I was reading a discussion earlier today (can’t recall if it was on LinkedIn or in the comments on a blog post). It revolved around getting book reviews, and some of the advice for indie authors was both ignorant and infuriating.
The advice one author gave to another was to not only give away review copies of their book (nothing wrong with that), but to go out of their way to make sure reviews did not disclose that they received a free copy or took part in a review exchange.
Why is this a problem? Basically, it’s dishonest.
More importantly, it violates FTC guidelines. Those guidelines are in place to protect consumers from shady advertising practices.
Here’s the thing though. It doesn’t even matter if one part is in the U.S. or not. What matters is whether or not any party is based in the U.S. — the reviewer, the author, the publisher, the site the review is posted on, etc. If any of them are subject to FTC rules, then the “clear and conspicuous disclosure” guidelines would apply, or someone in that chain is being put at risk.
It disgusts me when authors spout bullshit and influence the work of newer writers in a potentially negative way. It’s inexcusable. If you’re concerned because paid or traded reviews have been getting removed from sites like Amazon, take a hint. The problem is that you’re paying for or trading reviews in the first place and it’s considered unacceptable on that site. It’s not that you weren’t sneaky enough about it to avoid getting caught.
This is a prime example of why newer indie authors should be careful about their sources of marketing advice. Pay attention to people with a real history in marketing and PR; don’t take advice from every author who went before you, thinking some unethical or spammy behavior that worked for them in the past will work for you. If you do, you’ll probably be clueless about the real risks involved until it’s too late.
As someone who does have a background in marketing and PR, I find this especially infuriating. That’s because there is so much good information out there these days that authors really have no excuse to remain ignorant. Yet many are years behind the rest of the world when it comes to things like online marketing tactics (thinking paid reviews are a smart idea, “trading” reviews, spamming social networks with constant book promotions, etc.). And then they can’t understand why they aren’t selling many books. I wonder….