Book Blogs and the FTC

I was sitting here wondering what words of wisdom to dispense or, more probably, what subject to blather on about, when out of nowhere appeared inspiration: book blogs. Well, it wasn’t out of nowhere — I found a discussion of the new FTC ruling on a Yahoo thread. Apparently, many book bloggers are talking about having to give up reviewing books for fear of incurring the wrath of the FTC along with a fine of  up to$11,000.

The new rulings say that bloggers endorsing a product, such as writing a favorable book review, must disclose their connection with the publisher, author or whoever gave them the book to review, since the book qualifies as compensation (unless they return the book). This interested me primarily because I’ve been searching the net looking for review sites for Daughter Am I, otherwise it might have slipped past me as does most government shenanigans.

Today I received yet another notice from a reviewer saying that he couldn’t/wouldn’t commit to review my book. I console myself with the thought that at least I tried — I really hadn’t planned on going the book blogger/book reviewer route since I received favorable reviews for my first novels from people who bought the books and didn’t expect to get them free. Still, I thought it worthwhile to at least try getting reviews from book bloggers — I want to give Daughter Am I every chance of succeeding — and, in the process, I reviewed hundreds of book blogs. Apparently some reviewers receive tons of books (well, not tons, perhaps, but still a significant number) from the major publishers, and only give a token notice to those from small independents. Others will accept books from anyone without promising to read the book. Sounds like a racket to me.

Still, the hoopla over the FTC ruling is a bit premature. Almost all the book blogs post their review policy, and every one of them mention that they are given the books. If, in fact, the bloggers have some sort of arrangement with a publisher, they should disclose it in the interests of fairness. Authors should know up front they have almost no chance of being reviewed so they don’t waste their money sending their book into a void. On the other hand, if there is no arrangement, then there’s no problem. At the bottom of the review, bloggers can simply say “Author So-and-So send me Such-and-Such a book to review. I have no other connection to said author.” Problem solved. No FTC intervention.

Oddly enough, the FTC excludes newspapers from the ruling because a) newspapers are assumed to be unbiased and so are not “endorsing” the books they review and b) they retain the books, not the reviewer. Not so. Newspapers are much more biased than bloggers, endorsing books that no one in their right mind would read. Also, many newspapers have a review table where they dump books for any employee to take and review. And keep.

I wonder what theFTC ruling is on ebooks? Is that compensation? A reviewer is allowed to return the book so as not to have to disclose connection, but how do you return an ebook you’ve reviewed?

The FTC ruling seems to be just another phase of this year’s publishing industry upheaval. It will be interesting to see where it all leads.

DAIDaughter Am I, my young woman/old gangsters coming of age adventure, will be available from Second Wind Publishing in two weeks!

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