This is the email I will be sending to every publisher I have received ARCs and/or review copies from in the past:
As I am sure you are aware, the Federal Trade Commission has released a new policy concerning individuals who review items online. In an interview yesterday with Ed Champion, the FTC's Richard Cleland stated that online book reviewers do fall within this policy and that all books (and ARCs) they receive and review must declared as compensation. Mr. Cleland further asserted that the books must either be declared as compensation (apparently on our taxes) for the reviews or returned to the publisher. He had no explanation for what was to become of books that are received but not reviewed nor any method for proving the nonreview of a book.
While many sites and major media representatives have asserted (quite rightfully) that it will be nearly impossible for the FTC to police the internet, it is clear that some individuals and sites will be specifically targeted. I have no interest in playing a game of chicken with a federal agency woefully undereducated on the publishing industry and the history of book reviewing in this country. To be frank, it is not worth it to me to take a chance that the FTC will ignore my reviewing and instead fine someone else.
Publishers have thus far been largely absent from the outcry over the new guidelines and I would like to know where you stand. Please respond immediately and make me aware of your position on this issue. The new guidelines will go into affect on December 1st and for many of us, that will likely mean the end of receiving ARCs or review copies from publishers. With the ever shrinking print review sections in newspapers and magazines, the negative impact on publishing is obvious.
Here's my question - what are you going to do about it?
UPDATED WITH RESPONSES FROM PUBLISHERS:
From the Publishing Director at Counterpoint: They are quite frustrated as well and state: "I'm sure publishers will respond, but it will be the industry groups such as the Association of American Publishers, who will need to take this up as representatives of the industry as a whole. As an independent publisher with limited resources, there's not a lot we can do, but we will stay involved."
I'm now going to send a copy of my letter to the Assoc of American Publishers.
From Publicity Mgr Llewellyn Worldwide (Flux): A very detailed letter (which he included) has been sent to PW on this issue. It includes this: "I believe for the most part, we, Llewellyn/Flux/Midnight Ink, as a publisher include bloggers in our complimentary ARC and review copy mailings when they clearly demonstrate that they are recognized in the book industry as credible reviewers whose primary audience are consumers who fully expect to encounter book reviews. And I also believe that is a reasonable expectation that readers of these blogs discern the
connection between publisher and reviewer, again, which has always been one party NOT exerting influence on another as a sponsor or an advertiser, but whose intent is solely to ensure that independent reviewers know that the book exists, without obligation to the publisher. "