Disclosure Guidelines for Book Reviewers

Disclosure

UPDATED on May 16, 2018 with this email from one of my publishers:

Hi bookstagrammer,

I have some updates about our current disclosure rules. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) here in the US has been getting more and more aggressive in recent months with cracking down on social media influencers and the brands that partner with them, and has begun to penalize those who aren’t following their rules. That means that anyone who receives free products from a brand (like books from us!) and posts about them on social media must be including disclosure language in the first lines of a post’s caption before the “see more” button.

As I mention in my emails and letters to you all, our recommended disclosure is something like, “Thank you @publisher for the free books!”. You can change this language up, but whatever you say, you must say that the books are free! Unfortunately, the hashtag #partner is no longer sufficient to satisfy the new FTC rules.

The penalties for breaching these rules can get pretty steep, for both brands and influencers. To protect us both, our team will be keeping a closer eye on posts using our books and will be following up with influencers who aren’t abiding by the rules.

Sorry for such downer news on a Monday. We really appreciate the support from bookstagrammers like you and value our partnership – which is why we want to help protect you from FTC fines. I’ll be back soon with our June mailing links, but I appreciate your attention to this in the meantime!

Thank you!

Dear Book Reviewers ~

If you receive books for free from publishers or publicists or authors, etc – you need this information. Yes, that includes Net Galley and Edelweiss and BookishFirst and Blogging for Books and all of those things. If you get a free book for review or promotional purposes, THIS IS FOR YOU. If you buy or get all of your books from the library, then you can ignore it…..unless you want to be able to tell if OTHER book reviewers are following the guidelines!

Note: THIS ALSO APPLIES TO TEACHERS and those in the education market/world. Teachers seem to be the worst about blatantly gushing all over on social media about books they received from authors and publishers with ZERO disclosure. Maybe they don’t know about these rules? In my opinion, dishonestly marketing as a teacher to other teachers isn’t great practice.

I am not a lawyer, but I AM a former accountant, a librarian, a teacher and a mother, all roles which favor rule-following. I also have a conscience which guides my life. If there is a rule to follow, I tend to know about it! I first became aware of these guidelines in the spring of 2017 when the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) began cracking down on celebrities who were blatantly marketing for companies on social media without disclosing. Cracking down on celebrities translated to cracking down on EVERYONE. Here is what came of it, followed by more specific guidance from publishers.

If you receive something for FREE in exchange for a review or product placement in a post or ANY KIND OF EXPOSURE – you must disclose that information blatantly. This applies to all forms of social media and blog posts, including Goodreads, Amazon reviews, etc.

Here’s why. If you don’t disclose, you are providing advertising for that company WITH compensation (being the book) and NOT telling people. That’s not cool. Or legal. If you don’t tell people, they assume you wanted to read the book or use the mug, etc so much that you bought it. And you didn’t. That’s lying and it’s sneaky and oh, it’s illegal.

Without digressing into my total moral outrage about people who blatantly do NOT disclose (I see you and I’m NOT HAPPY!!!) I’ll share the guidance I have received from 3 different publishers. Please note: this applies to ALL publishers and companies, but not all publishers give specific guidance. And some companies give the OPPOSITE advice, which means they are totally shady and you should question working with them. For real. Don’t work with shady people.

Here is the most recent advice from Doubleday (January 2018):

img_1643

And that in my contract for Abrams Dinner Party (August 2018):

Screenshot 2018-01-11 05.56.39

And for Crown Publishing:

Screenshot 2018-01-11 06.00.08

And YES, this includes Instagram Stories!!!

UPDATED to include this guidance from Random House and Berkley from Jessica (you need to read that linked post too re: this topic!) SPRING 2018:

Also, I’m not sure if anyone has sent along our new legal posting requirements when we send books along to influencers, but if you’re posting on social – can you please make sure to include one of the following disclosures “above the fold” (before any “expand” or “more” button) on all posts:

  • @randomhouse #partner
  • “Thanks for the free books, @randomhouse”
  • Include the hashtag #sponsored #ad and tag @randomhouse

If the post is a video, this disclosure must occur within the video itself via voiceover and/or superimposed text. Also to note, these requeirements apply to all posts, including any videos that disappear after time like a Insta/FB story, snaps, etc”

img_2034

It applies EVERYWHERE ONLINE – and that includes even if you aren’t actively reviewing a book, but it’s just in the shot for a pretty Instagram shot of your coffee table.

I don’t know how to be any more clear about this, and can’t see really any wiggle room at all. People on Instagram seem to want to debate the intricacies of this, and in my mind, there are none. Just do the right thing. And if you haven’t been doing this already, that’s okay. Now you know better. So you can do better.

Here is how I have been doing it lately:

STARTING my Instagram posts with:

emoji #partner Thanks to @publisher for this free review copy!

On twitter, I end my post with @publisher #partner

And just GET OVER caring about the aesthetic of your caption. The FTC doesn’t care and if you don’t do this, you’re skirting the right thing to do. If you are an ambassador for a brand, LEAD YOUR POST WITH THAT. Example: #pubambassador or #partner.

Don’t waste time arguing. Just do it. Move on.

Sincerely,
Kate

Please see this post on the Later blog with even MORE information and guidance for Instagram. 


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Twitter ~ @theloud_library

If you would like to connect with authors and reviewers, please head to my Authorand Reviewer pages here! 

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11 thoughts on “Disclosure Guidelines for Book Reviewers

  1. Pingback: Tips for book reviewers and reviews! – Stacie Boren

  2. I appreciate this so much Kate. Thank you for the advice. I’ve been operating all willy nilly. I had been saying that the book is an ARC, for example and I have started tagging publishers, etc. but like you said, now that I know better, I’m going to do better. Thanks for the help.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Let’s Talk About ARCs/Galleys! – Jessicamap Reviews

  4. This is very informative and helpful. I found this post through Jessicamap Reviews and as book blogger, I would love to be aware of the things that I should be doing when posting my reviews. I wish all publishers posted their guidelines in a place where bloggers can see them, so that we make sure that we follow their specific preferences. I would love to see instructions from them what/when to post on social media, and what/when they want us to post our blogs. I have been given great guidelines from bloggers, but it’s been hard to find info from publishers themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks so much! I’m new to bookstagram and so far have only posted books I’ve bought or gotten from the library. Today, I’m beginning my first digital ARC from NetGalley (hoping to start as a reviewer there), so I will definitely be disclosing when I post my reviews on Instagram and Goodreads! Thanks again! -Lauren @okayinmybook

    Liked by 1 person

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