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Old 03-09-2013, 01:01 PM   #1
Jessica Lares
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Publisher e-mailed me about reviewing their Kindle book on Amazon...

I just broke into the under 4,000 number on Amazon's top reviewer rankings, and yesterday I received an e-mail that will probably be one of many to follow.

A publisher asked me to review one of their books. And they asked me to download it on the specific days that it was going to go for sale and be a freebie - Today, and then at the end of the month.

Now how do I go about this? Do I review it? Do I ignore it? Or do I report the publisher to Amazon? I've read a little of the book so far, it's intriguing, and something I will probably end up finishing. Still, it was handed to be by the person promoting it.

Thoughts?
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Old 03-09-2013, 01:15 PM   #2
badgerboy
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If you give it an honest review, I don't see that there would be any sort of ethical problem.
I'd do it.
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Old 03-09-2013, 01:24 PM   #3
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First of all, congratulations.

There are two schools of thought regarding journalistic integrity, under whose purview product reviews fall.

The first is that the journalist should personally distance herself to the maximum possible extent from the subject of inquiry in order to maintain objectivity. No payment, no friendships, no family relations, no gifts, no special treatment of any kind. These all compromise the trustworthiness of the reviewer.

The second is that the aforementioned separation is illusory at best, and misleading at worst, and that genuine transparency lies in fully disclosing one's relationship with any subject or persons under discussion. That way, readers are free to make their own judgments about the author's credibility.

It is my opinion that the latter position, typically adopted by new media acolytes, is less morally rigorous than the former and more easily leads to conflicts of interest. That said, there is a difference between being offered a free review copy of a book, and accepting other favours such as travel, meals, and gifts. You should also ask yourself: will accepting this offer prevent you from being fully honest in your review? Will it bias you in any way? If you cannot answer "no" then you owe it to those who trust in your reviews to decline. Otherwise, you are reduced to the station of PR mouthpiece.

As for legality, I don't think you're under any obligation to report the publisher to Amazon. I am sure this sort of thing happens very regularly, however (dis)tasteful you may find it.
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Old 03-09-2013, 01:51 PM   #4
Elfwreck
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Scalzi's take on it (he's not a reviewer; he's an author that publishers like to put blurbs from in their books):
Quote:
Dear publicity folk: You know I love you, am philosophically inclined to and aligned with your goals, and I know you’re trying to do your job in innovative and interesting ways. I can’t blame you for that — indeed I applaud you. But this is a simple fact: The moment you make me jump through all sorts of hoops to access a book you want to publicize, you lose me.
He might review a digital book. He's not going to review one with DRM and special download instructions.

You might consider writing back to the publisher and saying, "I review on my own time and by my own reading preferences. When and if your books reach my reading agenda, I may review them. If you'd like to cut in line, so to speak, make it convenient for me to read your book. Otherwise, don't bother to ask. I'm not going to any special effort to review your books."
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Old 03-09-2013, 01:55 PM   #5
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This doesn't seem seem any different than receiving a book as an ARC and reviewing. On Goodreads, a reviewer will usually indicate if the book is an ARC. So I would just disclose that and give an honest review.

Why do you have to download it on certain days though? That's the only thing that is different from reading an ARC.
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Old 03-09-2013, 02:42 PM   #6
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Are you asking about what are your obligations?

I did find this:
Spoiler:
Quote:
http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bu...ple-are-asking

Do the Guides hold online reviewers to a higher standard than reviewers for paper-and-ink publications?

No. The Guides apply across the board. The issue is – and always has been – whether the audience understands the reviewer’s relationship to the company whose products are being reviewed. If the audience gets the relationship, a disclosure isn’t needed. For a review in a newspaper, on TV, or on a website with similar content, it’s usually clear to the audience that the reviewer didn’t buy the product being reviewed. It’s the reviewer’s job to write his or her opinion and no one thinks they bought the product – for example, a book or movie ticket – themselves. But on a personal blog, a social networking page, or in similar media, the reader may not expect the reviewer to have a relationship with the company whose products are mentioned. Disclosure of that relationship helps readers decide how much weight to give the review.

Don’t these guides violate my First Amendment rights?

If you are acting on behalf of an advertiser, what you are saying is commercial speech – and commercial speech can be regulated under the FTC Act if it’s deceptive. <snip>

Is there special language I have to use to make the disclosure?

No. The point is to give readers the information. Your disclosure could be as simple as “Company X gave me this product to try . . ..”

And the below is something that I have seen a lot on Amazon along with the simple “...... gave me this to review:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR,Part 255.

As long as you did not ask for the book nor promise to give a review upon downloading it, I don't think you are under any obligation to post a review.
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Old 03-09-2013, 03:08 PM   #7
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I don't see any problem with giving the book an honest review as long as you state in your review how you got the book.
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Old 03-09-2013, 03:27 PM   #8
Jessica Lares
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Thanks guys, wonderful answers here. I didn't have to download it on certain days, but the publisher did tell me when it was going to go up as a freebie. Otherwise they didn't offer me a copy. This way it would have come up as a "Amazon Verified Purchase" (and look more authentic I guess).

I'll read it, take some notes, see if I can manage to write a review, and of course mention that the publisher did bring it to my intention.

Scalzi's blog is great by the way , adding that to my Reading bookmarks.
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Old 03-10-2013, 01:10 AM   #9
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I studied print journalism in college a long, long time ago. Part of the requirements of the degree was to spend a quarter writing for the school newspaper. I was assigned to the "theater" beat.

I got to review two books, a few plays, and at least one dance performance. I didn't pay for any of those. I wasn't asked to write my opinions in any way by honestly.*

My opinion would be, if you're up-front that a free book doesn't automatically buy them a favorable opinion, you're in the clear. (And, based on the post above, I'd say it would be safest to be up-front in the review that you received a copy of the book for free).

*As an OT aside, I remember two complaints. One was that I used the word "insipid" to describe an actress's performance. (The complaint was that I used that word instead of something simpler, not that I complained her performance wasn't very strong. I thought I was safe using that word writing for a college paper - who knew?) The other was that I obviously knew nothing about dance. I wrote what I enjoyed of the performance, but people involved in the performance complained I didn't say enough about their technical proficiencies. Ah, well. I wasn't about to make it up! I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and wrote just that - but hey, it wasn't enough for them.

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Old 03-10-2013, 11:27 AM   #10
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According to FTC guidelines you have to disclose the fact that you have received a review copy or that you have a 'relationship' with the publisher (they requested a review etc.) see here and here.
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Old 03-10-2013, 11:42 PM   #11
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I wouldn't interpret it as receiving a copy when you are told when it's generally available for free for everybody.
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Old 03-11-2013, 12:34 AM   #12
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My opinion is review the book only if it's something you are interested in reading. Otherwise why bother, it'd be a waste of time. I've had a few authors on Goodreads do this. I've yet to review anything offered. I had a few authors on Facebook ask if you've read my book please leave a review. I've only done it once and I'd already read the book and loved it.

If I get a book for free I'd mention it somewhere in the review. As to reporting them to Amazon I probably wouldn't. I'd just ignore them.
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Old 03-11-2013, 05:04 PM   #13
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Yes, I'd review it or not (as you wish), but honestly, and note in the review that you got it at the author's request when it was free. Everything open and honest.
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:57 PM   #14
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Just do it as normal. He shouldn't be approaching you asking for a planted review anyway.
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