I had my first truly challenging decision to make this past week, regarding my book, and I thought I would share what happened here.
Some of you will have followed my posts explaining that a wonderful UK agent, Lorella Belli Literary Agency, is working with my publisher to sell additional publishing rights to other publishing houses. Lorella’s team has successfully sold audiobook rights, as well as Czech and Slovak translation and publishing rights, and they continue to look for other foreign language translation/publishing opportunities.
This work led the team to securing an offer, via a Russian sub-agent they continue to work with, of Russian translation and e-book rights to The Love of My Other Life. Of course, with the Czech and Slovak offers, it was easy to say yes – in a heartbeat! But this is different. This is Russia.
We all know about the atrocities that the Russian government is perpetrating on Ukraine and its people. My own, wonderful sister and her family have been hosting four Ukrainian refugees in their home in Germany for months now. None of us can possibly support what the Putin regime is doing. And, if I were to sell e-books in Russia, some proceeds – even if a negligible amount – would go to the Putin government in the form of corporate taxes paid by the Russian publishing house.
We were assured that the publisher and the Russian sub-agent brokering the deal are highly anti-Putin and against the war, as so many innocent people in Russia are. Russian publishers are now appealing to the West not to boycott them, with the argument of “we are not our government.” The situation is utterly heartbreaking for Ukrainians, but also terrible for blameless Russians caught up in a war they don’t want.
Because my heart does go out to these people, I was briefly considering saying yes, but with the understanding that I would donate, say, 50% of my own proceeds from Russian sales to the Ukrainian cause, as a way of somehow offsetting any harm done in the form taxes to Putin’s government.
On balance, however, and with a heavy heart, I decided to turn down the offer – I can’t in all conscience accept it while the Putin government is in power. The fact that I would feel the need to offset the harm of the Russian government gaining tax income from book sales, and that I would quite rightly be opening myself to considerable criticism, even with my personal “offset” donations, both simply gave me too much pause. I couldn’t do something that I would want to hide from all of you, and therefore if I had accepted, I would have had to do so publicly and give my reasons.
And there are many reasons to support the Russian publishing industry and all the innocent people affected, so this dilemma was far from black and white. It makes me sad not to work with those people who are blameless and no doubt wonderful – and kind enough to want to publish my little book! But at the same time, the one huge reason for not accepting the offer simply overpowered all else, for me.
I’m also not sure it’s my place to flout the sanctions being imposed, even if it is entirely permissible to do so. While sanctions against Russia are no doubt flawed, they’re in place for a reason and I have no expertise in this area to argue against them, or effectively assess the arguments being made to me.
I’m very disappointed to have to turn down the chance to get into the Russian market, and to say no when generous people have already put in this work on my behalf. I do sincerely hope that, if and when the Putin government is overthrown and peace is restored, we will be able to re-explore opportunities for my work in the Russian market. And I truly do have every sympathy for the Russian publishers, agent, translator, etc, caught up in this terrible situation.
But I have more sympathy for the Ukrainian people whose very lives and homes are being destroyed, and I can’t possibly see a single penny from my book sales going towards those atrocities.