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Paying for Book Reviews – Are the Book Reviewer Sites Operating in Compliance with FTC Truth in Advertising Disclosure Requirements?

Paying for Book Reviews - Are the Book Reviewer Sites Operating in Compliance with FTC Truth in Advertising Disclosure Requirements?

I am participating in some heated discussion on LinkedIn regarding whether authors should pay for book reviews. Some of the owners and participants of book publishing review sites are touting how valuable the pay for review services are to authors. I openly disagree with their ideas and statements.

On December 3, 2014, Daniel Leffert posted an article on The Indie’s Guide to Paid Publishing. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/pw-select/article/64718-the-indie-author-s-guide-to-paid-reviews.html

I am a former attorney turned publicist who is very much opposed to seeing authors pay for reviews.

I respectfully wish to point out that according to the FTC regulations, if some one (e.g., any of the above companies identified) is paying reviewers and then posting those reviews to a review website for anyone to see, then each post is required to contain an appropriate disclosure.

Do you any of the businesses cited above abide by these requirements? I clicked on the book reviews. I don’t see very many clean and open disclosures.

You can read the regulations yourself here:

http://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/federal_register_notices/guides-concerning-use-endorsements-and-testimonials-advertising-16-cfr-part-255/091015guidesconcerningtestimonials.pdf

or use this sniplink: http://goo.gl/rmtXGQ

Here’s the summary of one of the more interesting examples of FTC enforcement taken in 2012, that illustrates the expectations of the federal government:

The FTC also alleged that Spokeo deceptively posted endorsements of their service on news and technology websites and blogs, portraying the endorsements as independent when in reality they were created by Spokeo’s own employees.

The settlement fine is $800,000.

Here’s the link to this one: http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2012/06/spokeo-pay-800000-settle-ftc-charges-company-allegedly-marketed

Now people may think that the manner in which companies as like Blue Ink, Kirkus, Self-Publishing Review and other companies who offer paid review services self-police themselves is sufficient, but the regs and policy guidance clearly indicates that if each paid review isn’t disclosed sufficiently so that the viewing public knows of the fee arrangement, then they are very likely subject to legal action.

The Federal Trade Commission operates a complaint line too. Anyone can notify them of a situation and ask them to take action to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.

Here is the link to the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant:
https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-6

People can also call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Hope this helps.

Posted on Friday, December 19th, 2014 at 9:23 am In
book reviewers, book reviews, pay for play, Paying for Book Reviews