Today's post concerns an ethical and/or systems question. Jon received an email from an author who sent us his partial several months ago. (OK, I admit it; we're behind in our reading.) The author said he was simply checking on the status of the project. Jon responded that, yes, we'd received the partial and that Jon would be getting to it within the next few weeks. The author wrote back saying that he's continued to work on the chapters and now has a "much improved" package. "Can I keep my place in the reading pile if I send you the rewritten package?" he asked.
This is a first for us, and, frankly we're boggled by the request. On the one hand, I can understand why the author wants us to get rid of the old, as-yet-unread package, and to read the new, improved version. On the other hand, it creates a mess on this end. At any given time we're juggling between 30 and 50 partials, (not to mention manuscripts and queries), trying to read them in order of their receipt. If we tell this author to send his new stuff and that we'll save his place in the reading pile, we're suddenly responsible for a lot more work. First, we have to find his chapters and flag that package with a note to ignore--no biggie. The deal-breaker is that in order to save the author's place, we have to keep an eagle eye out for the NEW package which would be troublesome. We get lots of packages each day. When the new package arrives, we need to put it in the place we promised to reserve. Worse, if we let this author do this, we have to let every author do this if they want. It's time to set a precedent. I have nightmares of us flagging and searching and missing and jumbling and panicking and tearing our hair and sobbing into the night! (Well, maybe not sobbing into the night and Jon has no hair to pull anyway, but you get my drift.)
So Jon set a precedent. He told the author that he's welcome to send the new package. Then he told him that, in so doing, he would lose his place in the reading pile. As far as our systems go, this was the sensible answer. But, was it the ethical thing to do? We'd love to hear your comments.
The Fascinating Work Habits of 18 Famous Writers - From Victor Hugo to Gertrude Stein, the graphic outlines the curious work habits of each individual author and relates their process to their work.
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