As the owner of a company that provides book reviews and operates a book contest, I’ve long been aware that there are many bogus contests and reviewers out there. I’ve also promoted blog tours for authors, and I firmly believe that having your own blog and being a guest on someone else’s blog is a great way to get the word out about your book. But not all blogs and bloggers are created the same, and worse, some are not very honest.
Recently, I became aware of a new trend among bloggers to offer giveaways to their readers. Sadly, many of these purported giveaways are scams, or at least, they are not completely honest or providing what they claim they will provide for the book’s author. Following are some examples and guidelines to follow before providing your book to bloggers who are offering giveaways.
First, let’s look at the book giveaway process and what may motivate bloggers to offer a regular book giveaway. The bloggers requests authors and often other owners of various products to send them the products so that they can review them. Next, they read the book or use the product and write a review of the product, posting the product information on their blog. They then ask people to submit their names through some electronic form or via email for a random drawing for a giveaway of the product. The product is then mailed to the winner. Sounds simple enough.
But it’s actually more complicated than that. The blogger isn’t going to go through all this work without getting something in return. Often, the blogger will post an image of the product with a link to where it can be purchased, such as an online bookstore that not only sells the product but also has a referral program where the blogger receives a commission on all products sold when people click through from the blogger’s site to the seller’s site and buy the product.
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That is even reasonable and there’s nothing wrong with people being paid for their work. The possibility of unethical and scamming behavior comes, however, in various, sometimes small, but nevertheless serious ways. Before you submit your book to a blogger, here are some things to watch out for:
1. FTC Disclosure-It is the law now that anyone who receives a profit when he or she endorses a product must disclose that upfront. A legitimate website will have an FTC disclosure statement on it that the owner is receiving a commission (whether through click-thru or the direct payment by the author or product owner) for promoting the work. That does not mean the blogger is being dishonest in providing a good review of the product. In fact, if the FTC disclosure is there, it’s a good sign the blogger believes in being honest about the product. If the FTC disclosure is not there, don’t participate.
2. Product Reviews-Before you send your book to someone to review it, look at the past reviews at the site. A lot of bloggers (and book reviewers) claim that they review books when, in fact, they simply copy the product description as it appears at the author’s or an online bookstore’s website, or they copy the back cover description and post that as a review. That is not a legitimate book review because it does not reflect the blogger’s personal opinion of the book and it’s a good sign the blogger didn’t even bother to read the book to find out whether it deserves to be endorsed. The blogger is simply trying to get as many products featured on the blog as possible so more commission can be earned.
3. Multiple Copies-If bloggers request more than two copies of the book, it’s unlikely they want the books for review or giveaway. It’s understandable the blogger might want a book to read and then another to send to the giveaway winner. However, it’s much more sensible for the blogger to request only one copy and then after the giveaway’s winner is named, request that the author personally send the winner an autographed copy. If a blogger requests more than two copies, it’s likely the blogger is collecting inventory to resell-perhaps to a local used bookstore, or perhaps at an online store, thereby making a profit off copies of books he didn’t pay for and that the author thought would be given away.
4. Drawing Results-An honest blogger running a book giveaway is going to disclose the names of the winners, although for privacy’s sake, it might just say Amanda W., Syracuse, NY or George T, Salt Lake City, UT. What is suspicious is not giving any indication that there are winners.
If you are still unsure whether to submit your book to a blogger’s book giveaway, contact the authors of some of the previous giveaways and ask them whether it helped them or they ever heard from any of the readers. If the blogger is running a legitimate contest and gives the author the email and mailing address of the giveaway winner, you can contact the person and rest assured that your book is going where it should. If the blogger is mailing out the copies himself, you don’t have proof the books are being mailed out. In fact, I’ve heard from some authors who have participated in such giveaways multiple times that they have never received a thank you or any feedback from the people who supposedly received their books. While not receiving feedback is not necessarily a sign of dishonesty, when you do receive feedback it’s a sign that everything is functioning as it should.
Will a book giveaway help promote your book and give you publicity? It could if the blog gets a lot of traffic, and if the blogger truly is giving away the books, you may at least find one new fan. The blogger, of course, may tell you how the blog receives tens of thousands of views, and if that’s true, it’s great because then a lot of people will hear about your book, and if they are interested and do not win it in the giveaway, hopefully, they will buy it.
If you do get scammed, you’ll only lose out on the costs of the few books you give away, but that said, no one wants to be scammed, so do a little research before you decide to give away your books and you can rest assured that the readers whom you want your books to reach will be the ones benefiting from the book giveaway rather than solely a blogger who is out to make money without ethics.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, http://www.readerviews.com, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.