Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dear FTC: You're Invited to Book Blogging 101

I had no intention to weigh in about the FTC brouhaha, but after reading multiple posts that raise relevant arguments, I thought I owed you our readers, my take. For more information about the requirements read Colleen at Chasing Ray and read Liz’s response at A chair, A Fireplace& A Tea Cozy.

Most of our book reviews are not new releases sent by publishers. Most of the books I receive for review at Color Online come unsolicited, directly from the author. I don't promise a review rather I tell authors I will make an effort to promote the book (see our review policy). I don't promote any publishers or booksellers on our sidebar and consciously chose not to have any tie-in to sales. I worked in sales for 20 plus years (I was very good, too.), if I wanted to continue selling and earning a living promoting products, I'd still be in sales. At Color Online, it’s about literature and writers. Publishers are identified in reviews just above the copyright date. That’s all the press given to publishers (disclosure: I have featured publishers in our COLA feature; no books were received in exchange for the feature). And only one bookseller is listed at Color Online because that bookseller’s site is where I created our wish list.

Color Online, unlike most book blogs, is a community first. Color Online was formed as a real life group and the blog was created to provide young women a space where they were encouraged and supported via an introduction to writers and literature that positively represents their lives and aspirations. I am a literacy advocate not a book reviewer. You will find book reviews on Color Online but book reviews are not our focus; they are an integral part of promoting a love of reading, celebrating multiculturalism and increasing literacy.

I'm glad most of our reviews come from members and we focus on works we read because we love literature. My reading habits aren't influenced by pub dates. In fact, at Color Online very few reviews cover new releases. I'm all for supporting new writers, but our emphasis isn’t new but underrepresented. It seems to be my luck that Color Online is a niche blog so I’m not inundated with ARCs and book review requests. When we become famous, I'll hire an accountant. :-)

I’m annoyed by the whole mess with the FTC. If they knew anything about the majority of book bloggers let alone community organizations like Color Online, they’d know we lose money not earn any. Ask me how much I spend on postage, packaging and buying books that I give away, and I won’t mention what it costs to run the in-person group. I've run Color Online on my dime for four plus years. If anyone is looking to hire a literacy advocate full-time, I'm available.

I will post some kind of disclosure. I currently identify where our books come from in our features and no, I rarely identify publishers or authors because 1) a good number are donations, 2) picked up on trade, 3) borrowed from the library or 4) reviewed by a member. And let me repeat, we don’t focus on new releases or ARCs. Our review policy already states we distribute all books: giveaways, contests, book loans and we donate to schools, students and any organization that I learn about that is asking for donations. Color Online exists to connect readers with books. We don't hoard books here.

Feel free to share your thoughts. I’m pretty sure I’m done as in put a fork in it. If the FTC is silly enough to come after me, they don’t know whom to challenge because I’m a poor black woman. If they checked my bank account or tax returns, they might be moved to send me a few dollars.


msladyDeborah said...

I am glad that I took time to read this particular post. I heard about the FTC's new law, but now that I've read your post and the suggested links, I find myself questioning how this will be fairly enforced?

Thanks for providing this information. I am going to have to do some indepth research on this ruling.

Doret said...

I wonder if the FTC know the book industry isn't overflowing with money, never was. Books have one of the smallest price mark ups.

Publishers are doing there best to keep and pay their staff. There is no money for a brib bloggers fund .

I hardly ever mention publishers. To me its about the book.Though I will point out the small publishers at times.

I know stating where a book came from is a small thing but I simply don't want to do it.

My blog is flash free with the focus on the books. I have no publisher banners or ads. I think I should have the right to decide if I want to say where I got a book.

Color Online said...

Doret, I hear you. We focus on the books.

Is the FTC going to police my mail?