Archive for the ‘ethics’ Tag

Con Artists, I say   1 comment

What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

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As a libertarian who believes in free-market principles, I categorically support the right of a publisher to engage in whatever business practices they think will make a profit.

Now, turn that around. I also categorically support the right of the authors who deal with that publisher to engage in critical thinking and to reject business practices they think might harm them.

Members of the publishing industry—authors, publishers, peer reviewers—should be held accountable for maintaining ethical practices. We’re not talking laws here, but voluntary exchange between parties. Yes, it’s not always easy keeping others on the straight and narrow. Whether in search of financial or personal gain, some bad eggs do exist within the industry, attempting to bait-and-switch unsuspecting authors.

Stop being unsuspecting. Educate yourself so you are not taken advantage of. That is wholly within your control, though I readily admit it’s not a fun process.

How do I know this? Well, I encountered some of those bad eggs in my journey to self-publication as a novelist.

Predatory publishers, publications, and conferences proliferated in the past decade amid the increase of self-publishing (sometimes called open-access publishing). These predators offer various “pay-to-play” models with benefits that you can’t possibly refuse – and a lot of authors fall prey to these con artists.

Predatory Publishers

So, let’s say an author stumbles upon this brand-new, full-service Open Access publisher. It looks stellar – cheap and convenient. Nice. But, hold on. How do you know it’s not trustworthy – otherwise known as predatory?

Predatory publishers don’t care about quality. They care about netting a quick profit through various charges or a one-size-fits-all fee that equals your mortgage for a year. These publishers may even willingly take unpolished work, especially if they offer in-house peer review and/or copy editing services. Be cautious of publishers guaranteeing acceptance after paying a fee. Be double-cautious if the publishers lacks review transparency and/or offers a short turnaround for publication. Although this all sounds wonderful, it is not sound publishing practice. If they’re promising your novel will be published for a low-low fee of thousands of dollars and they have the juice to make it a best-seller, hit pause and think.

Too good to be true = con artist.

In the end, after about my third query with one of these wolves, I decided to self-publish. I wanted to maintain control of my product, to assure its quality and to own my publication rights. I had a bit of an advantage because I had worked in an adjacent field of publishing, so I already knew such practices existed — there have always been predatory vanity presses out there. But, man, it’s scary out here in the cold and dark by myself.

Learn to Trust Someone

I eventually started a discussion with an author friend who is part of the author cooperative Breakwater Harbor Books which is my publisher of record. We each still own our books and we each still have to find editors, cover creators, format-services and marketing firms to help us where we need it, but we also can help each other from time to time and if a reader cares about whether a book has a “publisher” they will see a dozen other authors published under this boutique publisher.

Which, by the way, is the only advantage of most self-publishing companies. You give them your money, they take control of your book, they may screw it up or improve it, they may stick a great cover on it or a bad one, they may market it or they may expect you to do all of it (and that’s usually the case), and you will get five percent of the royalties rather than 70 percent … after you pay them thousands of dollars.

I held onto my rights and the quality of my work. What did I give up to join the cooperative?

Some trust. Because we use each other as beta readers, we have to trust that our fellow stable members are not going to steal each other’s copyrighted manuscripts. My ISBNs are listed in my own name, so BHB can’t claim to own them, but I have to trust that Scott and Cara and the other authors are not going to take me to court to claim they own my published books. Although we have verbal agreements to that effect, we didn’t involve lawyers and frankly, we didn’t need to.

Ethics absolutely matter

Far more important than the law, ethics (or morality) are the foundation under-girding society. The law can be absolutely on the side of the predatory publisher who has taken your money, somehow relieved you of the rights to your book, and is now letting it languish in their basement. Ethics, however, are on your side, so it’s best to avoid those unethical publishers and be brave – step out on your own and make your own choices, accept your own risks, and leave the con artists standing there with their hats in their hands.

Posted February 10, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Christianity is Not Morality   1 comment

Try this experiment. Stop 20 random strangers on the street and ask them to define Christianity.

Some kids from our church’s college class did exactly that during the Midnight Sun Festival here in Fairbanks, they then repeated the experiment at the State Fair. They collected over 200 comments, which varied, but all centered on the idea that Christianity is a religion that imposes a particular morality with specific ethical behavior.

A Christian is one who lives by certain rules and regulations imposed upon him by divine or ecclesiastical authorities. The shalls and the shall nots.” Behavioral conformity to these moral codes of conduct is what the Christian strives to achieve in ordor to please (or appease – addition mine. lela) God

A major television network was filming a documentary on “Christian fundamentalism.” They interviewed a young couple exiting a fundamentalist church and asked, “What do Christian fundamentalists believe?” The conservatively dressed respondent replied, “We believe in the Bible. We don’t believe in drinking, smoking or dancing. We try to be as good as we can to please God.”

Seriously? That’s what they believe? No wonder nobody wants to be a Christian anymore.

I deliberately used the image above and to the right because of its double meaning. To Americans it means “okay”, but to most South Americans it means something vulgar. A very similar gesture in American sign-language means “piss off”. Most of us would use a word starting with an “f” instead. And, yes, I want you to think about that image and its other meaning because it’s important to the end of this post.

I could say that the young fundamentalist couple had fallen prey to a bad marketing strategy, but in reality, I don’t give a fig about marketing strategies – or membership numbers for that matter. I’m looking at the source of the sickness affecting the Christian churches, not the symptoms, and I want a treatment for the disease, not marketing strategy.

Maybe the director edited the comments for his own purposes or maybe the couple really are that caught up in moral code living, but whatever happened, the statements were a tragic misrepresentation of Christianity that is sadly propogated in the name of “Christianity”, often by people claiming to be “Christians”. Is it any wonder that few are interested?

“In the eyes of most of our contemporaries, Christianity is a morality first of all. And have not many epochs of Christian history been characterized by the church’s insistence upon actions and conduct?” (Jacques Ellul, To Will and To Do. Philadelphia: Pilgrim Pr. 1969. pg. 201, Thanks, Alan, for the quotes, lela)
“We have to recognize that Christians themselves have done all they can to create this confusion. God’s revelation has nothing whatever to do with morality.” (Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Pub. 1986. pg. 69.)

First, we need to talk about morality and ethics a bit. Time to pull out a few dictionaries.

The word “morality” comes from Roman “moralis” or mos referring to custom, tradition, or habit, and alis refering to people. Moralis is the “customs of the people – conformity or compliance with the societal concept of good or right behavior. Oh-oh, I perceive a problem.

The word “ethics” comes from the Greek word “ethos”. In first century koine Greek it refers to social custom or habit. In mordern English, ethics and morality are basically the same meaning – to determine what is good or right and social approval or disapproval of such activities. Yeah, there’s that problem again.

“Ethos” does appear in the Bible three times.

In Acts 16:21. Paul and Silas were in Philippi. Paul cast out demons from a young girl who was being used by some men for a fortunetelling venture. The men complained to the magistrates saying, “These men (Paul and Silas)…are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful to accept or observe, being Romans.” It is a false accusation that they bring, for Paul was not teaching ethics or morals or customs contrary to Roman law. He was simply proclaiming Jesus Christ.

Acts 26:3. Paul was on trial before King Agrippa at Caeserea. In his defense Paul said, “you (King Agrippa) are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews…” King Agrippa was indeed supposed to be knowledgable of the customs and ethics of the Jewish religion. Paul knew that he was not violating God’s revelation to the Jews, and was therefore being falsely accused.

1Corinthians 15:33. In the midst of his discussion on the resurrection from the dead, Paul quoted a Greek dramatist, Menander, who had written the motto: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Paul’s usage of the quotation was to make the point that sinful behavior will affect what happens in our resurrection from the dead.

The three usages of ethos in the New Testament are made by: (1) pandering pimps exploiting a young girl and making a false accusation against Paul; (2) the apostle Paul in a correct observation about Jewish religion; and (3) a pagan playwright as an observation about social associations. Not a one of these indicates that Christianity has anything to do with morality or ethics.

There is one other verse to what is often translated “moral excellence” in some English translations, but I would note the NET Bible translates 2Peter 1:5 as “…for this reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence knowledge, to knowledge self control, to self-control perseverence, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly affection, to brotherly affection unselfish love.”  The Greek word is arete, meaning virtuous or honorable behaivoral expression. The Biblical writers were careful in their word use and they wrote in a language that allows for great precision. Arete does not mean morality or ethics. It is an entirely different word and an entirely different meaning. It could be thought of as an admonition to allow for a consistent behavioral outworking of our faith, but that is not the same as morality or ethics as we define those words today.

Why?

Because morality and ethics are human defined words used for the evaluation of human activities. It is humans deciding what activities are socially acceptable or unacceptable, approved or disapprove, right or wrong, good or bad, relative to the intentions and desires of the prevailing human powers and authorities.

The morality of human beings is merely a collective attempt to control human behavior and to get the God stamp on it.

Morality is idolatry and, Christians, we are guilty as charged.

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