In our new world of social media, a world of speed and as-it's-happening immediacy, personal interconnectedness and global reach, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc., are tools of tremendous power, especially in the marketing of books and discovery of authors. Those tools also pose problems. Nowadays, a few keystrokes can powerfully magnify intolerance and bullying or spread a falsehood or incomplete story fast and wide, often with dire consequences. We were all made especially aware of this in the tragic incident of cyberbullying at Rutgers University last year. As publishers, it behooves us to be very aware of the blogosphere and digital environment with respect to titles in process on a daily basis. A news item suddenly creates an opportunity, or a celebrity meltdown jeopardizes a planned book. And in the sudden viral spread of a headline, facts are often the first casualty.
At Running Press, we faced this firsthand just last week. Third-party error and miscommunication went viral and led to the spread of untrue accusations of intolerance and censorship. Running Press copublishes a successful series of romance anthologies that originate with Constable & Robinson in the United Kingdom. C&R engages a freelance editor in the U.K. for each anthology, and we have no contact with that editor. The editor is supplied guidelines (e.g., "We need steampunk stories"), and that freelance editor then commissions the stories from writers. For an upcoming YA anthology, Wicked Pretty Things: 13 Dark Faerie Romances, C&R's U.K. freelance editor, Tricia Telep, commissioned a story from author Jessica Verday titled, "Flesh Which Is Not Flesh." According to Verday, when the manuscript was delivered, Telep requested that the author alter the story so the romance not reflect a male/male relationship, citing—quite incorrectly—that Running Press preferred YA anthologies to exclude "alternative lifestyles." At this point, things started moving very quickly, but it's instructive to bear in mind the following facts, and then I will tell you what happened next.
Running Press publishes for truly diverse audiences, including male/male historical romances, lesbian erotica, and even the New York Times–bestselling 30th anniversary edition of Free to Be... You and Me, a landmark book about tolerance, identity, and rejection of gender stereotypes.
Running Press's guidelines for YA anthologies do not exclude diverse lifestyles. C&R's freelance editor was incorrect in stating this to the author, and furthermore, she never informed C&R—which in turn did not inform Running Press of the editor's request.
One more thing: the publisher of Running Press (me) is an openly gay man.
What happened next is a cautionary tale for all publishers. Ms. Verday, understandably, refused to change her story and pulled it from the anthology. Then she took to her blog and social media connections, and accused Running Press of intolerance and censorship. Other authors in the anthology asked to pull their stories, believing the account. Fans, librarians, and a handful of authors in the anthology became angry. Authors in other anthologies began to send us e-mails expressing concern. This all happened in just a few days. We at Running Press contacted Verday immediately to assure her that we had no such guidelines and would be excited to include her story as written. But she was unyielding.
I take a couple of important lessons from this episode. First, it is clearer than ever that we as publishers need to make sure our values and guidelines are completely clear—not just to our employees, but to the many third-party hands that touch a book project, from author through to reader, including business partners and freelancers. Secondly, we all need to constantly monitor correspondence and activity relating to our projects (my advice: set up a Google alert for all your titles). Be aware, in this 24/7 world, a few days can be a very long time. And lastly, when there are inevitable misunderstandings, as with all human enterprises, be sure to be available, be accountable, and stand up and say what is right.
Please let's consider this an open memo to all authors, editors, agents, and business partners, past, present, and future. At Running Press, we value diversity, we abhor censorship and bigotry, we stand behind the creativity and authenticity of our authors, and we see ourselves as a vital connection between those voices and the world.
Christopher Navratil is the publisher of Running Press.
Click to the next page to read the comments posted on this article using PW's old comments system.
Well said. I am glad that lessons have been learned here, having crystal clear guidelines for all is vital. However I do think that the age old tradition of "querying in advance" if you don't think your story is going to suit would have served the author well.
I can't understand the author's refusal to be published, I'm afraid, although I've tried. She has proved her point now, and she would do more good to publish her story than not.
Thank you for this voice of calm among the teacup storms.
Erastes, 04/04/2011 @ 07:46AM
She accused Running Press of the standard because the EDITOR told her that was the standard. Instead of demonizing an author who was asked to do something repulsive, why aren't you publicly remonstrating the editor?
And considering that the editor is the ONLY one making royalties on this anthology, and the payment for the anthology for the authors is a flat $250 dollar fee, why SHOULD Ms. Verday go ahead and assent to keep her story in the antho? Ms. Telep will be listed as the author, and she (and Running Press) are the only ones who stand to GAIN from this. Ms. Verday certainly won't.
Considering that I have several stories in several anthologies through Running Press this year, I am seriously considering pulling them ALL after this nasty bit of corporate spin. It's obvious that you haven't learned anything from this, except to cover your own butt.
Unnamed 1, 04/04/2011 @ 08:52AM
I love that Publisher's Weekly is deleting contrary comments on this story, which is full of misinformation and half-truths.
Unnamed 1, 04/04/2011 @ 08:56AM
It is not unreasonable to think that your EDITOR knows what the guidelines are. It's also not unreasonable for an author to post that a publisher has declined a story when her editor declines the story. You need to have better control over your editors, but reading this rebuttal guarantees that I, as an author, will never submit something to Running Press. This is classic, corporate CYA speak, with an added bonus of casting aspersions from a bully pulpit. -
Unnamed 1, 04/04/2011 @ 08:58AM
But is Running Press and C&R still working with Tricia Telep? What did she say when informed of your policies? You mentioned your conversation with Verday, so what conversation with Telep did you have? Have you and C&R kept her on as the editor of this anthology? Do you plan to work with her in the future? The problem here is not about if Running Press "abhors bigotry" it's about what you're going to *do* about it. If you're still going to publish this title with Telep as the editor, you have to understand why Verday and other authors won't want to be part of it. You have to also understand that your words come off as hollow. If you truly "[stood] behind the creativity and authenticity of our authors" you would not want to work with someone who did not, who not only misrepresented your values but apparently sought to squash said creativity and authenticity.
Steps you can take to ACTUALLY make a difference: refuse to work with someone who so doesn't represent your core values and find a new editor for this anthology AND query for an editor of a new YA anthology that will feature queer paranormal romances.
Maybe that's an anthology Verday will be happy to be part of and it will definitely be a way for you to show what your REAL core values are.
AngieManfredi, 04/04/2011 @ 09:01AM
Erastes: The author, a bestselling author in her own right, was contacted by Tricia Telep to write a story, and was told the guidelines were that it needed to be a dark fairy story. She wasn't querying.
And for the president of MLR:
"Then she took to her blog and social media connections, and accused Running Press of intolerance and censorship."
Actually, what she said was this:
Notice: she quoted the editor in the original post, and when the editor made it clear that it had been her decision, and not her publishers, she edited the post to include Telep's remarks.
This is not just a "misunderstanding." I don't care if the owner of the press is openly gay. He's working with a freelance editor whose response was breezy and flippant and full of unconscious and yet rampant prejudice.
This is an editor who has published scores of anthologies with Running Press, and has many more in the works.
I'm an author, and after hearing about this, I would never, ever work with Tricia Telep. It's not the press I wouldn't work with, but so long as you continue to have a relationship with her, you won't have one with me--or with any of the other authors out there.
I am aware that you claim you wanted the story. I'm also aware that you're continuing your relationship with someone who thought that an appropriate response to the original accusation was to offer up a video of herself wrestling with a gay man.
You want this to go away? Choose another freelance editor for your anthologies, stop pretending like you have no choice, and stop telling yourself that people are "misunderstanding" you. It is hard to believe you abhor bigotry when you have a continuous, ongoing relationship with a bigot.
courtneymilan, 04/04/2011 @ 10:03AM
I would like to see you acknowledge that: (a) Jessica Verday made very clear, in her blog and in all other communication, as soon as she was aware that the publishers were not anti-gay-romance; (b) that all the withdrawing authors are aware of this, and they have all said they are withdrawing from work edited by Tricia Telep, not from RP indiscriminately; (c) several people have expressed discomfort with the fact that you have never publicly criticized Ms Telep for her unacceptable assumption (that she made an error is not the point, it is the prejudice behind the error that was offensive).
This article is frankly insulting, and I would hope for better from a respectable publisher.
Johann, 04/04/2011 @ 10:21AM
This post on misinformation is a mischaracterization of the author's original post.
courtneymilan, 04/04/2011 @ 10:25AM
Also, Running Press, don't try to make it sound as if this is a fleeting relationship with some person you just contracted with off the street. There are 21 anthologies you are doing with Tricia Telep listed on Amazon.
Are you moving forward with the relationship with Tricia Telep, whose flippant, unapologetic, bigoted response to Jessica Verday is up for everyone to see, or have you cut ties? That's what you're getting judged for.
courtneymilan, 04/04/2011 @ 10:28AM
I don't understand--I don't see anywhere where Jessica Verday "accused Running Press of intolerance and censorship." I went back and read all her blog posts--it seems to me that she was very clear in that it was the editor, not the publisher, she had an issue with. Am I missing something?
Unnamed 3, 04/04/2011 @ 10:53AM
I can't find Christopher Navratil's e-mail address anywhere on the Running Press site. How are we supposed to go over the head of the editors he contracts, and contact him when there's no way to actually, you know, contact him?
I'd like to see Publisher's Weekly offer equal time to the authors involved, since you were eager enough to publish the corporate party line.
Unnamed 1, 04/04/2011 @ 10:56AM
Hi Chris, I need to comment here because this article just feels "off to me. First, this is more than just ‘knee-jerk social media blowing a little something out of epic proportion – which the title of your article seems to suggest.
Lets cut through all the moral outrage from fans and pundits and get to the bottom line: regardless of this editors 'feelings on lgbt'; if your statement is to be believed [and I am by no means calling you a liar] then this editor 'misrepresented the core values of the publisher, to an author'. Simple Fact. If it's your position that Running Press would never tell a creator to 'straitin' her m/m YA story, and this editor said to author-- change it, this is what the publisher wants [not quoting here--but it's been established that this was the issue] then this editor has misrepresented the core values of the publisher to an author.
For this alone, the editor should be dismissed from the project.
I'm not asking you to stone this editor in front of her peers, I'm just feel that as an author, I'd make the same call as the other authors in this situation did, when confronted with the ‘publishers representative reply to their concerns about this editor. Facts: 1. this is in editor that clearly showed a questionable stance on a subject these authors feel strongly about. 2. When confronted with authors disappointment, this editor went online and made matters worse with a non-apology; thus showing her lack of social-media saavy. 3. Publisher issues statement that suggests - This Editor misrepresented the core values of a publisher, to an author.
Friend of not Chris, this editor is a professional liability.
author, 04/04/2011 @ 11:25AM
What a kerfuffle.
Unnamed 2, 04/04/2011 @ 11:29AM
So disappointed with Running Press's handling of this, from their initial response to Jess Verday all the way to posting this article. I find the title of this post ironic because the only misinformation I see is this "Then she [Verday] took to her blog and social media connections, and accused Running Press of intolerance and censorship." No, Verday posted that she refused Trisha Telep's demand that her story be changed from m/m to f/m, and thus pulled out of the anthology. As for Verday refusing to resubmit it after she was told the editor was in error assuming that RP wouldn't want an m/m story (referring to Telep's comment on Verday's blog), there's a level of professional trust between an author and editor. An editor is supposed to help make a story be the best it can be, not change the nature of a story to suit their own idea of what is or isn't romance. Maybe you didn't see Telep's Tweet about her rejection of Verday's story, so I'll copy it here: "It was exclusionary & bigoted, yes. It's a romance book & I'm guilty of an old, blinkered idea of 'romance'." [link: http://twitter.com/TrishaTelep ]. Why would Jessica want an editor who's admittedly biased against m/m relationships to work on her story? Especially after that editor outright rejected it solely on the basis that it wasn't featuring a heterosexual couple? And moreover, why can't Running Press acknowledge that, instead of inferring that Verday is somehow to blame for any negativity RP may be facing as a result of their editor's admittedly "exclusionary and bigoted" actions?
JeanieneFrost, 04/04/2011 @ 12:03PM
Any publisher has a responsibility to make clear to their subcontractors and freelancers exactly what is and is not acceptable; if the subcontractor or freelancer does not meet those standards, or - in this case - does something that outright offends a large portion of that publisher's customers - the publisher is obligated to discontinue a further business relationship with that subcontractor or freelancer. It's really very simple.
What I don't see here is an apology to Jessica Verday from Running Press for hiring a freelance editor who doesn't seem to represent their own corporate values.
Additionally, this story is very much slanted to make it appear that Ms. Verday had been spreading allegations about Running Press; in fact, her blog is quite clear about what the problem was and where the problem originated; she never once slams Running Press.
ColleenLindsay, 04/04/2011 @ 12:19PM
"I don't understand--I don't see anywhere where Jessica Verday "accused Running Press of intolerance and censorship." I went back and read all her blog posts--it seems to me that she was very clear in that it was the editor, not the publisher, she had an issue with. Am I missing something?"
This is spot on with what I was going to say. I suggest rereading the blogs Verday wrote.
karenvtavares, 04/04/2011 @ 01:18PM
Mr. Navratil: You have done yourself and your company an extreme disservice by writing and posting this article. It only takes a few minutes of searching to verify the facts of the situation, and those facts simply do not match what you have written here. Just as publishers keep in touch with each other about authors, so too do authors network with each other. This article will no doubt make many authors wary of dealing with Running Press in the future.
Elynne, 4/04/2011 @ 02:49PM
Mr. Nacratil. Could you please point me to the "untrue accusations of intolerance and censorship." I have personally read each Ms Verday's and no where have I been able to find where she took her blog and social media connections, and accused Running Press of intolerance and censorship.
The only person that I can see spreading Misinformation regarding what Ms Verday wrote or posted is you right here in the post.
Maybe you should take you own advice:
"And lastly, when there are inevitable misunderstandings, as with all human enterprises, be sure to be available, be accountable, and stand up and say what is right. "
If you can point me to the places Ms. Verday acused you of intolerance and cenorship I would be more than happy tp apologize. Otherwise I'm sure Ms Verday would will be looking for your apology so that you can "be accountable, and stand up and say what is right. "
Liza59, 04/04/2011 @ 04:40PM
I am very disappointed by this mischaracterization of Verday's blog posts. She has conducted herself very professionally--and until now, so had Running Press.
Verday correctly attributed all comments, and clarified that the problem was with the editor, not the publisher. This is acting professionally, and in a socially responsible way when confronted with someone who tries to enforce heteronormativity.
The publisher acted professionally when it clarified that Telep's view didn't reflect those of Running Press, and invited Verday back.
She refused--but posted on her blog Running Press's stated commitment to publishing "LGBTQ writing." (Professional.) Telep, the one who originally tried to censor the story, is still editing the anthology. I can see her reluctance to make money for Telep.
I'm an outsider, so I can't know why Running Press is continuing its relationship with Telep. It surprises me, but its not for me to say if the decision is professional or not. I agree with Verday, however, that "standing behind" Telep sends the message of standing behind her attitudes.
But even as an outsider, I am appalled that Verday has been accused here of "accus[ing] Running Press of intolerance and censorship." You know what she has accused you of? "Standing behind" someone who is intolerant and who asked Verday to censor her story. You know why that accusation is OK? Because its true.
Mr. Navratil, I'm hoping that you didn't mean this article to read as an accusation of Verday. Im hoping that you will retract that part of your article. Im hoping that you will "stand up and say what is right."
allysonwhite, 04/04/2011 @ 06:37PM
@Erastes: I noticed you did not mention that Running Press is your publisher. Interesting, that.
Also, the author was contacted by the editor to submit, not the other way around, and was not told that this was a "het only" anthology.
I agree with those who question the assertion that Verday accused Running Press of intolerance. I think she's bent over backward to make it clear that the editor, not the publishers, was at fault here.
Milena, 04/04/2011 @ 07:25PM
You do realize that we can read right? We can go to Jessica's blog and we can read Trisha's response and yours. And now you are on record as a liar.
IlonaAndrews, 04/04/2011 @ 08:14PM
Fact is, most bookstores would prefer that there *not* be a male-male romance in a children's title. (Yes, teen is still considered a children's book, that's why it's shelved there or nearby.) Sure they love the well-reviewed darlings like David Levithan and Alex Sanchez, and if Twilght had been a success with an Edward/Jacob storyline, then maybe those scenes in Breaking Dawn would still be acceptable, but the truth is that most children's publishers don't discuss non-hetero sex in their guidelines, because they're probably hoping it won't come up. And the books have to sell. Whether we like it or not, there is still a wall of adults that control which books get on the shelves in the stores and publishers are way at the bottom of that list. Most likely, no one at RP or C&R thought twice about whether there would be m/m in it. Because the general rule in children's books--written or un--is to avoid it altogether. Is this fair? No. But at the end of the day it's a business and if the book doesn't even get bought by the chain, it won't be on the shelf, regardless of the editor or publisher's POV. (RP has published many *adult* books with gay themes, but fiction isn't their strong suit at the adult or children's level. A glance at their list on Amazon shows disposable nonfiction.)
No, Trisha didn't handle the situation well. Based on my knowledge from the book buyer in the fiction department (I am a buyer in another field) most of the anthologies she edits are commissioned by Constable and Robinson and produced in the UK for Running Press/Perseus to distribute in the US. A few, like the teen ones, were Running's idea and they approached Telep due to her contacts in the industry. And this above attempt to turn the tide fails miserably. But they are all products of the bookstore system--remember #Amazonfail? And how Barnes & Noble wouldn't shelve m/m with the other historical romances? Yes, all this posting and opining hasn't helped either the editor or the publisher, but I ask you to consider the business environment they are trying to publish into. Bigoted though it may be, the BOOKSTORES and their buyers still consider homosexuality an "alternative" lifestyle for chidlren's books.
All that said, I think this blogging and tweeting thing is actually a boon for these issues, precisely because one's written word can be reproduced in its entirety, and we can separate the truth from the positioning.
Vigs, 04/04/2011 @ 09:43PM
Although it wasn't a part of this case, people need to stop calling anyone who is against the gay lifestyle 'bigoted'. It is not always bigotry and it is not always predjudice. One can be against the lifestyle and believe it to be sinful without being somehow bigoted and that's a fact. The real problem is that the gay agenda wants to preach tolerance but then cant' be bothered to extend that tolerance to those with differing views. And tolerance MUST go both ways, plain and simple. Again, there wasn't any religious element in this case, but it's tiring when everyone assumes that simply because someone is againts the lifestyle, they're somehow a bigot. NOT TRUE.
Unnamed 4, 04/04/2011 @ 10:44PM
Vigs, it's a good thing that actual publishers aren't paying your rationalisation of institutional homophobia any mind, since Barnes and Noble alone list 144 books categorised as 'gay teen books'. In any event, Running Press already said it would have been happy to have published Jessica Verday's story had the editor not made a hash of it through her own misconceptions. The issue here is that RP are now protecting that editor by lying about Ms Verday. That's unacceptable. (And so is the spreading of nonsense about Verday 'submitting' her book without investigating the remit. It's not like these lies can't be easily refuted.)
"people need to stop calling anyone who is against the gay lifestyle 'bigoted'."
No, we really don't. But hey, thanks for showing everyone just how important it is that young gay people are able to see positive images of themselves in published books.
"because someone is againts the lifestyle, they're somehow a bigot."
Thanks for putting it so clearly. Bigotry, pure and simple, is exactly what you're displaying.
AnnSomerville, 04/04/2011 @ 11:06PM
Um, why is a homophobic comment by a user not showing any screen name allowed, but my polite response deleted? Is this the kind of thing PW approves of?
AnnSomerville, 04/04/2011 @ 11:20PM
Christopher, you don't sound very sympathetic to the 'unyielding' Ms. Verday, even though she took a very brave stand by refusing to work with an editor who has very clearly demonstrated her intolerance of homosexuality. Have you read Trisha Telep's comments on the subject? Why would you continue a business relationship with someone like that?
BKnight, 04/06/2011 @ 03:50AM
This is really disappointing. I can't believe I'm reading this, seriously. What Ilona said.
AnnAguirre, 04/06/2011 @ 11:37AM
This article is extremely frustrating and disappointing. That the president of a major publishing house would compare an author's refusal to work with an editor (particularly as it would be the editor, rather than the author, who would receive any all royalties) to a teen's suicide is disgraceful.
This whole situation has made me seriously consider my own future book purchases - I most certainly want to support Jessica Verday especially and the authors standing by her (especially with the nasty implication that the major publishers at least are not going work with her anymore due to her "accusations") but I equally do not want to support Trisha Telep or Christopher Navratil.
Rather than purchasing any anthologies edited by Trisha Telep I will now be purchasing books that credit the authors themselves, and I will attempt to buy copies published by a house other than Running Press unless Navratil apologizes for slandering Ms. Verday's good name in a potentially career-ruining way, and I will encourage my friends, family, and local libraries to do the same.
This is really not okay.
Lylei, 04/06/2011 @ 07:11PM
I LOVE it! How delightful to read the comments and watch yet another group (in the name of tolerance mind you) display such vitriol and venom towards essentially one of their own. Could we call it, oh I dont know, a LACK of tolerance? Ironic isnt it. Keep at it. Prove your point. I think youre really turning the tide with the examples you make and the character you display over, and over, and over.
T0ny000, 04/14/2011 @ 12:41PM