Indie Authors: Don’t Let The Scammers Win

There has been quite some consternation among Indie authors over past months in various ways that dishonourable people have found to scam the system and get quite rich selling books that are not what they should be, particularly on Amazon, or who steal others’ books and make them available on pirate websites, or plagiarise and “rebrand” them as their own work.. 

Understandably, those who put a lot of effort into writing and publishing excellent books find such situations discouraging. It’s hard to be upbeat about what we do when others seem to “win” with shortcuts that are plain wrong. 

As I commented in yesterday’s post on integrity and ethics, it seems as though the floodgates have opened to allow all sorts of deceitful behaviour.
It’s hard to know how to respond.

What honest writers must not do, however, is quit. 

It’s up to us to keep on creating fantastic stories and poetry for the readers out there who crave excellent books. 

It’s up to us to hold our heads high, proclaim “I write every word of my books!” and then show the world what we’ve got. 

In short, it’s up to us to show the cheaters and scammers how it should be done. 

Nobody but honest and hard-working authors can restore the faith of readers in Indoe and self publishing. The only way to do that is to maintain a premium of quality in the books on the shelves in stores, libraries and homes all over the world. 

We may have to work harder, smarter and cleaner than ever before. Still, we’ve had to do that in order to give traditional publishing a good shake, and we’ve certainly achieved that. 

We Indies have so much to offer. We have each other for support and an entire future that is yet to be shaped ahead of each of us.

I refuse to quit. I refuse to let the scammers win. Who’s with me? 

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Is Integrity Too Much To Hope For?

I have posted a couple of times in the past week on issues of integrity and ethics in the Indie Author community.

There, and in life in general, it seems as though having integrity is a little less fashionable than it used to be.

These days, it seems that people are more often driven by their hunger for money or power or fame and, as a consequence, having integrity is a less fashionable than it used to be.

What a sad state of affairs.

It’s no surprise, though, that fewer and fewer individuals value integrity as it used to be valued, when they see politicians, global corporations and even national leaders getting away with telling lies, taking or paying bribes, cheating the system and taking little or no accountability for these actions until forced to. If it works for the rich and powerful, why not the little guys?

This is no justification whatsoever. Just because someone else does it, doesn’t make it right. And just because they appear to get away with it doesn’t make it a viable option to shortcut the road to success.

In some ways, integrity matters even more now than ever, because people are finding new and clever ways to cheat and deceive others which often have significant consequences for many. Globalisation and technology have opened a floodgate of opportunities for legitimate businesses and scammers and pirates alike.

In a world where there is precious little to rely on, we need to be able to know who to trust. We need to be able to take someone at their word, to assume a contract will be met, to get what we pay for, and to know that the liars and cheats will be punished.

If nobody stands up to them and insists on standards of behaviour and ethics, it’s only going to get worse.

Integrity is not too much to hope for. In fact, it is an imperative that we should all take very seriously indeed.

Integrity should be something we value for its own sake. It’s a quality we should not only strive for, but teach and expect our children, our friends, and our companies to do likewise.

It does seem that it’s always going to be the regular folk who set the standards for those “above” them.

Nothing will change, though, unless those who still value integrity and honesty demand them of those who hold the power and make the decisions.

Only when the majority – and I do believe it is still the majority of people – who value integrity assert its importance and hold it up as the yardstick of acceptable behaviour can we hope for anything different.

Focus On Creation, Not Competition.

A reflection on integrity, creativity, and success.

Image by TeroVesalainen on Pixabay

Competition can be a good thing. It urges us to strive to make sure we do our best, and that our product is as good as anyone else’s. It makes us less willing to settle for something less.

However, it can also be unhealthy if we let ourselves be consumed by it. When a job or a hobby becomes all about being number one, and being better than everyone else, it takes us into territory far beyond what is good for us, and often beyond what is good for those we consider our competition. 

I see both things happening in the Indie Author community. 

Most strive to ensure their covers are eye-catching, their stories are good, and their books are error free. We compare our books to those in the same genre, so that we can gauge the likely level of attraction among readers.

Most of us see our fellow authors as people we can learn from. As a rule, The Indie author community excels at being helpful, free with advice, and positive and encouraging of one another. 

Some, though, seem intent on dragging others down— as though putting someone else down will push themselves further up the rungs of the ladder. Some resort to insult, backstabbing and rum our-mongering. Some sink low enough to leave nasty reviews and one-star ratings on their fellow authors’ books. Some find ways to cheat the system or rig contests to gain visibility and prestige. And some go even lower than that: plagiarism, book-stuffing, and various other ways of scamming the reader and making a lot of money that would otherwise be going to honest writers. Sadly, this discredits the entire Indie community in the eyes of many.

I abhor those behaviours, especially the more extreme they get. There is no place for them, no way to justify them, and certainly very little tolerance for them at all amongst those in the community who have any integrity. 

I also think that it’s a very sad indictment on how some people view their profession. Whether they are authors, realtors, bankers or whatever they do, how tragic is it that they are so fixed on their perceived image and definition of success that they will do anything – even risking destroying the very career they prize – to achieve that. 

The warning is clear: pursuit of “success at any cost” will probably bring about the very opposite.

If you see everyone else in your field as competition, you won’t find any joy in what you do. 

I would much rather be the writer who produces quality work that readers will love, even if it means I can’t quit my day job yet. I would rather be a poet who touches someone’s soul than a lowlife who helps themselves to someone else’s work or reputation.

The key to both success and integrity is simply to do your job well. That will speak for itself. 

That’s Jo, not Joy.

This weekend we’re attending a family reunion in Anglesea. Just before lunch was served, we sat in a room full of relatives and listened as one of our cousins shared a reflection on relationships among family.

He said, “Think about tthe friendships and relationships you have. Consider the negative, the strained, and the unhealthy…”

“Never mind about the unhealthy,” I muttered. The cousin sitting beside me laughed.

“Can you imagine if they all went Marie Kondo on me?” I continued.

“Does she bring me joy?”
“No, she brings sarcasm, snark, inappropriate humour and painful honesty.”

Seriously, I’d be here with maybe three people.

On Realising How Awful I Look. 

A day with family, holding a brand new baby, can make you see things from a new perspective.

I spent most of today with family, welcoming my new great-nephew to the family. It was a day full of love, laughter and baby cuddles… and lots of photos. 

Holding my beautiful baby boy made me overflow with all sort of love. Seeing my 86 year old dad holding him made us all more than a little emotional. Another picture of four generations – my dad, my brother, a niece and a baby boy – is a wonderful blessing that many families don’t see. 

I have also observed multiple times today how awful I look. That has been my first reaction to every photo I am in. 

In addition to chronic pain and depression, too many months of anguish, stress and anxiety have taken their toll. I have cried every day for at least 250 days. I have feared and I have despaired. And it shows. 

BUT I have also survived. It doesn’t really matter how crapful I end up looking. I’m stronger than everything that has tried and still tries to bring me down.

My heart and soul have bled onto pages and screens, but my words have touched, encouraged and inspired people on the way. My writing have been praised, and my books have won awards. 

So when you look at me or see pictures and think I don’t look so great, you just remember that I’ve earned it.

Double Disillusion.

So, it’s on.

Australians will head to the polls on July 2nd in an election that will see a “spill and refill” of all the seats in both houses of the Australian Parliament. For those unfamiliar with the Australian political system, this process is called a “double dissolution election”.

I had to laugh, though, when an ABC commentator today commented that “it’s going to be a very long campaign”. Has he not seen what’s going on in America? Months and months of campaigning just to obtain a party’s nomination to run for President, which means even more months of campaigning.

Fact is, I’m very interested in politics, but I don’t like any of the choices, either in America or here in Australia.

Why can’t we have honest, hard-working people who just want to serve their country as candidates for leadership? What happened to the statesman who believed in doing the right thing morally, both individually and as a nation?

Both countries have, in the past, had leaders who stood up for what was right and made vital changes in one way or another. Think of Lincoln standing against slavery, or JFK challenging the people so directly on issues of civil rights. Think of Whitlam putting an end to the White Australia policy. Whether or not one agreed with them, then or now, those men stood up for what they believed was morally correct for their country.

Contrast that with what we see today. People hungry for power, and willing to sell their souls to the devil to get it. “Campaigning” means bludgeoning one another with lies or, at best, insinuations. It’s not about policy or what the people want any more, it’s about being the last man, or woman, standing in a very personal and sometimes excruciating competition.

So often, I watch and listen aghast as they deliver speech after speech full of vitriol. Some speak hatred and intolerance. Some barely have any policies on anything much at all – who am I kidding? Why let policy and standards get in the way of politics? Candidates mock and discredit each other in the false belief that it makes them look better, but it only serves to demean themselves. Muckraking and sledging are no way to win respect. I just don’t understand why more people can’t see through them.

I’m so tired of the modern political game. Give me a candidate I can believe in. Give me policies that don’t involve vilifying or punishing an entire group of people because of the actions of a few. Give me someone I can vote for without killing part of my own soul.

Sad pants off… Happy pants on.

It was a really rough week at school for a number of reasons. I had been feeling very low and quite emotional for a couple of days after receiving some quite negative feedback from some of my students who preferred I didn’t know who they were, via my boss.
I was struggling to get past that until some lovely things happened to remind me that my professional life is not defined by negative comments from one group of students.

Thursday morning was complicated by things way beyond my control. I was supervising an exam and nobody came to take my place, so I couldn’t leave to take my Year 12 class. Given that the day before I found it really hard to go in there, I was thankful for the reprieve despite the obvious inconvenience that went hand-in-hand with it.  I was worried that the Year 12 students would think I just didn’t bother; in that sense, my missing their class couldn’t have happened at a worse time.  While still in the exam room, I sent them a note to apologise and explain what had happened.  The good thing was that it gave me time and distance to decide how I was going to deal with the issues I was facing in there.  I wanted to talk with them about it, but not while I was still upset enough to cry or sound whiny. I didn’t want it to be a knee-jerk or emotional reaction.

Later in the morning I ran some auditions for the school musical. This year we’re doing “The Pirates of Penzance”.  Two of the senior students who have both had leading roles in previous years auditioned together – she played Frederick and he played Ruth. It was absolutely delightful. That was the first time I had smiled, let alone laughed, in almost three days. They had no idea of how I was feeling, nor did they realise just what amazing therapy they were for me.

That afternoon I had my drama class. The students were performing plays that they had written themselves.
Those kids were amazing. They wrote clever scripts and performed them beautifully. There were some fabulous moments of humour, some well-developed drama, and very clever characterisation.  I saw one young lady who started with little confidence perform with confidence and style. I saw three young actors with a lot more experience perform a highly comedic play with at least eight roles, achieved cleverly with the change of a hat, glasses, jacket or prop to denote a different character.
After their performances, we had a little time so we talked about the plays and what they thought of their performances. I was so encouraged to hear them praising each other and saying really positive and constructive things without any encouragement to do so from me. We shared some fun moments and we laughed together. It was one of those moments where we all bonded as a group and everyone left feeling great.

On that same afternoon, we had our ‘Professional Learning Community’ staff meeting. This is where we divide into groups and discuss things like assessment, teaching and learning strategies, motivation, and all that type of stuff.  I was so tempted to just go home and avoid the whole thing, but I went along like the good girl I am.
The “icebreaker” was to tell everyone the high point and the low point of our teaching in the past few weeks.
I shared about my drama class and their great performances, but also about the positive bonding time afterward. I shared my frustration about not having been relieved from exam supervision that morning as the “low point” because I was still hurting over the year 12s and didn’t want to tell anyone about it.
In the course of the discussion, I was reminded that everyone has low points, nobody gets things right all the time, and that those issues don’t mean we’re not good at what we do. They just mean we’re human. Another colleague remarked that half the time when we think things are failing miserably, the kids don’t even realise. I responded with the observation that it’s like a play on stage – we know the script, but the kids don’t, so half the time when we think we’ve failed miserably, they are none the wiser.

As I drove home, I thought about my year 12s. As I wrote the other day, I didn’t know if it was one, two or seventeen of them that had complained. What if it really was only one or two? I thought about each of the students and decided that it definitely wouldn’t have been some of them. I decided to talk with them the next morning at the end of my class – rationally, reasonably, and humbly.

On Friday morning, ten minutes before the recess bell, I asked them to stop working and listen as I had something I wanted all of them to hear.
When I told them that I had been informed that there were students in there who thought I didn’t like them and weren’t being treated fairly, a number of the students looked indignant and quite angry. They were as horrified as I had been. That was reassuring.
I told them that I’m aware I don’t always get things right. I told them that if I had caused offence or hurt anyone that I was genuinely sorry and had been unaware of it until this week. I said that I didn’t want any barriers between them and me. I want to do everything I can to help them finish school well.
I told them that if I seemed reserved or miserable, it was far more likely that I was in physical pain than that I didn’t want to be with them.  I told them that I don’t like to let on when I’m in pain because that’s my problem, not theirs.
I asked them to please come and talk with me, or write me a note, or send me an email, if they wanted to talk about anything one-to-one or if there was any aspect of their work they wanted help with.
I reassured them that I really do like them. I think they’re great – and that’s the truth. I love being in class with them.
I left the room at the end of the lesson feeling like a weight had been lifted off me. I had met the conflict head on and dealt with it as honestly and sincerely as I could.

The only kids who came to see me after class were ones who wanted to tell me that they knew I loved them and they had no idea where any of that came from. They told me it certainly wasn’t the majority view, and it hadn’t been discussed in the common room.  Nobody has sent me any anonymous hate mail, nor has anyone asked me to work on something specific with them.

I really hope that I modelled some good behaviour in terms of resolving conflict and apologising. I really hope that the reassurance I gave was all that was needed to set their minds at ease.  I trust that things will improve from here on.
All I can do now is wait and see.