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Author giveaways

[No, not mine, sorry. It will happen eventually. I just need something to give away first.]

An author I admire – let’s say author X – is doing a twitter giveaway. “When I get to n followers, where n is a nice round number, then I’ll give away something cool to the nth person.”

This is intended to increase followers, I imagine, but I’ve never liked that sort of ‘reward’ system, where novelty is favored over loyalty. Whether it’s the phone company, the grocery, or a book giveaway, it always makes me as a long-time loyal customer (or twitter follower) unhappy. It feels like my time-worn loyalty is being ignored, and only shiny new people are interesting.

I made the mistake of saying so to author X, who really didn’t appreciate my comment. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I like X a lot, I buy X’s books, I read X’s blog, I recommend X to my friends. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t even have tried to engage (or have noticed, for that matter).

I intended it as a ‘This sounds cool, but you might want to consider that you’re making [some] of your loyal readers feel like crap.’ Because I did, and always have when people and businesses do things like that. I’ve asked others, and I know it at least isn’t just me. You know, for next time. Maybe do a random drawing when you hit n, or something.

Because I like X, and want X to grow audience and succeed and all that stuff. But X got mad, and defensive. I’m sure partly it’s the extreme limitations imposed by twitter on rational communication. I tried to be careful about saying that this was how I felt, and that X got to make the rules, but X might want to know that at least some people didn’t like that kind of giveaway. Apparently I didn’t succeed. I probably shouldn’t even have mentioned it.

I think it’s great when authors engage somewhat with their audience. And it’s wonderful when they give away stuff. And there’s no possible way to be entirely fair – it’s always going to be restricted to people on LJ, or Twitter, or whatever. But in this case I as a long-time follower would have to resort to deceit to even enter, and that makes me unhappy.

What do you all think, both about author giveaways and about mentioning it?


  1. Sharon says:

    I agree – why should the random person who lucks into the last slot get the prize? Makes no logical sense *if* X’s plan is to reward loyal fans.

    Interesting that a comment to the author intended to suggest a way to reward her/his fans would result in the exchange you mentioned above.

    Not to mention making you, a loyal fan, feel less than wonderful about the interaction.

    And if the author does NOT want to engage with fans, why even engage in the giveaway activity at all?

    Seems contradictory in many respects.

  2. Nathan says:

    I’m not sure I sympathize with this one. I totally agree when it comes to bigger businesses — especially bookstores. I refuse to buy one of those “memberships” from bookstores. (The idea that I ‘ll get a discount is fine, but the idea that I have to pay $25 first and then spend another $250 before I break even and start getting the discount bugs the crap out of me. It’s easy to put me in your computer. Just give me a discount after I’ve spent $250 and proved my loyalty.)

    But, in this case, you’re talking about a single person. (I’m assuming your not talking about a Stephen King/J.K. Rawling-type mega-author here.) X is trying to get his/her Twitter feed noticed. This seems like a valid and non-evil way to do that. Granted, I’ve seen other contests of this sort where the person who hit the “goal” number won and a second prize went to a random person, but, hey…it’s his/her contest. S/he can run it any way s/he wants to.

    I think you’re overreacting and, no offense, but calling out the author on it might be a little…ungracious?

    Frankly, it’s no biggie either way, but that’s my gut reaction.

    (Hey! Looky here! My first comment on your blog and I’m telling you how wrong you are! Do you love me now?)

  3. Sarah says:

    Hi Nathan! I asked for thoughts, and “You’re being an idiot” is an entirely valid answer. I tried as hard as twitter allows to not “call the author out” but to say “y’know, some of your fans feel slighted by this.” Obviously didn’t succeed as intended. I even explicitly said, “It’s your game, you get to make the rules.”

    Sharon, I don’t think X’s plan was to reward loyal fans, but rather to gain new ones. It just seems to me that there are ways to do it without alienating loyal fans. On twitter, one option that seems to work well is “follow and RT” but there are others.

  4. Eric says:

    I wouldn’t be offended if a writer I like did this, but I would think it’s a pretty stupid and possibly counterproductive “promotion.”. Author X isn’t going to actually get too many followers out of this, just a bunch of freeriders looking for loot. Granted, some infinitesimal subpercentage of those who are too lazy to unfollow Author X might maybe eventually possibly become actual bona fide followers, in which case the outlay/profit equation maybe is low enough that it’s technically not a waste of time. Then again, if you alienated loyal fans for the sake of picking up a few down the road, or if the new followers aren’t people you’d want as fans, maybe it is.

    That’s not to say an author shouldn’t give non-fans priority loot. I mean if I’m ever so lucky as to have a chance to give away an ARC, I suppose it might cross my mind from a writing-as-business POV that giving a free taste and hoping to hook a new client has more growth potential than “losing” a sale by giving a copy to an addict who was going to buy my next five books anyway (perhaps even if they suck). Then again, I think any artist in any field (books, music, whatever) takes audience loyalty for granted at his/her own peril; there are certainly people whose attitude towards fandom has cost or delayed sales to me.

    Hope there’s an insight in there somewhere that’s useful. Now I’m curious who Author X is!

  5. Ticia says:

    Okay. This is something I learned recently and it’s quite eye-opening (at least to me). It’s perfectly okay to express your thoughts on subjects, but it’s also very easy to fall into an I’m right, you’re wrong confrontational way of communicating, especially when it’s something you’re passionate about. When you say to someone “The way you’re doing this sucks”, no matter how nicely you say it, it still boils down to them having to defend their position. And everyone will. There is no way you can respond to that statement in any way but in a defensive way.