Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Musings: Authoring with Integrity

There is a lot of temptation in the writing world. There are the big ones like plagerism and copyright infringement, but what about the smaller ones? It really equates to the 'little white lie' scenario.

Being an author is more than just a hobby for most of us. It is a profession, or the quest to achieve the accomplishment of the profession. Some of us are great writers, some of us are still honing the skills, but one thing we must always do, whichever side of the gray area we live, is maintain our integrity.

I am probably not going to make very many friends, and may even lose a few, by today's post, but I was raised to call a spade a spade, without beating around the bush about it.

Publishing is a cut-throat business. It is full of the 'wine, dine and sell sunshine' avenues of marketing, but every authentic agent and publisher knows where to draw the line. Like independent authors, publishers and agents are in the game to make money too. They learned, along the way of their journeys, exactly where to draw the line, and generally adhere to their professional code of conduct. Every publishing house in the world has a code of ethics, or moral standard, which defines the integrity of the business. Every publishing house that has ever crossed the line, or will cross the line, has, or will, eventually find themselves in the not so great view of the public eye, from authors and agents, to readers. They already know it is just not good business practice to operate without integrity.

As the rise of the independent author continues to climb, so does the public discontent with the marketing tactics of some authors and author groups. I have noticed another growing trend: authors, great and small, are also becoming discontent with these same marketing tactics. Why? Independent authors are all lumped into the same group; identified identically, across the board, by the reading public.

Examples of the source of discontent:

Review Manipulation still tops the list. When you manipulate the reviews on sites, such as Amazon, it really equates to fraudulent practices. It is one thing when friends and family are excited for an author and 5 stars every piece of prose they put out there, but it is quite another when an author actively seeks out 5 star reviews for their works, offering to return the favor to any other author who is willing to accept. Readers are becoming wary of books that have hordes of 5 star reviews, and for good reason. No one likes to be defrauded into buying something that is less than the advertised quality. Review manipulation, although a stellar form of increasing sales, is just bad business ethics.

The Author Attack is something that seems to be increasing in frequency on sites with reviews from readers. Using intimidation, or bullying tactics, against any reader who dares not like an author's work is not only bad business, but also shows a complete lack of professionalism on the author's part. Rallying the troops to support, and further the attack, is as low as an author can sink in the writing world. Not to mention the best way to drive away an author's reader base in droves. Criticism and rejection are the core downfalls of writing. An author needs to take the bad with the good; most often there is more criticism and rejection than there will ever be praise and adoration.

The Paid Review is becoming popular among authors, which is leading to reviewer abuse. Good reviewers are honest in their endeavor to lead readers to the best works. Sometimes reviewers just do not like what they read. An author has to ask themselves, "Why am I paying this person to review my book? For the honesty, or for an assurance of a good public review?" There are reviewers who will withhold from publishing bad reviews at the author request; but I have read comments from many reviewers who are becoming more jaded by the insistence on the author's part of only a good review. This places the reviewer in the difficult position of having to tell the author they operate with a code of ethics, and they will not compromise the trust they have built with their own followers.

Integrity is a core value in businesses across many industries. In most cases, it is THE most important value in a corporate culture. In publishing it is THE most important value in the industry. An author without integrity will soon find themselves an author without a readership. Avid readers are finicky, picky, unyeilding and relentless in their quest for a good story. When an author consistently exhibits signs of lacking integrity in their marketing tactics, the readers will catch on, and abandon them post-haste; most often without an explanation.

For some authors, it is about the money. That is self-evident in the publishing world today. For some authors it is about the money and the passion. For some authors it is strictly about the passion. Readers are about the passion for reading. When a passionate author makes the connection with passionate readers, the money becomes a by-product of the relationship.