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September 27, 2012

Tips on Thursday: Bloggiesta Edition


This weekend is Bloggiesta. It's a blogging event hosted by There's a Book and It's All About Books. It allows bloggers to set aside time to do some housekeeping tasks on the blog and an opportunity to learn tips and tricks.

I'm hosting a mini-challenge on policy and procedures. While it is a boring topic, having these policies and procedures in place will make your blogging more effective, efficient, and most importantly legal. For your efforts, I have a giveaway at the end of this post.

Review Policy: In a previous tips post, I discuss the importance of review policies in more detail. You can read that post here. Having a review policy will make your blogging life a bit easier as authors can quickly surmise if your blog is a fit for them, but also it will give you a place to point authors to when they make inquiries. If you are like me and have trouble saying "No", it can also be the "excuse" you need. I've put together a questionnaire to help you develop your own policy. The most important tip for developing a review policy is to be concise (no one wants to spend 10 minutes reading the "fine print").


  • Who are you open to receiving review pitches from? Self-published, independent published, major publishers, etc.
  • How do you want to be contacted? Email, contact form? Should Review Request or something be in the subject line?
  • What formats do you accept? Hard copies (paperback or hardcover), ebooks (mobi, pdf, epub), advance copies or finished copies only, audio books, serials
  • What genre(s) do you read? You might say you read everything, but everyone has 1 - 3 favorite genres. If you are unsure of genres or only read a narrow subgenre, you can list some of your favorite authors.
  • What genres won't you read? You might be open to everything, but if there is a genre you really don't like to read then you should state it. I don't read horror and I listed Stephen King as someone who I consider writes horror.
  • Are you open to guest posts or interviews? I include my feature posts options in my review policy.
  • Will you review a book you do not finish? Will you post reviews of books that you consider 1 or 2 stars? Also you will want to explain your rating system.
  • Do you post your reviews anywhere else (Amazon, Goodreads,etc.)?

Answering these questions will give you a pretty comprehensive review policy. There might be specific things you want to add. For example some bloggers like to have authors/publishers send book cover images or a digital version in the pitch email, others don't. If you feel strongly that you want it included then you should state it in your review policy.
The important thing to keep in mind is to be CONCISE. Check out my review policy for an example.



FTC Disclaimer: I haven't written a full post on the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) guidelines for advertisement and endorsements, yet (it's in the works so please stop back by). With the recent news about sock puppets and paid reviews it is more important than ever to include a few disclaimers on your blog and within your posts. If you are outside the U.S., you may think you are not affected by the policy. However, if the servers where your blog is hosted are in the U.S. or you are reviewing for U.S. based companies, then the policy does apply. Also, your home country may have it's own requirements. The disclaimer adds credibility to review blogs. You can read FTC 16 CFR Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising here. But it's a government document so you might just want to read some commentary. I like the posts here and here.

So what do you need to do to be in compliance?

  • Disclose any financial relationship you have with the company/author in which you are reviewing.
  • If you use affiliate links within your post, you must disclose that and inform your readers you are paid an advertising fee.
  • The disclaimer must be included in every review post where you received a free copy of the product and/or you use affiliate links. Some bloggers have the disclaimer in the footer so it shows on every page.
It really isn't too difficult to comply with. I recommend being as open with your readers about any connections as it adds to your credibility as a reviewer. If you are like me and include publishing information about the book you are reviewing it isn't any extra work really to add another line stating the source of you copy.


Personal Opinion Statements: It's possible that the company you work for has a social media policy that affects the employee's personal use. Or you may work within the book industry (librarian, publicist, editor, bookseller, etc.) and need to differentiate your personal opinion from that of your place of business. Even if your company doesn't have a policy, you may want to include one to be safe.

Also if you accept guest posts, you may wish to protect yourself from what your guests write. I didn't really think about that until I saw the disclaimer on Terri Giuliano Long's blog. But it makes good business sense to include such a statement.

Examples: You can check out my full disclaimer page, but below are also the statements I add to each post (well I'm starting to add to each post). I have these in a notepad document for easy cut and paste.


  • Girl Who Reads is an advertising affiliate with Amazon and IndieBound; a small fee is earned when purchases are made using the above links.
  • Featured Books is a free announcement feature and all information is provided by the author unless otherwise noted.
  • Book Trailers are a free feature. All videos are provided by the author who has granted Girl Who Reads permission to post them on this blog.
  • The views, beliefs, and opinions expressed by guest post authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views, beliefs, or opinions of Girl Who Reads. 
  • A free book was obtained from the source mentioned above in order to provide an honest and free review.


Contest Rules: I recently wrote a tips post about laws that govern contests and giveaways. After researching the topic a bit, I realized a number of bloggers (and even a few indie publishers) were running illegal giveaways. You can read the full post here. For this challenge, I'm just going to paste below the rules I use.

By clicking 'enter' I agree to these terms and conditions (I typically use Rafflecopter for giveaways and this is a mandatory entry):

  • I am at least 18 years old or older.
  • I understand my information will not be shared or sold to a third party and I will only be contacted if I am a winner.
  • I understand my entry may be verified and if the entry cannot be verified it may be removed.
  • Void where prohibited by law.
  • Physical copies can only be shipped to US/Canada. eBooks and/or Gift Cards can be emailed internationally unless prohibited by that country or the publisher. 
  • No purchase is necessary to win.
  • Odds of winning are based on the number of entries.
  • Prize value:
  • This giveaway is sponsored by the author. The author is responsible for the delivery of prizes.

Wow! That was a lot of boring text. Just one more thing - I'm not a lawyer and my advice should not taken as legal counsel. For assistance with your specific situation please consult a licensed lawyer.

Ok, now the fun part. If you complete (or already had on your blog) one of the tasks above then you can enter to win your choice of the following paperback books (I'm willing to ship internationally, but the winner will be responsible for any applicable custom duties/import taxes). There are 4 Tasks that you can complete, the more you do the more entries you get! (Feel free to leave a link in the comment section to your completed task or your Bloggiesta post).





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37 comments:

  1. I really love these Thursday tips and have been incorporating them into my blog. Thanks so much. Good luck with your book. I don't know that there is anything I can possibly contribute - wish I did. Donna

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    1. I'm glad you are finding them helpful. I'm always open to topic suggestions if you have any.

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  2. Such great tips! I was badly in need of updating my policies, so I used them as a guideline.

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  3. Great post! I wrote my policies awhile ago and I'm glad to have them ... this is something all bloggers should have!

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    1. Definitely. It's surprising how many bloggers don't have a review policy. It can be quite maddening as a publicist. I don't wan to waste my time or the blogger's time with a pitch that doesn't match.

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  4. This is so helpful. Thank you very much. I've been meaning to add this to my blog for some time now, especially a note on one of my pages explaining that Netgalley reviews are my honest reviews.
    Thanks so much! I think I might keep going and do another task!

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    1. Wonderful. I debated doing this topic thinking everyone knows this stuff. But then I saw how many blogs out there that don't have even the most basic of policies or disclaimers and decided to offer it.

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  5. I didn't think about the guest post disclosure, but it's a great idea!

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    1. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I knew it, but until I saw it on Terri's blog I didn't think about putting it on my own blog.

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  6. Great mini-challenge! It's a good way to keep us honest. Any advice on copyright notices?

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    1. What about copyright notices are you wanting to know?

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    2. Anything special (with respect to our copyright) we should have on our blogs?

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    3. My template (and most templates) put a copyright date in the footer. I've also included a statement on my Disclaimer page in reference to using excerpts or reprints of entire articles. I recommend a watermark for any images that are yours.

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  7. This was a great help! Between your advice here and your own examples, I updated my review policy and added a disclaimer. I want to write a guest post policy, too, but that will likely be for another day. Thanks for the help!

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  8. Thanks for informative post. Even though in Australia some of those disclosure type rule don't apply here I think it is just good practice to state you do not do it for the money etc.

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    1. Many countries have their own form of disclosure requirements. Because the FTC will go after the company as well as the blogger, if you are working with American based businesses/publishers you would be required to post the disclaimer. But like you said even if it isn't required the transparency helps build your credibility.

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  9. What a fantastic article, Donna. Thank you so much for writing this up and sharing it for Bloggiesta. I'm part book blogger and part personal blogger, so I've been pretty lax about the FTC disclaimer thing over the last year. I only make mention of the disclaimer, and not very thoroughly at that, when I post a review for a book that I've been given for free by an author. I am going to make a statement to add at the bottom of every review and or post it on my sidebar. Also, I never thought of making sure my giveaway rules are for 18 and older, void where prohibited and no purchase necessary! I have made note of all of these things. Thank you!

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  10. Awesome mini-challenge! Thank you for hosting and sharing your brain cells!! I went through and tweaked my FTC disclaimer in my footer and I need to make sure my footer shows up on my post pages. On my goals for Bloggiesta was a contest rules page so I still need to write that :)

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  11. This is an awesome post and I think I need to take time to run through my policy page again. Thanks for taking time to explain the FTC stuff too... I have a disclaimer, but may need to revamp it to make sure I'm covered properly. New follower!

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