There’s an issue going on in the writing / publishing world involving Random House’s e-book imprint Hydra, as mentioned in this recent post from the Writer Beware Blog.

I have no comment on the issue itself, but on something mentioned in Random House’s open response letter.  They write:

While we respect your position, you’ll not be surprised to learn that we strongly disagree with it, and wish you had contacted us before you published your posts.

I’ve seen this sort of defense before in the blogosphere.  “You should’ve talked to me before you said something negative about me!”  No.  Obviously you have every right to defend your opinions, but it is no breach of etiquette for someone else to publish his dissenting opinions without running them by you first.  Your original deeds and writings are what he is publishing an opinion about.  If his opinions seem to be based on a misunderstanding, you can correct him, but it is not his job to run his opinions by you first.

I doubt whoever wrote this letter meant much by this sentence, but this way of thinking bothers me.

Categories: Stupid things

6 Comments

Scott · March 7, 2013 at 10:55 PM

That kind of argument is a product of the refusal of publishing and other entities to update to the digital age. They are aging models, upholding standards that changed without them noticing. For example, it assumes that a blog is journalism, and holds it to the same standards by which the author *should* take both sides into account before publishing. This is wholly inaccurate in this day and age.

S P Hannifin · March 8, 2013 at 1:47 AM

Even in print publishing, I wouldn’t consider it a breach of etiquette to publish a dissenting opinion without first running it by the inspiration for the reaction. The notion a writer is responding to should speak for itself. (And blatant misunderstandings will always be a possibility; language is always imprecise. It would be grossly impractical for a writer writing a response to constantly make sure his understanding is correct by corresponding with the original author whenever he disagrees with something he reads.)

Scott · March 8, 2013 at 2:53 AM

I think the point they were making was that the dissenting opinion was the result of faulty information based on a hearsay situation.

You may also be missing the whole point of the response. If you wrote a blog post about the same subject, which received a similar number of hits, the company probably wouldn’t respond. The publishing company responded because the source was seen to be an information hub within the industry, providing news to aspiring creators about one of their programs. A random writer that gets a bad deal (or doesn’t take it) and then rants about it probably doesn’t concern them, but a “news source” is something they can’t ignore, and assuming that they consider the blog to be a news source, they have certain expectations (i.e. following up on the hearsay source before publishing about it), which are not common practice anymore in the blagosphere.

My argument is that they have antiquated expectations of the responsibility of so-called journalists, which no longer apply to people posting blogs. This is mainly because most of the people that create news-type blogs these days are not actual journalists, but rather people with interests and little training in “old-world” (read: paper news) practices like verification. They take an anecdote and analyze it at face value without researching the topic further. The publisher expects a balance of clout and responsibility that is no longer realistic in an age when any idiot can potentially pose as an expert and be taken seriously.

S P Hannifin · March 8, 2013 at 2:20 PM

“I think the point they were making was that the dissenting opinion was the result of faulty information based on a hearsay situation.”

If that were true, they could’ve just said, “Your information is false and shame on you for not verifying it before spreading it as if it were true.” And the bloggers and news sources would lose reliability. (I certainly believe it is the responsibility any blogger or news source to check their facts before passing on information.)

But the facts are not in question here, and Random House’s open letter doesn’t try to claim so, nor does it cast any doubt on these bloggers’ / news sources’ reliability.

What’s in question here are opinions, whether or not the Hydra imprint’s default contract terms are good, and whether or not an aspiring author should agree to such a deal.

Scott · March 8, 2013 at 2:37 PM

The open letter was written in PR-speak. No company will be so blunt as to say “you are stupid and should have checked your facts,” especially not to a group that they believe holds influence over whether or not people do business with them. The inane argument was basically saying it, but in a nice way.

And yes, they are arguing over opinions, but the letter also implies that the opinion is based off a faulty fact base.

S P Hannifin · March 8, 2013 at 3:04 PM

If there were any facts in question, I think the open letter would have addressed them, even if in PR-speak.

I see nothing that implies that the opinion is based off a faulty fact base, other than the sentence that bothers me, “wish you had contacted us before you published your posts.” I suppose that’s part of the reason it bothers me; it’s basically a subtle ad hominem attack.

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