My daughter is recovering from her bout of H1N1, and the rest of us are flu-free so far, so it’s been a very good week at my casa. Wednesday I heard that my latest release, Shadowlight, debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at #17, which was a lovely moment as well. Now if I could just make it to the top of the laundry pile. Last time I was back by the washer I saw a bunch of sherpas carrying packs and following some Englishmen around the base. I think they were debating which side would give them the best chance of reaching the summit.
As I’ve been surfing around and catching up, I’ve noticed a bunch of bloggers who seem upset or worried about the finalized version of the FTC guidelines for endorsements and testimonials. While no doubt the debate will rage on, I recommend that you avoid getting your information from rumors, protests and speculation, and educate yourself on exactly what is expected of you as a blogger (there is a .pdf from the FTC here that provides all the info.)
My take on it is that everyone has to be transparent now. If you get a free books, products, ad income or any kind of compensation for whatever you’re posting, you have to tell your readers about it. If a friend asks you to help promote their new release, or does a reciprocal-type promotion thing with you, you must incorporate that fact into your review or recommendation. If your publisher tells you to put something on your blog, you need to be upfront about that as well. However you feel about such disclosures, people generally aren’t tarred and feathered for being honest.
The other way to go is take the path that I have with my author blog (and I’m endorsing a product there today if you’d like to see how I do it.) Don’t put ads on the your blog. Refuse to accept free books or any other form of compensation. Avoid getting involved in cronyism situations where you endorse out of the obligations of friendship or reciprocation. Personally purchase and distribute everything you give away, and don’t permit your publisher to have any input to or control of your blog. It won’t get you all those lovely free books, and it may not endear you to your editor, but it will liberate your blog from conflicts of interest and keep you from violating the new guidelines.
While it may be a little inconvenient or uncomfortable for some bloggers to adhere to these guidelines, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. People should know if someone is endorsing a book because they loved it, or because their BFF sent them a box of copies and desperately needs a sales boost.
You should also post a blanket disclosure policy somewhere permanent and easy to access from the front page of your blog, something you can custom-design and generate online over at DisclosurePolicy.org (which is also where I got the nifty badge up there.) I used the site to generate my original blog disclosure statement (I did reword it a bit to suit me), which is as follows:
Paperback Writer is a personal blog written and edited by me. This blog never accepts any form of advertising, sponsorship, or paid insertions. I write for my own purposes. Other than contracted royalties from the publishers of my novels from sales of said novels through booksellers, I never receive compensation from what I write, endorse or link to on this blog.
I have never been compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own or that of the visitors who leave comments. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.
For more information about Paperback Writer, contact the blog owner at LynnViehl@aol.com. This policy is effective as of August 1, 2004.
There’s an interesting follow-up to the FTC news release over at PRNewser that contains some additional statements by representatives of the FTC that indicate that all the $11,000.00 fine per violation hysteria around the blogosphere was not accurate or even necessary.
What’s your opinion of the FTC guidelines? Let us know in comments.