What the New CMA Guidelines Mean for Book Bloggers & How to Properly Disclose ARCs

Note: I am not a lawyer and this post does not constitute as legal advice. This post is based on my own reading and interpretation of the new CMA Guidelines.

Greetings friends, and welcome to another guide here on Reader Voracious! This one has been percolating in the back of my mind for a few weeks awhile now, and while it isn’t the most ~attractive~ topic out there I think it is incredibly important to talk about: how to properly disclose as book bloggers.

Have you ever taken a moment to think about the power that we have as book bloggers? No, this is not an ego trip on my part, I am genuinely asking for you to think about it. We all have our platform(s) and have followers that turn to us for our honest opinions on the books that we read; I can’t count on my hands the number of books that I bought as a result of my friends talking about them. I know the term makes me rather uncomfortable, but we are all truly influencers in the book space!

An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position or relationship with their audience. An individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with.

 

New Guidelines launched for social media influencers

As a blogger in the United States, I’ve been following the FTC guidelines related to endorsements and truth in advertising to essentially cover all of my bases. While imperfect, it was the best guideline for properly disclosing free products to our audiences available until a couple of months ago.

Toward the end of January there was a lot of news coverage surrounding social media advertising breaking consumer law in the United Kingdom. Bloggers and influencers like Zoella and Rita Ora were among those asked to change the way they post online and in my opinion the new guidelines are a much better bar for us book bloggers to follow, regardless of where we live.

The guide recommends avoiding use of terms and phrases such as “spon,” “in association with” or “thanks to [brand] for making this possible,” as this isn’t entirely clear.

What counts? Affiliate marketing and anytime your were gifted the product you are writing a blog post about — and that would include books. The new guidelines made available are specific for social media influencers and makes it clear what is needed to disclose. While not all of us reside within the UK, we have a duty to properly disclose and these guidelines are tailored for the current social media landscape, making them easier to follow. Below is a really fantastic flowchart that was created for determining if you need to disclose and, if so, how.

CAP Guidelines for Disclosure
Infographic is part of the CMA Guidelines available here.

Sample Disclosure Language

While I am not a legal expert, I have studied the FTC and CMA guidelines and adapted my own disclosures to match my interpretation of the guidelines. Below are my various disclosures for affiliate marketing, sponsored (paid) posts, and ARC disclosure; you are welcome to use or adapt them.

Affiliate Links – remember that the CMA/FTC guidelines also state that the disclosure needs to be placed before or next to the links. Placing it at the end of the post is not good enough. My disclosure is placed directly above my affiliate links.

This post uses affiliate links and I will receive a small commission for purchases made through my links at no additional cost to you. Click here for more info.

ARCs – if you’ve received the book for free from the publisher, they are expecting/hoping for an honest review from you. ARCs are marketing tools meant to generate buzz for a title, and receiving one means you are part of that marketing plan. While you are not being paid and the publisher has no say in the review (or recourse if you never post one), they are still a marketing tool and need to be disclosed. I place a short disclosure underneath my affiliate links, as well as a longer one at the end of my review.

I received an eARC copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Many thanks to Albert Whitman Company for sending me an eARC via NetGalley for my honest review! Quotes are taken from an unfinished ARC and may not match final publication.

Gifted Final Copies – sometimes you will be sent finished copies of books by publishers that you work with. While they are still freebies/gifts that are sent for review purposes, the disclosure should be a little different since it was not an ARC that you were sent. Lauren @ Northern Plunder adds | #gifted at the end of her review titles, which I will be copying myself once I read FCs sent to me, and my in-post disclosure will be essentially the same as the ARC one.

I received finished copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Many thanks to Albert Whitman Company for sending me a finished copyfor my honest review!

Paid Sponsorship – while rare, book bloggers may be approached by companies to write a post about a product that could be of interest to their audience for payment. This must be disclosed and according to CMA guidelines it has been decided that placing “ad” at the start of the post is best. I also wrote a disclosure for the top of a sponsored post I did last month about PDFelement.

This post is sponsored by Wondershare, the makers of PDFelement. All opinions are my own and reflect my honest first impressions after testing out the software. Thank you Wondershare for supporting me and my content!

My Thoughts

Up until now, most bloggers that I know have been following the murky FTC guidelines because they were the best way to follow the law. There are now better guidelines specific for online posts that we can follow. If you live in the United Kingdom, you must follow these new guidelines in order to remain in accordance with the UK Advertising Code; however, I encourage all book bloggers to follow the CMA guidelines (unless the rules in their country are different).

Given our role, it is important for us all to do our part to make sure that we are properly disclosing when we receive free books for review so that the reader can have all the information they need. They have a right to know when they are being advertised to and while we are not being paid to write reviews, by accepting ARCs or finished copies we are a part of a publisher’s marketing plans. I know I do my part to remain impartial, constructive, and honest in all of my reviews, but the review reader has a right to take it into consideration before making their own purchasing decisions.

Additional reading and sources:


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Hi! I’m Kaleena: book lover, runner, wanderer, and philanthropist. Life is an adventurous gift: through the outdoors and books. I run Reader Voracious Blog, where I post spoiler-free book reviews of science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and mystery & thriller.

39 thoughts on “What the New CMA Guidelines Mean for Book Bloggers & How to Properly Disclose ARCs

  1. Great post! Personally, I’m not aware of any such guidelines in my country but I’ve always put the same disclosures in my posts as everyone else does. I don’t use affiliate links, but arc reviews always have disclaimers. I think as an international blogger, it’s safer to use international guidelines just in case and it works since my readers do have a right to be informed if I was sent copies for review or if I ever use any affiliate links.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, I know that the FTC (US) and CMA (UK) guidelines aren’t applicable everywhere I always default to whatever is the strictest/clearest guidelines because I have visitors from around the world. I agree with you that for international bloggers it’s probably safest to default to US/UK rules to cover your bases.

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  2. as always look at u being awesome and providing all the info we need!! thank you for a great post and also for using me as an example, i was worried adding that would make it ugly or les uniformed but so far its been ok!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. MORE ADDITION??
    It kinda scared me for a second XD but all the arcs ive gotten and blogtour i’ve participated in have a disclamer that I did received the book for an honest review but it doesn’t make a difference and im not biased by it — so basically i’m fine.. I also don’t have any Affiliates link or anything else soo 👍🏼

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Think of it more as clearer guidelines than additions, applicable in the UK at least. I think book bloggers are generally already disclosing properly (except perhaps putting affiliate disclosures at the end of the post rather than the top). You’re good! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I got nervous for a second there as I live in the U.K. and hadn’t really thought about the laws about it before, but, I do indeed always have a disclosure so I’m glad that I do, but, this post was freakin super informative! What if I hadn’t been putting that disclosure? And I think I could probably word it just slightly better so I’m glad that I read this, thanks for another great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you found this post useful, I know a lot of people in the UK didn’t even notice these guidelines when they were announced. I also think most blogger’s I’ve seen follow FTC regardless of their location, but this is a lot easier to follow and I think will help a lot of people!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Bless you, Kal, because I had no clue about CMA guidelines??? I’ve always followed FTC Guidelines (or at least what I interpret FTC Guidelines as) and didn’t realize my past disclosures were super vague and could potentially get me in trouble because I’m technically advertising, LOL. If I recall, though, FTC isn’t too clear and specific, so it’s really easy for book bloggers to get confused (can’t count how many times someone has mentioned how to disclose) and the CMA guidelines is much more geared and updated for today as we become more social media oriented. (I love how the guidelines are laid out??? FTC is super vague and uses a lot of language that flies over my head. Maybe it’s just me?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AWWW I am so glad this post helped you! The FTC guidelines ARE super vague and not really straightforward (total legalese), so I am really excited to see the CMA guidelines because they are written more for the social media era. So good, less need for interpretation!

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  6. Interesting and informative post as always! As a UK blogger I have no idea whether I have/haven’t been following these new UK guidelines but I don’t intend to advertise or affiliate for anything and I always make sure I include the ARC disclosure!

    Food for thought though.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks so much for making this post! I always get confused with the guidelines so having it broken down here is really useful and I can easily make the changes necessary to ensure I comply with the regulations!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for writing this! I’ve seen few people talk about it. I think I only need to add the extra line to my notice that it was an arc. Normally I just say that I received an arc from so and so in exchange for an honest review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Norrie, and the legality is interesting because a lot of countries don’t have regulations like the UK and US. No harm on erring on the side of caution, though, and I love that you saw it on other blogs and started doing it too!

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  9. This is why you’re queen and why you get all the cookies. I knew nothing about the CMA guidelines!!! I tried following the FTC ones, but I never knew about this set of rules and regulations before. So thank you for this! I also agree that sponsored posts, no matter the type of sponsorship should always be disclosed.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Informative post, Kaleena! I’m not very aware of the specific guidelines to my country though I have followed the disclosure rules on my blog. However, it’s good to know the difference between review copies and gifted copies!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I hadn’t heard of these new UK rules, but I agree that it’s always best to disclose more rather than less. I always post a disclaimer that says something like:
    ***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley and Rockstar Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
    (Obviously the details change depending on circumstances.) I don’t specify whether it’s an ARC or a finished copy, but I could see that being important if you include quotes. (I almost never do–I’m horrible about keeping track of them.) This post is very helpful–I plan to link it up in my next Sunday Post.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I feel kind of stupid that I’ve never realized there are actual guidelines in place that make people post those disclaimers. I’m so glad that you wrote this post so that I can do my research on the requirements I need to have in place as an American blogger. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t feel stupid, a lot of people didn’t know about them! These CMA guidelines are in line with the FTC ones that US bloggers are subject to, but are just easier to understand because they are written for the social media age. Thanks for reading!

      Like

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