Category Archives: #EthicalAuthor

Are You An Ethical Author? Take This Quiz!

Why in the world would authors need to be ethical? Don’t they make up stuff for a living?

Are you one of those writers that does whatever it takes to get a sale? Are you the kind that responds publicly to a bad review? Do you manipulate your public numbers to look better than you really are? Do you neglect excellence in your writing for the sake of a fast buck?

Of course, you’re not. But you probably know someone who is.

Even if you haven’t, you see this kind of writers everywhere. You read about their bad behavior. You nudge the author next to you and say, I can’t believe they did that. And sometimes, the response you get is, but isn’t there no such thing as bad publicity?

And then,  perhaps you think to yourself: Am I doing this all wrong?  Writers everywhere are behaving badly and getting away with it. Aren’t they?

This industry — writing, publishing, and marketing in the information age — is still so new that good practices haven’t caught up yet. In some ways, modern writers don’t know what is good behavior and what isn’t. I’d like to encourage every writer who reads this blog to learn how to be ethical.

Ethics, at its core, is choosing to take responsible public action out of respect for our readers, our art and ourselves.

So, are you ethical or not?

Are You An Ethical Author? Take This Quiz!

 Get A Pencil! Let’s Take A Quiz!

Number your paper. Write down yes or no to each of the following questions. Keep track. If you look at your neighbor’s paper, then you’re in worse shape than we thought.

1. Have you ever used the words “best-selling” to describe your own books, when what you mean is that of all the books stored in your closet, Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses, really has generated the most sales?

2. Have you ever claimed that you were in a professional writers association, like International Fiction Writers Who Use Modems when you let your membership expire in 1998?

 

3. Have you claimed that you sold thousands of copies when really you sold 556 and you just rounded up?

4. Have you ever made up an endorsement for the back of the book, like say, “Taylor Swift called, ‘Your Guide To  Amish Zombie Princesses’ the inspiration for her next album, coming out in 2016″? When the closest you got to Taylor Swift was when you accidentally changed your Pandora station from Muzak to ubiquitous pop tunes?

5.  Have you ever been so upset over a negative review about your book online, that you called your mother and asked her to change it? Or have you ever insisted that a stranger change their review?

6. Have you ever gone online under a pseudonym, say, Mary Jane Smith, and posed as a raving fan of Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses, just so you could boost sales and generate buzz and possibly get the attention of Taylor Swift?

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7. Have you ever attacked other authors in the Amish Zombie Princess genre (or any other genre), just so that your book will look better? That’s impressive if you have because there are, thousands, you know?

8. Do you approach other authors privately, making deals to reciprocate positive reviews so that you look better? Do you ever reward someone, like say, promising them they’ll meet Taylor Swift next week at your house for pizza night if they give you a five-star review?

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”
C.S. Lewis

 

9. Have you ever taken the work of others, say, Dan Brown’s How To Fight Off Mennonite Undead Queens, and then tweaked it just a little to pass it off as your own?

10. Have you been accurate and fair in your finances? Or have you manipulated your numbers so that you aren’t taxed by all that income that Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses has made in 2014?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then you may not be an Ethical Author!!

All kidding aside. Each one of these ‘questions’ were exaggerated to prove a point. Is is possible, and sadly very common, to slip into dishonorable and unethical behaviors for the sake of a sale.

Many of us are new to publishing and have no idea what we should do to promote ourselves. Often our goal is just to gain any advantage we can in an increasingly competitive market. We may feel “creativity” in marketing trumps courteous behavior. Or we may suggest trading reviews with another author, not realizing this behavior could weaken our credibility. We may be so distracted by the elusive promise of financial success that we neglect to nurture our art. Or we may attach our pursuit of fame so tightly to our own identities that we can’t tolerate criticism in public forums. These practices are not ethical. 

I can't encourage you enough: earn your sales and reviews honestly and with integrity.

 We may fear to speak to other authors about their questionable practices because we don’t feel we have either the authority to speak nor a reference point for better behavior.

We may champion “truth” in the words that we write, through gritty characters and accurate descriptions, yet cover up our own discrepancies, create false identities or fabricate falsehoods to gain an advantage in this industry.

Because authors have never had so much freedom. But with freedom, we must accept responsibility for our public persona. This responsibility extends to our works whether self-published or traditionally published. And it includes our relationships with our readers.

This is how to be more ethical:

Love your readers by producing excellent work and allow them the freedom to critique you honestly in public forums.
Love your art by choosing not to cheapen it with slimy sales techniques and shortcuts cuts.
Love yourself by holding your author friends to a high standard of behavior in our public appearances both online and real life.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

7 Ways To Deal With That Dreaded Bad Review or,

Top 10 Reasons Why Reciprocal Reviews Are Unethical


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Top 10 Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Author Ethics (With Taylor Swift & Zombie References!)

Writers today have dreams of instant success and fame!

And because the idea of easy publishing is so tempting, we rush into it with  no idea what we should do to promote ourselves.

Often our goal is just to gain any advantage we can in an increasingly competitive market. We may feel “creativity” in marketing trumps courteous behavior. We may suggest trading reviews with another author, not realizing this behavior could weaken our credibility. We may be so distracted by the elusive promise of financial success that we neglect to nurture our art. Or we may attach our pursuit of fame so tightly to our own identities that we can’t tolerate criticism in public forums.

We may champion “truth” in the words that we write, through gritty characters and accurate descriptions, yet cover up our own discrepancies, create false identities or fabricate falsehoods to gain advantage in this industry.

But we may be pursuing fame and fortune at the cost of ethics.

Ask yourself the following 10 questions and test and see how ethical you are as an author.

 Top 10 Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Author Ethics

1. Have you ever used the words “best-selling” to describe your own books, when what you mean is that of all the books stored in your closet, Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses, really has generated the most sales?

2. Have you claimed that you sold thousands of copies, when really you sold 556 and you just rounded up?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors do not promote books by making false statements about them. Ethical authors do not lie about position on bestseller lists or consent to anyone else promoting them in a misleading manner.

3. Have you ever made up an endorsement for the back of the book, like say, “Taylor Swift called, ‘Your Guide To  Amish Zombie Princesses’ the inspiration for her next album, coming out in 2016″? When the closest you got to Taylor Swift was when you accidentally changed your Pandora station from Muzak to ubiquitous pop tunes?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: If you engage in any practices that have the effect of misleading your readers/buyers of my books, then you’re behaving unprofessionally.

Badge, Ethical Author, ALLi
This is the badge for ALLi’s Ethical Author campaign. Feel free to put it on your blog if you want to remind yourself and others about good author ethics.

4.  Have you ever been so upset over a negative review about your book online, that you called your mother and asked her to change it?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors should never react to any book review by harassing the reviewer or getting someone else to harass the reviewer. Ethical authors would never intrude on a reviewer’s privacy or condone a personal attack. If you do, you’re not just unprofessional, you’re also creepy.

5. Have you ever gone online under a pseudonym, say, Mary Jane Smith, and posed as a raving fan of Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses, just so you could boost sales and generate buzz and possibly get the attention of Taylor Swift?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors should never hide behind an alias to boost sales or damage sales of another person. They should also not hide behind aliases to hurt another’s reputation. Pen names should be used for good, not evil. If you do this, you’re not just unprofessional, you’re also a coward.

6. Have you ever attacked other authors in the Amish Zombie Princess genre, just so that your book will look better? That’s impressive if you have because there are, thousands, you know?

 You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: If you do not behave with courtesy toward readers, other authors, reviewers and industry professionals, then you are making us all look bad. If you air grievances or complaints in the press or online, then you’re behaving unprofessionally, possibly immaturely and come off as a whiner. Just don’t.

No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind. – Taylor Swift

7. Do you approach other authors privately, making deals to reciprocate positive reviews so that you look better? Do you ever reward someone, like say, promising them they’ll meet Taylor Swift next week at your house for pizza night, if they give you a five star review?

  You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors should always be transparent about any reciprocal reviewing arrangements. Better still, they should avoid them altogether just so people won’t raise an eyebrow. This review by your author friend really isn’t worth it.

8. Have you ever taken the work of others, say, Dan Brown’s How To Fight Off Mennonite Undead Queens,  and then tweaked it just a little to pass it off as your own?

  You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Plagiarism is bad, bad news. Don’t do it. Passing someone else’s works as your own is a sure fire way to lose years of credibility and a good reputation. Cutting and pasting is always easier, it is never, ever better.

9. Have you been accurate and fair in your finances? Or have you manipulated your numbers so that you aren’t taxed by all that income that Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses has made in 2014?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why:  Everyone needs to report income, pay taxes and keep good records. We know you got into writing so that you didn’t have to do math. If it’s really that hard for you, hire an accountant. This is the law, follow it.

All kidding aside. Each one of these ‘questions’ were exaggerated to prove a point. Is is possible, and sadly very common, to slip into dishonorable and unethical behaviors for the sake of a sale. 

Top 10 Reasons Why Reciprocal Reviews Are Unethical

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

This has the potential of being my most controversial post yet.

And I like controversy about as much as I like snooty  moms asking me personal questions about the decisions I made in the raising of my children.

But I believe that reciprocal reviews for authors are unethical, unprofessional and unnecessary. 

Unfortunately, the idea of “you review my book and I’ll review yours” is a common one among writers, especially self-published writers who are just starting out. The necessity of good reviews and the belief that reviews alone will generate sales is a faulty one. So this behavior of reciprocating favorable reviews can nudge an author into a tempting but ethically slippery situation. My friend Jane Steen, who has written a great deal about ethical behavior for authors, has this to say about reciprocal reviews. But below, I have my take on the issue.

Top 10 Reasons Why Reciprocal Reviews Are Unethical by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

But  I believe that reciprocal reviews have the potential of being unethical simply because any quid pro quo arrangement could be intentionally tainted, possibly inaccurate and maybe even dishonest.

1. On their own, individual reviews don’t make a huge difference. Let’s be honest. While it helpful to have some reviews on Amazon.com, it’s like throwing a bucket of water on the house fire. You’re doing something but it won’t be enough. It is far better to have an accumulation of them, from actual readers, all with a variety of opinions about your story. Too many five star reviews is just as suspicious as no reviews at all.

2. Someone in a reciprocal arrangement is getting the short end of the stick. You hand me over your copy of  Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses‘and you yank a copy of Falling For Your Madness out of my hands and the idea, you say, is that we both write a review.So then I read Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses and I discover a lot of problems. I may find tons of spelling and grammatical errors. I may also discover the work is derivative or sloppy or badly formatted or kinda dumb. You give my book a solid 4 star review. But it would be a stretch to give yours two. So you come out with a loss. Unless I lie and give you a four or five star review, which goes against my conscience.  At that point the loss is mine. This idea of reciprocity sounds even, but it’s not. Not by a long shot.

3. Reciprocal reviews do not build up trust, do not strengthen friendships, rarely improve one’s writing — they just boost numbers. What if the case is reversed and I give your Princess Zombie book five stars and you give my FFYM two? Wouldn’t my feelings get hurt? Wouldn’t I avoid asking you in the future? If we both lie, just to make each other comfortable, we’re not doing either of us any favors.

No one is going to stop you from soliciting reciprocal reviews from your writer friends.

It’s likely you can collect a few dozen and no one will notice.

But in the long run, your reputation could be at stake.

4. Art is subjective. The whole 1-5 star system is not a very good one. I once got a two star review because the reader thought that I didn’t give enough attention to the suffering mother as she gave birth in my story. (Oh, and you better believe I wanted to respond to that!) This imperfect system already has too much corruption and too many people who take advantage of it. Reserve your reviews for books that you read, not books that someone is making you read.  That way you can enjoy the subjectivity of our art and be free to leave the reviews you want to about it.

5. Reciprocal Reviews turn a gift into an act of commerce. We give our heart and souls into our work for our readers. If we’re lucky, our readers respond to our art with their reviews, recommendations, follows or other examples of reader love. A reciprocal review, by someone that has already agreed to a favorable report, cheapens the act of art itself.

6. Reciprocal reviews tell yourself and the world that you don’t have the means to earn success through your own merit. Why do we even publish if we’re going to manipulate the system? Personally, I want to be known as a great writer. I want it to be because of my skills, my craftsmanship, my own hard work. If I depend on the manipulations of others to become great, then the victories will be far emptier.

And believe me, I’ve got far better things to do than check on you. 

But that doesn’t make it right nor fair.

7.  Reciprocal reviews are like gift exchanges at Christmas. The best gifts are those that you give. They’re the ones that you’ve thought about, that you’ve worked for, that you’ve discovered is the perfect gift for someone you love.  So not only do you give the gift, you give the meaning and affection behind the gift. But if you give a gift because you have to, then you think about equal values and “what if she gives me something nicer” and the whole reason that you give gifts in the first place, out of love and affection, is completely squashed.

8. The goal of reciprocal reviews is fairness. Fairness is a poor marketing strategy. Generosity, however, is an excellent one. Seth Godin in his book, Linchpin, said, “Stop settling for what’s good enough and start creating art that matters. Stop asking what’s in it for you and start giving gifts that change people. Then, and only then, will you have achieved your potential.” I believe this. I’d like to stop looking to the people around me to judge what is expected of me, like a reciprocal review. Instead, I want to look for ways to be generous and not expect anything. I believe this is the way to grow long term relationships which is far better than one review.

9. Reciprocal Reviews are based on fear. If I had you a copy of Falling For Your Madness, my fingers are crossed that you’ll like it. I’ll hope that the comments you make in your review are worth the effort it took to read the book. Hope is too positive of a word. I”ll probably be very anxious and fretful — hoping that my review of your book is fair enough. I may even go so far to count words.  If you bought it, I’ve already received my compensation. I’ll stand firm in the quality of the book and not be afraid of what you’ll say in your review. I have enough to stress out about in my life, thank you very much.

There is no such thing as an Author Ethics police. This is all the more reason to govern ourselves in the most excellent way to get reviews. 

10. Reciprocal Reviews are unethical if they hide facts from the readers. The act of hiding anything looks bad. If you avoid reciprocal reviews then you don’t have to worry about Amazon.com or anyone else connecting one of your readers with a review you left. I know that I don’t want any hint of impropriety linked to my name. I’d rather pass on your offer of reciprocity than risk an accusation of wrongdoing or misleading readers in the future.

Sales are great, good reviews are good too.

But our character and reputation lasts much longer.

Say no to reciprocal reviews and put yourself in the best possible light. 

#Top10Tuesday Top 10 Things That Are Wrong With Reciprocal Reviews

 

This has the potential of being my most controversial post yet.

And I like controversy about as much as I like snooty  moms asking me personal questions about the decisions I made in the raising of my children.

But  I believe that reciprocal reviews have the potential of being unethical simply because any quid pro quo arrangement could be intentionally tainted, possibly inaccurate and maybe even dishonest.

My friend Jane Steen, who has written a great deal about ethical behavior for authors, has this to say about reciprocal reviews. 

Top Ten Things That Are Wrong With Reciprocal Reviews
Top Ten Things That Are Wrong With Reciprocal Reviews

1. On their own, individual reviews don’t make a huge difference. Let’s be honest. While it helpful to have some reviews on Amazon.com, it’s like throwing a bucket of water on the house fire. You’re doing something but it won’t be enough. It is far better to have an accumulation of them, from actual readers, all with a variety of opinions about your story. Too many five star reviews is just as suspicious as no reviews at all.

2. Someone in a reciprocal arrangement is getting the short end of the stick. You hand me over your copy of  Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses‘and you yank a copy of Falling For Your Madness out of my hands and the idea, you say, is that we both write a review.So then I read Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses and I discover a lot of problems. I may find tons of spelling and grammatical errors. I may also discover the work is derivative or sloppy or badly formatted or kinda dumb. You give my book a solid 4 star review. But it would be a stretch to give yours two. So you come out with a loss. Unless I lie and give you a four or five star review, which goes against my conscience.  At that point the loss is mine. This idea of reciprocity sounds even, but it’s not. Not by a long shot.

3. Reciprocal reviews do not build up trust, do not strengthen friendships, rarely improve one’s writing — they just boost numbers. What if the case is reversed and I give your Princess Zombie book five stars and you give my FFYM two? Wouldn’t my feelings get hurt? Wouldn’t I avoid asking you in the future? If we both lie, just to make each other comfortable, we’re not doing either of us any favors.

Top Ten Things Wrong With Reciprocal Reviews
Top Ten Things Wrong With Reciprocal Reviews

4. Art is subjective. The whole 1-5 star system is not a very good one. I once got a two star review because the reader thought that I didn’t give enough attention to the suffering mother as she gave birth in my story. (Oh, and you better believe I wanted to respond to that!) This imperfect system already has too much corruption and too many people who take advantage of it. Reserve your reviews for books that you read, not books that someone is making you read.  That way you can enjoy the subjectivity of our art and be free to leave the reviews you want to about it.

5. Reciprocal Reviews turn a gift into an act of commerce. We give our heart and souls into our work for our readers. If we’re lucky, our readers respond to our art with their reviews, recommendations, follows or other examples of reader love. A reciprocal review, by someone that has already agreed to a favorable report, cheapens the act of art itself.

6. Reciprocal reviews tell yourself and the world that you don’t have the means to earn success through your own merit. Why do we even publish if we’re going to manipulate the system? Personally, I want to be known as a great writer. I want it to be because of my skills, my craftsmanship, my own hard work. If I depend on the manipulations of others to become great, then the victories will be far emptier.

Do Ethics for Writers Matter?
We spend a LOT of time last month talking about ethics on this website. Reciprocal reviews are only one part of it. Interested in this subject? Click the tags on #EthicalAuthor to find them all.

7.  Reciprocal reviews are like gift exchanges at Christmas. The best gifts are those that you give. They’re the ones that you’ve thought about, that you’ve worked for, that you’ve discovered is the perfect gift for someone you love.  So not only do you give the gift, you give the meaning and affection behind the gift. But if you give a gift because you have to, then you think about equal values and “what if she gives me something nicer” and the whole reason that you give gifts in the first place, out of love and affection, is completely squashed.

8. The goal of reciprocal reviews is fairness. Fairness is a poor marketing strategy. Generosity, however, is an excellent one. Seth Godin in his book, Linchpin, said, “Stop settling for what’s good enough and start creating art that matters. Stop asking what’s in it for you and start giving gifts that change people. Then, and only then, will you have achieved your potential.” I believe this. I’d like to stop looking to the people around me to judge what is expected of me, like a reciprocal review. Instead, I want to look for ways to be generous and not expect anything. I believe this is the way to grow long term relationships which is far better than one review.

9. Reciprocal Reviews are based on fear. If I had you a copy of Falling For Your Madness, my fingers are crossed that you’ll like it. I’ll hope that the comments you make in your review are worth the effort it took to read the book. Hope is too positive of a word. I”ll probably be very anxious and fretful — hoping that my review of your book is fair enough. I may even go so far to count words.  If you bought it, I’ve already received my compensation. I’ll stand firm in the quality of the book and not be afraid of what you’ll say in your review. I have enough to stress out about in my life, thank you very much.

10. Reciprocal Reviews are unethical if they hide facts from the readers. The act of hiding anything looks bad. If you avoid reciprocal reviews then you don’t have to worry about Amazon.com or anyone else connecting one of your readers with a review you left. I know that I don’t want any hint of impropriety linked to my name. I’d rather pass on your offer of reciprocity than risk an accusation of wrongdoing or misleading readers in the future.

No one is going to stop you from soliciting reciprocal reviews from your writer friends. It’s likely you can collect a few dozen and no one will notice.

There is no such thing as an Author Ethics police.

And believe me, I’ve got far better things to do than check on you and judge you. But that doesn’t make it right nor fair. Please carefully consider the points I make in this post. I want to encourage you to make choices in every area of your writing career that puts you in the very best light, not one that could be seen as sneaky or manipulative or misleading.

 

 

This book doesn't exist. But it could if you wanted it to bad enough. Click the link to find out how.
This book doesn’t exist. But it could if you wanted it to bad enough. Click the link to find out how.

 

Love Your Reader, Love Your Art, Love Yourself A Guest Post By A. E. Snow

 

The first two weeks of February are #ethicalauthors weeks here at 10 Minute Novelists.

As an author and a reader, I got to thinking about authors who misbehave and how that can affect their readers and how it affects their art and their writing.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

Love your reader!

There are lots of ways to love your readers. Write about things you are passionate about. Engage with them. Appreciate them because really, they didn’t have to one-click and buy your book. They didn’t have to give you a five-star review. Always be giving back to them. It’s a lot to keep up with but loving your reader is easy.

There is more to this loving your reader stuff than just the above list. If you love your readers and want love in return, then be an author they can be proud of supporting. There are so many authors I’m proud to support. But several times in the last year or two, I’ve been terribly disappointed in authors I loved. Not because of their opinions on controversial topics, although unless writing about controversial topics is what they do, but it’s usually best to stay away from politics, religion, etc.

How not to love your reader: 

Post hateful messages on your social media. Your readers don’t deserve a huffy rant directed at them. For instance, if you become a successful author, you will get a lot of messages and probably a lot of questions. A huffy rant about how busy you are and how you don’t have time to answer questions and people should just look in the FAQ is not loving your reader. It’s not exactly unethical to do this but it’s rude and being rude only ever helped Oscar the Grouch’s career.

There was a pretty infamous situation last year involving an author stalking a troll. I loved her book. Loved it. Sang its praises all over the place, tweeted her, and took a screenshot when she tweeted me back. Then stalker-gate happened. It quickly became difficult to promote said book and said author even though I really loved the book. Don’t put your reader in that position. Yikes. If ever you have an urge to stalk someone over a bad review, get up and back away from the laptop. Go on vacation! You obviously need a break.

Don’t ask your readers to pick sides. Let’s pretend that you are a writer that had a bad experience with a blogger. This can happen and it is best kept out of the spotlight. Definitely don’t tweet about it. Later on, if the blogger has a difficulty, don’t go gloating about it anywhere but to your best friend and maybe not even then. It happens all the time that an author will encourage his/her readers to go after a blogger or reviewer and the reverse is true as well. Do not engage!

In this day and age, selling books has a lot to do with relationships both with potential readers and with other authors. It’s a wonderful and helpful thing to work with other authors and to promote each other. There is a line. Observe the line! If it feels yucky, it probably is.

Self-promotion is tricky. On social media, there is a strong temptation to self-promote a lot. You can even schedule tweets! Many people schedule promotional tweets which is totally fine. But you need to do more than that. While you want to promote yourself and your work, you aren’t creating relationships or loving your readers if it’s all you ever do. Give the poor people a break! Be cute, funny, or charming about two thirds of the time. The other third, you can say “buy my book.” You aren’t going to have any readers who love you if you harass them to death. Except your mom. Does your mom count? No and she’s probably not on social media anyway.

Love your art

Last summer, I met a fellow parent when we set up next to each other on the beach. My mom, of course, told everyone on the beach that I was a writer. Who needs self-promotion when one’s mom is around? My mom is like a one-man street team. Anyway, he was interested because he had an idea for a book. It wasn’t a bad idea, but there was nothing different about his idea. There are probably two hundred books out there with the same premise. His plan was to quit his job as a successful lawyer and be a stay-at-home dad who writes best-selling books. Hahaha! Poor guy. First of all, writing with children around is not what we call easy. It is hard and probably had something to do with the creation of 10 Minute Novelists in the first place. Secondly, that isn’t how it works. If you like to write and your plan is to make a lot of money then take a hundred steps back right into your law office, sit down at your desk, and practice law.

Loving your art means a couple of things. It means love it so much that you do it even though the reality that you will strike it rich and a movie will be made from your book is miniscule. You will get struck by lightning before this happens. 

It also means to respect your art and your fellow artists. Many writers go into writing with this mindset: I read this or that crappy book and I know I can write a better book so I will! Listen, reading one book in one genre does not mean that every book in that genre is bad. Twilight is an excellent example. While there were obviously plenty of people who didn’t care for it, there were plenty of people who did. Writing because you think you can do a better job is not a reason to write.

There are authors out there who wrote books that I really did not care for. I’m sure I’m not alone here. Publicly bashing these authors, even if you aren’t a successful author yet and only seven people follow you on Twitter, is not okay. Don’t do it. Love your fellow author because we are all in this together. Superiority complexes won’t get you anywhere. Kindness will get you connections friends who are willing to promote your work.

Love yourself enough to love your brand and to keep it positive. Be the author that other authors want to be friends with. It will only be a benefit to your career.

Happy writing and think before you tweet! 

authorphoto.jpg

A.E. Snow is a writer, mother, pet wrangler, and lives for books and publishing. She lives in a tiny mountain town with her husband, two children, three cats, a dog, and a partridge in a pear tree. A.E. has been writing since she was six. These days, she writes Young Adult, Chick-lit and Romance. She is proud to be a 10 Minute Novelist. Visit her website for more info about her new releases. www.aesnowauthor.wordpress.com

Author Spotlight: Meet Jane Steen

10 Minute Novelists is a community of writers from all over the world. Twice a month, we feature one of our writers. Today? It’s Jane Steen, author of House of Closed Doors and champion of Author Ethics.
Join Ethical Author Weeks! February 1-14, 2015
To continue this conversation, this blog is sponsoring Ethical Author Weeks February 1-14. Got questions on how you can start conversations on ethics on your blog? Leave a comment!

Welcome Jane!

1. How did the topic of ethics for authors become an interest of yours?

It just started out as an observation that there were quite a few authors out there behaving unprofessionally. I’ve been active on Goodreads as a reader for years, and I could see wave after wave of shock run around the community because an author had plagiarized another author’s work, or had attacked a reviewer in the comments thread, or they’d detected yet another reviewing ring (where a group of authors had all given each other five stars). I could see how these actions by a few authors were eroding the trust that should exist between reader and author. I began noticing in author groups that a few authors (not the majority) were treating the market as a free-for-all, proposing dodgy marketing tactics as the latest great idea and trying to coordinate actions that I knew, from the Goodreads side, were seen as spam at least and unethical at worst.

Author Spotlight: Jane Steen

So one day I spoke up. Ironically, shortly before I did that I wrote a blog post about how I wanted to be a writer, not a campaigner—it was never my intention to become “Mrs. Author Ethics” or anything like that. But now that my efforts have been taken up by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and groups like the 10 Minute Novelists, I can see there are several ways in which I can help new authors adopt professional ethics right from the beginning (and thus have long and happy careers). I’m hoping that in 2015 I can help make author ethics as popular a subject as how to produce great book covers or the best way to edit your book. I’m already seeing other authors discussing ethics and adopting the ALLi badge.

And then, when everyone accepts ethics of part of a writer’s toolkit, I hope to focus fully on my other writing. Think I’ll succeed?

2. Why are the specific points of the Code of Ethics so important?

The Code’s written as an outline of the most basic principles, not as a detailed “law.” So it’s easy for an author to adopt and follow, and it’s nice and short—eight short paragraphs, headed up by the guiding principle, which is to put your readers first. In the end this effort is all about respecting, appreciating and honoring the people without whom you wouldn’t be an author.

Badge, Ethical Author, ALLi
Click the image above to go to Jane Steen’s Code of Ethics or take a screen shot of the image, put it on your blog as a sign you’re an ethical author.

3. What have you learned by watching other authors’ bad behavior?

What not to do! I’ve often observed how a huge row frequently begins as a mistake on the author’s part—in the first flush of being an author (or sometimes, regrettably, once they get famous enough that they have fans telling them how great they are) they decide to take offence at the way readers behave. Yes, readers do things authors would prefer they wouldn’t—they post snarky reviews or totally misread your book or make moral and psychological judgments about YOU based on what your characters do, or blame you for getting history details wrong where in fact you’re right. That doesn’t justify the author in going on the attack against her own readers—in what other industry does a producer turn round and tell its consumers they’re idiots for not appreciating the beauty of its product?

I’ve learned from experience and observation that you’ve got to build up a relationship of trust with readers, and although you can (and I do) set some boundaries (I’ve deleted comments that are clearly troll attacks, for example), for the most part you just have to keep your professional face on and if you’re upset, tell your best friend and not the entire internet about it.

Do Ethics for Writers Matter?

4. What advice would you give new writers in regard to ethics?

Well, obviously I’d advise them to read the Ethical Author Code! Also, I’d advise new writers to seek out the best sources of knowledge about the publishing industry in general and their particular niche. Look for blogs by respected industry observers, journalists, book bloggers and successful authors—I read Joanna Penn, Jane Friedman, Hugh Howey, Anne R. Allen, Dear Author and many more every day. Making an effort to keep yourself informed about the industry is vital, even if you’re publishing with a Big Five publisher.

“The days when an author could just sit back and let someone else direct their career are gone. Take responsibility for yourself and your writing business.”
Historical Romance Author Jane Steen
Historical Romance Author Jane Steen

5. Tell us about your other goals for 2015?

In 2014 I came up with the idea of the 365K Challenge, and ended up writing over 380,000 total words—which included part of two novels in my series, and concepts for a standalone novel and a new series. This year I’m participating in the bigger 365K Challenge that the 10 Minute Novelists group has launched, but I’m also working toward my own new goal—2,000 words a day but only on weekdays, as I find it harder to write on weekends. (That’s over 500,000 words a year, by the way.)

My other goal is to become successful as an entrepreneur. This means gradually introducing all kinds of systems for success—planning, scheduling, daily productivity beyond my word count, and keeping up with the other responsibilities in my life. I have several measurable goals for 2015, but my overriding aim is to work out how to stay proactive about my business and my writing, and keep moving both forward.

6. Why do you love writing historical novels?

I find history increasingly fascinating. The more you read about it, the more you see how all the parts fit together! As I’ve grown older I’ve gained a much clearer view of how I fit into history, or perhaps I should say how history has shaped the world I live in and which informs my thinking. Writing the novels allows me to invent characters who are moving within a historical context that we understand because it’s already happened. They don’t know what’s going to happen, but the author (and frequently the reader) does. And I love writing about characters who have to cope with the absence of things we take for granted—antibiotics or plane travel or telephones.

The House of Closed Doors by Jane Steen
The House of Closed Doors

7. What is it about 1880s Chicago that is so fascinating?

I began The House of Closed Doors in 1870 because I wanted to write within a specific framework of the evolution of Poor Farms—and it was set in the Chicago area because that’s where I live (the inspiration for the story came from a photo of the County Poor Farm which used to stand on my town’s main street). Right now I’m writing about Chicago in 1876-1877, and if I write the whole series as originally planned I’ll end up in 1888, well into the Gilded Age. During that time span the world of my characters will make huge technological advances and there’ll be some major societal rumblings (women’s rights and the labor movement) that lay the groundwork of the massive changes that will happen through the catalyst of the two World Wars. So I’m watching the modern world emerge through the eyes of a set of characters I like and find fun to write.

Also, the dresses are GORGEOUS. The fashion for lots of embellishment in the 1870s and 1880s produced some absolutely stunning work at the top end of the price range, and filtered down to more everyday clothing in the form of an attention to detail we’ve almost completely lost in the West. My novels are for anyone who stares in rapt attention at the costumes in period TV shows or movies—that’s why I made Nell a dressmaker.

8. What is your definition of success?

I’d like to earn a modest living from being an author-entrepreneur, of course. But my real definitition of success would be to write some characters that people love so much they dress like them and write fan fiction about them and remember them long after I’m gone.

“No writer’s immortal, but a really good character can be—look how long King Arthur’s lasted, for example. My dream is to invent characters that fuel other people’s dreams.”

How Will You Know When You Are

9. What important things do we need to know about you?

I’m British—I married an American, which is why I live here. I’ve always been fascinated by languages, and by fine crafts—if I had multiple lifetimes I’d become fluent in more languages than English and French, and I’d do way more than knit lace shawls. I’m an avid reader, as you’d expect, and have had my nose stuck in a book since I was four years old. But I also love to be outdoors, and I run, walk, bike or ski on the local forest preserve trails most days. I’m happily married with two adult daughters. I’m not at all fond of housework, but messiness and dirt make me feel anxious so I force myself.

10. Please finish this:  I love my reader when I  ______________.  I love my art when I ______________. I love myself, as a writer, when I ________________.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

“I love my reader when I respect their opinions. I love my art when I give it the time and attention it deserves. I love myself, as a writer, when I celebrate my successes and acknowledge—and address—my weaknesses.”

Jane Steen lives with her husband and daughter in the Chicago area. 

#Top10 Tuesday Top Ten Ways To Love Your Art

In the first two weeks of February, the writers over on my Facebook group, 10 Minute Novelists, will be talking about  Love Your Reader, Love Your Art, Love Yourself.   Today’s top ten list is about what that means, to love your art. 

To read our Top 10 Ways To Love Your Reader, click here.

1. If you love your art, then you respect the masters. You have spend time reading the works of great writers, analyzing their style and choices. You’ve saturated yourself only with the best books so that you can be inspired and taught how to be great.

2. If you love your art, you don’t makes excuses for others’ bad works. This is tricky, but if we were truly respectful of the craft of writing, then we would have no trouble being honest in a review on  Amazon.com or Goodreads. We’d point out technical flaws, we’d question the author’s choices, we’d give our reasons for reducing our ratings from four to two stars. We’d be thoughtful and kind in our observations while at the same time backing up our claims.

Top Ten Ways To Love Your Art
Top Ten Ways To Love Your Art

3. If we are respectful of our art, then we should have no trouble with receiving critical reviews, even the ones we don’t agree with. We can’t leave honest reviews with integrity if we aren’t willing to receive honest ones in return.

4. If we respect our art, then we have studied the rules of it. Despite popular platitudes in the writing community there are rules to writing. If we respect our art, then we see the rules as helpful boundaries –especially those that allow us to be clearer and better understood, such as grammar! And spelling! If we respect our art, we don’t look for excuses to break the rules. Instead we look at the rules as friends.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14
#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

5. If we respect our art, then we are willing to put time into it. It is disrespectful to the art and to our readers if we are looking for ways to cut corners in our composition or creation. If we respect our art, we don’t look for easy answers like, “how many times do I rewrite this paragraph before it’s good enough?” The answer is “at least one more.”

6. If we respect our art, then we take the commitment to craft seriously. We read blogs, we read writing books, we go to conferences, we take notes, and we look for ways our prose can improve. You can’t love and respect your art if you are too proud to take correction.

7. If we respect our art, then we write every day. Every day! There has never been a concert pianist that didn’t sit down and play for hours on a regular basis. There will never be a great writer that doesn’t slap their butt in their chair and their hands on the keyboard. If we respect our art, then our diligence in regular writing should be like breathing.

Why can't I write?
That hashtag? That’s our Weekly Chat on Twitter! Join us!

8. If we respect our art, then we don’t tie our identity to the current work-in-progress. To respect our art means to allow it to stand alone, separate from us, open to the criticisms and praise of others. As time goes by, and we add more to our finished works, we see it as an entire body of work, with individual pieces that have each had a place in the building up of our careers. The single titles are not big enough to fill the satisfaction of a lifetime of hard work. (I’m not crazy about that sentence.)

9. If we respect our art, then we don’t compare it to others’ works. It is OUR art. We can be inspired by others, but to truly respect art, that means that we refuse to copy or cheapen our work by making it derivative of someone else’s.

10. If we respect our art, then we’re never in a hurry. The best things in life are the things that take time to nurture. Rushing through a story for the sake of publishing it weakens the art process and makes the final creation the literary equivalent of a Big Mac. Take your time. Do it right. Respect and love your reader.

So, what do you think? How can you respect your art? 

 

Love Your Reader, Love Your Art, Love Yourself a Guest Post by Jude Knight

When this post goes live, Valentine’s Day will be right around the corner, which is good, because this post is about love. Not romantic love, of course. Did you know that the Feast of St Valentine originally commemorated two or three different saints, and was associated with the beginning of Spring?

The connection between Valentine and romantic love is only a few hundred years old (700, to be exact). Before the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer made the link, the love that we celebrated on the Feast of St Valentine was not romantic love, but the love given by one who serves.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

As writers, we serve readers and, in a sense, we serve our stories. This post is about the love that we bring to that service.

Love your reader

As writers, we need readers. A living story is a collaboration between a writer and a reader. We provide the plot and the characters in our words, and the reader creates the pictures, the smells, and the input of all the other senses; feels the emotions; adds in the descriptive details we’ve left out.

Our readers are prepared to take time out of their busy lives to go on the story journey with us. They even pay hard-earned dollars to take our characters home with them. They deserve our respect. We love our readers by working hard to learn our craft; by writing, rewriting, and rewriting, until our work shines like the gem we know it can be; by giving them the very best we have in us.

We love our readers by thanking them for taking the time to leave a review; even one we don’t much like. Some people will not like what you write, and that’s okay. They have a right to express that opinion. (Jan O’Hara has written an excellent post on how some famous writers have set limits on that right when it impinges on the enjoyment of others. Some people forget that your right to wave your fist in my face stops just before my nose begins.)

Loving our reader doesn’t mean agreeing with them. Trying to agree with every single reader would be a swift road to insanity. The book is yours, and loving your reader requires you to first love your art.

Love your art

Your writing is part of you; the child of your brain and heart. Love your work the way a good parent loves their child. A good parent teaches manners, honesty, and hard work, not to be mean but because one day the child will be an adult, facing the world without the parent’s protection. If you want your book child to succeed, don’t accept bad spelling, continuity errors, and lost plot points. Write, rewrite, and rewrite.

And love what you do. According to Rob Parnell, you have the ingredients for success if writing is something you just have to do; if you get anxious when life keeps you from your keyboard, if the story is burning inside you to get out.

In order to be successful, you only need to love what you do. You don’t necessarily have to be any good at it – at least when you start.

Over the years I’ve seen this play out frequently – especially in writing. Technical proficiency and literary mastery pale into nothing when compared to sheer enthusiasm and drive.

Love yourself

I’ve been advised to tell agents, publishers and reviewers which other author I write like. I’m very uncomfortable with that question. Part of loving ourselves is finding – and being true to – our own voice. I can be a good Jude Knight. As I practice my craft and learn more and more, I can be a better Jude Knight. I’d be a mediocre Grace Burrowes or Stephanie Laurens, which is okay, because those two roles are already taken.

So love yourself. Believe in the voice you have. Trust your belief that your story is worth telling, and that the way you tell it is the right way.

Also love yourself enough to learn your craft. You wouldn’t enter a marathon without training, and you wouldn’t expect to win an Olympic gold medal without training a lot. Treat yourself with respect, and practice, practice, practice.

And finally, as the Desiderata that was popular when I was a teenager says, beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. We make plans, and sometimes they don’t work. Life happens. Or we make mistakes. There is a touch of arrogance in expecting more of yourself than you do of anyone else. So be kind. Love yourself.

i-XwBJcM5-L.jpg

Jude Knight has spent a career in commercial writing, and is now writing historical romance novels. She has a novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, available free at most e-retailers, and is publishing her first novel, Farewell to Kindness, in April.

Free download links on my book page: http://judeknightauthor.com/books/candles-christmas-chair/

Follow Jude on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JudeKnightBooks

Friend Judeon Facebook: http://facebook.com/judeknightbooks

Subscribe to Jude’s blog: http://judeknightauthor.com

Subscribe to Jude’s newsletter: http://judeknightauthor.com/newsletter/

Follow Jude on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/judeknight

 

#Top10 Tuesday Top Ten Ways To Love Your Reader

This month, on this website and over on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group, we’re talking about “Love Your Readers, Love Your Art, Love Yourself”.

Within this theme, we want to address good practices, good behaviors and general excellence.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14
#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

Today we want to talk about what it means to love your readers. 

Top 10 Ways To Love Your Readers

1. Be accessible.  This means have connections with your readers. Your social media presence should be there to nurture relationships, not just push your sales. Carefully consider every way that you and your brand are represented. If it’s not welcoming or easy to find, make some changes.

Top Ten Ways To Love Your Readers
Top Ten Ways To Love Your Readers

2. Be generous. This means you need to be a in a position to give without any expectation of return. Readers will flock to writers who have something to offer — and I’m not talking about your free download. I am talking about your practical advice, your words of inspiration, or your funny stories.

3. Be interested. Take the time to ask readers about themselves. What is their live like? What do you have in common? I find that if I turn my purpose from “connect with readers” to “make new friends” not only is it more fun, but I walk away far more satisfied. And you can’t measure good friends with Amazon rankings or blog hits.

“I do not want people to be very

4. Be excellent. This is a pretty important item on the list. If you have entered a relationship with a reader and they have actually paid money for your book, then you better respect that bond!  That means your book should be the very best it can be — professionally designed and edited, followed the rules of good storytelling and presented well.

 

5. Be authentic. It never ceases to amaze me how much people are drawn to me when I am honest about my weaknesses. It seems counter-intuitive; we think we should hide our flaws. But I’ve found that the more real I am, the more my readers (who are now my friends) circle around me to support me. My weaknesses then becomes my strength!

6. Be a soft sell. This whole “buy my book” mindset is beyond annoying. I suggest you scrap any sales strategy that is repetitive and one-sided. Instead, lower your expectations for numbers, work on finding readers one at a time and stick it out for the long haul. This type of strategy will work far better for you in the future.

selling books ebooks marketing hard sell

7. Be light-hearted. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Yes, you’ve written a book. That’s a great accomplishment that thousands if not millions do every year. If fight for that image as a special snowflake then you’re pushing people, and potential readers, away.

8. Be consistent. This is also a pretty important item on this list. Your brand needs to be predictable. Your readers need to know that when they pick up a book with your name on it, they can expect certain things. If you’re a blogger, you need to stick to a schedule. Consistency keeps your words in front of your readers so they don’t forget you.

9. Be yourself.  If you keep looking to the right or left so you can copy what that other writer did,  you need to STOP IT RIGHT NOW! You will never get anywhere by trying to be derivative! Instead write freely, with blinders on, doing the best you can in your own voice. (That doesn’t excuse you from being excellent!)

“There is no greater agony than bearing

10. Be unique. Our lives are filled with unique stories, experiences, struggles and pain that qualifies us to have a niche in this world. Take the time to find yours. Don’t rush this. Everything that you’ve experienced, good or bad, has been given to you so that you can use it to be generous to others. Your readers need you.

What else is there? What else can we do to love our readers? As a reader, how do you like to be appreciated? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! 

Are You An Ethical Author? Take This Quiz full of Taylor Swift & Zombie References!

 Get A Pencil! Let’s Take A Quiz!

1. Have you ever used the words “best-selling” to describe your own books, when what you mean is that of all the books stored in your closet, Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses, really has generated the most sales?

2. Have you ever claimed that you were in a professional writers association, like International Fiction Writers Who Use Modems when you let your membership expire in 1998?

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 10.59.26 AM

3. Have you claimed that you sold thousands of copies, when really you sold 556 and you just rounded up?

4. Have you ever made up an endorsement for the back of the book, like say, “Taylor Swift called, ‘Your Guide To  Amish Zombie Princesses’ the inspiration for her next album, coming out in 2016″? When the closest you got to Taylor Swift was when you accidentally changed your Pandora station from Muzak to ubiquitous pop tunes?

5.  Have you ever been so upset over a negative review about your book online, that you called your mother and asked her to change it?

This book doesn't exist. But it could if you wanted it to bad enough. Click the image to find out how.
This book doesn’t exist. But it could if you wanted it to bad enough. Click the image to find out how.

6. Have you ever gone online under a pseudonym, say, Mary Jane Smith, and posed as a raving fan of Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses, just so you could boost sales and generate buzz and possibly get the attention of Taylor Swift?

7. Have you ever attacked other authors in the Amish Zombie Princess genre, just so that your book will look better? That’s impressive if you have because there are, thousands, you know?

8. Do you approach other authors privately, making deals to reciprocate positive reviews so that you look better? Do you ever reward someone, like say, promising them they’ll meet Taylor Swift next week at your house for pizza night, if they give you a five star review?

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 10.50.31 AM

9. Have you ever taken the work of others, say, Dan Brown’s How To Fight Off Mennonite Undead Queens,  and then tweaked it just a little to pass it off as your own?

10. Have you been accurate and fair in your finances? Or have you manipulated your numbers so that you aren’t taxed by all that income that Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses has made in 2014?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then you may not be an Ethical Author!!

All kidding aside. Each one of these ‘questions’ were exaggerated to prove a point. Is is possible, and sadly very common, to slip into dishonorable and unethical behaviors for the sake of a sale. 

Many of us are new to publishing and have no idea what we should do to promote ourselves. Often our goal is just to gain any advantage we can in an increasingly competitive market. We may feel “creativity” in marketing trumps courteous behavior. We may suggest trading reviews with another author, not realizing this behavior could weaken our credibility. We may be so distracted by the elusive promise of financial success that we neglect to nurture our art. Or we may attach our pursuit of fame so tightly to our own identities that we can’t tolerate criticism in public forums.

 We may fear speaking to other authors about their questionable practices because we don’t feel we have either the authority to speak nor a reference point for better behavior. We may champion “truth” in the words that we write, through gritty characters and accurate descriptions, yet cover up our own discrepancies, create false identities or fabricate falsehoods to gain advantage in this industry.

 The majority of authors avoid these behaviors, and yet they do happen and are widely publicized.

One response has been the Ethical Author Code, an initiative supported by the Alliance of Independent Authors for the consideration of “any writer who has published a long-form work of fiction or non-fiction, either via a trade publisher or self-publishing platform.”

We suggest that the first two weeks of February, 2015 should be devoted to broadcasting this code to as many writers as possible.

Join Ethical Author Weeks! February 1-14, 2015
Join Ethical Author Weeks! February 1-14, 2015

Why are we doing this?

Because authors have never had so much freedom. But with freedom, we must accept responsibility for our public persona, our works whether self-published or traditionally published, and our relationships with our readers.

 During this two week period, we’d like to get as many writers as possible to commit to promoting author ethics in as many ways as possible.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14
#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

Our Objectives in Creating #EthicalAuthor Weeks

 1.Widespread author awareness of ethics through conversations on blogs, in real life and on social media.

2. Commitments to the Ethical Author Code.

3. Adoption of the Ethical Author badge by as many writers as possible.

Badge, Ethical Author, ALLi
This is the Ethical Author Badge. Take a screen shot of it and put it on your blog. I did.

During February 1-14, 2015, we’d like for writers worldwide to do any of the following:

  • Publish blog posts about their own personal commitment to ethics.
  • Interview other writers who’ve had experiences dealing with ethics issues.
  • Link to this article or others like it that in support of author ethics.
  • Tweet about changes they are going to make in their own practices using the #ethicalauthor hashtag.
  • Ask authors in their circles to read over the Ethical Author Code.
  • Start conversations on social media about author ethics.
  • Think through what being an ethical author means to them and change any questionable behaviors.
  • Display the Ethical Author badge on their blog or website.

The Ethical Author Code 

Putting the reader first

 When I market my books, I put my readers first. This means that I don’t engage in any practices that have the effect of misleading the readers/buyers of my books. I behave professionally online and offline when it comes to my writing life.

Courtesy

 I behave with courtesy and respect toward readers, other authors, reviewers and industry professionals such as agents and publishers. If I find myself in disagreement, I focus on issues rather than airing grievances or complaints in the press or online, or engaging in personal attacks of any kind.

 Aliases

 I do not hide behind an alias to boost my own sales or damage the sales or reputation of another person. If I adopt a pen name for legitimate reasons, I use it consistently and carefully.

 Reviewing and rating books

 I do not review or rate my own or another author’s books in any way that misleads or deceives the reader. I am transparent about my relationships with other authors when reviewing their books.

 I am transparent about any reciprocal reviewing arrangements, and avoid any practices that result in the reader being deceived.

 Reacting to reviews

 I do not react to any book review by harassing the reviewer, getting a third party to harass the reviewer, or making any form of intrusive contact with the reviewer. If I’ve been the subject of a personal attack in a review, I respond in a way that is consistent with professional behavior.

Book promotions

 I do not promote my books by making false statements about, for example, their position on bestseller lists, or consent to anyone else promoting them for me in a misleading manner.

 Plagiarism

 I know that plagiarism is a serious matter, and I don’t intentionally try to pass off another writer’s words as my own.

 Financial ethics

 In my business dealings as an author, I make every effort to be accurate and prompt with payments and financial calculations. If I make a financial error, I remedy it as soon as it’s brought to my notice.

 Responsibility

 I take responsibility for how my books are sold and marketed. If I realize anyone is acting against the spirit or letter of this Code on my behalf, I will refer them to this Code and ask them to modify their behavior.

If you have any questions, or want to discuss these issues. Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Do Author Ethics Matter? A Guest Post by Jane Steen

Jane Steen, a member of the Facebook group, 10 Minute Novelists, shares with us today about good practices and ethical behavior for writers. This is an important issue for everyone who has published either traditionally or independently. Please read and consider carefully Jane’s thoughtful suggestions on ethics for authors. 

Do Ethics for Writers Matter?

Read the Ethical Author Code here

A short history of how I came to draft the Ethical Author Code

It started with a Facebook conversation between authors. Someone suggested a visibility tactic that involved, I think, upvoting your own book on a site. I can’t remember the specifics. But I do remember writing, “I don’t think that’s ethical.”

Up to that point, I hadn’t seen the word “ethics” used much in online places frequented by writers. Which isn’t to say that people weren’t being ethical.

Most authors behave ethically as a result of innate honesty or from a good upbringing. Many have a grounding in business ethics gained from years in the workplace.

And yet we all know there are rotten apples in the barrel. As an avid reader and reviewer who spends far too much time on Goodreads, I’m perhaps more aware than most authors of the damage unethical behavior does.

The activities of an unscrupulous minority have harmed the reputation of authors as a group, and self-published authors in particular. Book bloggers and top reviewers—the very people whom authors most wish to befriend—are extremely sensitive to breaches of ethics and etiquette, and their standards are high.

Very high. I’ve learned to see through their eyes, and I knew that readers perceived the tactic proposed in that Facebook conversation  as spammy and unethical. So I spoke up.

A lively discussion ensued and I defended my position. I explained why authors owe it to themselves, to each other and, above all, to their readers to hold themselves to an ethical standard. As a result of that conversation the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) invited me to contribute a post on ethics to the Self-Publishing Advice blog. I hoped to light a tiny fire to combat all the wrong-headed marketing advice I was seeing in writer groups and, worse, the growing animosity shown by authors to readers who dared to criticize their books.

I hadn’t anticipated the amount of attention my post would get on Twitter. I hadn’t expected the sudden eruption of YA novelist Kathleen Hale into book blogger infamy with her gleeful doxxing*—on a major website—of a reviewer who’d given her novel one star on Goodreads. I hadn’t foreseen the British case of a novelist who slugged his reviewer on the back of the head with a wine bottle, leaving her with concussion and stitches.

Within a month of my original blog post I’d been asked to draft an Ethical Author Code—which, let me tell you, is easier said than done. But with the help of the ALLi leadership and others, the Code went up on the ALLi website in time for the FutureBook conference in London. There ALLi’s Orna Ross announced it as a Big Idea that might help shape the future of the publishing industry. Blimey.

The Ethical Author Code isn’t just for self-publishers, by the way.

It’s for “any writer who has published a long-form work of fiction or non-fiction, either via a trade publisher or self-publishing platform.”

Because personal responsibility doesn’t stop when you sign a publishing contract.

The four major objections to the idea of an Ethical Author Code

As you can imagine, I’ve participated in a few discussions about ethics since then. I think I’ve identified the four major areas of pushback against the notion of an Ethical Author Code. Each point has its variants, but they go roughly like this:

  1.  How can we enforce the Code? And if we can’t enforce it, what’s the point of having it?
  2. Why do we need a code or badge to show people we’re ethical? Shouldn’t they judge us by our actions?
  3. This has all been done before, and failed. Stop flogging a dead horse.
  4. Big Publishing employs all kinds of unethical business practices, and nobody objects to those. Why should individual authors be held to a standard that the corporations don’t keep?

These all seem like pretty compelling arguments for sitting on our hands and doing nothing. In this individualistic world, people are uncomfortable with the idea of being told what to do, and it’s that sense of discomfort that runs through all the objections I’ve encountered.

I’m here to argue that we authors are the ones who hold the power to mend the breaks the book world has suffered as a result of the unethical behavior of a minority. And I believe we can do it with as much flexibility and freedom as we all feel we need, given how different every author’s experience of publishing is these days.

I want to take the negatives of each of these objections and turn them around. I’d like to empower authors to encourage each other to a high standard of professional behavior, in the same way that we encourage each other to improve our writing craft and output.

Join Ethical Author Weeks! February 1-14, 2015
To continue this conversation, this blog is sponsoring Ethical Author Weeks February 1-14. Got questions on how you can start conversations on ethics on your blog? Leave a comment!
1. A code of ethics isn’t about enforcement—it’s about personal responsibility

The point of having an Ethical Author Code isn’t to create some kind of ethics police. I’m not—never have been—interested in criticizing what other people do, and I don’t think you should be either. If you come across unethical behavior that infringes the terms of service of the website where it occurs, by all means report it or flag it or do whatever’s necessary, and then get on with your day. Finding a procedural way to deal with unethical behavior is vastly preferable to expressing your outrage on your blog or on social media, even if you’re offended because the host site doesn’t seem to be dealing with your complaint fast enough. (Believe me, if enough people complain, they will eventually take action).

The Ethical Author Code isn’t about other people—it’s about you. It’s about your commitment to being a true professional, one who employs ethics and etiquette as part of her author’s toolbox. I’ve been hugely encouraged to see authors referring to the Code when asking others for their opinion about a marketing ploy they’re thinking of using.  It means they’re concerned about the long-term consequences of their actions. It’s that kind of long-term thinking that distinguishes the author who’ll go on to have a long and successful career as a beloved member of the book-loving community. Isn’t that what we all aspire to?

One variant of the unenforceability argument is the claim that if authors are to adopt an ethical code, so should, say, reviewers. How come they’re allowed to be vulgar and abrasive and offensive in their reviews, and we’re just supposed to turn the other cheek? Well, this is an area where we just have to take it on trust: taking responsibility for ourselves, rather than existing in a permanent state of outrage about other people, is the best policy for the long term. Somebody’s got to be the grownup, and since we’re the ones asking people to pay us to write, that’s us. Again, it’s about you, dear author, taking the decision to be the most professional You that you can be.

2. Think of the Code as a rallying point

I’ve noticed something about writers. They’re not joiners. Or maybe they’ve joined writers’ groups in the past and haven’t been comfortable with what they’ve found there. And if you’re already acting ethically, why should you have to tell people that? Won’t making a public declaration that you’re ethical make people suspect the opposite?

If that’s your objection, I’d ask you to think again. You already belong to a large group of people known to the public as Authors. The reading public make surprisingly few distinctions between the traditionally published and self-published, the avant-garde and the conservative, the professional and the sloppy. Authors—as a group—have a public image, and it’s not always a particularly professional one. What other people do is affecting you right now—it’s affecting your sales and your readers. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard avid readers say that they’re mostly reading books by authors who are no longer living and can’t throw a hissy fit about a negative review. Readers are no longer restricted to the books available in the library or the local bookstore—thanks to online shopping and e-readers, they have access to just about every book ever written.

And yet people are wired (somehow) to look up to writers in their communities. Perhaps it’s a halo effect that dates back to the days when our ancestors sat around a communal fire, breathlessly listening to the storyteller acting out tales of history and imagination. Perhaps there’s a sort of inbuilt assumption that those of us born with the gift of expressing ideas in fiction or otherwise are leaders, worthy of respect.

Go back to the Code and read it carefully. If you agree with its provisions—and if you’re like most authors, I’m sure you do—then think of making a public commitment to it as a rallying point, a way of showing your readers that you’re putting them first. It’ll take the efforts of a large number of authors over time to make an impact on the reading world, but I think we can do it.

3. A good idea should never be buried

I’m sure someone’s raised the notion of a code of ethics for authors before. All good ideas are perennial—each generation simply shapes them to fit their particular environment. And yet before writing the Code, I did an internet search on author ethics, and found—nothing. Whatever happened in the past didn’t stick around long enough, or didn’t quite have the right qualities to succeed. Or the timing wasn’t right. Ideas are like inventions—they need the right environment to flourish, and I believe we’ve got that environment now. Traditionally published authors know they have options they didn’t have before. Many self-publishers have grown from slightly unpolished beginners to consummate professionals. We’re closer to our readers than ever before, and promoting ethical behavior is a great way to show them we care about that relationship.

4. We’re leaders, not followers

The publishing world is changing fast. The largest publishers, of course, are the slowest to change, and that’s understandable. Over the years they developed a whole bunch of marketing tactics that worked because the market was much more concentrated in certain places (e.g. bookstores, print journals with review sections, bestseller lists.) They’re clinging to that older model because it still works up to a point.

It’s odd, though, that individual authors want to imitate those tactics, since they don’t have anything like the budget or the marketing staff the big publishers have. They often end up trying second-tier versions that veer close to unethical and often come across as spammy and offputting to savvy readers. Authors who are quietly achieving success in the new market conditions don’t use these tactics. The formula for long-term success is clear: write well, publish often, build your fanbase through the smart use of social media, and curate your backlist. There are a great many authors out there earning a living without even bothering about bestseller lists or co-op placements. They know that there aren’t any shortcuts—they work hard for what they get, they understand the business and they’re professional.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14
#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

If you’re going to follow anyone, follow those authors. At the same time, the big publishing companies are coming under fire for some of those tried-and-trusted techniques. It’s possible that in ten years’ time many of those hallowed marketing strategies will be history. Using the practices of publishing corporations as an excuse to engage in unethical behavior is like building a house on quicksand–a poor long-term strategy for success.

I—and ALLi, which has been so instrumental in fanning the flames of the very small fire I lit back in August—see the Ethical Author Code as a win-win situation.

We’re looking for as many individual authors, readers, bloggers, writers’ organizations and publishing industry corporations as possible to express their agreement that ethics and etiquette are valuable tools for long-term success. As we near the end of the Gold Rush era of self-publishing and the traditional publishing world continues to change, I think we’ll find that the most successful authors are those who’ve learned to operate as highly professional creative entrepreneurs. And they don’t work in a vacuum—most successful authors are also well plugged into groups and organizations where they can motivate and support each other. They’re talking about best business practices, comparing notes on publishers, agents and service companies, and sharing tips for success. They’re starting to see publishers—large and small—as potential partners rather than as employers.

Above all, they’re aware of the responsibility that they shoulder when they expect readers to pay them to write books. The Ethical Author Code is, I hope, just the beginning of a discussion of the right way to do business. I’m hoping that in the not too distant future, books on business ethics and etiquette for authors will be on our shelves right next to the books on writing craft, or advice on book covers and marketing. In this maturing disrupted market, the keys to success will be quality and excellence in every aspect of a writer’s professional life. I’d love it if you could help me get the conversation going about the piece of the puzzle that’s been missing up till now.

Jane Steen is an historical fiction writer and lives in the Chicago area. 

*doxxing or doxing is the online disclosure of information someone else would rather have kept private, such as her real name, address, phone number and so on.

Love Your Readers, Love Your Art, Love Yourself: Introducing #EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

 

Are you one of those writers?

You know, the kind that does whatever it takes to get a sale? Are you the kind that responds publicly to a bad review? Do you manipulate your public numbers to look better than you really are? Do you neglect excellence in your writing for the sake of a fast buck?

Of course you’re not. But you probably know someone who is.

Even if you haven’t, you see these kind of writers everywhere. You read about their bad behavior. You nudge the author next to you and say, I can’t believe they did that. And sometimes, the response you get is, but isn’t there no such thing as bad publicity?

And then,  perhaps you think to yourself: Am I doing this all wrong?  Writers everywhere are behaving badly and getting away with it. Aren’t they?

This industry — writing, publishing and marketing in the information age — is still so new that good practices haven’t caught up yet. In some ways modern writers don’t know what is good behavior and what isn’t.

I’d like to suggest, in light of recent events, and with help of friends like Jane Steen and the folks at ALLi,  that we set aside time to discuss author ethics.

 This blog post is to propose a two-week period for these discussions. We are inviting you to join us for Ethical Author Weeks, February 1-14, 2015.

In these two weeks, we’d like for conversations on blogs, websites, chats, groups, tweets, etc to be started worldwide.

Join Ethical Author Weeks! February 1-14, 2015
Join Ethical Author Weeks! February 1-14, 2015

Ethics, at its core, is choosing to take responsible public action out of respect for our readers, our art and ourselves.

We love our readers when produce excellent work and allow them the freedom to critique us honestly in public forums.
We love our art when we choose not to cheapen it with slimy sales techniques and editorial short cuts.
We love ourselves when hold each other to high standard of behavior in our public appearances both online and real life.

 

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14
#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14 If you’re in, take this graphic. Put it on your blog in February!

 The following code was written recently by the Alliance of Independent Authors and is for the consideration of “any writer who has published a long-form work of fiction or non-fiction, either via a trade publisher or self-publishing platform.”

During this two week period, February 1-14, 2015,  I’d like to get as many writers as possible to commit to promoting Author Ethics in as many ways possible.

Please consider doing the following: 

Publish blog posts about your own personal commitment to ethics.

Interview other writers who’ve had experiences dealing with ethics issues.

Link to this article or others like it that in support of author ethics.

Tweet about changes you are going to make in their own practices using the #ethicalauthor hashtag.

Ask authors that you are associated with to read over the Code of Ethics written by ALLi.

Start conversations in whatever social media connections you may have about author ethics.

Think through what being an ethical author means to you and change any questionable behaviors.

Paste the Ethical Author badge on your blog or website as a promise to all who see it that this author will do their best to honor it.

Badge, Ethical Author, ALLi
This is the Ethical Author Badge. Take a screen shot of it and put it on your blog. I did.

 

The Ethical Author Code

Guiding principle: Putting the reader first

 When I market my books, I put my readers first. This means that I don’t engage in any practices that have the effect of misleading the readers/buyers of my books. I behave professionally online and offline when it comes to my writing life.

 Courtesy

 I behave with courtesy and respect toward readers, other authors, reviewers and industry professionals such as agents and publishers. If I find myself in disagreement, I focus on issues rather than airing grievances or complaints in the press or online, or engaging in personal attacks of any kind.

 Aliases

 I do not hide behind an alias to boost my own sales or damage the sales or reputation of another person. If I adopt a pen name for legitimate reasons, I use it consistently and carefully.

 Reviewing and rating books

 I do not review or rate my own or another author’s books in any way that misleads or deceives the reader. I am transparent about my relationships with other authors when reviewing their books.

 I am transparent about any reciprocal reviewing arrangements, and avoid any practices that result in the reader being deceived.

 Reacting to reviews

 I do not react to any book review by harassing the reviewer, getting a third party to harass the reviewer, or making any form of intrusive contact with the reviewer. If I’ve been the subject of a personal attack in a review, I respond in a way that is consistent with professional behavior.

Book promotions

 I do not promote my books by making false statements about, for example, their position on bestseller lists, or consent to anyone else promoting them for me in a misleading manner.

Plagiarism

 I know that plagiarism is a serious matter, and I don’t intentionally try to pass off another writer’s words as my own.

 Financial ethics

 In my business dealings as an author, I make every effort to be accurate and prompt with payments and financial calculations. If I make a financial error, I remedy it as soon as it’s brought to my notice.

 Responsibility

 I take responsibility for how my books are sold and marketed. If I realize anyone is acting against the spirit or letter of this Code on my behalf, I will refer them to this Code and ask them to modify their behavior.

 More information about the movement behind Author Ethics can be found here: http://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/futurebook14-big-idea-ethical-author

So, are you in? Do you want to be an ethical author? Can you commit to any of the above actions?

And what do you think? I’d love to hear from you.