A little while ago, author Jane Steen wrote about the much-neglected question of author ethics. Events since then have proved that this vexed issue is one we all need to think about. From one author who published an account (in a national broadsheet, no less) of how she stalked an unimpressed reviewer, to another who allegedly physically assaulted a lady who wrote a lukewarm review of his book, badly behaved authors have been in the news, confirming readers’ worst fears and indirectly tarnishing the reputation of all authors.
Interestingly, the authors in question have come from all levels on the publishing spectrum, from the self-published to those published by major imprints, proving that no one group has a monopoly on bad (or good) behaviour. This is an industry-wide problem, affecting everyone – from those of us who self-publish in a very small, very modest way, to those who are published by the Big Six. It affects all strata of the writing and publishing world, from the obscure to the famous, from those who earn millions to those who earn pennies. And it’s about time that ethical authors, whatever their preferred method of publishing and whatever their level of success, stood up and said, “This is unacceptable behaviour.”
I wish to make it clear that the majority of authors, or at least those authors with whom I am personally acquainted, make a genuine and determined effort to abide by high ethical standards, and would be horrified by such aggressive (and downright creepy) conduct. For most of us who are published, by whatever method, readers are at the forefront of what we do, and are viewed as highly valued supporters and customers rather than people to be deceived, exploited, abused, or worse.
It is in response to recent developments, no doubt, that Steen and the Alliance of Independent Authors have launched the Ethical Author Code. Though spearheaded by ALLi, this initiative is not restricted to self-publishers; it is, rather, something that all ethical authors, whatever their preferred method of publication, can embrace. It’s not an externally imposed code of conduct, but an agreement between authors who intend to abide by a certain standard of ethical behaviour. I’d encourage all authors to read the code and, if they agree with it and wish to follow it, to sign up – and then, perhaps, to help spread the word.
It’s a small start, perhaps, but it’s a sign of your support for a certain level of standards, and a commitment to treat your readers with respect. Whether you’re self-published, trade-published, or unpublished, it’s a way to show your backing for ethical author behaviour. You’ll even be able to download this lovely badge, which you can place on your blog and elsewhere:
It is, as I said, a small step. Bad author behaviour will no doubt continue. But it’s a way for those of us who dislike deceptive, aggressive conduct to publicly distance ourselves from it. Let’s hope it catches on!