October 6th, 2009

Do you review books on your blog? for a newspaper? Watch out for the FTC

The FTC clearly doesn't understand how book reviews work, especially that publishers send out review copies hoping for a good review, but understanding that it might not be, and that many reviewers, even those who work for a newspaper, are allowed to keep copies after they review the book. A blogger interviewed Richard Cleland of the Bureau of Consumer Protection to try to get more clarity, but actually got less.
“The primary situation is where there’s a link to the sponsoring seller and the blogger,” said Cleland. And if a blogger repeatedly reviewed similar products (say, books or smartphones), then the FTC would raise an eyebrow if the blogger either held onto the product or there was any link to an advertisement.

What was the best way to dispense with products (including books)?

“You can return it,” said Cleland. “You review it and return it. I’m not sure that type of situation would be compensation.”

If, however, you held onto the unit, then Cleland insisted that it could serve as “compensation.” You could after all sell the product on the streets.

But couldn’t the same thing be said of a newspaper critic?

Cleland insisted that when a publisher sends a book to a blogger, there is the expectation of a good review. I informed him that this was not always the case and observed that some bloggers often receive 20 to 50 books a week. In such cases, the publisher hopes for a review, good or bad. Cleland didn’t see it that way.
In the case of books, Cleland saw no problem with a blogger receiving a book, provided there wasn't a linked advertisement to buy the book and that the blogger did not keep the book after he had finished reviewing it. Keeping the book would, from Cleland's standpoint, count as 'compensation' and require a disclosure.

You can read the interview here: http://www.edrants.com/interview-with-the-ftcs-richard-cleland/

I freelance review for the Oregonian, and they have certainly never asked me to return the books I review. My very reading of them causes them to lose value. They become dog-earred and full of Post-It notes.

[Full disclosure: I reviewed my own personal copy of Jumping Off Swings yesterday. It was not sent to me by the publisher or author.]

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Running and writing - how one teaches me to be better at the other

I am a slow runner (10-minute miles, maybe a little less if I’m running downhill, there’s a good song on the i-pod, and I have a tailwind) and a fairly fast writer (two books a year, plus a little more). I’ve been a runner for three decades, a writer for nearly two decades, and a published writer for one decade.

Some of the things I’ve learned about running apply to my writing, and vice versa.

1. Mix it up. In Swedish, it’s called fartlek (which would be a really funny word if I were 12), or speed play. Research shows that running just parts of your route at a faster pace than normal can improve your overall pace even when you don't consciously set out to run faster. Sometimes I just tell myself that I am going to see how many words I can write in 15 or 30 minutes, and I don’t re-read or ponder. I just write flat out.

2. Try a different direction. I have run the same route for years. Part of it includes a 2.5 mile loop. Recently, I have decided to start running the loop in the opposite direction. It is amazing! I’m seeing flowers in people’s gardens I’ve never noticed before. Even whole houses I’ve never noticed before. And I’ve knocked off three minutes off my time. [Full disclosure: part of that is because I realized that I was running faster, which is an incentive to run faster still. Once you know your time sucks, there’s a lot less incentive.] Lately, I’ve tried printing out my manuscript to look like a book (thanks Lisa Schroeder!), or going some place to write that has no internet access. A book I sold recently had a format kind of like a scrapbook, with diary entries, to-do lists, and newspaper clippings.

3. Music. This is vital for running, and I think it helps when writing, too. (Although sometimes if the songwriter has a real flair for words, I have to turn it down so I don’t catch on them.) Plus I got a whole book idea from eight words in a Kathleen Edwards song. And I’m totally stealing these lines from a local band, Furr,
“It was just a little while past the Sunset Strip
They found the girl’s body in an open pit.
Her mouth was sewn shut, but her eyes were still wide
Gazing through the fog to the other side.”

4. Just do it. I have had this as my keychain forever. When I lost my first keychain, I found another on ebay. (Although it is a little creepy that the inspiration came from the last words of Gary GIlmore.) With writing and running, you don’t wait until you feel like doing it. You start doing it and then you feel like doing it. And even if you finish feeling like it was a chore, hey, you still accomplished something!

If you run AND write, what parallels do you see?

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Wish me luck at giving blood

I have crappy veins. Different phlebotomists have blamed different things. Weak walls, rolling veins, veins too close to tendons. I often end up looking like I was in a car accident.

In July, my friend Art was very, very sick. One of the things keeping him alive was blood transfusions. I tried to give blood, but was turned away for being anemic.

Last month, Art died. A few days later the blood mobile was back. Having been taking daily iron supplements, I tried to give again. I was no longer anemic. But they literally could not get any blood out of my arm. And let me just say it freaking hurt!! Like curl your toes, bite your lips pain. They blamed dehydration.

There is a blood mobile scheduled to be at a neighborhood church this afternoon. I've been drinking water all morning.

Wish me luck. I want to do it at least once for Art.

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One for Art

For all the writing I do about blood, I'm kind of squeamish about seeing mine leave me. Especially when it was supposed to have stopped bleeding and started welling up and running down my arm. I went all tharn, like there was nothing I could do to stop it.

On the bright side: Pint = Pound, world around = I've either lost weight or can eat a bunch of junk food!

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