Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Writers' Code of Ethics

Lots of controversy on the internet concerning writers lately. It's time for...


1. I will never pay people to write positive reviews of my books.

2. I will never use a false account (aka a sock puppet or anonymous account) to leave negative reviews of any of my peers.

3. I will never use a false account to review my own books.

4. I will never send reviewers copies of my books if they review in a periodical where my publisher buys advertising.

5. I will never ask friends, family, peers, or anyone who knows me to write reviews of my books, since they are biased toward me.

6. I will never ask fans to write reviews of my books, since they are biased toward me.

7. I will never pay a publicist to send out books of mine to be reviewed, since I am essentially paying someone for reviews.

8. I will never allow a publicist working for a publisher to send out books of mine to be reviewed, since they are being paid to do so.

9. I will never allow anyone to send out copies of my books to be reviewed, because if they were doing that they must know me, and if they know me it is impossible to get an unbiased review.

10. I will never allow any review from anyone I've ever met. Every review must be from someone who has never met me, heard of me, or read me before, and must come with a signed affidavit proclaiming such.

11. Every review must be from a professional reviewer who has true integrity. But this professional reviewer cannot accept money in any way, shape or form, because getting paid for reviewing could compromise their ethics.

12. I will personally interview every reviewer to make sure they are unbiased, and then ask them to remove their review because upon meeting them (The Konrath Uncertainty Principle) I may have affected their review, which renders it biased.

13. I will never blurb a book by an author I know.

14. I will never accept a blurb from an author I know.

15. I will never blurb a book from any author, because I may know them some day.

16. I will never review anything, or blurb anything, or allow any of my books to be reviewed of blurbed.

17. I will never allow anyone I have ever known, or ever might know, to blurb or review anything.

18. I will never use a sock puppet or post anonymously online about anything at all, because I should stand by my own words.

19. I will never post anything at all online, ever again, because it might impinge upon someone else's ethical standards.

20. I will publicly chastise, denigrate, ridicule, mock, and lynch anyone who has breached any of the above.

21. I will tattoo this code of ethics permanently upon my back to show all how ethical and moral I am.

22. Those who don't ask about my ethics will still be forced by me to memorize the tattoo on my back, in public, as many times as I demand.

23. All who do not comply will never be allowed to write again, and will broken on the wheel, their intestines forced down their own lying, cheating, dishonest, unethical throats while they beg for mercy, then they'll burned at the stake, drawn and quartered, their charred, smoking, crispy body parts placed on spires for all to view. This punishment will be meted out to any person, living or dead, who has ever had contact with, or has heard of, the offending party.

Joe sez: If you haven't figured it out yet, this isn't about dishonesty. It's about degrees of dishonesty. And everyone, to a degree, is dishonest. Glass houses and throwing stones, folks.

The only way to make the system pure is to never allow anyone to do anything, ever. But that's impossible. So instead we have people pointing fingers and masturbating to their own smug sense of superiority because they haven't been caught in the "ethical lapse du jour" yet.

I say "yet" because I'm working on a law to install cameras in every shower in the world. No secrets anymore. We'll catch your shameful masturbation, you knee-jerk finger-pointing self-pleasuring holier-than-thou folks. EVERYONE does things they aren't proud of. I shall now make it my mission in life to discover your secrets and broadcast them to the world so I can feel better about myself and show everyone how righteous I am.

For the pinheads among you, this is satire. I have never bought a review, or used a sock puppet for any reason, let alone to positively review my own books or negatively review a peer's books. Morals and ethics are slippery slope, and I think muck-rakers are on par with sock-puppeteers as far as scum-suckers go.

The current level of sanctimonious bullshit on the Internet that makes me feel I'm required to publicly proclaim my innocence is repulsive. When honest people get defense, there is something wrong with the world. It's a witch hunt. It's the HUAC.

All of you pointing your fingers and proclaiming your piety? Get back to working on your books, not judging your peers.

To my knowledge, I've publicly signaled out one writer in all my years of controversially bitching about the system, and that writer was spouting bullshit as President of the Authors Guild. He was truly hurting other authors. Not by buying reviews to sell more books. Not by cowardly denigrating a peer because of envy or jealousy. He was SELLING ALL OF US OUT and needed to be publicly spanked.

Plus, I spanked him for his arguments, not his business behavior. He took public positions which demanded a public response.

Those guys in the crosshairs right now, accused of buying reviews and using sock puppets? I may not agree with what they've done. But I won't get off rubbing their noses in their mistakes, and I don't have to sign a code of ethics to separate me from them.

When we start turning on our own, ask yourself why. Is it really to correct their behavior? Is it to join the mob so they don't come after you next? Is it to feel superior?

In all my years of blogging, of tweeting, of social networking, I can say this with honesty and candor:


That includes me. We're all human beings with fragile egos, trying to be the heroes of our own movies. Sometimes we fail. That's human.

Pouncing on those who fail with torches and lynch ropes? That's also human, but a lot uglier.

Siding with the mob because you fear they'll attack you next? That's cowardly.

Recognizing that certain behavior is wrong, and making a silent pledge to not do the same?

That's what strong, self-confident people do.

You all fail.

So do I.

Shame on us.

Addendum: Hey! All you whistle-blowing muck-rakers out there who want to humiliate people!

How about humiliating businesses instead?

The NYT just ran an article on buying reviews. I'd love for some investigative journalist to:

1. Count every publisher ad in the NYT for the last ten years and guestimate their worth.

2. Count every NYT book review of the last ten years and note the publishers.

3. Compare the top advertisers with how many books they've had reviewed. Compare that to reviews received by those who never advertised. Might also check if the review was favorable or not, but let's be serious--we all know even bad reviews sell books. No such thing as bad publicity, right?

If you like that one, you might try investigating how the NYT Bestseller List works. Hint: it's based on pre-printed write-in ballots, which bookstores fill in without any verification of actual sales. Hint #2: Every publisher knows which bookstores are reporting stores.

Or maybe you'd like to investigate how the Authors Guild and the Association of Authors Representatives are publicly supporting agency pricing, even though authors earn less under agency.

Or perhaps you'd like to take up the torch to support libraries, who are getting screwed by publishers with ebook acquisitions.

Or how about an article supporting the DOJ suit? I can't recall anyone in the mainstream media that has done so, even though collusive price-fixing has already been settled in three of the six complaints.

I really believe that investigative journalism is an important part of a democracy, and freedom. But there's a difference between Wikileaks exposing government cover-ups where people are tortured and killed, and a tabloid posting pictures of a drunken celebrity without her underwear on.

Reread my Code of Ethics above.

My guess is everyone will agree with some of them, but eventually there comes a point when it becomes silly.

That point differs for everyone.

Pick your arguments. Because when you argue ethics, it's very easy to be proven wrong.

Pick your targets. It's cowardly for a mob to attack one person. It's a lot harder, and more worthwhile, to attack organizations, whether they be government or big business.

Pick your battles. It ain't a battle if you join the majority. Your righteous indignation could be better spent on more productive debates.

There's a lot wrong with the world. A lot of people doing stupid things.

Just because you have a mob on your side doesn't mean you aren't being stupid.

For a more balanced look at this issue, check out Barry Eisler's thoughts. He manages to make points without any hysteria and without two minutes hate, which is the vibe I get from the NSPHP.

You know what you should have done, Society of Authors, if you really wanted change?

You should have forgiven the trio you named, and invited them to sign your petition.

But instead you signaled them out for more derision, so you could feel smug and superior. You're using that blog like a chastity ring, proclaiming your purity to the world because it isn't enough keeping it to yourself.

I don't need to join a mob, or excoriate my peers, or proclaim to the world how righteous I am. I can do the right thing in spite of that.

So come, oh ye witch hunters. Come hunt me.

Update: In the comments, I mention one of my truisms: people would rather fight to the death for their beliefs instead of honestly questioning that they may be wrong.

I value my ability to change my mind as more information comes in, and this blog has documented me reversing my opinion on several things over the years. Sometimes I need to be hit over the head with contrary evidence or logic a few times before it sinks in, but I try my best to constantly question my actions and motivations.

Barry Eisler does that as well. He just removed his support of the NSPHP.

I recommend that those behind that petition read Barry's blog carefully. When reasonable people opt out of what is supposed to be a good cause, something is amiss.