I want to thank those of you who offered your support. Save a few remarks from Nicole and her Twitter followers (who likely didn't have all the facts), not a single person chided me for my post. In fact, the supportive comments you see are but a fraction of the ones I got. Many members of the writing community were not in a position to comment publicly, and I understand.
Not only do I lean toward self-publishing, I already have a career. Writing is not my bread and butter, so I'm freer than most to speak up about stuff like this and risk the political hit.
In the words of Carol Kilgore's character Maxie Lamar, "I'm just old and no longer afraid to say what I believe." :)
What I want to put up for discussion today is publishing industry ethics in general. I hope more of you will feel comfortable joining in, since we're not singling out any one person or publisher.
I once heard the word integrity defined as: Doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. I don't remember who said it, but it's better than any dictionary definition you'll find.
Unfortunately, I see our society slipping further and further away from this concept. For some, it seems that anything goes; the end justifies the means. And not nearly as many people watching seem to care.
How does that affect writers?
I think we can all agree that publishing is a subjective business. Sure, your manuscript is judged on measurable things like grammar and basic skill level. But ultimately, whether it is accepted or rejected boils down to how the agent feels about it and whether they think it will be popular in the current, ever-changing market.
I mean, let's face it. An author can query the exact same manuscript to 20 different agents/publishers, get 19 rejections, and then get 1 full request from someone who just LOVES it.
Why? The query didn't change. What made the difference?
Beauty (and marketability) is in the eye of the beholder.
Considering that writers already have subjectivity and a constantly shifting market working against them, do we really want to pile poor ethics on top of that?
What if your copy- or content editor is also an author?
What effect does that have on the work they do for you?
Probably none, you say.
Probably, you're right. ...Probably.
What if they write the same genre? If you're in competition with each other, will they do their best when editing your work?
Are you sure?
Let's change that scenario to acquisitions editor or agent--the person deciding if your work will even be accepted or not. What if THEY write the same genre? And what if your story is good enough and similar enough to theirs to be serious competition?
Will that affect how they feel when decidng the fate of your manuscript?
I believe most people in professional positions like these behave with reasonable integrity, but you have to agree the temptation is there.
So. Where should we draw the line?
Should copy- and content editors be allowed to also be authors?
What about agents and acquisitions editors--those who have the authority to reject an author's work?
Should there be restrictions on overlap of genre and category, or not?
What constitutes an ethical breach in the publishing industry?
And what should the consequences of such an act be?