Avoiding Conflict of Interest
As I related in a previous Metapost, I am now Senior Editor at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP). I will be editing a work of fiction due out this October. Because of this new role, it is important to clarify the specifics of my various roles and to avoid any possible conflicts of interest.
I am both Senior Editor and Senior Book Reviewer at CCLaP, in addition to reviewing books for the New York Journal of Books and poetry for thethepoetryblog. As a reviewer, I can wield a poisonous pen and will pull no punches regarding how I think about an author’s work. It is important to keep “critical distance” from the author. The flip side is as an editor. Editors work to cultivate the work of an author. Both reviewing and editing involve a certain degree of relationship building, although the nature of these relationships are radically different.
Reviewing is about making an honest and subjective assessment of an author’s work. It can be either negative or positive. The integrity of these reviews is based on preserving “critical distance” from the author. Ideally, I try to read a work “cold,” thus avoiding any preconceived notions or bias that might skew the review. I’m reviewing the work, not the author, so don’t take it personally if a review is less than gushing. I can be generous when I review a work, except when spelling and grammatical errors become gratuitous. Whether through a publisher or self-published, there is no excuse for that lack of professionalism.
For those writers interested in submitting work to CCLaP, send your manuscript to cclapcenter @ gmail . com.
I don’t post my reviews on Amazon. So don’t bother asking. But you can freely quote me in blurbs, with the caveat that you cite this blog, The Driftless Area Review, and/or me by name.
As a Senior Editor at CCLaP, my goal is to cultivate a positive relationship with the author I am editing. I am also on the lookout for new talent, finding authors who could offer novel-length works for CCLaP to publish. Send your manuscript to cclapcenter @ gmail . com.
In the editing process, Jason and his crew of Senior Editors and Editorial Apprentices read submissions in the slush pile and offer our opinions. Jason has final say on the submission and the ignominious honor of writing rejection letters.
If I reviewed your work, I will recuse myself from the slush pile discussion.
If your work is accepted, I will read your previous published works (if I have time), but I will not review them.
If your work is accepted, I will help promote your work, but I won’t review it. The difference should hopefully be obvious.
The role of editor is that of a partner in the creative process. Polishing and perfecting the work, achieving the quality standard befitting the CCLaP catalog of authors. (Reviewing, by contrast, is assessing a finished work that is available to the public.) Editing works to burnish the flaws in a work that reviewers might jump on. Editors and authors have important discussions about various aspects of the work. When the work is published for public consumption, there are no more opportunities for discussion. And an author or editor chewing out a reviewer for their negative review is declasse. Once it is published, it belongs to the public and whatever public discussions it generates. The editor and the author share equal responsibility for whatever quality product they publish.
While reviewing and editing are similar, they are not the same.
If you see me doing something that might be construed as a conflict of interest, let me know! We’re only human and we make mistakes. But the challenge is to catch them as soon as they appear, lest they mutate into something rather unpleasant. Remember the scandal over the fake reviews of those Rob Schneider movies? Let’s all try and avoid anything similar.