The Publishing Industry: Is There Blacklisting?

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The Book Kahuna and his Corgi, Derek!

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I wrote a blog post a few months ago that talked about how publishing needed to develop a kinder and gentler side in dealing with those who are part of this glamour industry. The rough-and-tumble of the business aside, it has always struck me that the publishing industry seems to lean politically to the left which would seem to make it a more tolerant industry for all ideas. It got me thinking that maybe this level of tolerance is not all that prevalent throughout the industry.

Now there were witch-hunts in Salem in 1692, there was the “Red Scare” in the 1920s, and then of course there was probably the most famous blacklisting event in the 1950s during the McCarthy era. These all seem to be fundamentally conservative movements persecuting those on the left. Now it may not even be correct to think about interrelationships of blacklisting in terms of right and left.  The pattern may be more basic than ideological differences. It may stem from those who have large executive inter-company networking systems passing the word about individuals they find offensive.

I remember back in my first few jobs, there were a few times when words were passed that certain actions would be deemed “non-palatable” by the industry overall and you could find yourself waiting a long time for a new opportunity if you happened to end up unemployed. Any type of legal action spoken of towards a corporate structure was one of those acts that would get you “Banished to Bogey-land.” Now I’m not one who really believes that there is any centralized structure in keeping various individuals from gainful employment but there are times when I think these issues should be discussed.

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As an industry, publishing right now is going through an incredible revolution that is leaving some of the executive-types in a position of powerlessness based on the technological advances we are seeing. Sometimes decisions are made without the input of those at the very top due to the nature and the quickness of the revolution. Those who do not understand what is happening or are not taking the time to find out what is happening in the field, are those that fear for their livelihoods. Anyone who has knowledge that they do not possess becomes a threat and a competitor. Dealing with fear in its basic primitive form is an interrelationship that is terrifying to those who don’t possess the needed knowledge. When people feel that they are threatened, a survival instinct kicks in and puts them on the offensive to seek out and destroy those who would hamper their career upward mobility.

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Everything I have written up to this point is a hypothetical situation. I don’t know of any people who are threatened by technology. I don’t know of anybody being blacklisted on a centralized list. I do know of executives who have made phone calls to vendors when employees have left and gone for other employment situations (poaching was the terminology that was brought up for making these inappropriate phone calls).  With this in mind I do not feel it would it would be a great stretch for someone to make phone calls and pass the word about various other employees to keep them at bay.  Also we are dealing with personalities and if a vindictive personality gets into a position of knowledge and power I have no doubt that they would use this position to hurt another’s career.

Every industry has its share of people who are unsavory and do not follow the rules. The basic ethical tenets escape them and they work in a system of “make up the rules as you go along.” The problem with this strategy is that once you start making up the rules everyone sees that you’re making up the rules as you go. There are many great people working in this industry as well. They are the mentors, the drivers, the Sage reference receptacles of this great industry.

As I said, I have no knowledge that anything is going on. I’m not saying that any unsavory actions are going on. I just think that this is something that needs to be discussed because I have heard this mentioned from time to time during the course of my career.

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The Electronic/Digital Revolution in Book Publishing:  History, Industry Perspective (Print and E-book) and “How To” Publish Your E-book for Amazon Kindle

Does the publishing industry blacklist people? I can’t answer that question. Maybe you have some input on this to share?   People are people in publishing as elsewhere.  The only way to beat any kind of listing is to be the best you can be.  I have some ideas that certain people don’t appreciate or like others within the industry, but that doesn’t mean there is an industry-wide push to exile anyone to Elba.

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2 responses to “The Publishing Industry: Is There Blacklisting?

  1. Blacklisting is kind of unsavory, but it does happen in cliques in this industry. Some of them are for the good of the industry, some of them are not so good. I will change the names & keep genders ambiguous to protect both the innocent & the guilty.
    1. The person is a jerk: Person W had a fabulous resume with an Ivy/Seven Sisters BA & MBA, gradually ascending positions of responsibility with large trade publishers, great experience, and a can-do attitude. The problem was that Person W also had a problem wrapping packages since that task “was beneath the person’s station” (in person W’s own proud words) and also spent more time on the phone involved in local politics than doing the work Company A had hired the person to do (and the quality of work suffered). When budget cuts came, this person was the first to be let go. Those people that worked with Person W had the person’s resume cross their desks several times in other positions in the industry over the years. All who worked with this person thought, ” I am not even bringing this person in for an interview. Who wants to deal with that jerk every day?” As a result, the best that Person W could ever achieve in the industry afterwards was a temp position, never hired as permanent staff, and never hired at the same organization twice.
    2. The person is a con artist. Person X had a very good, high paying production position at Company B, great personality, lovable, and was known to be a great production person. Person X also had a lavish lifestyle that exceeded the salary earnings that Company B offered. No other commensurate position in the industry offered high earning for the same title and no other higher ranking titles were open at the time. Person X found a creative solution with an unscrupulous small printer who is now out of business. Person X would over order (by 10%) Company B’s paper to be delivered to the printer. The printer would under deliver each of the books by around 7% claiming over consumption of the paper in press setups.This event was repeated for 30 titles printed per year over several years with significant amounts of copies ordered on the same paper. The paper was not over consumed, but kept in reserve at the printer, who would then sell the paper as their own stock to other customers at a slight discount. Person X and the printer would split the proceeds of those lucrative sales under the table. An audit was eventually done once the pattern of under delivery emerged, the fraud was discovered via an audit (which I am not at liberty to discuss the methodology), and Person X was forced to resign otherwise criminal charges were going to be filed. Person X could not find another regular job due to the news in the industry but founded an independent company where the person’s non-fraudulent talents could be used but only with non-production people as customers. This person x is now earning more through legal means than the fraud had netted, but would never be considered for a position of trust as a direct employee in the industry again.
    3. The person is a drunk. Person Y was considered a rising talent and known as a creative person within the top 5% of the industry. Unfortunately too many trips to work in the same clothes, occasional times caught sleeping at the desk by colleagues, wild antics at industry functions, and crazy stories on business trips confirmed the person was a drunk. The person eventually embraced being sober, but not before Person Y’s reputation was shot in the industry. Due to the whispers in the industry, Person Y could not rise to higher levels of responsibility as every application for a higher position was summarily met with no call back based on the incorrect perception by those hiring of Person Y as still a drunk.
    4. The person is a flake. Person Z had an impressive resume, great track record books fiscally performing well in the market place, considered a friendly & competent person by colleagues, and an asset to any organization. Person Z just had a bit of a public cupid problem in dating problems with non-industry people on such a public scale that the person would switch positions at companies due to embarrassment. Person Z then found cupid’s arrow within our industry and made an ill advised career change based on love as a reason. The career change did not work out and the person was dogged by the perception expressed openly in interviews of, “What guarantees are there that you will not vacate my open position for love?” Due to this perception of being a flake within the industry this person could not even find work in considerably lower paying and lesser titled positions. Eventually this person had to exit our industry for work in another career in another industry.
    The moral of these stories that I witnessed over the years:
    * Be nice and a team player with all colleagues inall positions in all departments.
    * Don’t steal or do things that some may consider morally questionable.
    * Have fun but don’t become a drunk or an addict.
    * Don’t over share your personal life with your work colleagues. Keep a barrier between private & professional.

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