I was vaguely aware that the Federal Trade Commission had recently introduced some new rules designed to stem blog payola (another echo from radio days past), but wasn't quite sure how those rules pertained to us, here at Box~Octo. (I actually typed "to us Octopussies" just now, but then madly backspaced in shame when I had this vision of Colleen's eyebrows flying off her head.) Essentially, they want bloggers to expose freebies they're getting in exchange for product reviews, which I don't think is a bad thing, but it's a little murky how they're going to levy citations or fines -- and they're threatening some fairly chunky dollar amounts for the fines.
Anyway, I loved literary agent Janet Reid's approach. Her disclaimer in part:
For the purposes of FTC compliance it's just best to assume I'm a bought and paid for pawn of the publishing industry.
It's best to just assume I have a vested financial interest in any and every book and product mentioned on this blog, particularly the ones I don't identify as written by my clients.
Consider yourself duly notified of my lack of objectivity, and of course thank the FTC for watching out for you.
I'm going to follow her lead and cover our collective octo-fanny with a blanket disclaimer, but with the addition of this woo woo thought for the day:
Publishing is a community. We all have a vested interest in each other's success -- or failure. Every book is our book. Every time you help a neighbor, you benefit. Every time you tear someone else down, you lose something. Karmic payola, my friends.
For the record, Collen and I do receive a lot of free books from publishers, authors, and PR folk. We don't always plug the book or interview the author, but that's because Colleen and I are both under deadline pretty much all the time. We try hard to do as many as we can. We've fallen down a bit lately. Super busy summer. (I have a dozen people waiting very patiently for me right now, so let me add an official apology for my neglect. I'm getting there.)
I have friends at various large and small presses, and if they ask me for a favor, I do what I can to help out. I don't lie and say I like a book I hate, but I'm predisposed to like most books, especially those written or published by my friends, who tend to be nerdy types, and I will try hard to find something positive to say about any book or author. I will not trash a book or author in this space. If I really had to hold my nose while reading, I'll opt to say nothing at all.
Colleen has strong ties to the RWA and the Houston romance writing community, where she is revered as a bit of a goddess, but she's pretty much the same way I am with reviews. If you can't say something nice, say nothing at all, just like Mom always told you. While books are being given to her, she's not getting paid, and no authors are stopping by her house to do her laundry or anything. (I've actually stopped by her house to do MY laundry, but that's another story.)
Bottom lining it, we are strongly biased in favor of a healthy publishing industry in general and our friends in particular. We like free books! If you want to send us a published book (no self-published books, please) or a bound galley, we will embrace it with all the love in our hearts, review it if we can, interview the author if at all possible, or at the very least wish you well.
(Above "Rules for Living in Misery" are from Twelve Guaranteed Ways to Stay Miserable (or Change) by Patricia L. Zerman and Beverly J. Wolf. Full disclosure: I have not read this book, but it seems like she's onto something. This list is intensely applicable to writer/moms. Click graphic to enlarge.)