I just read an article at Publishers Weekly about the advent of morality clauses in author contracts from major publishers. Considering the recent furor over misbehaving authors, I understand their dilemma. But how do authors protect themselves from the nebulous nature of this development? Or, to be clearer, how will our agents protect us? I'd love to know your take on this, and what we need to be aware of before we sign off on one of these.Morality clauses regulate author behavior not book content. And not too long ago it was "immoral" to live with a man you were not married to, engage in "homosexual acts", or any of a number of other things. Funnily enough it was not immoral to beat your wife, drive while drunk, or fire women who had the temerity to demand equal pay for equal work.
I find morality clauses repugnant, never in the author's best interest, and oddly NEVER applied to a publisher's behaviour.
As such, when a contract arrives that includes such a beast, we routinely ask it be stricken in its entirety.
If there is push back, there are ways to limit what a publisher can do, and when they can do it.
And what I say to publishers who want to include a morality clause: None of these #MeToo stories about badly behaving people are new. They've been circulating for YEARS in many cases. No one was surprised when the people in question were outed as douchebags. The only surprise is they're finally being held to account for their trespasses.
If publishers want to avoid being tarnished by people behaving badly here's an idea: don't buy books from douchebags.