The FutureBook's Big Idea for the 'Ethical Author'

Orna Ross, in orange at stage-center, prepares to announce the Ethical Author Code programme at The FutureBook 2014. | Porter Anderson

Presenting ‘The Ethical Author Code’ — for writers of all stripes.

Among Big Idea proposals in The FutureBook’s (#FutureBook14) final session of the day on Friday in London, Orna Ross’ presentation of the “Ethical Author” programme is the one that may trigger the most controversy among writers.

Offered as “an author programme facilitated by the Alliance of Independent Authors” (ALLi), which Ross founded and directs, the idea is meant to give authors of all paths to publication — traditionally published, self-published, or both — a way to signal to readers that his or her business activities are aligned with best practices.

Overnight, ALLi began moving tweets reading “Our new hashtag is #ethicalauthor.” News of Ross’ revelation of the project at The FutureBook will travel quickly through the writerly ranks.

ALLi’s Nerys Hudson has designed an insignia, in fact, with which authors endorsing an “Ethical Author Code” — unveiled at The FutureBook by Ross — can use with their work.

Ethical Author badge by Nerys HudsonLike the proverbial Good Housekeeping seal of approval, the insignia can telegraph to reader-consumers and to colleagues in publishing that an author has thought seriously about good business practice, in a digital era pressing writers into entrepreneurial roles.

Here is the text of the Ethical Author Code, as brought to the stage Friday by Ross — where “author” is defined by this projecrt as being “any writer who has published a long-form work of fiction or non-fiction, either via a trade publisher or self-publishing platform”:

The 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 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.

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By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

The FutureBook: At #FutureBook2014: A Big Idea for the ‘Ethical Author’

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