A breakthrough for 'Ethical Authors'?

Image - iStockphoto: leospek
Image – iStockphoto: leospek

Big Idea, Uncertain Reception

The FutureBook Conference plenary was in an upbeat late-afternoon mood.

Abbie Headon, managing and commissioning editor at Summersdale, had stepped forward during the Big Ideas session to recommend we all remember the value of “people power.”

Her earnest and soft-spoken appeal — the phrase “warm and fuzzy” comes to mind — had led her to reveal to us that her brother (not there to defend himself) is a bathtub reader who has resorted to using his Amazon Kindle in a ziplock bag.

And she then noted, “I read just a couple of months ago that there’s a new waterproof e-reader” — from another company.

Well, that would be the Aura H2O from a certain other company called Kobo.

And Kobo’s always entertaining ceo Michael Tamblyn, chairing the Big Ideas panel, wasn’t going to let that one go unflagged. He thanked Headon, turned to the house and said:

Waterproof e-readers are available at a W.H. Smith near you. Kindle users? — ziplock bags available at Sainsbury’s!

And it was amid the laughter and fun of that moment that Tamblyn then called our next Big Idea participant to the stage as “that most powerful and dangerous hybrid, the author-publisher.”

Orna Ross was up.

“She writes novels, poems, and the Go Creative! books,” Tamblyn told us. “And in 2012, she founded the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), a global association for self-publishing writers. Welcome, Orna.”

As the applause subsided, Ross said this:

Did you hear the one about the author who got a one-star review on Goodreads and traveled from the south of England to Scotland where the reviewer lived and staked them out for a while and followed them to the food market — I know it sounds like a joke but it’s actually not a joke — and hit them over the head with a wine bottle so they had to be hospitalised with a court case pending?

Orna Ross
Orna Ross

Ross went on to mention two other stories from “the last number of weeks.”

She was amply clear on an important point about these widely discussed instances of inappropriate, often abusive behavior “are minority stories…the vast majority of authors and publishers go about their business in completely ethical ways.”

Obviously, they’re a problem for everyone, however. And, as I related from the #FutureBook14 floor — and as my Bookseller colleague Sarah Shaffi wrote in her report — Ross had come prepared to follow up on her work with ALLi member and US-based author Jane Steen with the launch of The Ethical Author Code.

As Shaffi has written, “The initiative is described as a ‘practical approach to author ethics, responding directly to months of controversy surrounding author-reviewer relations, in particular.'”

Of particular interest here is the fact that Steen, Ross, and the enabling organisation, ALLi, all see this issue as being one of concern and potential participation for both self-publishing and traditionally publishing authors.

This is a key point, reflective of what many hope is a new understanding of authors’ need to work together regardless of their paths to publication. Bad behavior, after all, is available to anyone.

And the digital dynamic puts into the hands of many people today the tools not only of publication but also of marketing, sales, consumer review, publicity…without a moment’s training, instruction, or explanation. At any moment a lot of people are working this brave new system without a moment’s preparation and without the experience or background to know what is correct and incorrect.

Others may know very well what’s wrong and what’s right but proceed to do the wrong things because they’ve seen little in the way of organized, coherent, precise commentary. That ends now, in Ross’ delivery to the floor of the conference last week this clear, deeply vetted and edited set of guidelines.

The Ethical Author Code is termed “an author programme facilitated by the Alliance of Independent Authors.”

“We wanted to allow those authors who do behave ethically to announce that and say that,” Ross said.

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By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

The FutureBook: #FutureChat on Friday: A breakthrough for ‘Ethical Authors’? 

Read the full post at: TheBookseller.com/futurebook


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