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Writers' Ethics

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Not sure if this should go here or in literature, or if this should even be a topic at all... or even if there's one like this. It's a thought that occurred to me earlier after receiving an e-mail- which I will get to later- and I've been thinking about it. Some writers tend to compromise in order to get their work published. An example of this is James Frey's book A Million Little Lines. He was outed as a liar because the book was originally marketed as his autobiography, and he was accused of lying so that he could get published and make money. Eventually, the book was remarketed as semi-autobiographical. This brings into question the ethics of some writers- journalists, authors, diarists and the like- and whether some of them would be willing to sell-out to be famous.

I submitted to a publisher a couple of weeks ago, and they accepted me. They gave me the contract, the details which I could contact my would-be publicist, etc. I looked over the contract and gave them a few conditions of my own (as quoted from the e-mail I sent):

"Firstly, I live in the United Kingdom and it has always been a wish of mine to become known in my own country before I branch out into other countries. Would this be possible?

Secondly, are there any fees to pay? It is my misfortune that I am not in a position to be able to pay any form of fee.

Thirdly, it is my concern that you have not read my manuscript as it contains some very non-Christian content. If I consent to be published by Tate, are you going to edit it so drastically as to make the homosexual characters heterosexual? If so, then I will not consent."

Yes, the publisher was founded on Christian grounds, but I thought that since this is generally an accepting world they would overlook the gay romance. They replied:

"Yes, I wanted to discuss editing the homosexual character. By your email, it seems that this is not an option and will respectfully close your file at this time. Thank you for getting back to me Hannah, have a blessed day!"

This is why I was thinking about writers' ethics- I'm proud of myself for standing up for my gay characters and not selling out, but as a family member pointed out, it is hard to get published. Ladies and gentlemen, my question to you is: is it right for a writer to 'sell out' to be published?

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Well I think it depends, doesn't it? If your primary goal is to be published then making some changes for that to happen is probably to be expected. Whether that's selling out or complying to make things more marketable/publishable for the company really depends on your standpoint I suppose - if the storyline/characters matter to you more than sharing your work with the world, I can see how it would be 'selling out'. Otherwise I'd say that making changes is less selling out and more just plain old selling.

Personally I suppose I'd be chuffed to get anything published and would make changes if people wanted. However, I guess I also wouldn't approach a Christian company with a book that didn't match their views on acceptable material unless I was willing to compromise on the contents. By "have a blessed day" they sound pretty crazily Christian! You can see why a company like that would probably not go down very well if it published things that contradict whatever weird and wonderful religious views it represents. Some Christians even think that general fantasy fiction is some sort of work from the devil (banning Philip Pullman & Harry Potter, even x__x).

Saying that people 'sell out' to be famous is somewhat pejorative though. People can write for money, to share their ideas and information and so on. I don't think that people who make changes to their books to get them published should be looked down on. Those changes might make the book more readable, easier to sell, more interesting and so on - ultimately it might not matter to them as a point of principle. Nelson Mandela having a book published by the White Supremacist Society which omits all negative mention of white people would seem a bit suspect to me, for instance, but some guy fabricating things that happened in his life as an autobiography isn't really selling out in my eyes. If it's not an autobiography, don't advertise it as one - that's not standing up for anything literary, it's called falsification :blink:

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