Recently, the imprint of a major publisher in the US (and one with a branch plant in Canada) signed an author to a $250,000 book contract. I’m not naming the author or the publisher, for reasons I’ll explain later. But if you’re familiar with this story — as many in our community are — you know that the controversy about this signing is that the author has expressed racist, sexist, and homophobic views and has engaged in online trolling that has promoted the harassment of others.
This is the sort of author I would never publish, and I can’t condone anyone else publishing him. They’re not obligated to publish anyone, so if they allow the publication of someone whose views are vile, they are promoting those views. They are promoting intolerance. That’s a healthy advance, too, and since the justification of a large advance is the author’s celebrity, and since this author’s celebrity is built on hate and intolerance, they’re rewarding him for being despicable.
But while I have serious issues with anyone publishing such an author, there have been some sites and journals who have said they will no longer review books from that publisher. (We’re talking about the parent company here, not the imprint.)
I have a problem with such a boycott.
The lesser issue is that this book is being published by one of the company’s imprints. The parent company umbrellas many imprints that, as far as I’m aware, operate independently of one another. The other imprints had no involvement or even knowledge of this book’s acquisition, let alone any ability to do anything about it. Is it fair to these imprints to boycott them because of something out of their control? How about the Canadian operation? I don’t know if they’ll be distributing the book or not, but it may not even be their call. Or it might be. I don’t know. But if I were to consider a boycott, I’d want that information before doing so, because the people at the Canadian operation may not have anything to do with this book.
That’s the lesser consideration.
The greater consideration, though, is that this publishing company represents many authors. These authors had nothing to do with the imprint signing this book. They probably didn’t even know the imprint existed (few authors are likely to keep tabs on a conservative publishing imprint).
I can’t in good conscience punish these authors for something that had absolutely nothing to do with them. Many of them, I can assure you, are unhappy that the controversial book is being published, but they can’t legally opt out of contracts, nor should they. And frankly, a “boycott” by me would simply be grandstanding. It would literally be the least I could do. I would much rather do things that counter such views (and I think I do in the books I publish with Dancing Cat Books). But refuse to review that company’s authors? I’m not going to punish writers for this.
In the brief history of Bookcave I’ve reviewed books by two of the authors that are presumably being boycotted. I have a couple of more books by this company’s authors that I’ll be reviewing in the coming weeks. I do this because the authors deserve to be reviewed. They should not be held accountable for the actions of an imprint, or the parent company’s approval of those actions.
Which brings me to the reason I haven’t named the author or publisher.
When you announce you’re going to boycott the company because of this book, you’re fuelling the discussion of the author, which plays into his hands. He loves being known for his views. You are actually helping him to sell more copies of his book, which, presumably, you would not have been promoting otherwise. And by boycotting, you’re hurting completely innocent authors.
In effect, you’re helping the author you don’t like and hurting all the other authors.
In fairness to those outlets who are boycotting, their intentions are good. We’re on the same side in this, even if I disagree with the boycott route.
The decision to publish this vile person’s book is shameful, to be sure. But that shame shouldn’t be shared by people who had nothing to do with it.