Are you a real author?
It’s not a rhetorical question. There are certain practices and attitudes that separate real authors from the rest.
Allow me to illustrate. Recently, I agreed to read a manuscript for a writer. It was a swap situation, one I won’t repeat. I spent over six hours reading and commenting on the book, focusing on areas for improvement, as the writer requested. Her response: “Wow…I guess you hate my book…Thanks.”
Real author? Not yet.
For a few years, I sold real estate to help my children with their college expenses. (Want lots of money? Sell houses, not books!) Decades ago, when the real estate industry was first evolving, there was recognition of the need for industry professionals—if indeed they were to earn the right to be called professionals—to police themselves by agreeing to adhere to a code of ethics. To this day, it’s primarily the Realtor Code of Ethics that distinguishes professionals from those who are just in the biz to make a quick buck however they can.
Now more than ever, authors need to prove that they are professionals. By adhering to a few fundamental principles, they earn the right to be treated as such.
Here’s my proposed Code of Ethics for all authors, regardless of how they publish:
The Author Code of Ethics
1. An author respects the right of readers to choose books from an open marketplace.
2. Acknowledging that writing involves learning and growth, an author handles criticism with grace.
3. An author respects the right of fellow authors to choose the path to publication that is best for them and their books.
4. An author refrains from deceptive and fraudulent practices, such as plagiarism, over-inflated taglines, and purchased reviews from vendors who have not read the book.
5. Aside from accepted forms of literary criticism such as reviews and critical studies, an author refrains from public disparagement, by name, of other authors and their work.
6. An author’s engagement with readers and other authors is courteous and respectful.
7. Acknowledging the importance of literature in a free and vibrant culture, an author strives to write well, within the expectations of genre and audience.
8. As a responsible member of the literary community, an author interacts with the public in ways that exemplify the professionalism of all authors.
9. For the purpose of improvement, an author cultivates objectivity with regard to his or her work.
10. An author affirms the importance of open discourse.