A review policy is something you should consider having whether you accept review copies of books or not; but if you do accept them, a review policy is MANDATORY, especially in light of the FTC's new policies regarding online reviews and disclosure.
First of all, what is a review policy? It's simply a statement of where and how you get the books—or other items, if applicable—you review on your blog, and how you treat them. It can also include a statement for publicists on what you're accepting or not. Like giveaway policies, once this is posted you're legally obligated to follow it; but it's really easy to change, so just make sure your review policy is always up to date.
What should your review policy include? It must state whether or not you accept copies of books for review, how you disclose if a copy was provided, and what you do with the copies once you're finished with them (common opinion is that selling ARCs or even keeping them after you've reviewed them isn't kosher—you don't want to give the impression you're accepting payment for reviews).
What else might a review policy include? Any additional information is more for the benefit of publicists, blog tour organizers, etc., who might be looking to send you a copy of a book. Some things you might want to mention:
- What format of books will you accept? Only print or also eBooks? And if eBooks, what file types?
- What genres do you like to read? Anything you rabidly dislike?
- Can the person pitching their book 100% expect to see a review on your blog if you accept their book? If yes, in what time period?
- Are you going to be nice in your review if you dislike the book? If not, better say so. You should also mention if you don't review books you don't like.
- What's the best way to contact you?
- Do you respond to every review request, even if you're not interested?
- If you schedule reviews for specific dates, how much time do you need from when you receive the book to the time of the review? If you don't get the book in time, will you reschedule?
- Are you going to write about the book anywhere else? GoodReads, Amazon, another blog?
This really helps establish the tone of your relationship with people pitching books as well as their expectations, so you want to make sure you can do what you say you will in the review policy.
This may seem like a lot to think about it (and it is), but you can write short and sweet review policies that cover everything in one or two paragraphs. Here are some sample review policies if you want to see how other book bloggers approach them:
- My full disclosure page at Truth Beauty Freedom and Books: http://heidenkind.blogspot.com/p/full-disclosure.html
- Smart Bitches' FTC disclosure is short and sweet: http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/disclaimer Meanwhile, their FAQ is really long: http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/faq
- My Friend Amy's review policy is more inclusive: http://www.myfriendamysblog.com/2008/05/book-review-policy.html (I like where she says, "My blog is not your advertising space," I might steal that.)
And that's it! Pretty simple, right? Let me know if you have any questions or comments.