Chip MacGregor

February 20, 2015

What it means to be an ethical author (a guest blog)


I’m shocked at the behavior of authors recently. One story after another features an author responding badly to a review, manipulating numbers or stalking their readers.


I’m baffled at what my response should be to this bad behavior. I find little guidance (this excellent blog notwithstanding) simply because much of contemporary publishing is new or so reformed it’s unrecognizable from a decade ago. I’m new to the writing scene and admittedly impressionable. It’s tempting, even as a Christian, to look what other authors are doing in their self-promotion, their marketing, and their relationship with readers and wonder isn’t all publicity good publicity?


In a free market, none of this should be surprising. There have been slimy salesmen ever since the exchange of goods and services began. But perhaps we writers could unify and deliberately encourage good, ethical behavior within our own groups. Perhaps we can all benefit from some conversations about good behavior. Perhaps, through our communities and our tribes, we could gentle encourage each other, especially the newbies, to choose the path of honor, even if it means fewer sales. We can’t assume, that because a writer calls himself a Christian, and writes from a Christian worldview, and may even have an altar call type conversion ¾ of the way into his family saga, that the way he behaves in public is ethical. I’d like to suggest we need encouragement and wisdom in this area.


I’d like for you to join me for Ethical Author Weeks, February 1-14, 2015. In these two weeks I’m going to start conversations about ethics on my own blog (, during my weekly Twitter chats (#10MinNovelists) and on my own Facebook group (10 Minute Novelists). I would be very honored if you joined me in the conversations, not just at my events, but also within your own circles of influence. You have an opportunity here to gently encourage new writers to do the right things.


I’ve attached in this post my objectives for #EthicalAuthors Weeks, the code written up by ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors) and the artwork that I’ll be using on my blog and my Facebook group. Please feel free to use any of it during those two weeks in February. ALLi also created a badge too. That’s for anyone who is willing to stand for ethics.


Why are we doing this? Because authors have never had so much freedom. But with freedom, we must accept responsibility for our public persona, our works (whether self-published or traditionally published), and our relationships with our readers. As Christians, this should be a no-brainer. We should be the first in line to champion ethical behavior.


OBJECTIVES for #EthicalAuthor Weeks


1.Widespread author awareness of ethics through conversations on blogs, in real life and on social media.

2. Commitments to the Ethical Author Code.

3. Adoption of the Ethical Author badge by as many writers as possible.


IDEAS for promoting #EthicalAuthor


Publish blog posts about their own personal commitment to ethics.

Interview other writers who’ve had experiences dealing with ethics issues.

Link to this article or others like it that in support of author ethics.

Tweet about changes they are going to make in their own practices using the #ethicalauthor hashtag.

Ask authors in their circles to read over the Ethical Author Code.

Start conversations on social media about author ethics.

Think through what being an ethical author means to them and change any questionable behaviors.

Display the Ethical Author badge on their blog or website.



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 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 behavior.

Book promotions

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.

Financial ethics

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 realize 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 behavior.

Even if you don’t formally participate, pray for those of us who do, that we can be a voice of change.

Ethical Authors

More information about the movement behind Author Ethics can be found here.


Katharine Grubb’s newest book of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day will be released March 26. She blogs at

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  • Traci Tyne Hilton says:

    I seem to have come by this a bit late, but it is fantastic! I will be sharing this blog at ACFW in my CE course–if that’s all right with the blog and Katherine–in the part I’m calling “treat readers like gold!” :D–Traci

  • Robin Patchen says:

    Great thoughts, Katharine. Like you, I feel like Christian authors should rise above a lot of that stuff.

    • Daphne Michele Self says:

      I agree, Robin. I’ve seen it quite a bit among Christian authors, but thankfully it’s a slim list that behaves this way.

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