Tales from the Sith Witch - The Official Blog of Julie Ann Dawson

Author Ethics Series

September 7, 2011

Pride Cometh Before The Fall: The Perils of Entitlement

Every author’s dream is to have his or her book read by as many people as possible.  We write because we feel we have something of value to say, and we want to share that with others who can find entertainment, joy, and meaning in it.  But there is a fine line between a desire to share one’s work and demanding a captive audience.  An unhealthy sense of entitlement can breed contempt for the very people one is hoping to attract.  And once a writer develops a sense of contempt for his or her own audience, it becomes all too easy to follow the slippery slope to justify all manner of unethical behavior. 


Again, this is not an issue unique to independent authors.  We see this unhealthy sense of entitlement almost everywhere we look in our society.  Psychologists have long studied the link between a sense of entitlement and narcissism, and how an unreasonable sense of entitlement can lead to otherwise fair-minded people adopting unethical positions to justify their own agendas.[1]  It encourages us to place our wants before the needs of others.  It allows us to justify minimizing the concerns of those around us.  And it makes it far more difficult for us to identify the real root causes of our problems so that they can be accurately addressed.


Common examples of this problem can be found in almost any writer-centric forum.  When a person accuses a reviewer of being a “grammar nazi” for identifying grammar and punctuation problems, or when a person lashes out at a reader with comments like, “forget the grammar.  What do you think of the story?” we are seeing the sense of entitlement at work.  Instead of attempting to determine if the criticism may be justified, the author attacks the messenger. 


This sense of entitlement also feeds the various conspiracy theories that circulate in independent publishing communities.  An increasingly common “complaint” among independent publishers is that companies such as Amazon.com and others that offer digital publishing or POD services are willfully delaying payments or withholding royalties.  The argument goes something like this:  Amazon collects payments immediately when someone buys a Kindle book, therefore they should pay the authors immediately once the returns period has expired.  Because Amazon “refuses” to pay authors immediately, they are trying to hold back money from independent authors who need it. 


Now anyone who has ever done any accounting knows the problem with dealing with micropayments.  The more individual transactions one has to process, the greater the risk of accounting errors and the greater the likelihood that a single accounting error will carry over to other transactions. Just imagine if your credit card company sent you a separate bill for each individual transaction, or if you had to pay for each gallon of gas as a separate transaction when filling your tank.  Now magnify that effort by a few million individual transactions and the rational business person realizes why such a payment scheme is logistically unsound.


But in the mind of a person with a sense of entitlement, he wants his money and he wants it now.  And so what it a vendor has to jump through unreasonable hoops and completely change the way the company has done business for ten years to make it happen? 


Such a sense of entitlement also makes one more susceptible to those that want to take advantage of authors.  By playing on the idea that a writer is “entitled” to sales, many suspect services have sprouted up over the years to separate independent authors from their money.  Services that allow you to buy good reviews, schemes to manipulate the sales rank of popular retail sites, or awards that have no actual value outside those who crave adding “award winning” to their inflated resume.  Many of these services have grown overt, no longer even pretending to offer “honest” reviews and guaranteeing only positive reviews will be posted.  Authors pay these services hundreds of dollars to generate dozens of paid for positive reviews in order to trick readers into thinking a book is better than it is.  But readers are smarter than that and have learned to spot such frauds, thus the money spent is wasted and destroys the author’s credibility.  In short, an oversized sense of entitlement not only make one more likely to adopt unethical behavior, it also makes it easier for one to fall victim to it. 


[1] Mayo Clinic Staff, . “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Mayoclinic.com. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 11/19/2009. Web. 28 Apr 2011. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/narcissistic-personality-disorder/DS00652/DSECTION=symptoms>.

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