2010 Trend: Giving Away Books

Just this week, I’ve seen the following giveaways announced:

Did I miss any? Is this the big trend of 2010 — giveaway contests?

I’ve known since I worked on the DC Comics website that readers love the chance to get something for free. But (me being me) this started me thinking about the technique. I have a couple of questions:

1. Are sites ready to deal with legal ramifications? There are, in some states, strict laws about how to run sweepstakes and similar contests, and I doubt websites are paying attention to them. (I know I didn’t, when I gave things away.) In the past, it wasn’t a big deal, but if more attention comes, someone might get in trouble.

2. If everyone starts doing giveaways, will readers still respond? I’ve run several on this site, and response ranged from over 150 participants when I gave away the New Frontier DVD to only 3 when it came to the blank comic book.

Some audience counts depend on how desirable readers think the prize is, of course, but I’m getting the feeling that the gimmick doesn’t work as well as it used to. That may not matter to someone who just wants to spread the word about a title they like, though. I’m assuming that these contests are intended as traffic builders — maybe they’re just ways to say “thank you” to readers while cleaning out the shelves.

12 Responses to “2010 Trend: Giving Away Books”

  1. Melinda Beasi Says:

    Hi Johanna! Wow, you know, I admit I never even considered your first question here. The value of the item is so small (monetarily), I suppose I thought of it more like winning the door prize at the ice cream social than a sweepstakes. :) But that’s a really good question.

    In terms of intent (I can only speak for my own contest of course), since the purpose of my Manhwa Monday column is to bring more attention to English-translated manhwa, I thought perhaps actually providing someone with a copy of a popular manhwa to read, with no financial investment on their part, might be an effective way of getting skeptical manga fans to try it out. I’m not going to get far convincing one fan at a time, I realize, but I wanted to try it anyway. Depending on response, I thought I might try subsequent giveaways as well–sort of putting my money where my mouth is, I suppose. If people are seeing it as a gimmick, though, that could hurt its effectiveness, certainly.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for sharing more of your thinking, Melinda. I’m not sure people are thinking of it as a gimmick — just that, to me, it doesn’t seem to have the punch it once had.

  3. Katherine Dacey Says:

    As someone who’s been running giveaways at PCS and my own site, I can attest to the fact that they don’t always produce the intended results. I’ve run contests that garnered little to no interest because they required entrants to submit a poem or parody for consideration — and I was offering two complete sets of Black Jack! — and I’ve given away some so-so stuff that attracted considerable interest. For me, giveaways are a chance to reward regular readers, draw people into a conversation, and to share books that I’ve liked with other people. Some contestants do become regular readers, but considering the amount of time and effort contests take, a well-crafted blog entry or review can have the same effect.

    For bloggers unfamiliar with the laws governing contests and sweepstakes (there is a legal distinction between the two), this page provides a helpful, clear overview without too much legalese: http://www.fredlaw.com/articles/marketing/mark_0310_srb.html.

  4. david brothers Says:

    I did a few giveaways, maybe between 6-10, last year and they were always interesting. Sometimes it was just a review copy I had no use for, other times it was stuff I had extras of, and sometimes it was at the request of PR. I always tried to keep it simple, like “Tell me about your favorite [thing with loose connection to giveaway]” because otherwise, as Kate says above, people don’t want to put in the effort.

    I don’t think I ever gave a single thought to the legal ramifications. I figured since it was a literal giveaway, with all of the cost being on my side (or the publisher’s side, a couple times), it was just a one to one thing, like giving a book to a friend.

    Definitely something to contemplate and research in the future, though, as blogging becomes more legitimate and (for lack of a better word) regulated.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for that link, Katherine. Great resource. And David, yes, I feel the same way about keeping entries easy.

  6. Paul Says:

    There is an ongoing “365 Days of Manga” contest at Suvudu.com


  7. Johanna Says:

    Right, how could I forget that! Thanks.

  8. Bully Says:

    At the end of 2010 I was going to give away the life-size stuffed and mounted Hank McCoy, but you’ve suitably warned me away from doing so because of the legal and administrative consequences. Back to the basement with you, moldy ratty stuffed Beast!

  9. Johanna Says:

    Probably a good thing — who knows what some crazed fan would do with a full-size Beast?!?

  10. Thom Says:

    I had my plans…I had my plans…

  11. Deb Aoki Says:

    Although I’ve been given the opportunity to do so, the legal issues you mention in your post have made it impossible for me to offer giveaways on my site. It’s against About.com rules, so I abide by that. What I do instead is I donate prizes to other organizations/conventions and they usually graciously offer to give me a little plug. so it goes, so it goes…

  12. Johanna Says:

    That’s a clever idea I should keep in mind in future.




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