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 you were gifted the product you are writing a blog post about — and that would include books. The new guidelines made available are specifically for social media influencers and make 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.
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 mean 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!
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 to 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:
- CMA Guidelines
- [News Article] BBC: Social media stars agree to declare when they post ads
- [News Article] The Independent: There’s now an official guide for social media influencers posting adverts
- [News Article] The Guardian: Celebrity social media influencers pledge to change the way they post
- What book bloggers need to know about FTC disclosures by Nose Graze
Let’s go on another adventure together!