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How To Love Our Readers and Our Art: A Call For Author Ethics

kgrubb [1]Our guest today is Katharine Grubb [2]—a mommy, homeschooler, novelist, baker, comedian wanna be, former running coward, author of a novel (Falling for Your Madness) and a book about how to write in very small increments: Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day will be released on March 26.

[pullquote]For more information about author ethics in relation to self publishing, please see this excellent post by WU writer Porter Anderson [3], where he discusses 8 Issues in Author Ethics. Porter was actively involved with ALLi in bringing attention to the issues of author ethics.[/pullquote]

Katharine was introduced to the topic of author ethics by friend Jane Steen, the author of the Authors Code of Ethics [4] published by ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors). In 2014, she created the Facebook group called 10 Minute Novelists and during the month of February, author ethics were discussed. Katharine believes that not enough attention is given to good practices for writers. Independent publishing is rather new and has never been easier for authors, and she believes writers need to take their online presence seriously, love their readers, respect their art and hold themselves to an honorable standard as they promote themselves and their books.

Connect with Katharine on her blog [2], on Facebook [5], and on Twitter [6].

How To Love Our Readers and Our Art: A Call For Author Ethics

Why do we write?

We write to wade through the chaos of the world and find a clear path. We write because the pain we’ve faced in the world is so great that we need to see the truth of it on paper so it no longer has any hold on us. We write so that we can explain to others that exact feeling, that heart breaking conflict or that comforting truth. We write because if we didn’t our own misery would consume us. We write because we love to have written, we love to have someone read our words and smile. We write because we know words wielded well are powerful and change minds, hearts and lives.

[pullquote]We retaliate against bad reviews. We make shady deals to have our friends review our books in dishonest terms. We manipulate our numbers to make it appear that we’ve sold more books than we actually have. [/pullquote]Because we hold words and our art so dearly, we may find it difficult to release our words into the world. Our words and our reputation (what some of us call platform or brand) are closely tied to our words. We’ve precisely controlled the words so letting them go can be frustrating.

Admittedly, some of us have no confidence in our readers. They are notorious for glossing over the important parts, for ignoring the nuances and for missing the point. At times, we may believe that we are superior to our readers because we were once gods. We created the world that they hold in their hands. That our reader can read completely in a few hours what it took years for us to create galls us. That our reader can find another book cheaply and easily infuriates us. We use this, perhaps, to cloak ourselves in artistic and moral superiority. When we do that, when we taint what was once meant to be a gift to the world. When we slip into anything less than love for our reader we turn the beautiful into the ugly.

When we are ugly, we are very ugly. We retaliate against bad reviews. We make shady deals to have our friends review our books in dishonest terms. We manipulate our numbers to make it appear that we’ve sold more books than we actually have. We call ourselves “best seller” when we know no one will ask what that really means. We steal endorsements from the notable to make us look better. We pick fights in public forums and call it freedom of speech. We lift the words of other writers and call it our own because we’d rather make a fast buck than truly pay our dues. We forget why we write in the first place, bowing instead to the gods of entitlement and profit.

When we commit these kinds of behaviors, we are no longer artists. We are instead cowards, afraid of hard work and perseverance. We may even fear that fame and perhaps even fortune will elude us. Our cowardice requires us to look for short cuts, manipulations, and secrecy to gain any advantage we can. Because 21st century publishing is so easy and ubiquitous, we fear neither correction, chastisement nor a conflicted conscience.

Perhaps there is a need now for a code of ethics. [7] Before we are too tempted to commit unethical practices, we need to stop and consider what best behaviors would look like. Could we be free from the tyranny of fear that is the root of bad behavior? Could we, instead, promise ourselves and each other? Could we love and respect our readers and our art? Could we pursue our writing dreams with honor and dignity?

My friend Jane Steen and the folks at ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) began the concept of an ethics code for authors last fall. I’ve presented these ideas on my website www.10minutenovelists.com [2] and on my Facebook group, 10 Minute Novelists [8]. As I mention these eight points, I sense a common desire among writers to adopt them. The writers I talk to embrace these easily. They want our industry to hold high standards. They want to know that their own communities have adopted these standards too. I’d like to encourage you to look over the Code of Ethics. ALLi also created a badge that you can put on your website that identifies you as an ethical author. Take the eight points seriously. If you are guilty of any of them, then stop your bad behavior and try to make amends. And encourage writers around you to do the same.

Our readers are not the enemy. They deserve to be respected even if we don’t agree with them. Our art is not to be cheapened. It deserves to have the best of us. We also owe it to ourselves to build our business up honorably.

This is why we write. We write because we have been changed by words. We have a glorious calling. Let’s conduct ourselves accordingly.

Do you write by a code of ethics or have certain standards you hold your writing to? What do you hold most important?