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This is the email I will be sending to every publisher I have received ARCs and/or review copies from in the past:

Dear Publisher:

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?

Sincerely,

Colleen Mondor

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. "

comments

I look forward to hearing what response you get!

I'll post if I hear anything - I hope you will contact pubs as well!

I had no idea, Colleen! EEK!

I will write to HarperTeen tomorrow.

I disclose where I get books because I think some readers want to know -- so in terms of that? Not a "big deal."

What is a big deal is the view that a book review is no longer an artistic expression but a product that is bought for; and the other things brought up by Ed and Dear Author and Ron Hogan.

Since the publishers are the ones the FTC would truly target, my guess is that the huge silence you see from them (as well as from publicists and tour organizers and other possible "advertisers") is because their attorneys are examining all this, making calls, and around November 1 we'll start seeing emails and policies from publishers about what they want us to say re disclosure. You all know how I feel about THAT; in other words, um, no. Especially as it is more than likely that each publisher could have a different requirement, based on their attorneys interpretation.

I am very interested to see what kind of response you get. If anything, the result of all this will simply be that I stop accepting ARCs. It won't be any hardship for me, as I don't get very many in the first place, and there are plenty of other sources for my reading materials. But if other bloggers feel the same, it would hurt the publishers a lot when they can't send out nearly as many books anymore.

Thank you for the information. It's amazing, and grating, that the new guidelines aren't (guidelines). Rather they stand as some sort of veiled threat.


At BooksForKids-reviews we're trying to devise a policy/statement. But what really has us puzzled is what to do about the reviews already written, which total some 3000+ opinions of books and products we originally posted elsewhere.


I don't know about the rest of my cohort, but I can't frankly remember what came from a store, from a library, or from a publisher or author.

Again, thanks for the post.

That's what I'm wondering. Do we have to go back to our old reviews and write the disclaimer?

Colleen, Here's a perspective I hadn't thought of ...

Like many of us, I use one of the bookish social networking sites to list my library and link reviews. A couple weeks ago, I asked them if there was a way to "bulk edit" my ratings so that I could clear all of them.

In an email this morning one of the company's folks asked why I would want to do this. Originally, it was because I had changed my mind about adding ratings to books. That would have been my answer last week. Today, in my response, I specifically cited the impending FTC rules.

With or without a link to my bookseller affiliate, I'm taking the position that the rating would constitute an endorsement.

Until that question came in, I had really focused on publishers and publicists. But now, I realize I need to look at all of the places I share reviews.

Tice Belmont

Here's a post that might be helpful. It looks at the regs from a legal perspective.

Wow, I had not read far enough into all of this to know that the FTC wants to start taxing us on the books we receive as "income." If the publishers are going to try to do something about this, they'd better get on it.

This totally sucks.

I'd love to have the backstory on this legislation. Bloggers, who do not make their bread and butter from writing book reviews will now be likely to review books only after they've been published. "Established" reviewers will have their sponsoring journals cover the cost of the review. Small publishing companies will get even less press for their books.
I can't help but remember sometime ago reading "professional reviewers" stating that they thought bloggers should be limited to reviewing older books. Looks like they may be getting their wish.

When I see more children's books featuring people of color being reviewed on a regular basis by established professional (EP's) reviewers. I will stop reviewing ARC's

When I stop finding wonderful books like Smith's Chameleon or Garcia's I Wanna be Your Shoebox a year after their release I will stop reviewing ARC's. (both titles are paperback now)

When a see a larger variety of children's books being reviewed by EP's be it, setting, genre, class or (fill in the blank) I will stop reviewing ARC's

And I know its not a big deal to disclose where the books I review come from, especially since I get the majority from the bookstore or library. I simply don't want to.

Since I don't get paid, or have countdown ads on my blog or in anyway do anything that looks like I favor certain publishers- I figure I have the right to decide if I say where a book came from.

Do PDF files of e-books qualify as compensation?

That is one of the unresolved issues although Ed kind of tackles it when he asks about movie reviewers seeing a film in the theater - that you can not resell that item (although I guess technically you could resell a PDF). The FTC acknowledged there was nothing to be done about the ephemeral items....so I'm thinking PDFs are way way way down on the list.

At least below cross country trips and free hotel stays!

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