Ethics, Integrity & Trust for Writers

Several days ago, my writer friend Adam Croft and I were exchanging emails. We keep in regular touch, and Adam serves as a mentor to me. For those of you who don’t know the name, Adam Croft is a highly successful indie crime writer from the UK. I brag that Adam and I go back long before he became famous and when I still had hair.

Adam had just come off a bad experience with an online scammer who offered kick-back money—big money—to other unethical online scammers who recommend scams like useless writing courses sold at ridiculous prices. Adam vented to me about the downward spiral of suckering-ins going on, and how well-intended, trusting writers get thoroughly hosed by unscrupulous shysters.

“With you, dude,” I replied to Adam, as the old cop in me has long detected some of these writing “gurus” who produce online courses sell snake oil from Brother Love’s Travellin’ Salvation Show. Then, yesterday morning, I clicked on the Indie Author Mindset Facebook Group that Adam Croft facilitates and saw this post. I PM’d Adam and asked if I could share it with Kill Zoners and he said, “Yes, absolutely fine posting stuff on the blog.”

So here it is:

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Ethics, Integrity & Trust. (By Adam Croft)

Last night, I received an email which — for me — summed up many of the ways in which this industry has taken a wrong turn.

I’ve attached a screenshot (with names redacted) as an image on this post.

It’s nothing new or revolutionary. These things come through all the time. But it symbolizes something we need to address.

Look at the wording. There’s no mention whatsoever of helping authors, providing education, or doing our best to help those at the start of their journey. Instead, the main (and only) selling point is that it’ll ‘generate big payouts’ for me.

I repeat: this email is nothing new or revolutionary. And do you know why? Because our industry is absolutely full of this.

Promoting and referring other people’s products and services is big business. I know providers and ‘gurus’ who make thousands upon thousands each month purely by telling new and inexperienced authors to take certain courses or buy certain products.

Many courses — even the really expensive ones — pay referrers 50% as a kickback. Of course these people recommend them to their followers — they get hundreds of dollars each time someone signs up. Why wouldn’t they?

Because when you see someone recommending a product, you will likely assume it’s a genuine recommendation. Sometimes it might be. But the vast majority of products and services in this industry are recommended because they pay well for the person recommending them.

When I started The Indie Author Mindset, I was very clear that I would only recommend products and services I’ve used myself, and would recommend otherwise. Affiliate and referral fees were irrelevant. Money and ‘big payouts’ don’t motivate me. Ethics, integrity, and trust do.

Those three words have always been difficult ones. They’re the reason I wavered for two years before setting up The Indie Author Mindset. They’re the reason I was extraordinarily cautious about what paid content I offered for a short while. And they’re the reason I stopped doing so.

So let me be clear about a few things:

1. I receive absolutely no financial inducements, incentives, or rewards from any products, services or resources I recommend. My integrity and your trust mean far more to me than money.

2. I do not provide paid courses, coaching, or any other form of ‘upsold’ products. You are not a commodity to me.

3. I have always modelled my career on ensuring I am financially — or otherwise — beholden to nobody, allowing me to speak freely and honestly.

I choose to operate this way for three reasons:

1: It allows me to give advice with complete integrity and transparency.

2. It allows you to trust my advice. You know absolutely that my only interest is in helping you and your books, not lining my pockets.

3. My fiction books do very well indeed, so I don’t need to top up my earnings by taking money from other authors.

I love helping authors at all stages of their careers. When I started publishing more than a decade ago, the advice just wasn’t there. I was one of the early writers fumbling through the mists, trying to work out how on earth we could make this work.

The issue then was a lack of information. Now the opposite is true. Many authors mention being overwhelmed with stuff. And the reason for a lot of that is because it’s impossible to know what’s good advice and what someone is pretending to advise because they get a financial kickback for doing so.

I hope The Indie Author Mindset helps you cut through that crap. I hope that by sharing this email and writing this post I can reinforce that I won’t have any part in it. That I put my personal integrity and your trust before all else.

I’ve spent too many years at the forefront of this industry to prioritize ‘big payouts’. My focus will always be on levelling, improving, and preserving a strong indie publishing industry for authors like you for years to come. I’d far rather my legacy be visible in that way, than on a balance sheet. My fiction books do just fine on that front, and I don’t need to exploit anybody in doing so.

It all comes back to those three words: Ethics. Integrity. Trust.

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Bio from Adam Croft’s Website

With over two million books sold to date, Adam Croft is one of the most successful independently published authors in the world, and one of the biggest selling authors of the past few years, having sold books in over 138 different countries.

To date, Adam has achieved seven Amazon storewide number 1 bestsellers, in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia.

His 2015 worldwide bestseller Her Last Tomorrow became one of the bestselling books of the year, peaking at number 12 in the combined paperback fiction and non-fiction chart.

His Knight & Culverhouse crime thriller series has seen huge popularity worldwide, with his Kempston Hardwick mystery books being adapted as audio plays starring some of the biggest names in British TV.

In 2016, the Knight & Culverhouse Box Set reached storewide number 1 in Canada, knocking J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child off the top spot only weeks after Her Last Tomorrow was also number 1 in the same country.

During the summer of 2016, two of Adam’s books hit the USA Today bestseller list only weeks apart, making them two of the most-purchased books in the United States over the summer.

In February 2017, Only The Truth became a worldwide bestseller, reaching storewide number 1 at both Amazon US and Amazon UK, making it the bestselling book in the world at that moment in time. The same day, Amazon’s overall Author Rankings placed Adam as the most widely read author in the world, with J.K. Rowling in second place.

In January 2018, Adam’s bestselling book to date, Tell Me I’m Wrong became a worldwide bestseller and quickly went on to outsell Her Last Tomorrow.

Adam is considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on independent publishing and has been featured on BBC television, BBC Radio 4BBC Radio 5 Live, the BBC World ServiceThe GuardianThe Huffington PostThe Bookseller and a number of other news and media outlets.

In March 2018, Adam was conferred as an Honorary Doctor of Arts, the highest academic qualification in the UK, by the University of Bedfordshire in recognition of his services to literature.

Adam presents the regular crime fiction podcast Partners in Crime with fellow bestselling author Robert Daws.

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Note from Garry Rodgers: I’ve known Adam Croft for nearly a decade and I can personally vouch for his outstanding ethics, integrity, and trustworthiness. Two years ago, Adam developed his Indie Author Mindset program which was completely game-changing for me. The program consisted of two books, a series of tutorial articles, and a Facebook group page.

Adam Croft’s two books, The Indie Author Mindset and The Indie Author Checklist, are available through major online retailers. Unfortunately, Adam has discontinued his tutorials, but his Facebook site still thrives and is open to everyone who believes in making the indie writing world a better place.

Kill Zoners — What’s your experience with paid-content recommendations sent your way? And poor-value material? We’d all like to hear.

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27 thoughts on “Ethics, Integrity & Trust for Writers

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Garry. I know that there are honest folks who offer legitimate services out there but it is nice to be reminded.

    My experience with paid content recommendations is to click “delete” when they are sent to me. Period.

    Thanks for a great post to start the day!

    • I go one step further. I click “Junk.” I just got a solicitation this morning about providing blog content. Red flag: it referred to the blog site I stopped using years ago.

    • Good day to you, Joe. I thought this was worth sharing to remind folks that not everyone out there is serving the public good. I’ve taken quite a few Masterclasses (I wrote a Kill Zone post on that some while back) and I have to say all of them were credible. But others like how to get 10 K email subscribers for $999….

  2. Thanks, Garry, for sharing Adam’s post. And thanks, Adam, for your integrity and your stance.

    My background is medicine. In the U.S. it is illegal to pay or accept kick-backs. Too bad that doesn’t apply to other areas. Authors, in general, are a very carrying community, willing to share their advice and help others. It’s too bad that a few bad apples can cause so much of a problem.

    • Hi Steve – No law against medical kickbacks in Canada from what I’ve seen. Big Pharma & MDs are thick as thieves and I could tell you a horror story about a doc getting my daughter wired on anti-depressants after her boyfriend break-up.

  3. Thanks, Garry and Adam, for kicking back against kickbacks.

    The general breakdown of ethics and the proliferation of dishonesty span areas of life far beyond the world of writing. Trusted friends and colleagues like you become all the more treasured in the tidal wave of dishonesty crashing over society.

    • Hey there, Debbie. I hate the term caveat emptor / buyer beware because we, as consumers, shouldn’t have to be wide-open to fraudsters, yet we are. I have a Fort Knox policy on my email box so I simply don’t open anything I don’t know of or don’t want. But somehow, those Nigerian Princes manage to scale the wall and drop in. Enjoy your day!

  4. Well if its any consolation, I doubt the publishing industry is the only place this happens. The fitness professionals industry has its share of muck promotion too.

    For myself, I don’t tend to see this a lot associated with writing. Probably because I’m not a good piece of the target market, with little to no budget for such extravagances. And at this point, I’ve been around so long that taking classes or watching paid content doesn’t benefit as much as BICHOK. 😎

    • Okay, you got me at my own game, BK – had to google BICHOK and I see it’s the #1 takeaway I got from the Indie Author Mindset. Only over there it’s acronym is AICHOK. And enjoy your day!

  5. I follow two FB groups – Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula and 20Books to 50K. Both are highly ethical and you can ask your fellow Indies for advice. I’ve used the groups for cover art opinions and book categories. I’ve also done the SPF Ads for Authors course. Yes, it’s expensive, but we’re talking about more than fifty hours of video lectures that are constantly updated and that you have a library of and a transcript for all eternity.

  6. Hi Alec – IMO, Mark Dawson ranks up there with Adam Croft when it comes to service and integrity. Mark did the foreword to the Indie Author Mindset and Adam credits Mark Dawson’s Facebook ads tutoring to his breakout. I don’t know Mark personally, but I did take his SPF course and, to me, it was both beneficial and highly honorable. I’ll have to check out 20 Books to 50K – not aware of that one. And thank you for commenting!

  7. Hi, Garry. Thanks for sharing Adam’s post. Forewarned is forearmed, I always say.

    My writing mentor Mary Rosenblum guided me in being on the lookout for such scams, both the courses but also publishing scams like vanity presses and marketing scams. She was a regular speaker at various writers conferences, and this was one of her topics. She passed away in 2018 but her counsel stays with me.

    Thanks again!

    • I hesitated about sharing Adam’s post, Dale, because I didn’t want it to sound like an Adam Croft promotion. I went beyond that, though, because he is highly influential (in a positive way) in today’s writing circles and is 100% genuine about helping others. This is an important issue, and I want to help send the message that scammers are out there and I don’t want to see rip-offs happening when we’re all interested in making this writing biz work for all.

  8. Though I admire Adam Croft’s integrity, I hope no one misreads this to mean writing coaches shouldn’t earn a living. The trick is finding a coach who genuinely wants to help other writers, like Larry Brooks and JSB. It’s not an easy job. The ethical coaches spend HOURS helping others, and deserve to be paid for their craft books and services.

    That said, I agree this community is filled with scammers and thieves who put out webinars and/or courses to upsell the writers who attend. I’ve sat through more than my fair share of those. I’ve also bought books from one-novel authors who believed they knew enough to teach. Ugh. Frustrating.

    Great post, Garry. It’s an important subject.

    • I’m so glad you said this, Sue, because there are many honorable writing teachers and coaches like Jim and Larry who completely deserve proper compensation for their valuable services. I’d like their take on Adam’s post.

      Hitting close to home, Rita (my wife, for those who don’t know me) has a casual friend who is being financially raped by a well-known, online writing scam service. It’s sad because her friend wants so bad to be a published author. I’m hesitant to publically name the fraudster on this forum, but I want to refer Kill Zone followers to the Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli) Watchdog page which rates online writing services: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/best-self-publishing-services/

      • I took his article as primarily referring to authors who are affiliates just for the money, without vouching for, or caring about, the validity of the service. With the money to be made it can be tempting to go for it, but that’s what ethics a for—restraint.

        Thanks, Sue and Garry, for pointing out that there are legit teachers who are “worthy of their hire.”

        • Bang-on, Jim. Thankfully, there are professionals like you who hold the highest ethical standards and thank you for the exceptionally valuable service you provide to folks like me.

        • Rita and I were just talking about this, Sue. I know who the predator is and I’d love to call them out here, but I think we have to stay neutral on this site. Rita’s going to have a sensitive chat with her the next time they meet – like the poor lady has spent thousands of dollars (that she doesn’t have) to get a box of books printed – not published – and they now want a few more grand to take it to the next level. I’m going to get Rita to find out if someone referred her to these bandits.

  9. Kudos to you, Garry, for this blog post and to Adam for his article.

    Scammers and snake oil salesmen extend far beyond the world of writing. It’s great to see someone address the issue and take a stand. Being aware of the kick-backs that go on in any industry help us all to respond in an ethically responsible way.

    • Thanks, Kay. I was looking for a Kill Zone topic for today and this jumped out. This is a very important topic, and I think all writers can take this awareness and use it across the board – there are scammers out in all walks of life, for sure. Thanks for your input!

  10. Good and important post, Gary. I’ve never fallen for a scammer in my adult life (earlier is a different story). In fact, my phone answering message is: “If you’re legitimate, leave a message; if you’re a scammer, fuhgettaboutit.”

    While I’ve paid for How-To books (several from JSB and Larry Brooks), I’ve never paid for a course or followed up on a paid-content recommendation. If there’s a free webinar, I might participate to see what I can pick up, but beyond that, my default is my favorite writerly action: DELETE.

    • Thank you for the fuhgfettaboutit advice, Harald. I’m an education junkie and have taken quite a few online bits – some lengthy like Mark Dawson’s Self Pub course which Adam Croft referred me to. It got good value for a rather expensive investment. But I took one that’s commonly in-the-face out there on getting 10K email subscribers. It was nothing more than a cut & paste from MailChimps’s tutorials. The money-back button on that site didn’t work.

  11. Hi Garry, all good stuff. Thanks for posting. And, pleased to report that I hold myself to an ethical code similar to Mr Croft’s— and could tell more than a few amusing stories and yarns about principles colliding with practicals.

    However, it has to be said, that Mr Croft’s ethical positioning seems a little flakey when he describes his honorary degree, as conferred by the University of Bedfordshire [itself an academic institution with an ‘interesting’ pedigree], as “the highest academic qualification in the UK”. It’s not even close. An Honorary Doctor of Arts doesn’t even figure in the top ten of highest academic qualifications in the UK. DLitt (Doctor of Letters); LLD (Doctor of Law); DD (Doctor of Divinity); DMus (Doctor of Music) — and I could go on at length — are all regarded as being much more prestigious, and therefore ‘higher’ than the Doctor of Arts—a recently invented confection, ably deployed by university fundraisers to snag undoubtedly talented individuals to help raise the profile of their institution—and thus increase revenue. Regards.

  12. And the rest—is silence. For why? That I may be a troll? (“Don’t feed the trolls.”) No need for panic. I’m not a troll, just someone who was not suckered in by someone else’s claims to have been conferred “the highest qualification in the UK” when it is patently not the case. Mr Croft could have simply noted that he was awarded an honorary Masters of Arts and left it at that. Readers would be impressed. However, he chose to gild the lily by falsely claiming that he had been conferred with “the highest qualification in the UK”. Not true. Truth sits square and centre of the ethical circle—and everything, every word, flows from that core. Regards.

  13. You titled your post Ethics, Integrity & Trust for Writers so I think my observations are pertinent.

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