Tempest in an A Cup

Over the last two days, I’ve received hundreds of hits on a four year old post about Disney giving Keira Knightly bigger boobs in the KING ARTHUR publicity stills and poster art. So why the renewed attention? It turns out that Knightly has refused to let another studio do the same thing for her new film DUCHESS:

“Keira Knightly is essentially giving young women permission to stand
up in their communities and their schools and their families and say,
‘Look, this is the way I look and it is OK,” said “Perfect Girls,
Starving Daughters” author Courtney Martin.

The 23-year-old’s chest has been the subjected to scrutiny
before. In promotions for “King Arthur” in 2004, the actress’ A-cup was
morphed into a C-cup on posters. At the time Knightly admitted, “those
things weren’t really mine,” though she still went along with the
publicity campaign. “I think that’s incredibly brave and could have a
huge impact on young women,” Martin said of Knightly’s decision.

The “Affaire” of Unethical Conduct in our “Romantic Times”

Logo
I’ve been engaged in a discussion on the Writer Beware blog about the egregious ethical lapses committed by Affaire de Coeur magazine in their editorial coverage (running cover stories and reviews about books published by their advertising director, requiring some publishers and authors to buy advertising in exchange for reviews, etc.). Rt_logoI thought it might be helpful to share the portion of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics that applies to the relationship between editorial and advertising content:

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know. Journalists should:

— Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.

— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity
or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

The SPJ Code of Ethics is voluntarily embraced
by thousands of writers, editors and other news professionals. The present version of the code was adopted by the 1996 SPJ National Convention, after months of study and debate among the Society’s members.
Sigma Delta Chi’s first Code of Ethics was borrowed from the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1926. In 1973, Sigma Delta Chi wrote its own code, which was revised in 1984, 1987 and 1996.

Most newspapers and magazines have adopted similar guidelines. For example, here are the guidelines for publications produced by the Mystery Writers of America (I should disclose that I was on the committee that drafted these guidelines):

For Articles, columns, interviews and essays:

  •          
    The editor should maintain honesty, integrity,
    accuracy thoroughness and fairness in reporting and editing of articles,
    headlines and graphics.

  •          
    There should be a clear distinction between
    news/feature stories and opinion pieces. It 
    should be made clear that any opinions expressed are those of the author
    and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Mystery Writers of America or the
    local chapter.

  •          
    The reporter or author of editorial content in
    the newsletter must avoid any conflicts of interest, real or perceived, with
    regard to the subject of his articles. All potential conflicts should be
    disclosed (eg: an author interviewing his own publisher or editor).

  •          
    The reporter or author of editorial content in
    the newsletter should  refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special
    treatment related to the articles they are writing (eg: free travel and
    registration at a conference in return for the article).

  •          
    Unless a piece is clearly identified as “opinion,”
    personal views such as religious beliefs or political ideology should be kept separate
    from the subjects being covered. Articles should not be approached with overt
    or hidden agendas (eg: someone who hates cozies shouldn’t be writing about the
    popularity of cozy mysteries).

  •          
    Competing points of view should be balanced and
    fairly characterized.

  •          
    Persons who are the subject of adverse news  stories or features should be allowed a
    reasonable opportunity to respond to the adverse information before the story
    is published.

  •          
    Fairness means that all important views on a
    subject are presented and treated even-handedly.

  •          
    Authors should always cite their sources and
    never plagiarize.

For Advertising:

  •          
    Editorial impartiality and integrity should
    never be compromised by the relationship and the chapter should retain
    editorial control of ALL content. Selection of editorial topics, treatment of
    issues, interpretation and other editorial decisions must NOT be determined by
    advertisers.

  •          
    Editors must never permit advertisers to review
    articles prior to publication.

  •          
    Advertisers and potential advertisers  must never receive favorable editorial
    treatment because of their economic value to the newsletter.

  •          
    Editors must have the right to review, prior to
    publication, all sponsored content and other advertiser supplied material.

  •          
    The choice of advertisers (conferences,
    self-publishers, editorial services, etc.) should not bring the MWA into
    disrepute or imply an endorsement by our
    organization of any of the goods or services being advertised. This is
    especially important when it comes to self-publishing firms, agency representation,
    editorial services, writing contests, and writers conferences.

  •          
    There should be a clear and unequivocal separation
    between the advertising and editorial content of the newsletter. Editors have
    an obligation to readers to make clear which content has been paid for, which
    is sponsored, and which is independent editorial material.

For “Non-Paid” Promotion

  •          
    Editors should carefully review all “non-paid”
    promotional content,  such as lists of
    upcoming events and contests, to assure the events and organizers are reputable
    and legitimate. The printing of these announcements in our newsletter can imply
    to some readers an endorsement by the MWA.

  •          
    Occasionally, some newsletters post news about
    publishers accepting submissions.  Editors
    should review the MWA’s List of Approved Publishers before printing material of
    this nature.

I find it disgraceful that Affaire de Coeur and the Romantic Times require some publishers and authors to buy advertisements in exchange for having their books reviewed. Not only is it unethical conduct, it’s also unfair to small presses & authors … and brings into serious doubt the editorial credibility of both magazines.

Affaire de Coeur doesn’t just sell their reviews to advertisers, they also sell other kinds of coverage. Here’s an excerpt from the Affaire De Coeur website page that explains their various advertising packages:

“To compliment your ad and review we also offer interviews or articles. If you would like an interview let us know 3 months in advance so it will go in the same issue as your review and ad. We accept articles at any time, we need articles 3 months in advance. All articles must receive approval on subject matter.”

“We will not accept submissions less than three months prior to the date of publication unless it is associated with an ad. We do not review books after publication unless it is done in association with an ad”

If you buy an advertisement with Affaire de Coeur, they will “compliment” it with articles and reviews. They will gladly review your book after publication, or if you submit it late, if you buy an ad. There’s clearly a connection between buying ads and getting coverage. They aren’t even subtle about it.

But do they inform their readers which reviews, articles and interviews were published because of their connection with advertising? Of course not.

Basic ethical conduct requires that any review or article that is printed in exchange for advertising should be labeled as such so the reader knows just how “objective” the coverage really is (just how “honest” can a review be if it’s paid for?)

And if a reporter or editor has a financial stake in the books or companies being written about or reviewed, that should also be clearly disclosed, because it’s a conflict-of-interest and has an obvious impact on the “objectivity” of the reporting and placement of the stories.

But those disclosures aren’t being made to the readers of Affaire de Coeur or Romantic Times. If I was a reader or writer of romance fiction, I would be outraged about the conduct of these two magazines. That is why I have refused to acknowledge Affaire de Coeur’s “five star review” of my book.

UPDATE: I just stumbled on a November 2007 blog post on EREC that shows just how much coverage in Affaire de Coeur that Light Sword received in one issue compared to other small press advertisers — which is no surprise, since Light Sword’s co-owner is the magazine’s advertising director:

Light Sword Publishing
* 3 pages of advertising
*
6.5 pages of content (3 being an article that is clearly
self-promotional, aimed at authors not readers and available for free on their website)
* 1.5 pages of book review space

Medallion Press
* 2.5 pages of advertising
* 2.5 pages of book review space

Parker
* 0.25 pages of advertising
* 0.75 pages of book review space

Dafina
* 0.25 pages of advertising
* 0.75 pages of book review space

Torquere Press
* 1 page of advertising.

My point? I’m not sure. Perhaps that advertisers should buy ad space.
Readers should ‘buy’ the other content by having it aimed squarely at
their interests. 26 pages of large press book reviews, fine. 10 pages
puffing the advertisers wares… not so fine. If you buy ads you can
apparently also write the magazine’s content
and get your small press books reviewed. So if you want only large
press book reviews at least half the magazine will be of interest to
you. The rest seems to be almost entirely at the pleasure of the
advertisers.

Comic Con and the Scribe Awards

My daughter Maddie and I left the house yesterday for Comic Con in San Diego at 5:30 am and walked through the door of the convention center at 8:30. The Scribe Awards weren’t until 2, so we roamed around the exhibition floor for a few hours.

I was astonished by how many bootleg DVDs of TV shows were being sold there (and at outrageous prices)…which seemed awfully brazen to me, considering so many of the legitimate rights holders were in attendance.

Lee and Mark Evanier
I ran into my old friend Mark Evanier, who was signing copies of his
beautiful new book KIRBY: KING OF COMICS. The book is major achievement
and I’m glad Mark is getting the big sales and wide acclaim
that he deserves for it. He hinted to me that more, equally ambitious,
books are on the way from him.

On the way to the Scribes, we scooted through the autograph area, where I always find it sad to see has-been B, C and D list stars of yesteryear signing pictures of themselves for a few bucks. As we walked by, a morbidly obese, middle-aged man was singing a song to BUCK ROGERS co-star Erin Gray, who looked like she wished she was anywhere else but where she was sitting. Richard Hatch, thanks to the revival of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, had two or three more people than Erin. But poor Herb Jefferson, another former GALACTICA cast member, was exiled to a table far from Hatch, and sat forlornly without a single fan.

The Scribe Awards and Tie-In Panel was sparsely attended at first, but by the time we were mid-way through, we built to a nice-sized crowd. Our 2008 Grandmaster Alan Dean Foster gave a thoughtful, and very funny, speech on the lack of respect tie-in writers get from the publishing industry and their fellowAlan Dean Foster and Lee Goldberg
writers, despite the huge success of tie-in books. He applauded the International Association of Media Tie-In Writer’s efforts to change that and to increase the awareness of tie-in writing in the mainstream media.

Other panelists included Andy Mangels, Max Allan Collins, Steve Leiva, Kevin J. Anderson, William Dietz and Stacy Deutsch. I must admit, though, that I was distracted for much of the panel by an audience member who had long hair and a beard on one half of his face and was bald and clean-shaved on the other. I couldn’t help thinking that he was a man born to drive Adrian Monk insane…

That’s a picture of Foster and me on the right. The Scribe Nominees and Winners (noted in bold with asterisks) are below:

BEST GENERAL FICTION ORIGINAL

CSI NY: DELUGE by Stuart M. Kaminsky
**MR. MONK AND THE TWO ASSISTANTS by Lee Goldberg
MURDER SHE WROTE: PANNING FOR MURDER by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain
CRIMINAL MINDS: JUMP CUT by Max Allan Collins

BEST GENERAL FICTION ADAPTED

**AMERICAN GANGSTER by Max Allan Collins

BEST SPECULATIVE ORIGINAL

LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON by Kevin J. Anderson
**STARGATE ATLANTIS: CASUALTIES OF WAR by Elizabeth Christensen
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – Q&A by Keith R.A. DeCandido

BEST GAME-RELATED ORIGINAL (SPECIAL SCRIBE AWARD)

HITMAN: ENEMY WITHIN by William C. Dietz
FORGE OF THE MINDSLAYERS by Tim Waggoner
**EBERRON:  NIGHT OF THE LONG SHADOWS by Paul Crilley

P7260035BEST SPECULATIVE ADAPTED

RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION by Keith R.A. DeCandido
52: THE NOVEL by Greg Cox
**30 DAYS OF NIGHT by Tim Lebbon

BEST YOUNG ADULT ORIGINAL

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE DEATHLESS by Keith R.A. DeCandido
GOODLUND TRILOGY: VOLUME THREE: WARRIORS BONES by Stephen D. Sullivan
**NANCY DREW AND THE CLUE CREW #10: TICKET TROUBLE by Stacia Deutsch & Rhody Cohon

 BEST YOUNG ADULT ADAPTED

**THE 12 DOGS OF CHRISTMAS by Steven Paul Leiva

Mr. Monk and the Librarians

The librarians at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana have given MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY, and the MONK books, a strong recommendation:

As a librarian, I have a love/hate relationship with television. Okay, I’m lying. I love television. I’m probably not supposed to say that, but I don’t think reading and watching tv are mutually exclusive activities. Case in point– novels based on tv series can help ease the pain when a favorite show is canceled, or tide you over through rerun season. Sometimes the show is better than the books, sometimes the books are better than the show. In the case of the novels based on the television detective series Monk, which airs on the USA Network, the novels are as deliciously good as the show. […] If you’re looking for fast reads with hefty doses of humor, you won’t be disappointed.

Mr. Monk and the Affaire De Coeur

POST DELETED.

I have removed the positive review that MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY received from Affaire de Coeur from this blog because I don’t want to lend the sham publication the slightest shred of credibility.

I’ve just discovered that their advertising director, Bonny Kirby, co-owns the disgraced Light Sword Publishing company with Linda Daly (a court recently fined Kirby and Daly thousands of dollars for defrauding authors). This explains why Light Sword titles consistently got positive reviews from Affaire De Coeur and why Daly was the subject of a cover story. No reputable magazine would review books published by their advertising director…or feature her partners on the cover. It’s a sleazy and highly unethical conflict-of-interest.

I also learned that advertisers get positive reviews and articles written about them depending on the amount of page space they purchase. That, too, is sleazy and unethical.

I’m notifying my publisher that I don’t want the review quoted on my covers nor do I want any of my books sent to the magazine. They aren’t a legitimate publication. They are sleaze bags.

UPDATE 7-27-08 It turns out that Romantic Times engages in unethical behavior as well, but not as outrageously as Affaire de Coeur. The Romantic Times will only review small-press books that advertise in their magazine. Editor Carol Stacy tells the Dear Author blog:

This has worked very well for small press/e-book authors who, for a
few hundred dollars, can get their name in front of our readers and
have a review of their book in the magazine. This may explain why there are so many Ellora’s Cave books reviewed
in our magazine. It’s because their authors do many group ads and in
turn they get reviewed.I want to reiterate that this small press/e-book review policy IN NO
WAY AFFECTS THE RATING of a book. It only ensures a review. 

Whether that’s true or not, the practice is highly unethical and creates an unacceptable conflict of interest. It’s shameful. Advertising should never have any influence over editorial content. That’s a basic tenet of ethical journalism.

Please Save Me From Embarrassment

If you’ve spotted any errors in MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY, please let me know by Friday, July 25th. I am in the midst of proofing the galleys for the paperback edition and I want to make sure nothing embarrassing slips past me (there was one in MR. MONK IN OUTER SPACE that I am still beating myself up over for missing…in the hardcover AND the first paperback edition).

Found Money

It used to be that once a book fell out of print, and the rights reverted back to the author, that was pretty much the end of the line for that particular title. That changed several years back when the Authors Guild  teamed up with iUniverse to launch the “Back in Print” program for previously published books. For no charge to Authors Guild members,  iUniverse scans a copy of the out-of-print book, designs a new cover, and offers it as a print-on-demand paperback with the author getting a 20% royalty from every sale. A lot of authors, including William F. Buckley, Hank Searls, Robert Bausch, Walter Satterthwait, Jerome Doolittle, Tony Fennelly, Lawrence Shames, Don Pendleton, Lawrence Block, Richard Wheeler and yours truly have taken advantage of the program.

The Authors Guild reports that in 2007 alone they sold 46,844 formerly out-of-print titles, accounting for $566,382 in sales and earning authors $99,530 in royalties…or, as I look at it, found money.

I have three out-of-print titles that have been available through the program since 2002. The royalties have steadily dwindled over time. In 2006, I earned $406.24. In 2007, I earned $179.65. So far in 2008, I’ve earned $69.32. Not a lot of cash but it’s better than nothing…and best of all, I don’t have to work for it.