Unethical Authors and Toddlers: Identical Behaviors?

Have you seen any of the videos making the rounds in which grown men behave like toddlers? [Insert your own dig at men and their big-boy toys here. Out of respect for my husband, I will refrain.] I’m talking about something like this:

Or this: Full-Grown Man Plays Toddler In ‘Convos With My 2-Year-Old’

What makes these so funny? Well, if you spend any amount of time around kids, you know they do these things. In spades. What’s so funny is that adults don’t. Or they shouldn’t.

But some do.

We’re talking about what it means to be an ethical author during Ethical Authors Weeks (February 1 -14). Is ethics one of those nebulous terms you’ve heard bandied about, but don’t truly understand? I found this definition, taken from Father John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary. There’s nothing particularly “Catholic” about it. By all means, read the whole definition, but here is its essence: “The subject matter of ethics, therefore, is human conduct; its point of view is that of rightness and wrongness.”

Ethical Authors Weeks

Author Jane Steen has given a lot of thought to what being an ethical author looks like, including contributing to this concise Ethical Author Code.

Turns out, being an unethical author looks a lot like being . . . a toddler.

Let’s take a look at the Ethical Author Code—and its violators.

Ethical Author Code vs. Toddler 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’m first. Me, me, me. First in line, first for food. And I’ll do ANYTHING to get ahead, including lying, pushing, and shoving. I don’t care who gets hurt or who’s in the way. It’s all about me.


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.

When I disagree, you’ll know it. I’ll whine, scream, shout, and if you really get me going, I might throw myself on the floor, kick my legs, and flail my arms. In public. And then, I’ll go for the kill and screech,  “I don’t love you anymore!”
I Don't Love You Anymore


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.

I like to sing and shout my name. It’s all about me, remember? Unless I don’t want it to be. In that case, it wasn’t me barking loudly; I’m a dog. The scratch on the furniture? I’m a cat. You can’t really hold me responsible. You say someone unrolled the whole roll of toilet paper?. He did it. Not me. (It helps if “he” is another toddler who still hasn’t mastered the art of speaking.)

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.

Mama, which one do you like better? This one is mine, mine, mine! EVERYONE says mine is the best. Mama likes mine better. And that one’s next best-est. Shhh. It’s my brother’s.

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.

He started it! He pushed me first. Just wait . . . I’ll get you back.

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.

Want to see what I made? Here. Let me shove it in your face. About two inches from your nose. See? See? Read it, read it. Mama said it’s the best she’s ever seen. It’s the best in the whole, wide world! Mine’s the best EVER.


I know that plagiarism is a serious matter, and I don’t intentionally try to pass off another writer’s words as my own.

Do you like that one? It’s mine. I did it. No, it doesn’t look just like his. It’s mine. Mine, mine, mine!

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 have five dollars. See, 1-2-3-4-5. What do you mean they’re not dollars? There are five monies. 1-2-3-4-5. Quarters? No, they’re dollars, I’m telling you. Dollars!
Look at all the monies!


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.

I wasn’t paying attention. No, I didn’t realize my baby brother ran out into the street. Why would I stop him? It’s not my fault he busted the television with the aluminum bat I didn’t put away.

But it’s just business, you say. Maybe so. But business has ethics, too. And even if it didn’t, shouldn’t your writing be a bit more? Isn’t it art? And isn’t an artist called to, perhaps, an even higher standard? (A subject for a separate post.)

When it comes to being an author, it’s high time we all act our age.

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