Author Ethics: A Practical Guide

This post, by Julie Ann Dawson, originally appeared on her Tales From The Sith Witch, a Bards and Sages blog, on 9/3/11. It serves as an introduction to a more thorough project of research and analysis on the topic, so please be sure to click through on the ‘read the rest’ link at the end of this excerpt to view the supporting research notes and related essays.

 In 2004, I self published my first full length book, September and Other Stories.  I immediately began to contact some review sites in order to obtain reviews.  Some never responded.  Some responded with a “we’re sorry but we’re backlogged” excuse.  One, however, responded very firmly that “I no longer review ANY self published books.” 

It seemed like a curiously worded rejection, but reviewers have a right to review what they want so I let it go.  Since the site also offered advertising, I queried about the cost of placing a banner ad.  The response was even more firm. “Look, I don’t do business with self publishers.”

Being new to the industry, I thought I must have done something wrong and upset the site owner.  That hadn’t been my intention, so I sent her an apology for whatever it was that I did.  A couple of days later, she sent me an email apologizing for overreacting.  This led to a startling conversation. 

The reason she had stopped reviewing self published books was because she was terrified of self publishing authors.  She had received several threatening and harassing responses to perceived negative reviews of self published books.  The most recent incident and the one that convince her to stop reviewing self published books altogether, was a man who threatened to find her and rape her daughter.  She was in the process of getting a restraining order, because the man had called her house to let her know that he knew where she lived.

I wish I could say over the years this was an isolated incident.

Bad behavior is not unique to self-publishing authors.  I think most horror readers remember Anne Rice’s rather public meltdown on Amazon.com regarding negative reviews of Blood Canticle*.  John Lott used the fake persona of Mary Rosh to anonymously defend his own work and post reviews of his book More Guns, Less Crime*.  In April 2011, Dilbert creator Scott Adams admitted to engaging in sock puppetry to defend his work*.  These incidents grab our attention because of the celebrity status of those involved, but also because such public displays are thought rare.

But the media doesn’t report on public meltdowns of self publishing authors.  Nor do bloggers spend their hours unraveling the elaborate astroturfing schemes of self publishers.  Yet there is a general acceptance of the belief that such unethical behavior is far more common among self publishers than it is traditionally published authors.  And not only is it more common, but more extreme. 

*footnotes are provided for these references on the source post


Read the rest of this post about Author Ethics, and also see the supporting research notes and related essays, on Julie Ann Dawson’s Tales From The Sith Witch blog.

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