A Note on Money and Self-Censorship
A question in email, asking me whether the size and length of my book deal with Tor means I’m likely to be less loud on the Internet on certain topics. This comes in the wake of my post yesterday, in which I reminded people I’m not their Outrage Monkey and will choose the things I comment on (or not) online based on my own criteria and no one else’s. The e-mailer wondered if the deal (and the money it represented) would be part of that criteria. Which seems a fair enough question to me.
The short answer is no. The longer answer is not only is the deal not an impediment to me saying whatever the hell I please online, it could frankly be seen as the opposite — after all, I’m safe from having to look for a book deal for an entire decade. I really can’t be financially penalized for anything I might choose to say on my free time. The worst that could happen is that the books don’t earn out and I don’t get royalties, but that could happen for any number of reasons. I still get the advances. They’re contractually specified. This is why one has contracts.
But won’t my publisher lean on me to say/not say things? No. More accurately, in the fifteen years I’ve been writing books, across several publishers, none of them ever have, and I doubt they are going to start now. Why? Because, among other things, they don’t have a right to, and there’s nothing in my contracts that allows them to. Nick Mamatas (who is a book editor as well as an author) wrote up the other day a piece about why publishers usually don’t try to impose good behavior on their authors, which is accurate and which I encourage folks to check out. But even beyond certain legal and labor ramifications, the simple fact is “publisher” doesn’t usually mean “employer” when it comes to writing books, and it certainly doesn’t mean “parent.” I’m on my own recognizance.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I might not choose to recuse myself from one discussion or another if it involves one of my publishers; I might, because of any number of reasons, including that the discussion might involve personal friends, or that I might know things about the situation I can’t discuss publicly so it’s better I not comment at all, or, just, you know, I don’t wanna. All of which is fair. The good news is, other people will be more than happy to take up the slack when I choose to sit out.
But in point of fact me holding off for financial reasons from saying anything I damn well please is simply not likely. I mean, it didn’t stop me before, when I was only on one or two book contracts, or before I had any book contracts at all. It’s not going to stop me when I have a whole friggin’ decade before I have to think about hunting for another book contract again.
So, yeah. No silence has been bought. If I’m not talking about something, it’s because I chose not to talk about it, not because my book publishers have paid to keep me quiet.