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When Being Dooced Is Only One Side of the Story

Sometimes, even us freewheeling bloggers like to exercise a little restraint. Because reporting on publishing people getting fired for what’s clearly a case of going overboard on a small matter is, frankly, not the best use of our time and resources. But since Gawker‘s now gone ahead and presented their (extremely flawed) version of Jason Pinter‘s abrupt exit from Crown, it seems like a good idea to present a more well-rounded, if still somewhat unattributed account of what precipitated this event.

First, the obligatory disclosure: I count Pinter as a friend, someone who bought another friend’s book and has also written a seriously kickass debut thriller that is (deservedly) receiving a good deal of pre-publication buzz. So much for objectivity, but don’t take my word for it, see what agent Kristin Nelson said (albeit without mentioning Pinter specifically by name) late last week: “it’s so sad when I get the news of a departure. Someone I liked. Enjoyed working with. Knew their tastes and what would work for them. Now I’ll have to scout out whoever fills their shoes. See who gets added to the dance card.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. When reached for comment, Crown publicity director Tina Constable would only say that Pinter is no longer with the company and had no further comments, but Gawker is correct that Pinter’s termination resulted from the now-deleted blog post comparing and contrasting Chris Bohjalian‘s B&N-related success to Ishmael Beah‘s Starbucks-induced sales. Sources indicate that Crown publisher and senior vice president Steve Ross ordered Pinter to take the post down on February 23, which he did. A week later, without any warning or any indication that there would be further action taken, Pinter was informed he had violated Random House’s blog policy and had one day – last Friday, March 2 – to collect his things, inform his authors that he would no longer be working with Crown and absorb what had just happened.

Sources indicate that Pinter’s termination was not an easy decision, as a visibly upset Ross, as well as publisher Jenny Frost, were forced to do so at the behest of more senior Random House brass. Such sentiments are understandable considering the post in question never even made mention of Bookscan numbers – that was added in later, by me, after checking with additional sources. And from what I understand, access to Bookscan is hardly proprietary information – it’s not like actual Random House sales figures were being bandied about or, in the last publicized case of an employee fired for blogging, actual criticism of Random House employees was made public.

If anything, Pinter’s firing has less to do with him and more to do with his now-former company’s woes. Laying off the bulk of their sales force and then openly lying about it? Getting rid of an editor here, a small department there and scrambling to do something, anything to compensate for not just a bad year, but Bertelsmann‘s overall shortfall thanks to buying back the 25 percent stake that a minority shareholder wanted to take public? In short, this is a classic case of corporate publishing at its cowardly worst, taking a passive-aggressive action that may cover their ass in the short term, but adds yet more grist to the public relations disaster mill in the long term.

So yes, GalleyCat wishes Pinter well. He has a book to promote soon, another due out in February and a third to write under contract, with more in the future. There are job offers to consider and options to mull over. Indeed, rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated. And if anything, drinks are on us, not the other way around…

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