Contests and Readers

Jaynie has taken up this topic at her blog before and I think it’s a topic worthy of discussion from several perspectives – Contests and prizes not being open to readers outside the US.

Here’s the deal: I like to run contests. They’re fun and they’re a way for me to say thank you to my readers. I don’t think of those readers as greedy for wanting to win stuff. Who doesn’t want to win free stuff for goodness’ sake?

The attitude of some authors who refuse to open contests to readers outside the US is not something I understand at all. In the first place, it’s not like I spend millions of dollars on contests all the time anyway. In the second place, the chances that folks from outside the US will win contests on such a regular basis that it somehow breaks my postage budget are next to nil.

But the most important part is that it says on my part: “I don’t give a crap about you if you don’t live in the US. You are nothing more than a promotional opportunity for me so if you don’t live in the US, you don’t count.” And uh, there’s no way I’d say that even if I did think it, which I don’t.

It seems terribly self destructive to treat readers poorly. After all where would we be without them? I like my readers and I like that I send packages to Puerto Rico and Canada and Germany and Australia. I like that those international readers make the effort to read my stuff.

Contests are fun. They say, “thanks for being a fan!” so when you say, US ONLY, you’re saying in effect that you don’t care about readers who aren’t convenient for you. Tsk.

Other voices on this issue: Alison Kent; PBW and Brenda Coulter (although I shouldn’t list her because she censors comments)

8 comments to “Contests and Readers”

  1. Jaynie R
    February 8th, 2006 at 10:58 pm · Link

    lol – Brenda has turned off her comments now.

    Just imagine if she’d been nice, all the good publicity this could have generated instead of the bad – sad really.

  2. Millenia Black
    February 8th, 2006 at 11:28 pm · Link

    It’s unfortunate that this discussion turned sour. It really is a subjective thing and to each his own.

    I personally wouldn’t exclude any reader from a giveaway or contest – however – if she feels a trip to the post office and a few extra bucks of postage is too much expenditure for her…that’s her. 🙂

    It does seem that a cord was struck, though. She began the discussion in a very arrogant tone and when someone responded in kind – she couldn’t take it. Felt she was being called “stupid” when no one said anything of the kind. I think she began to feel stupid in the face of more reasonable promotional logic.

  3. Frauke
    February 9th, 2006 at 2:13 am · Link

    I’m a reader and I’m living outside the States, in Germany to be specific. Also, I’m participating in contests, especially scavenger hunts since I think they are fun (I’m always proud of myself if I found all logos *smile*) and I get to know lots of authors by visiting their websites.

    I’ve won two contests yet. As prize for the second contest I won an Amazon gift certtificate. I didn’t know I won at all and especially not an Amazon voucher till I found it in my email box (there were also other prizes offered). It would have been nice if the author mailed me before just sending it. Why? I can’t purchase eBooks at since I’m not living in North America. I also can’t redeem such a voucher with Amazon Germany, it’s only for And buying something with a $ 10.00 gift certificate is not really an option since I don’t own a credit card, I need as Not-US-customer (and if I had one I had still to pay the shipment/taxes for something I can get in a German bookstore without the shipment/taxes).
    In the end I did forward this voucher to a friend living in the States.
    I would have been very happy just to win an eBook from the author.
    Prizes, offered to all readers are great, but prizes that not-US-readers can also enjoy, would be great, too.

    As prizes I also love signed paperbacks – who wouldn’t? And I even would pay the shipment myself to get a signed one – I don’t mind. I mean when do I have a chance to get a signed one without travelling to one of the signings/conferences in the US myself?

    What I want to say is that authors can talk with us. I don’t mind to get a substitute prize, pay the shipment myself or whatever.
    But to say up front “Yes, you can buy my books, but no, you can’t win one” sounds sad. I guess nobody likes to feel like an outsider.

  4. Cathryn Fox
    February 9th, 2006 at 7:36 am · Link

    This hits me hard, Lauren because I live in Canada. Most of my prize winners are in the states and I spend a fortune of shipping but that’s fine because I want to thank all my readers.

  5. lili-g
    February 9th, 2006 at 8:50 am · Link

    I have no comment on contests, but I’m glad to see the new profile pic, it’s a beauty.
    And if I’d said ‘eh’ at the end of that last sentence, would you guess I’m not from the US?

  6. Lauren Dane
    February 9th, 2006 at 10:15 am · Link

    Thank you, Lili! And I’ve sent you a book before, it wasn’t that big of a deal to do so.

    Millenia, I think that when you make controversial statements, you need to be ready for the blowback. I don’t think Coulter ever is, despite the fact that she makes them quite often. I do also agree that when you’re discussing something, the discussion will often reflect your own tone.

    Frauke – I’ve had readers email me and say, “I already have that book” or something similar and I’m always happy to substitute something. But that info about Amazon is quite helpful. I’ll have to tuck it away that it’s not good for international winners.

    Cathryn, I imagine that it’s a much bigger deal for you and other authors who live outside the US!

  7. Annalee Blysse
    February 10th, 2006 at 9:29 pm · Link

    I haven’t had to mail overseas for a contest, but I will when the time comes because I am having a great time meeting people from around the world. If and when I have to worry about the postage costs, I’ll pinch the pennies elsewhere. Two less mochas at the coffee shop and I could mail a small pin all the way to Africa.

  8. Shelley Munro
    February 11th, 2006 at 1:43 am · Link

    Since I live in NZ most of my prize winners come from the US, but I’ve also posted to Germany, Australia, Vietnam, and Canada. Yes, postage is expensive but I factor it into my promo budget. It’s part of doing business.