Blog hopping. Ethics. me and the publishing world

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

Oh boy, did I rub my hands together when I saw this prompt. It’s payback time was my first thought, I can rail against all the injustices and scammers that it’s been my pleasure to encounter on my publishing journey.

BUT, I don’t want to present myself as a moaning loser, so I’m being careful not to appear as one. As a famous detective once said, Just the facts. I’m older, more experienced and a little wiser now and over (most of) the angst.

I’ve come to accept that it’s not personal, just the way things are. I’m not saying that everyone behaves badly, merely that there are a lot of people who don’t always behave in the way that I’m sure they would expect to be treated. No names.

I consider myself ethical in the way I live. While I will do whatever I can to help anyone, I don’t agree to do anything unless I mean to do it. Once I’ve said I’ll do it, I don’t back out, even if it costs me more than I expected (in any way). It comes from my professional life, where you did what you said, where a handshake was enough. Where you were honest and kept people informed.

However, in my experience, publishing has not always been like that. Which is not to say that there aren’t some wonderful people who will go out of their way to help. They know who they are and I’m grateful to them all.

However, there are also those who, for whatever reason, seem to consider it their duty to make life difficult for the newbie.

Here’re a few of the things that used to bother me.

I have an autoresponder on my email. Now that I’m retired and more available, I don’t use it as much but it can be set to tell someone that I’ve got their message and that I’ll get back to them. Easy to set up and polite. Even better, FREE.

So why don’t literary agents have them for email submissions? Instead, they say send it in and if we haven’t replied in xxx weeks, we aren’t interested.

Personally, I’ve given up with the traditional agent, as they have never shown any interest in discussing my work. I don’t know why? Is it rubbish or not on trend or just in need of a better edit? How can you tell without the simple courtesy of communication? Even if it is only an automated response, at least it shows a professional approach.


There are the publishing “companies” who will take your manuscript and do everything for you. Usually for an eye-watering amount and usually very badly. Often charging you for things that are free, or that you could do yourself for next to nothing. Anyone who calls themselves a publisher but wants your money up front needs investigating before you go anywhere near them.

And that’s before we get on to the people who prey on you on social media.

There are people who offer to do something for you. Back when I had only written a couple of books, I used to get a lot of requests for what I came to call read and review swaps from other authors. I’m sure you know the thing, you read my book and I’ll read yours, we both review, everyone wins.  Sometimes free copies were exchanged and sometimes you bought each other’s, for that verified sticker.

I stopped doing them when I found that I was nearly always first to finish reading and post my review, followed by ………., Nothing. I’m still owed quite a few reviews from those days, as well as answers to the polite messages I sent enquiring about progress. It doesn’t bother me that people don’t like my work, but if that’s the case, surely you can tell me. You were quick enough to accept and publicise my part of the deal.

That was another one for the file marked experience.

And finally, or we could be here all day,

there are the people who seem to think that I sell so many books that I don’t notice when they announce to me and the world that they’ve just bought xxx and yet my sales dashboard doesn’t show a flicker. Ever.

In short,

publishing has not been like any world I had ever encountered, it’s a world of contrasts. There are people who have given me so much valuable help and encouragement, without question and with no strings attached. Then there are those who, well let’s just say that they have taught me other, equally valuable lessons. I suppose that I should be grateful to them all and try to emulate the best.

And that’s without me getting on to talking about the trolling I used to attract for daring to advertise my books, something else that I don’t do much of anymore.

The important thing is, I’m still here. I haven’t been put off yet. My thirteenth novel will be out in a month and I’m busy writing the next one. You might never have heard of me, or read one of my books but that’s OK. I’m not going anywhere.

What have your experiences been?

Let me know in the comments, then check out the rest of the great blogs on this hop.

Just follow this link.


16 Responses

  1. Jim Webster

    Yes, I don’t think people realise that we do know when we have and haven’t sold a book and even to what country we sold it.
    Does rather irritate me that somebody says, “I’ve bought it” and you know you’ve sold nothing to that continent in the last week!

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks for commenting Jim. I suppose the solution is to sell so many that you never notice the odd one or two (chance would be a fine thing).

  2. Stevie Turner

    I’ve also given up sending manuscripts to agents, it’s just not worth the hassle. I’ve been conned a couple of times by small publishers asking for ‘set up’ fees, and I now will not sign up with any small publisher. As you know, I also tried to organise a street team to promote Indie books, but apart from yourself, nobody else shared on a regular basis. Thanks for your support though.

    • Richard Dee

      You’re very welcome, I’ve read and enjoyed your work, I’m quite happy to promote it where I can.

  3. Roberta Eaton Cheadle

    An interesting read, Richard. I have realised that I was lucky and found a lovely and ethical small publisher right up front which saved me a lot of heartache. I have not submitted my work to any other publisher as it seems that is a fruitless and heartbreaking exercise. I have decided to keep my enthusiasm alive by avoiding such crushing treatment.

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks, having been through a lot of the pitfalls, I would advise anyone to go Indie. If done properly, I think it’s the best (and most satisfying) way.

  4. Maretha Botha

    Richard, all I can say is: You survived the publishing mine field! Many days I think that this time I’m going to fall down and never get up, especially when I get a review which says nothing, but still is acidic in its ratings. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned a lot, and continue to do so when I receive genuine criticism from reviewers who have not only the unsuspecting reader in mind, but sees my potential as a writer and tries to help me, not stumble me, along the way. Thank you for your thoughts. 🙂

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks for commenting. Yes, I’m still here, even though there are days when it all gets too much. My stubborn streak will not let me be beaten, in the end I WILL find the route to success.

  5. P.J. MacLayne

    And when it comes to reviews, Amazon has been known to remove reviews from people they think you know…even if it’s because they follow you on social media!

    • Richard Dee

      Yes, I’ve lost quite a few that way, although that problem seems to have reduced recently.

  6. phil huston

    Amazon has been known to delete less than stellar reviews as well. I’m not talking sniping or wannabe editors, I’m talking legitimate criticism.
    This is for a couple of you – I worked in creative for $ my entire adult life, so maybe I have a thick skin and understand our work isn’t our children. I also have an ear for straining the BS out of commentary based on how close I know I got to my target. The truth is there are things we don’t want to hear about our work. But sometimes we need to hear them, and sometimes we need stiffen our backs. Learn to know the difference between real criticism and sniping. Meyers-Briggs tells us 25% of the population, give or take, isn’t going to relate to or like us or what we do regardless. Do your best, offer it up, accept solid criticism on your presentation, ignore the snipers.

    • Richard Dee

      Totally agree, you have to accept the good and the bad as part of the deal. I can take negatives, how else can I improve? My objection is to the lack of ANY response, especially when a free copy has been provided for that purpose

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