charge?

Bookshelves of Doom shares that a publisher is attempting to include a morality clause in its contracts with children's authors.

No, really.

From the Guardian Book Blog: "a well-established, enormous publishing house has decided to insert the following clause into its standard contract for children's books: "If you act or behave in a way which damages your reputation as a person suitable to work with or be associated with children, and consequently the market for or value of the work is seriously diminished, and we may (at our option) take any of the following actions: Delay publication / Renegotiate advance / Terminate the agreement."" Click thru to find out the name of the publisher; it's one you'll recognize.

Any American authors care to comment as to if they've seen this in recent contracts on this side of the Atlantic?

Now, the rant.

What annoys me about morality clauses such as this is that the people who want them hardly live up to them. Will all people in the publishing industry have to live up to this? And, more importantly, what about the parents? If the parents get to judge every aspect of an author's life, why not turn the tables and judge every. little. thing about the parents?

But what really pisses me off about the whole thing?

It's a big old fake. Seriously. Who gives a damn about anything besides the book? What does it matter what the author does or does not do, or think, or say outside the book? How often does a kid even know about it?

Why is it a fake? Because it is not about the book. It is not about the author.

It is about control. It's about a certain kind of person who isn't satisfied with living their life a certain way; they want to dictate how others live and think. And if the author isn't the "right" sort of person and doesn't do and say the "right" thing ... then the book being made of awesome doesn't matter. You won't get your money. Your book won't get published.


Andrew Karre said...

How bizarre--and very fishy. First, the language is so vague as to be meaningless, and even if it weren't, the spirit doesn't make a whole lot of sense from a contracting point of view for anyone aside from celebrity authors who receive ridiculous advances, in which case I have no sympathy for either party. As a practical matter, for a real author with a decent agent, I can't imagine this language surviving. It doesn't make any sense because all the penalties are front loaded. It doesn't even protect the publisher. You'd have to be famous already to have an opportunity to behave badly in way anyone would notice. If you actually got famous for your writing and then started hanging out with John Waters or whatever, none of these penalties would come into effect (the advance is paid, book's out, and "terminate this contract" would inevitably mean the publisher would have to stop selling the existing books and revert rights).

I'm calling BS on this--or at least it's not boilerplate language for the publisher.

(I have a weird memory of there being some interesting morality language in Thomas Nelson boilerplate.)

tanita✿davis said...

I'm with the American version of that publisher -- or, rather with one of their myriad imprints, but the contracts say the name of the larger company on the letterhead. I'm here to tell ya: no morality contracts. No whiff of any such.

I think this isn't as much about control as it is about theater -- you know the phrase "security theater," right? Sound and fury signifying no greater safety for people? To me, this is the same deal -- the illusion that The Children(TM) are now protected and that Family Values (TM) are being required.

And maybe, just maybe, this is about the UK... a lot of things here don't quite make sense to me yet, but there are Certain Types of people who are Right. Those class lines of Upstairs/Downstairs still exist, and Certain People are not Our Type. It's subtle, but it's there.