Ethical Author Code

I'm an Ethical Author


A couple of weeks ago the Alliance of Independent Authors announced the establishment of an Ethical Author Code in response to a general concern about the behaviour of some authors, both self-published and traditionally published. Like the vast majority of authors I know, I already follow the principles behind this code but I believe there is a real value in stating this more explicitly.

I would encourage any of my author friends to also publicly commit to this code. It doesn’t cost you anything, you aren’t signing up to an organisation, it is just a public declaration to behave responsibly and ethically in all aspects of your writing career.

To find out more, please either click on the image above or click on the link here.


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 the following practices in 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 behaviour.

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 realise 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 behaviour.



37 thoughts on “Ethical Author Code

    • We need to spread the word. Self-publishing has got a bad reputation (especially within the publishing industry) yet the majority of authors I’m in contact with are good, honest and responsible professionals. The more of us who sign up to this code, the more chance we have of countering this (mostly) outdated view.

    • Absolutely. I wanted to put this up there because it represents how I, and many others, already behave but aren’t necessarily getting the credit due to the small number who have a more questionable ethics.

  1. As much as I agree with the actual promises in this ‘code’, I’m in agreement with this article.

    Making a statement does not guarantee behaviour. I can think of two authors off the top of my head to don’t hesitate to agree to this code, and to break every tennent thereof and accuse innocent authors of their own misdeeds. Decent behaviour is proven by actions, not statements.

    • Hi Jaq, thanks very much for your comment. Yes, I agree with you that making a statement with nothing to back it up can lead to some writers exploiting it. I also agree with the article you linked to that the majority of authors shouldn’t have to sign up to something like this because we we should already behave in this way (I especially liked the example they gave of other statements that are well intentioned but not needed “I will not throttle, defenestrate or club my child over the head with a brick, even when provoked“).
      The reason I personally signed up for this was because it is a statement of intent from a young industry. It is a banner that the majority of us who have always behaved ethically can rally under and use to counter the now tired arguments that self-publishers are charlatans out to make a quick buck through the delivery of shoddy work at a cheap price. Is it perfect? No. Will it change how people think about self-publishers? Possibly not, but at least it’s an attempt to do something (on top of the best way of changing people’s minds, which is to produce good quality work).
      I can understand if you personally don’t want to sign up, and being part of this may end up coming back to bite me on the backside as KJ Charles mentioned, but I’m willing to take that risk if the code helps improve our industry’s image.

  2. Wonderful code to hold as a writer/author and to address the public. I’ve seen too many scuffles on FB with authors and editors cutting each other down and it just looks unprofessional. In the end, I’d rather not deal with either one, so no one wins.

    • I agree. While the temptation may be strong to strike back at somebody who you feel has unfairly trashed your work (or you personally), doing so only makes you look as bad as the perpetrator.

  3. In the days before self-publishing, such guidelines (though largely unspoken) were strictly enforced by the nature of the industry. A writer who violated them would find him or herself without an agent and/or publisher in short order. To see them explicitly listed and promoted as necessary behaviors for ethical writers just goes to show how much the industry has changed. We have become our own police force, so to speak.

    To NOT adhere to these principles is not only unethical but the height of foolishness. That kind of thing comes back to bite you in the end (double entendre intended). It would never occur to me to engage in any of those behaviors, but I guess there are those that do. That’s a shame, as it tarnishes all indie writers.

    However, there is something about waving a flag saying “I am ethical” that I find vaguely disturbing. Rather than make that declaration, I think I will just continue to behave as I always have and trust that my ethics are obvious.

    As always, Dylan, a thought-provoking post.

    • Hi Jim. I can understand your position. My personal reasons for putting this up is because self-published writers especially tend to get listed under the same umbrella and painted as cowboys and charlatans because of the actions of a minority. Because we don’t have a large corporation or industry organisation behind us to either refute these suggestion or to be seen to be acting to do something about it, we have to do it ourselves. I completely agree we shouldn’t need to put this type of statement up, but by doing so it shows that many of us recognise these actions are unprofessional and unethical and not part of what we do.

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