What Do We Need to Disclose About Free Books?

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All of the information I’m sharing is what I’ve learned from the Federal Trade Commission’s website here. And you can actually email endorsements@ftc.gov with more questions. I did it and found the response to be very quick and extremely helpful! As I noted in my About Me, the information provided on my blog (and in this blog post) are intended to be informational and nothing should be construed as providing legal advice. 

One very troubling thing I’ve seen go around bookstagram is that you just need to follow the guidelines provided by the publisher who sent you the free book. Saying that the publisher said it was fine won’t be good enough. Your contact at a publishing agency isn’t an attorney that can insulate you from liability. They are supposed to try and help influencers make the proper disclosures but ultimately, like with anything in life, it is up to you to review the rules for yourself and use your own judgment. If you are unsure you can always consult with an attorney. 

General

The Federal Trade Commission doesn’t require any exact wording. I’ve seen on Bookstagram claims that you must say it a certain way or you’re breaking the law. That’s not correct. The only requirement is that you make sure your readers/followers understand what your interest in the book is and that there’s no ambiguity about your relationship with the publisher. This is true even if you’ve only agreed to give an honest review. “The question you need to ask is whether knowing about that gift or incentive would affect the weight or credibility your readers give to your recommendation.” 

The example they give in their facts is “Company X gave me this product to try . . . .” This will usually be enough. “Sponsored” or “Ad” are also good.

However, the do make clear that saying “thank you” to the publisher/author is NOT enough. This doesn’t indicate that it was free or a gift. You could just be thanking them for putting this amazing book out into the world for you to purchase.

Now, if the publisher that sends you a book and requests that you say more than what you believe is necessary to meet the FTC rules, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them. However, if you don’t listen then they may not send you books in the future because if you do mess up, they can be liable too.

Also, you should remember that if you hated the book you can not lie and say you loved it. All reviews of free or sponsored products must be honest.

Book Blogging

Disclosing at the very bottom of your blog post that the book you have been raving about was provided to you for free is generally not okay. “A disclosure should be placed where it easily catches consumers’ attention and is difficult to miss.” It should be within the blog post and as close to your review as possible.  

Bookstagram

For starters, you need to make sure your disclosure is before the “more” in your photo’s descriptions. If your followers have to click “more” in order to see the disclosure, it is not sufficient. It should absolutely not be at the bottom of the post. 

When posting about books you received for free on Instagram stories, you should make an audio disclosure as well as a visual disclosure written on the story. You should make sure its easy to read, considering things like”how much time you give your followers to look at the image, how much competing text there is to read, how large the disclosure is, and how well it contrasts against the image.” I see people all the time post videos where a book is visible and it’s clear they’re raving about it but they post no written disclosure. If your followers view your video without audio they could certainly be misled.

Booktube

The FTC is very clear on their website that a disclosure about sponsorship or free books can not just be in the description of the video. “Many people might watch the video without even seeing the description page, and those who do might not read the disclosure.” It should be included in the video itself or, even better, in both the video and the video description. Having multiple disclosures during the video is also better.

Conclusion

Truth be told, the FTC says they’re generally not monitoring bloggers and “if law enforcement becomes necessary, [its] focus usually will be on advertisers or their ad agencies and public relations firms.” However, they can go after individual bloggers who fail to make required disclosures. Also, even if they only go after the publishing company, do you really want to be the person who gets a publisher fined? I don’t think you’ll be a very popular influencer in the future.

I hope this has been helpful to someone. I have just been concerned with some of the disclosures I’ve been seeing and I wanted to help sort through all of the information so that we can all make sure we’re following the rules.

Diverse Classics

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I love using my blog to keep track of my own reading habits. I recently joined a Book Club on Instagram called Diverse Classics that, obviously, celebrates Diverse Classics. The creator (never_withouta_book) posted a list of 100 Diverse Classics that she put a ton of time and energy into creating. Much of the diverse classics I’m hoping to read came from that list but there are certain authors I would like to read every book by so I’ve made a few additions.

You should all give Diverse Classics a follow on Instagram! I have linked them.

The following are Diverse Classics I would like to read (I’ve put a check next to the ones I’ve read):

Chinua Achebe
   1. Things Fall Apart (1958) 
   2. No Longer at Ease (1960) 
   3. Arrow of God (1964)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
   4. Americanah (2013) 
Julia Alvarez
   5. In the Time of Butterflies (1994)
   6. Before We Were Free (2002)
Maya Angelou
   7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) 
   8. Gather Together in My Name (1974)
   9. Singin' and Swingin' and and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976)
   10. And Still  I Rise (1978)
   11. The Heart of a Woman (1981)
   12. All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986)
James Baldwin
   13. Go Tell it On a Mountain (1953)
   14. Notes of a Native Son (1955)
   15. Giovanni's Room (1956) 
   16. Another Country (1962)
   17. The Fire Next Time (1963)
   18. If Beale Street Could Talk (1974)
Jorge Luis Borges
   19. On Argentina (2010)
Gwendolyn Brooks
   20. A Street in Bronzeville (1945)
   21. Maude Martha (1953)
   22. Annie Allen (1972)
Claude Brown
   23. Manchild in the Promised Land (1965)
William Wells Brown
   24. Clotel: or, The President's Daughter(1853)
Octavia Butler
   Patternist Series
       25. Patternmaster (1976)
       26. Mind of My Mind (1977)
       27. Survivor (1978)
       28. Wild Seed (1980)
       29. Clay's Ark (1984)
   Xenogenesis Series
       30. Dawn (1987)
       31. Adulthood Rites (1988)
       32. Imago (1989)
       33. Xenogenesis (1989)
       34. Lilith's Brood (2000)
   Parable Series
       35. Parable of the Sower (1993)
       36. Parable of the Talents (1998)
   37. Kindred (1979)
Alice Callahen
   38. Wynema: A Child of the Forest (1997)
Wu Cheng'en
   39. The Journey to the West (1592)
Alice Childress
   40. Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic's Life (1986)
Sandra Cisneros
   41. The House on Mango Street (1984)
Pearl Cleage
   42. What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day (1997)
Ta-Nehisi Coates
   43. Between the World and Me (2015) 
Paulo Coelho 
   44. The Alchemist (1988)
Edwidge Danticat
   45. Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994)
Angela Y. Davis
   46. An Autobiography (1974)
   47. Women, Race, and Class (1981)
   48. Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003)
   49. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle (2015) 
W.E.B. Du Boise
   50. The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
Alexandre Dumas
   51. The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)
   52. The Three Musketeers (1844)
   53. Twenty Years After (1845)
   54. The Vicomte de Bragelonne (1847)
   55. The Red Sphinx: A Sequel to The Three Musketeers (1866)
Ralph Ellison
   56. Invisible Man (1952)
Louise Erdrich
   57. Love Medicine (1984)
   58. Jacklight (1984)
   59. The Beet Queen (1985)
   60. Tracks (1988)
   61. The Blue Jay's Dance: A Birth Year (1995)
   62. Tales of Burning Love (1996)
   63. The Antelope Wife (1998)
Frantz Fanon
   64. Black Skin, White Masks (1952)
   65. The Wretched of the Earth (1961)
Jessie Redmon Fauset
   66. The Chinaberry Tree (1931)
Ernest J. Gaines
   67. A Lesson before Dying (1993)
Nikki Giovanni
   68. Black Feeling, Black Talk / Black Judgement (1970)
Alex Haley
   69. Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1979)
Lorraine Hansberry
   70. A Raisin in the Sun (1959)
Chester Himes
   71. If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945)
Bell Hooks
   72. All About Love: New Visions (1999)
   73. Salvation: Black People and Love (2001)
   74. Communion: The Female Search for Love (2002)
Langston Hughes
   75. The Ways of White Folks (1934)
Zora Neale Hurston
   76. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
James Weldon Johnson
   77. Along This Way: The Autobiography of James Weldon Johnson (2000)
Gayl Jones
   78. Corregidora (1975)
Yasunari Kawabata
   79. Thousand Cranes (1952)
Elizabeth Keckley
   80. Behind the Scenes (1868)
Jamaica Kincaid
   81. Annie John (1985)
   82. A Small Place (1988)
   83. Lucy (1990)
Nella Larsen
   84. Quicksand (1928)
   85. Passing (1929)
Camara Laye
   86. The Dark Child (1954)
Andrea Levy
   87. Small Island (2004)
Mario Vargas Llosa
   88. The Time of the Hero (1962)
Alain LeRoy Locke
   89. The New Negro (1925)
Audre Lorde
   90. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)
   91. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984)
Paule Marshall
   92. Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959)
Ayana Mathis
   93. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (2012)
James McBride
   94. The Color of Water (1996)
Nathan McCall
   95. Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America (1994)
Bernice McFadden
   96. Sugar (2000)
Claude McKay
   97. Home to Harlem (1928)
Louise Meriwether
   98. Daddy was a Number Runner (1970)
Toni Morrison
   99. The Bluest Eye (1970) 
   100. Sula (1973)
   101. Song of Solomon (1977)
   102. Tar Baby (1981)
   103. Beloved (1987)
   104. Jazz (1992)
   105. Paradise (1997)
Walter Mosley
   106. Devil in a Blue Dress (1990)
Siddhartha Mukherjee
   107. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (2010)
Gloria Naylor
   108. The Women of Brewster Place (1982)
   109. Mama Day (1988)
   110. Bailey's Cafe (1992)
   111. Linden Hills (1985)
   112. The Men of Brewster Place (1998)
Solomon Northup
   113. Twelve Years a Slave (1853)
Chinelo Okparanta
   114. Under the Udala Trees (2015)
Ann Petry
   115. The Street (1946)
   116. The Narrows (1973)
José Rizal
   117. Noli Me Tángere (Touch Me Not) (1887)
Zitkala-Ša
   118. American Indian Stories (1921)
George S. Schuyler
   119. Black No More (1931)
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
   120. Don Quixote (1605)
Assata Shakur
   121. Assata: An Autobiography (1987)
Ntozake Shange
   122. For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf (1975)
Naoya Shiga
   123. A Dark Night's Passing (1962)
Murasaki Shikibu
   124. The Tale of Genji (1008)
Mildred D. Taylor
   125. Song of the Trees (1975)
   126. Roll of Thunder, Hear Me Cry (1976)
Zadie Smith
   127. White Teeth (2000)
Rabindranath Tagore
   128. The Home and the World (1916)
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
   129. The River Between (1965)
   130. A Grain of Wheat (1967)
Wallace Thurman
   131. The Blacker the Berry (1929)
Jean Toomer
   132. Cane (1923)
Amos Tutuola
   133. The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952)
Alice Walker
   134. You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down: Stories (1971)
   135. Meridian (1976)
   136. The Color Purple (1982)
Margaret Walker
   137. Jubilee (1966)
Jesmyn Ward
   138. Where the Line Bleeds (2006)
   139. Salvage the Bones (2011)
   140. Men We Reaped (2013)
   141. The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race (2016) 
Booker T. Washington
   142. Up From Slavery (1900)
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
   143. Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (1970)
Dorothy West
   144. The Living is Easy (1948)
   145. The Wedding (1995)
   146. The Richer, the Poorer (1995)
Phillis Wheatley
   147. Complete Writings (2001/1700s)
Isabel Wilkerson
   148. The Warmth of Other Suns (2010)
August Wilson
   149. Fences (1986)
Harriet Wilson
   150. Our Nig (1859)
Richard Wright
   151. Uncle Tom's Children (1936)
   152. Native Son (1940)
   153. Black Boy (1945)
   154. The Outsider (1953)
Malcolm X
   155. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
Lu Xun
   156. The True Story of Ah Q (1918)

Out of the 156 books on the list, I have only read 6 of them so I have a lot of work to do! I’m not sure how long it will take me but I can’t imagine it will be a quick process.

I will try to do regular updates! Any that I should prioritize?

Reading Women 2018 Challenge Final Update

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This year I participated in The Reading Women Challenge hosted by The Reading Women Podcast. I posted more about it in a prior post here. I personally made it my goal to use a unique book for each prompt but it’s not required. Unfortunately, I kept forgetting throughout the year to check my progress so I did not complete it even though I read nearly 150 books this year, most of them by women. Anyway, here’s how I did:Read More »