Must writers be moral? Their contracts may require it

ST ILLUSTRATION: CEL GULAPA

'No way. I'm not signing that,' a New Yorker writer said when she saw the terms.

When you see publishers and authors chatting chummily at book parties, you're likely to think that they're on the same side - the side of great literature and the free flow of ideas.

In reality, their interests are at odds. Publishers are marketers. They don't like scandals that might threaten their bottom line - or the bottom lines of the multinational media conglomerates of which most form a small part. Authors are people, often flawed. Sometimes they behave badly. How, for instance, should publishers deal with the #MeToo era, when accusations of sexual impropriety can lead to books being pulled from shelves and syllabuses, as happened last year with the novelists Junot Diaz and Sherman Alexie?

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 13, 2019, with the headline 'Must writers be moral? Their contracts may require it'. Print Edition | Subscribe