There’s a lot of talk online lately about the role of authors, and their behavior online, especially when it comes to responding to negative reviews. As a human being, I can’t imagine how these authors can look themselves in the mirror after some of the things they’ve done, like literally stalking a reader who wrote, “I think this book is awfully written and offensive; its execution in regards to all aspects is horrible and honestly, nonexistent.” Sure, it was mean, but everyone has a right to their opinion, and finding their home address with the intention of confronting them is absolutely unacceptable. Writing about it after the fact, as an example of “catfishing” and the misbehavior of online bullies, only makes it worse. The author was out of line. We are professionals, and need to act like it.
As my beta readers can attest, I take the good with the bad when it comes to criticism. Since the whole point with beta readers is to find out what works and what doesn’t within the story, before publication, I might ask questions and perhaps discuss their opinions if they’re open to it, but I don’t think I’ve ever become confrontational about their feedback, and certainly not in an open forum.
I haven’t yet published Sanyare: The Last Descendant, but I feel strongly about this issue. I will never respond to a review online, whether good or bad, because it’s not my place to be involved. Once it’s finished and out there for sale, the book is no longer mine. It’s the readers’. Work to find some true fans, and you won’t have to worry about the bullies. Let the fans come to the rescue.
Anyway, in response to all of this, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) has put together a new Ethical Author Code to promote professional behavior amongst authors, both traditionally and independently published:
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 the following practices in my writing life:
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.
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 behaviour.
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.
I know that plagiarism is a serious matter, and I don’t intentionally try to pass off another writer’s words as my own.
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.
I take responsibility for how my books are sold and marketed. If I realise 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 behaviour.
To me, this code just seems like common sense. So, although I’m not (yet) a member of ALLi, I’m voluntarily signing up to be a part of this movement. Independent publishing is a business, and I will be treating it that way.
Have you seen authors behaving badly? Do you think this code will help bring attention to the issue?