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. 

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

  1. Another aspect of point 2 is claiming that you’ve “sold” books when in fact they were free downloads. I’ve racked up in excess of 50,000 freebies, but the only books I claim to have sold are the (by the end of this month) 2,500 people have paid for.

    As for the “bestselling” label, that’s abused by all types of authors and publishers. I find myself wondering about the indie practice of buying your way onto bestseller lists by spending a fortune on promo ads, and then using “bestseller” as a marketing tool.

    Freebies and paid advertising are, of course, perfectly ethical ways to build your readership, and I’m not criticizing those practices in themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *