I recently came across Ja Konrath’s Writer’s Code of Ethics, which he developed because of the controversy on the internet about the behavior of some indie authors. Though it is tongue-in-cheek, he does reason that authors need to recognize that certain behavior is wrong, and pledge to not do the same.
As an indie author, do you have a writer’s code of ethics? You may not have written it down, but are there lines that you just won’t cross?
Until today, I had not considered the ethics of being a self-published writer. I’ve been using my sense of right and wrong to guide my behavior as an author. Throughout my life, I’ve lived by the golden rule, “Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.” But can this ethics of reciprocity be stretched to include “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours?” In other words, write me a glowing review and I’ll do the same for you.
When I published my first book, I joined a LinkedIn author’s group whose purpose was to help members get “likes” on Facebook. Without considering the ethics of this practice, I decided that this quid pro quo was not beneficial to me, and I left the group. I made the decision to leave the group based on the effectiveness vs. the time and effort spent; not on whether the practice was morally right or wrong.
Looking back, I would like to say that I left the group because I did not want to be participative in something that promulgated the stigma of self-publishing. In reality, I had just not thought too much about it. .
Indie authors struggle against the belief that their literature is substandard, with poorly developed plots and bad editing. They don’t need black marks against their integrity. That is why I believe that as indie authors we need to adhere to a high standard of ethical behavior.
Since there is no umbrella organization to which indie authors belong and whose code they could adopt, each writer must develop individual criteria for being an ethical author.
Before deciding what is right or wrong, each writer needs to analyze common indie author practices to see if the behavior is acceptable or if it crosses the line. There are many shades of gray, but the determinant factor, for me, is whether doing something is good for the indie-writer collective.
My author’s code of ethics
- Above all else, I will be an indie author with integrity.
- I will be professional in all aspects of authoring.
- In fairness to my readers, I will not exaggerate how well my book is selling (“best seller”), over-rate my book (“award-winning”), or make other misleading statements.
- I will not plagiarize. I respect a writers’ hard work and I will not steal it.
- I will be honest. I will not pay for an award, a glowing review, nor open a “puppet” (anonymous) account for the purpose of smearing my peers or rating my book.
- I will disclose my relationship with author’s when reviewing their books.*
- I firmly believe that writing is an open market and that there is always room for new writers. I will welcome these newbies and, when asked, offer support and guidance. Keeping what I have learned a secret helps no one and may even negatively affect the author community.
- I will not see my peers’ work as competition, but as seeding the market, creating a pool of readers that may eventually lead to mine.
I hope indie writers will accept an author’s code of ethics. So doing can only help elevate how the world sees self-publishers.
In Opinion: Why We Need to Talk About Ethics in Self-publishing, historical fiction writer, Jane Steen says that “we owe it to our readers and to ourselves” to have a code of ethics. She continues, “Our indie career is not just about the books we write—it’s about the person we are.”
Note: As a result of Ms. Steen’s opening the discussion about ethics in self-publishing, The Alliance of Independent Authors created an Ethical Author Code and offers an Ethical Author Badge to embed on your Website.
* I review other writer’s works, not in exchange for reviews of my books, but because I enjoy reading books, and then writing honest reviews. I post my rating system on my Webpage and judge the book accordingly.
Are you an ethical author? Will you be adding the insignia to your Website. Please comment, I would love to hear from your.