Who Made Publishers the Morality Police?
Morality - a not too big word with very big meaning. It's also subjective, what one considers to be moral is not universal. So why has a Big Name Publisher in the UK taken it upon themselves to try to police the private life of children's book authors? And whose morals are they trying to enforce?
The Guardian published an article called Children's writers, don't misbehave this past week. This is allegedly the clause that Random House UK wants to to put in author's contracts:
"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."
What exactly tarnishes one's "reputation suitable to work with or be associated with children"? A low-cut dress at a movie premiere? An affair? Swearing in public? Saying that you don't like and never want to have children? Who decides?
When I look at some of the people that have published children's books I'm not sure exactly sure what would be deemed inappropriate. Madonna's published enough children's books that you can now order a boxed set. What was that other book she did? Oh right, Sex, one of the most in-demand out of print books. Oh yeah, and she also happens to appear nude in it. She published it before her children's writing career though so maybe that makes it ok? Or maybe because she's a celebrity she's in the clear on that? Dr. Seuss released a book called The Seven Lady Godivas the same year he published Horton Hatches an Egg.
Ultimately isn't it up to parents to screen their own children's reading material and decide what they think is appropriate? Are we moving beyond beyond the age helicopter parents and starting the age of the helicopter society?
Mitali sees it as just another difference between American and British publishing, like age-banding, and doesn't think that American publishers would try this.
I doubt if any of our publishers would consider a clause like this one, and yet I think there might be an unwritten expectation in the industry that we are supposed to be role models.
Karen Newton compares it to Hollywood in the 1930s, the age when image was everything.
Liz reminds us that it's not about the author, it's about the book.
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.
Let the books speak for themselves. If you don't want your kid to read a book because of the author's post-publication actions then don't buy it, but you should get to decide what is suitable for your child, not the publisher.