How to Be an Ethical Self-Published Author

ASP 11: How to Be an Ethical Self-Published Entrepreneur

Quote of the day

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.

– Potter Stewart

How important is ethics as a self-published author?

A lot of people want to cut corners and ripping content off other authors. This might seem easier in the short run, but it will ultimately hurt your self-publishing company and give you a bad name.

There is a Washington Post article that talks about some bad Amazon practices, and this might be worth reading to make sure you abide by Amazon’s rules. Amazon is cracking down on “review-buying” websites and people who manipulate the system, so you want to make sure that everything you do is above board.

So how can you get reviews ethically?

These days, it is becoming harder to get reviews. You have to work hard at it. An email list helps in getting your initial reviews, and an open-ended question in your autoresponder sequence can also be effective. Bryan Cohen uses a system that engages his followers by offering them a free book in exchange for an honest review.

When looking for potential reviewers, you want to find people who are genuine in what they do and say. Go to Amazon Top 1000 Reviewers and find people who review books similar to yours, then reach out to them, offering them to read your book in return for a review.

In general, Facebook groups and review clubs are a dangerous practice, so try to stay away from them.

Has the Amazon crackdown affected the Amazon algorithm or top lists?

The reality is that a higher number of reviews is not as important as people make it out to be. Our book 10-Minute Digital Declutter: The Simple Habit to Eliminate Technology Overload has been out for three weeks, so it obviously doesn’t have a ton of reviews yet, but it is still doing really well on the charts.

What ethical considerations surround the content you put out there?

Many people are lazy but want to see results quick. Short cuts used to work, but not anymore. The best way to develop a reputation and get reviews is to produce quality content. Write good books around a specific topic with compelling covers and the results will follow.

What makes a quality book?

Length is not necessarily an indicator of quality. The important question to ask is, does the book actually solve the problem that it advertises on the cover? People read to learn, and they will select your book based on the topic material. Make sure that your book addressed the topic comprehensively and offers useful advice and solutions.

Technically speaking, a books quality is reflected in good editing and formatting, an great cover, and an enjoyable, valuable reading experience.

There are lots of tips for writing a good book in How to Launch a #1 Best-Selling Book — The 5-Day Plan That Works.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of copycat authors who will spin your content. Although they may not copy you word for word, they steal concepts from other people’s books. When this happens to you, try not to worry too much. You are better off spending your time and energy writing your next book. However, do report it to Amazon, especially if you believe you have a case and can prove it.

Steve actually had his concept Habit Stacking trademarked, so that is an option.

What are some other unethical practices when it comes to ranking your books well?

There are some websites/services that you can pay to buy out your books at $0.99. What this attempts to do is game the system and raise your book’s ranking. We don’t suggest doing anything that attempts to game or contravene Amazon’s policies and algorithm.

In the long run, the gap between traditional publishing and self-publishing will narrow because of platforms like Amazon. Eventually, some traditional publishers with lots of money may start to adapt strategies that self-publishers use, making it even more challenging for self-publishers. So the best long-term approach is to focus on writing good books. Quality content will sell, no matter what changes occur across a platform or market.

In business, there is rarely a short cut to success. But you can have short-term wins, especially if you do things right.

Final Words

Your focus should be on writing as many good books as possible and building an audience. Don’t get distracted by people that are taking short cuts and somehow succeeding. Karma will eventually catch up with them—usually in the form of improved programming by Amazon and the other platforms. Amazon doesn’t want people gaming the system, so they are doing everything they can to stop it. What they DO want is good books—so spend your energy writing quality content, rather than tricking a platform into thinking your content is quality.

Authority Pub Academy

The Authority Pub Academy is launching in January, and will include six modules with 70+ five-minute videos focused on a variety of topics. This will be a robust course with something for everyone, no matter where you are in your self-publishing journey. And we are happy to announce that Mark Dawson will be a guest author.

Visit to sign up for the wait list. And as always, get your free 46-point self-publishing checklist at

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