Michael Cader of Publisher’s Marketplace reports in the Publishers’ Lunch daily newsletter (he has a great little “free advice” page on getting published, applicable to larger Christian houses as well), "On Blogging Policies and Blogging Casualties"–
Editor Jason Pinter’s recent abrupt dismissal from Crown (imprint of Random) was attributed to a post on his blog (now removed) comparing opening week sales for Chris Bohjalian’s THE DOUBLE BIND (Crown), and Ishmael Beah’s A LONG WAY GONE (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux). Pinter speculated on the post whether Starbucks was demonstrating more power in the marketplace than Barnes & Noble (which made Bohjalian their second chainwide recommendation).
Crown is not commenting, and Pinter simply says, "I enjoyed my brief tenure at Crown and was fortunate enough to work with some wonderfully talented authors and publishing professionals. I have nothing but respect for the group and the books they publish."
I’ve been asked about WaterBrook’s and Random House’s policies for this blog many times. While it may seem I flaunt my freedom of expression, it’s a concern I share. Random House’s stated policy on employee blogs is the expectation that “every employee apply the same standards of personal and professional responsibility and decorum to your dealings on blogs as you would to any other aspect of your business activities…and to the extent they mention Random House or workplace issues or matters relevant to publishing, you should make it clear that opinions stated are not necessarily those expressed or endorsed by Random House. Please think about the potential consequences of the content of your blog and blog postings. Blogs exist on the Internet – a public space – so we hope you will be as respectful to the company, your colleagues, our customers, our partners and affiliates, and others (including our competitors) as the company itself endeavors to be."
Nelson’s blog policy is a bit more helpful: "Be nice. Avoid attacking other individuals or companies. This includes fellow employees, authors, customers, vendors, competitors, or shareholders. You are welcome to disagree with the company’s leaders, provided your tone is respectful. If in doubt, we suggest that you ‘sleep on it’ and then submit your entry to the Blogging Oversight Committee before posting it on your blog."
I’ve aways wondered what else the members of the Blogging Oversight Committee do to occupy themselves during daylight hours. Sounds like a fun job. Though, knowing they take pains to downplay images of tight corporate control, you’d think they could come up with a better choice of acronym than “BLOC.”
Anyway, in striking that balance between full disclosure and professional restraint, most of you know I prefer the former. I don’t often talk in specifics. Generalizing and alluding to trends is it. It’s tough, of course, and while I don’t mind focusing on bigger overarching issues, I feel responsible to state the truth about the challenges of ministering through the business of Christian publishing. In as much as I can, I share my opinions in hopes of conveying that Christian publishing is not so different from any other business, the same spiritual dangers lurking, same demands of loyalty and same real pitfalls. No matter what the publishing gods will face on judgment day, at the end of the work day, it’s about growing the business.
Such dedication may improve the innovation, quality, and value of the business, but not always the innovation, quality, and value of the product. That’s natural and endemic across any industry. Like public blogs, mass production does carry certain limitations.
So what are you willing to compromise? And what’s nonnegotiable at any price? There may not be a direct correlation between moral compromise and business success, but even in Christian publishing, you’ve got to know where your true loyalties lie. One sort of compromise may make you lose a relationship with a publisher. The other might cost you much more dearly.