GENREALITY


October 16th, 2009 by LViehl
Disclosure

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.

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16 comments to “Disclosure”

  1. Charlene Teglia
    Comment
    1
     · October 16th, 2009 at 7:52 am · Link

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have disclosure. I’ve added who I write for to my Facebook and Twitter profiles, so that the business relationships are disclosed. I should add one of those badges to my site, too.

    It’s a little mindboggling that a review copy of a book might be considered compensation, but it really doesn’t hurt to say you got a book for free in exchange for a review. I just hope this doesn’t reduce book reviews.



  2. Charlene Teglia
    Comment
    2
     · October 16th, 2009 at 8:02 am · Link

    Also, I snagged your wording about royalties from sales of contracted works. Thanks!



  3. Lynn
    Comment
    3
     · October 16th, 2009 at 8:30 am · Link

    As a consumer I’m more inclined to trust the opinions of people who are not compensated in any way to offer them. That said, I don’t think ARCS or review copies of books should count as compensation; to me they’re more like free samples. But if the reviewer turns around and sells them on eBay or trades them in at a USB for credit, then they do profit from it, so I guess it has to count.



  4. Lynn
    Comment
    4
     · October 16th, 2009 at 8:31 am · Link

    Yeah, I thought at the time that it was probably a bit nit-picky of me to include it but now I’m glad I did. :)



  5. Lynn M
    Comment
    5
     · October 16th, 2009 at 8:43 am · Link

    I’m actually a bit confused about who, exactly, is required to have such disclosures. Are ALL bloggers required to do so? Even those of us who haven’t been professionally published or don’t earn any form of income from our writing at all? What about all the casual bloggers out there who post family pix and the occasional book or movie review just for kicks but are blogging as a form of journaling but not as self-promotion?

    If it’s the case that ALL bloggers must provide a disclosure, I think the guidelines are too expansive. If it’s simply a matter of people who earn any sort of living that ties in with their blog or use their blog to offer opinions that may affect the sales of product of any kind (books, movies, whatever), then sure, I can see why disclosure is both honest and necessary.

    Then again, I suppose it’s much easier to require all bloggers to disclose so you don’t have to deal with the gray, wavy line of who does and who doesn’t.



  6. Marissa Turner
    Comment
    6
     · October 16th, 2009 at 9:15 am · Link

    I’m really tempted to add to mine “but I will accept those tickets to Ireland if you’re looking to unload them…”



  7. Lynn
    Comment
    7
     · October 16th, 2009 at 9:53 am · Link

    The way I’m interpreting it has nothing to do whether you’re a pro in your chosen or desired job field or you’re strictly blogging for fun. The FTC is more concerned with how bloggers personally profit from what they endorse, and if they’re offering authentic personal opinions or staging promotion to appear to be a personal opinion (which seems to be more of a problem in the retail product market, with these companies who are paying bloggers to pose as regular citizens and post glowing reviews and recs for their products.)

    I think if you aren’t profiting from it, and you’re not offering false or deceptive opinions, you have nothing to worry about. But that’s my interpretation; as always YMMV.



  8. Lynn
    Comment
    8
     · October 16th, 2009 at 9:53 am · Link

    Definitely sign me up for that kickback! Lol.



  9. nightsmusic
    Comment
    9
     · October 16th, 2009 at 10:32 am · Link

    Well, I gave the disclosure thing a try and it told me where to place the info, but gave me no info to place, so I’m guessing I missed something along the way. I’ll have to try again later. :)

    I really think though that this whole thing is foolish in many ways. The blogs/bloggers who really do need to be concerned with this whole thing are the big blogs and company owned blogs who do accept compensation in it’s many forms, not the individual blogger like me who does the very rare review because I received the gift of an ARC. (which would never leave my hands, btw)

    But regardless of how I received whatever I’m reviewing, it’s still going to get an honest one. Love or hate, that’s what will be posted.

    Hey, I’m just a little fishy in a great big pond. I want to stay that way. :D



  10. Lynn
    Comment
    10
     · October 16th, 2009 at 12:10 pm · Link

    Theo, you should get to a “step 6″ at DisclosurePolicy.org that gives you a block of text (basically a condensed version of your answers to the five previous steps) to cut ‘n paste on your blog. To get there you do have to click on Finish at the bottom of step 5, and you have to scroll down a bit to get to that Finish icon.

    Hey, I’m just a little fishy in a great big pond. I want to stay that way.

    Nothing wrong with that; the sharks are near-sighted. :grin:



  11. Shiloh Walker
    Comment
    11
     · October 17th, 2009 at 9:05 am · Link

    To be honest, I haven’t really thought much about it. I buy the stuff I give away for the most part, although if I’m at an event, I tend to pick up extra goodies to give away to readers, and I state that in the blog post.



  12. Lynn
    Comment
    12
     · October 17th, 2009 at 10:52 am · Link

    One of the neater things authors do is pass along to their readers the freebies they pick up at pub events. A lot of readers can’t afford to travel or pay the $$$ to attend, so it’s the next best thing to being there. Like ARCs and review copies, I think the practice should be viewed as giving out free samples, but with the new guidelines now it’s best to do as you have and state where you got them in the post.



  13. David Bridger
    Comment
    13
     · October 17th, 2009 at 12:20 pm · Link

    I missed all the fuss while I had the flu, and probably wouldn’t have taken much notice anyway, because as a Brit I’m not subject to US law – unless my wonderful government decides to allow the US authorities to extradite me for being cheeky, or something.



  14. Lynn
    Comment
    14
     · October 17th, 2009 at 1:45 pm · Link

    Lord, I hope not. Cheekiness should be valued, not prosecuted. We’d have to hack into the Feds’ computer and change your extradition flight plan. Maybe smuggle you over to Fiji. :)



  15. David Bridger
    Comment
    15
     · October 17th, 2009 at 4:28 pm · Link

    Thank you! I’d love to visit Fiji! :smile:



  16. Doug
    Comment
    16
     · October 19th, 2009 at 11:22 am · Link

    It’s not entirely about transparency/disclosure, although for many bloggers that will probably be the major effect.

    Anything that you received any incentive to write is an endorsement, and endorsements must not contain any deceptive statements.

    That brings up the issue of celebrity endorsements. If a well-known site says something about a product or service, that can be considered to be an endorsement even if the site received no incentive. The prohibition on deceptive statements is the concern here.



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