Recently on Twitter, I posted about disclosing personal relationships between bloggers/reviewers and authors. And while I wrote it to ask about disclosure, after the responses came in and other discussions with friends, I believe it is more about transparency. This is particularly relevant as we close out the year and best of/favorite lists will be released by blogs, reviewers and entertainment news sites.
I think about the following questions frequently. How transparent should I be when I review/recommend a book? At what point is a relationship disclosure worthy? How transparent do I want others to be? Should I expect more transparency from sites/reviewers that have large visibility to the community? Is a recommendation from someone with a close relationship with an author unreliable? Does anyone besides me even care when personal/professional relationships aren’t disclosed?
Based on my a few offline conversations, I am not the only one who notices these things. But it seems to be one of those things that we aren’t talking about. And maybe it doesn’t matter to a lot of people. But it matters to me when I see books get recommended by sites with large visibility and a personal or professional relationship between the recommender and one of the authors of a recommended book is not disclosed. It’s using influence without being honest.
It is almost impossible for a blogger/reviewer to not develop a friendship with an author. Especially if both parties are on social media. The ‘ship can vary from minor interactions on a Tweet or belonging the same Facebook group to chatting more in-depth offline and in direct messages. And for the record, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these. Romancelandia is a relatively small circle and we have our love in romance in common. I have met so many friends in this community and I want that same experience for anyone who wants it.
In my opinion, we as reviewers/bloggers/influencers have a responsibility to be honest about these relationships. If I recommend Molly O’Keefe’s books (which are fantastic and you should read all of them) I should also tell you that I am friendly-ish with her. The logistics of this might be difficult as I am not sure I could squeeze that into a tweet where I might recommend one of her books. But when I write a review on Smexy, where the visibility is significantly higher, I should disclose that ‘ship in my review.
It is completely acceptable for friends and people with professional relationships to recommend their friends’ books. I just want to know if it’s your friend’s book. Especially if your review/recommendation is in/on a site that is a major news/entertainment site. It is hard for me to take recommendations seriously when I know a relationship exists and it isn’t disclosed.
At Smexy, we do our best to disclose when we have more than minimal social media interaction relationships with authors on the books that we review. We believe it’s our responsibility to be transparent with our readers.
We’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.