Sunday, November 20, 2011

Unsolicited Advice--When in Doubt: Disclose

If there's one thing that seems to be annoyingly true, it's that I learn things the hard way. Another way of saying this with a positive spin is that I learn by experience.

This isn't all bad or unfounded as I constantly tell myself, we all learn by doing or experience. Failure should never been seen as negatively as it is, because we can't really learn without it. Of course our failure can hurt others and cause permanent damage to things we love. But that's another story for another day.

One of the oft talked about issues in book blogging is disclosure. Do you disclose where the copy of the book you're reading came from? Do you disclose your relationships with authors, publishers, book stores, etc.? When I started out I didn't disclose anything because I felt it didn't make a difference in my reviews. But as time passed, I changed my mind because it's not really about me and what I feel, but rather about arming someone with all the information they need to make their own decision. Anyone who knows me well, knows I don't just write glowing reviews of books but since this is the internet, not everyone knows me! And my reviews can be read by someone just reading my site a single time.

This lesson was hammered home even more for me last year when I did a little bit of freelance online publicity work for authors. Despite the fact that I had a prior relationship with the authors I worked with, someone clued me into the fact I needed to be more obvious about my changed relationship with them. I realized in a flash how important it was to disclose upfront because I absolutely didn't want their names dragged through the mud because of me and my own failure. In fact, that's one of the reasons I realized I couldn't really do that work, I wanted to be able to talk about the books and authors I loved freely and I feel my blog and Twitter are my biggest ways to influence online.

Anyway, all this was brought to mind recently as some more high profile bloggers and bookish people have come under scrutiny for not disclosing all their sources of income. One blogger said they were honest and absolutely nothing had changed about the review policy or procedures. While this may be true, the problem remains that this is the internet. We don't all know each other. But even more than that, it's not that they are doing anything wrong, it's that the appearance of wrongdoing exists. It casts a shadow not only over individual bloggers but book blogging as a whole.

And the popular Twitter hashtag Friday Reads was brought up this past weekend as some people ventured onto their website and discovered they charge for giveaways. I myself haven't participated in the meme for a long time for various reasons but I have nothing against the folks behind Friday Reads choosing to do this, I understand that giveaways on that level take a lot of work. But I can also understand the surprise one might feel, especially since it seemed like Friday Reads started out as a grassroots internet phenomenon, something done for the pure joy and love of reading. Learning it's a small business can certainly be a shock to one's system! I found the variety of responses to be interesting on Friday....some people were actually accusing those who raised concerns of hurting reading. But is there concrete evidence that Friday Reads has raised the reading rates? It may help the sales of particular books. In any case, I'm sure that what happened will not hurt Friday Reads overall and any increased transparency and disclosure is a good thing.

I think I've just come to realize and would encourage that when you have any doubt at all, disclosure is the best way to go. It's not about you and whether or not you're an honest or trustworthy person. It's about giving people all the information they need to make their own decisions. It's about being absolutely clear so that there is never any doubt as to your's ultimately about keeping the focus on the great books we read and talk about so they don't get overlooked or even worse have their names all mixed up in some stupid controversy where we explain why we didn't just mention we received review copies or talk to the author on Twitter everyday upfront.

It's not hard, it takes only a little bit of time, and in the long run, I really think it's worth it.


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment! I appreciate hearing your thoughts.