What Stace had to say on Friday, January 15th, 2010
What do you guys think?

First, let me just say that when I asked on Monday about keeping to my schedule, this was what I meant. I’d fallen into a bit of a trap with the blog, where I’d come up with a good idea for a post but hold on to it because it wasn’t a “blog day,” and by the time Monday/Thursday rolled around I would have either forgotten it or it felt outdated; the immediacy simply wasn’t there anymore. So I probably won’t be on a set schedule anymore but am still planing to blog minimum 2x a week, unless something happens or I’m buried in work (in which case I will let you know).

One of my new projects is really starting to come together in my head, too, at least to some degree. I’m considering starting to post metrics for it, simply because I did enjoy posting them back when I was writing UNHOLY GHOSTS.

Anyway. I got an interesting email the other night, and it sparked some interesting thoughts/discussions, so I thought I would share it with you and see what you think.

I’m not going to quote the email directly here, but it was from a lady who owns a small online jewelry store. She asked if I would be willing to accept a piece of her jewelry–for free–in exchange for blogging about it; positive or negative, it didn’t matter. Just mention the store.

I checked out the site, and some of the stuff was really nice. Stuff I would actually wear. I have very specific tastes in jewelry–ask anyone who’s ever tried to buy me any–so it’s not always easy for me to find things that appeal. I don’t wear gold, ever. I don’t like anything heart-shaped or with hearts on it. Not too sparkly. Not a fan of colored stones unless they’re onyx or black pearls (I do love black pearls). I like chunky things. I like dull silver better than shiny. And of course it just has to feel and look “right.” I’m not saying my tastes are so, so, so unique, just that as with everything else they are specific. But yeah, I liked some of the stuff on the site.

Here’s the thing, though. My initial response was, of course, suspicion. The email wasn’t particularly personal; no mention of how she’d been reading my blog for a while or had read any of my work or anything like that. The first thing I did was click Show Details so I could see if this was a mass email. It didn’t appear to be, but of course it could have been BCCd to a thousand people for all I know. I hopped on Twitter to see if anyone else had received a similar email. No. I checked out the site (obviously).

My other initial response, of course, was that while I guess it was a bit flattering, I couldn’t do it. Of course not. I’m not a reviewer. My blog doesn’t exist to inform consumers and it’s not one of those blogs that runs solely on the strength of my fascinating personality, like some famous blogs (I don’t really read any of those, but I know there are a few bloggers who are basically just famous for blogging). I’m a writer, not a shill.

It felt like it would be unethical for me to do this. And I still feel like it would be the wrong thing to do.

But here’s the thing. Right on the heels of that came, “But why?”

Why is it unethical? Why is it wrong for me to get something free in exchange for my honest opinion on it? That’s what review sites do; hell, as I mentioned the other day I know Del Rey has sent out some ARCs for UNHOLY GHOSTS and I’ve already gotten a look at two of the reviews written from those ARCs (both very positive, thank goodness!)

I mean, I talk about things here. I’ve talked about Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and shoes, and clothes, and make-up items, and movies and of course books. I’ve recommended things and recommended you stay away from things.

So why is this different?

Actors or singers or TV personalities or whatever get free stuff all the time, in return for endorsement. Not that I’m equating myself with them in any way, I’m just saying. Heck, doctors get free samples of things in hope they’ll recommend them to their patients. I’m sure, in fact, that there are thousands of other situations where people, everyday people, get offered free things in hopes they’ll recommend those things to others; kind of like a free sample of a new fabric softener you’d get in the mail.

For that matter, I put brand name items in my books. I drink Coke, so my characters drink Coke; I wouldn’t turn down free Coke if, say, the Coca-Cola company read my books and wanted to say thanks or whatever. (I also have a character who drives a superbadass ’69 Chevelle, the uberfast 427. So, um, Chevy, if you happen to be reading this…) But seriously, I do use products and those products sometimes appear in my work, and of course I don’t do it for compensation or anything–it’s versimilitude, or to avoid awkwardness, or whatever–I wouldn’t grumble if the people at Coca-Cola decided to thank me for that, either monetarily or in free products or anything like that. I’m not looking for it, of course, and it’s not why I include the mentions, I’m just saying that while that too might feel a little weird it wouldn’t freak me out.

But this… I don’t know. Am I crazy for thinking this feels different, is different? Am I crazy for thinking I’m not going to do it? Is this some weird ethical hang-up nobody has but me?

What do you guys think?

32 comments to “What do you guys think?”

  1. Natasha
    · January 15th, 2010 at 11:46 am · Link

    I’m still with you, I wouldn’t do it. It just seems to weird for someone to email an Author they have obviously had no previous contact with. No thanks.

    • Stace
      · January 15th, 2010 at 6:08 pm · Link

      Yeah, it just felt…weird. And it’s not her fault, I don’t think she did anything wrong by sending me the email. She wants to get news of her stuff out there, more power to her, you know?

      I do think it would be different if she’d given me some indication that she knew who I was and was a fan. I would probably be a lot more inclined in that case, I think.

      • Natasha
        · January 16th, 2010 at 12:39 pm · Link

        Exactly, not just a “cold call” kinda thing. Did you ever email her back to ask?

  2. Julie K (Selestial)
    · January 15th, 2010 at 11:51 am · Link

    I think you see it as different because the woman *asked* you to do it. You didn’t volunteer. There was no standing up and shouting, “I’ll review your stuff if you send me free shit!” So, you feel like it’s wrong.

    And I can understand the feeling, but I wouldn’t worry so much. It isn’t any different than the things you mentioned. Maybe she does follow your blog. Or maybe a client said, “You know who would love your jewelry? Stacia Kane.”

    If those things bother you, I’d just ask her. A simple email back inquiring about where she got your name isn’t out of line. But after that, the decision is up to you. She sounds like someone who just wants to get the word out.

    That’s my two cents on the matter.

    • Stace
      · January 15th, 2010 at 6:10 pm · Link

      Yeah, and I have to admit part of me feels a little bad because she’s just a business owner trying to make it, and here I am being all navel-gaze-y, if you know what I mean. I hope this works for her. Honestly, if I was a “regular” blogger I probably would have taken her up on it.

  3. Colette A Buckeye Girl Reads
    · January 15th, 2010 at 11:54 am · Link

    Came over from a twitter RT from WickedLPixie. :) I’m with you-I would be very learly of reviewing something other then books I got a similiar email. I don’t know why it’s different then an author asking me to promote a contest or something else, but it has a compeletly different feel. Your reaction is totally normal. :)

    • Stace
      · January 15th, 2010 at 6:11 pm · Link

      Yeah, it does have a different feel, doesn’t it? This post was kind of an attempt to brainstorm why, but it still isn’t really any clearer. I just know it’s different.

  4. Jamie (@VarietyPages)
    · January 15th, 2010 at 12:10 pm · Link

    I felt that same way when people started asking if they could send me free things for my tea and nail blogs. My first inclination was “no” – but I’ll look into it, and if I like it, will purchase it & then review it. I felt like my review of the product would be somehow “suspect” because I received the product for free. I decided to allow it, but always felt uneasy about it. I don’t review tea anymore.

    I do accept products from nail art companies to feature on my nail art blog, but I use them in a design, and keep the review light. I’m picky about what I let them send too – nothing that I know I wouldn’t normally use or like.

    I wouldn’t review non-reading/writing related items that I didn’t purchase for myself on my writing blog though. It would feel too much like I was taking advantage of an audience that came for something completely different. Abusing their trust, so to speak.

    All that to say – no, you’re not crazy (in this, anyway). :-)

    • Stace
      · January 15th, 2010 at 6:14 pm · Link

      Yeah, what’s weird about it is I really did like some of the stuff, which kind of made me feel worse. If it had all been really delicate hearts-and-flowers I could have just said, “Your stuff is nice but not my style.”

      But that’s a good, interesting point, too. I don’t see book review blogs as suspect because they get the books for free, but I do feel as if I would be doing something suspect by getting a ring for free.

      Maybe you have it right there. It would feel like taking advantage of my audience. That’s probably pretty close to what my feelings are.


  5. T.M. Thomas
    · January 15th, 2010 at 12:18 pm · Link

    Interesting post. I love ethical stuff. I’d have taken more of it in school if I wasn’t so tempted to beat philosophy majors with a sock full of quarters on principle.

    One random observation is that there’s a movement going on to stop the free sample (and free lunch…free vacation…) practices with doctors.

    I suppose some of the reaction comes from the fact this wasn’t something you had mentioned that someone followed up about. It’s not like you say “Stephen gave me jewelry again today, and I love this chunky silver black diamond brooch” or whatever. It isnt’ a bad marketing promotion for this person, but really…it’s not something I’d be comfortable with. If someone that read my blog wrote to say they had comic books, or anti-depressants, or a briefcase nuke…I’d understand. Those are the things one thinks of in reading T.M. Thomas.

    As for celebrities…I think less of endorsements than the goodie bags at awards shows and such. They are being given an ipod or a rolex or whatever in the hopes they say something about it or are seen with it. Maybe our tweets about Cemetary Cat Designs inspire more mail re: jewelry…but I can see where there’s something disquieting about being asked to say something.

    • Stace
      · January 15th, 2010 at 6:17 pm · Link

      Yeah, me too. I made my decision about the email within like thirty seconds but thought this was a really interesting discussion to have.

      And yeah, I think that’s part of it, too. I don’t really discuss jewelry here, so it’s not something you guys would expect to see. It’s not a focus of mine. Lol on the briefcase nukes. Let me know if you ever get any free samples of those!

  6. Lia Habel
    · January 15th, 2010 at 12:23 pm · Link

    Hmm. I’m torn, myself. As long as you have a history of reviewing and/or mentioning similar items, I’d be tempted to say, “Fair’s fair.” However, you bring up some excellent points, so I’m not entirely certain which way to go.

    I’ve been mulling over something similar, lately, having to do with a couple of necklaces I’d really like to commission from a jeweler – specifically, items I’ve dreamed up for my second book. I’m holding back on doing so precisely because I question how ethical it is to pay someone to physically create items I’m being paid to dream up for other people. I’m not willing to step on anyone’s toes for the sake of gratifying my own silly, girlish whims.

    But…shiny things…

    • Stace
      · January 15th, 2010 at 6:19 pm · Link

      Oh, see I think that’s TOTALLY different, actually, and you absolutely should commission the jewelry. I’m going to have t-shirts made for the Downside books and am considering using some of the made-up bands (as opposed to the real ones, which of course are real and thus have their own shirts) on them; like a shirt for the Rolling Ghosts or something, to tie in to the world.

      Jewelry for your world is fantastic. Synde does some for Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books and they’re really cool. If I had any sort of jewelry item in my books I would totally get it made!

  7. Megan
    · January 15th, 2010 at 12:33 pm · Link

    I can understand your issue here. I think what’s different about this instance from other times you’ve mentioned items, companies, etc., is that this was solicited, which is a little different than just throwing out that you drink Coke. I can agree with feeling a little uneasy about this, it would have been one thing if the lady said she was familiar with you read your work, blah blah blah. But in this day and age you should be careful about recommending people and products. I’ve always stuck with that gut feeling, when I go in a different direction from what it tells me I get screwed.

    • Stace
      · January 15th, 2010 at 6:22 pm · Link

      Yeah, I really think it would have made a difference if she knew who I was. I believe she’s honest and wasn’t really worried about being screwed by her, it’s more about whether or not it would compromise my integrity, you know what I mean? It just seems impersonal and kind of greedy, whereas it wouldn’t if jewelry was something I regularly discussed or if she was a fan or something.

  8. writttenwyrdd
    · January 15th, 2010 at 12:56 pm · Link

    Sounds like your discomfort is from this sort of situation is a review that isn’t spontaneous. It’s a businesslike relationship, even if you are not obliged to say something positive. The relationship between you and this product becomes such that it changes the relationship between you and your readers if you mention or promote it. Even if you say nothing nice and only negative things about the product, you have changed the relationship you have had with your readers here.

    I personally do not mind if you get free swag and mention it. I do not find it ethical if you just say, “Company X sent me a lovely necklace, gratis, so I wish to mention them,” and provide a link.

    Now if you are hiding your relationship with Company X, that would be unethical, IMO.

    • Stace
      · January 15th, 2010 at 6:24 pm · Link

      Right!! YES! It would change my relationship with you guys and it would make the blog feel like a different place, and I don’t like that idea very much. You guys come here for a specific purpose and my job is to entertain you; to use you as commercial fodder would feel more cynical than even I am comfortable with. :)

      Now if it were one of you guys, I would jump at the chance, you know?

      • writtenwyrdd
        · January 15th, 2010 at 6:26 pm · Link

        I ever get a book to hawk, I’ll come begging, lol.

      • Stace
        · January 15th, 2010 at 6:30 pm · Link

        You ever get a book to hawk, and you won’t have to, hon. πŸ˜€

    • writtenwyrdd
      · January 15th, 2010 at 6:25 pm · Link

      Actually on third look, I think I misspoke. it’s not unethical if you don’t mention a company that gave you something. What would be unethical is receiving free stuff, promoting them, and not disclosing the relationship or the promotional materials received. I guess it’s along the lines of the FTC’s ruling a couple months ago about disclosure. I don’t know why, but if you receive free books in hopes of a review and don’t mention the free promotional copies, that’s okay; but if you receive other stuff for free and hawk it without disclosure, it seems a bit iffy. Not exactly dishonest, but I guess that most of us understand you ahve to receive free books to review them, but the other stuff may or may not be paid ads?

  9. writttenwyrdd
    · January 15th, 2010 at 12:57 pm · Link

    ‘Scuse me, that should have said, “I do not find it UNethical if you just say, “Company X sent me a lovely necklace, gratis, so I wish to mention them,” and provide a link.

  10. Michele Lee
    · January 15th, 2010 at 1:13 pm · Link

    How is it different from someone offering me a copy of a book for review? I mean, I get cold emails like that all the time. If you were uncomfortable with accepting the jewelry you could give it away to random commenter as some do. But Richelle Mead has a person who does official Vampire Academy jewelry here: http://www.richellemead.com/shop/jewel.htm

    • synde
      · January 15th, 2010 at 1:48 pm · Link

      heh.. yeah that’s me…and yes we are all in sales.. ethics or no we are all in sales.

      • Stace
        · January 15th, 2010 at 6:26 pm · Link

        See above; I think we’ve figured out that it’s different because jewelry isn’t a focus on the blog, so it would feel a little like bait-and-switching you guys. Like making you watch a commercial for dish soap before you got to the book/writing/fun stuff.

  11. synde
    · January 15th, 2010 at 1:33 pm · Link

    I think you should do whatever feels right to you..Ethics are different for every person..Some see something as ok , that another would not. My own personal thoughts I wouldn’t, I would take care of those I knew or purchased from first.. But as I said each person is different… 😯

    • Stace
      · January 15th, 2010 at 6:28 pm · Link

      My own personal thoughts are that this blog is not about jewelry. Period. And I’ve already said REPEATEDLY that I am NOT doing it, but just thought this was an interesting ethical discussion to have. Not as it relates to jewelry but to the ethics of me getting something for free in exchange for blogging about it. That’s what this post was about.

      • synde
        · January 15th, 2010 at 8:28 pm · Link

        I understand and agree…some would do it though..yanno
        you say in the middle of your blog you wouldn’t do it..
        and I do think most people would do it.

  12. writtenwyrdd
    · January 16th, 2010 at 5:46 am · Link

    I like that you recognize your particular sticking point, Stace. And this is an interesting discussion. πŸ˜‰

  13. Tami
    · January 16th, 2010 at 10:10 am · Link

    As a reader of yours, I would probably consider your blog turning into the QVC network to be alarming, but periodic product reviews (especially if they’re niche products, like specific types of jewelry) could be fun because I might see something I might not otherwise have known about.

    Whether or not it’s “right” to do it would be your call on how comfortable you felt, but I as a reader of your blog wouldn’t be turned off by periodic product reviews. =]

    Also, now that I more fully understand your blogging concern? Can you schedule posts (like WordPress does) to go live on a different day than you write them? That might be a solution if you want to keep your content predictable but allow your writing schedule to be flexible.


  14. Tyhitia
    · January 17th, 2010 at 3:15 pm · Link

    I say go with your gut. πŸ˜€ If she knew you, it’d be different. But for someone to come out of the blue and not mention how they know you, that’s just odd. πŸ˜•

  15. vanessa jaye
    · January 24th, 2010 at 10:42 am · Link

    Stacia, I got that email request too. Like you, I thought it was an odd request and assumed it was spam. I didn’t research any further than that, just deleted the email.

    I have no problem chatting up books and/or other consumer products that tickle my fancy. But it’s off the cuff stuff under my own impetus. I can’t see myself pimping on request for anything/anyone (regardless of whether it’s unltimately a positive or negative opinion).

  16. Bernita
    · January 28th, 2010 at 8:21 am · Link

    I received that email too and feel the same as Vanessa does about it.


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