#WW: Debating Giveaways and Donations

#WW: Debating Giveaways and Donations.

By now, you probably know that Clean Teen Publishing is running a Goodreads Giveaway for 3 ARCs of Minutes Before Sunset. And if you’re involved in the publishing industry at all – and I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this – then you already know how widely debated giveaways are. It doesn’t matter if you’re an author, a reader, or a publisher. I’m sure you’ve seen the debates about giveaways. I’m sure you’ve also seen a few debates about donations as well. We all have our opinions, and both topics are deeply complex – probably too complex to completely cover in this article below – but I did want to try to explain why I choose to participate in giveaways and donations.

I’ve considered both deeply, so much so that I’ve spent hours researching all the pros and cons. I’m sure you can already tell from my website that I am all for giveaways and donations. That being said, I want to start with donations.

Let's start off with this bookstore I found recently - almost all books were donations.
Let’s start off with this bookstore I found recently – almost all books were donations.


Some like to call it panhandling. Others – like me – like to call it support. I never consciously started my website with the idea of donations in mind. In fact, two years of blogging passed before I ever added a page. The first time I considered it was when a blogger – who I had gifted one of my novels to – asked if I had a donate page because she wanted to support my writing. She informed me that she had already bought my books and shared them with friends, but she wanted to do more.

I was touched – and a little bit insecure. I didn’t feel like I was worth any extra help. I didn’t feel like it was “right”, and we spoke about it for a while. She explained that she does this for a lot of her favorite authors, and I remembered something. I donate to my favorite authors and musicians. I have, and I still do when I can. But I was always the donator – not the receiver – and the flip of the relationship felt odd and surreal.

That’s when I started researching.

While I can’t share every article I ever found on the topic, I will share THE ONE – the one that ultimately changed my mind. It was a TED talk: Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking: and I suggest watching it whenever you have the time.

She is absolutely right. The donations become an exchange – a loving exchange. It’s not forced or expected or lazy. I donate to show my appreciation, and when I receive donations, I like to give unique photos of Bogart to supporters to show how much I appreciate them. (Since I’m not a statue actress with flowers like Amanda Palmer).

Now – my addition to this topic is something I’ll never forget. Last year, when I lost my old publisher, my job, and my car at the same time, I was walking around in the rain with holes in my boots just to try to find new work – and you all saved me. Quite frankly, you all kept me on my feet. And you kept my feet dry. Without you, I’m not sure where I would’ve been. But with you, I was safe, and for that, I am forever thankful, and I hope I can continue to move forward and helps others in the way you all helped me. Helping and being helped out of the goodness of your heart – finding ways to support one another when we can – cheering everyone on – and working together for a better future, that is love.

Now, for giveaways: (whew)

The main judgment I see in giveaways is generally worded like this: “Giving away your work for free devalues your work.”

This saddens me. As an author, I trust my readers to bring joy to giveaways, to be positive and uplifting, and to enjoy the event. I do not feel like it devalues my work. To me, that is like saying all presents aren’t valuable because they were given to you for free. Some of the closest trinkets I own are presents. They are immensely valuable to me. If someone handed me a free book – a free trinket or free cake or free notebook – I would never think, “This isn’t valuable.” Instead, when I received a notebook from a reader, my day was filled with warmth, and I have been filling up the notebook with poems ever since – poems I send to that reader, poems we discuss, poems we talk about, poems we build friendship on. That isn’t just valuable. It’s invaluable. Giveaways are gift-gifting opportunities, but they are more than that: they are friendship opportunities.

Now, this is where another concern slides in. Some people sign up who just want to resell your work: no reviews, no reader connections, just people “stealing.”

We choose to give it away. It is a gift. We cannot have expectations for what people do with the gift. That’s just not how gifting works. Granted, I do hope that people stop entering giveaways just to sell work – because yes, that’s unfair to the readers who actually wanted it to read it – but we must trust the readers to come through for authors, and I trust that we can work together to make it a better gift-giving system.

On a side note, I mentioned TED talks earlier, and now I will mention them again. I’m a TED talk junky. I have spent many nights – probably too many nights – watching TED talks. I have learned from TED talks and grown from them and shared them, and guess what? They are all free.

I recently watched a collection of six on forgiveness, and another one about poetry in prison, and the danger of the single story. Arguably, the last one – by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – is my ultimate favorite. The single story is damaging, and I think the “single story” theory goes beyond just hearing a single story. It stretches to any type of judgment, and that brings me back to Amanda Palmer’s speech, The Art of Asking.

We are quick to judge things like giveaways or donations and we are quick to praise them as well, but there are always two sides to the story, two sides to the pros and cons of an act, and two sides to debate.

I choose to stay on this side – as a reader and as an author – and I hope to stay on this side, even when things get tough.


And in case you haven’t entered the giveaway (and you want to), click this link to the photo below for your chance to win 1 of 3 ARCS of the new edition of Minutes Before Sunset. Clean Teen Publishing will be picking winners on my birthday! (Because what better way to celebrate?)  bel234

24 thoughts on “#WW: Debating Giveaways and Donations

  1. Very inspiring post! In May-June, I will have my first Virtual Blog Tour for a nonfiction title I published in January. It was suggested to include a giveaway, and I decided to give away two copies (so far the book is only in digital format). I think that giveways are a nice thing to go. I don’t have much experience with donations, though I like supporting when I can.

    My first experiences with publishing came through academic publishing. Most of the time, you do this for free (in monetary terms as you gain exposure and gain experience). I like the idea of “open access” when it comes to knowledge. So participating in giveaways for the work I normally hope to earn money from was a natural next step. I am happy to sell titles, whether indie or tradionally published, but I don’t see giveaways as taking anything away from it.

    1. I definitely agree with open access to knowledge! I actually just watched ANOTHER TED talk on that just two nights ago – where a private buyer saved the lost codex of Archimedes by buying the damaged book and hiring a team to save it over ten years. On top of that, the buyer then allowed it to be public knowledge. Anyone can log online and view it.

      We need more opportunities like that. I was always sad to see how much knowledge is stored away in buildings where no one is allowed in – not even via the Internet (like in this case).
      I also hope your giveaway goes well!

  2. Never thought about a giveaway winner reselling the book. I know I’ve only gotten one or two reviews from my giveaways, but I realized early on that it might only be the allure of a free book. Honestly, I just wish Goodreads had a method for doing it with eBooks or PDF files because I’ve had a few shipping snafus beyond my control. That and paperback sending is more expensive.

    I’ve seen the debates on donations too. Part of it seems to have stemmed from a few high profile abuses. A person asking for money to help support their writing and then it gets revealed that they have a high paying job. Or they used the money for something frivolous. I fully agree that in situations where help is needed, a donation request is a great idea. Those are times where a person really needs assistance and to be kept out of a worsening situation. Beyond that, I think people have simply become suspicious of anyone asking for money. Trust appears to be a really tough thing to find on the Internet for some reason.

    1. I do wish Goodreads had a better way of tracking it – not that a winner should ever be obligated to review or anything, but I have seen so many cases and articles of people reporting the same person or couple of people for simply entering to resell (especially signed copies), that I do wish there was a way for people to flag profiles that way, and if Goodreads looks into it, they could block the address or person from entering. Seems fair enough to me, especially for paperbacks, since – like you said – they are just so much more expensive, especially if you add on international shipping.
      On the donations thing, I have also seen a few articles against donation that I completely understood – situations where authors were holding the donations against their fans or using it inappropriately, and I think that’s wrong, but I look at it like I look at the giveaways. Why let a couple bad situations ruin all the good ones? Pubslush.com – for instance – seems wonderful. It’s a crowd funding website for authors, and some of the money goes to charity, and it’s monitored. https://pubslush.com But – yes – I definitely see where trust can be a problem in both of these situations.

      1. I’m surprised that people would do that with indie authors. You might get $10 or so out of it? At least if you don’t try to sell it for more than the already insane price.

        Good point that a few bad apples shouldn’t ruin things for everyone else. I think that sums up self-publishing in general given the ‘sea of crap’ stigma that still exists. People should focus more on the good users than the bad ones. Sounds naive, but the world would be a better place.

  3. I am a TED talk junkie as well, and also learned from experience about people who enter a GoodReads giveaway just to resell the book when I noticed two of my ‘winners’ just happened to live at almost the same address. At first I thought they were just neighbors who both liked my ad. I packaged them up and placed them in the mail only to realize that there was a typo on one address. I called the postal company and learned the address was actually a glorified PO box and that they knew just what to do with the books because they processed so many. I might not have minded if only one book went that way, but two? That meant that there were at least two readers who didn’t win. I had to remind myself that my books would still reach a reader even if it wasn’t the first stop.

    1. If you love TED talks, I just put another one in the comments above about open access to knowledge, but on top of that, I also discussed this a little bit in the comments. I think it would be great if Goodreads had an option for people to report certain profiles for doing this, and upon investigation, certain addresses could be blocked from receiving gifts if they were reselling so many books.

  4. I hadn’t given any thought to the donations idea before, but I do love giveaways and use Goodreads Giveaways regularly, both in offering and entering. (Like Charles, I wish Goodreads would open up this opportunity to eBooks and PDFs.) I especially like to offer giveaways whenever I’m a guest of another blogger or am being interviewed. The way I see this is that I’m not “giving away my writing” so much as raising awareness of me and my books, and finding new readers among people who may never have heard of me before. It’s a goodwill thing. Besides, I pay so very little for the overall promotion I do that this is all just a small expense to me, in the scheme of things. And even though the winner may not read the book but passes it on, or sells it to someone else, there’s always the chance that copy will fall into the hands of a reader who actually “discovers” me, enjoys what they read, becoming a fan.

    I’ve also “released copies into the wild,” leaving books in coffee shops or stores that have bookshelves or in Little Libraries. One friend told me she left her copy of my novel on a Greek ferry boat and we both speculated who may have found and read it. Always a fun thing to do – leave books for others to find in unexpected ways and hope they enjoy them.

    When I sign Goodreads Giveaways, I always inscribe them individually to each winner with “Congratulations on winning this Goodreads Giveaway!” and my signature and the date. That way it’s less likely the winner will simply turn it around to make a profit. (That’s not the reason why I sign like this, but it just struck me now it could be a good way to deter those who are simply flipping our books.)

  5. I have mixed feelings about giveaways as well, though I’m at a point where I just want my books in people’s hands, even if it means giving them away for free. I also love the cover art for all of them, which is just not the same on an ereader. I want readers to see it in a hard copy, and if they’re not buying as many paperbacks anymore…well, I want *somebody* to have them…

  6. I think the problem with giveaways is that they were not used wisely in the past, and so the perception was that Indies are so desperate to be read, they’ll give their work away for nothing. This only fuelled the notion that Indie books were so crap, authors had to give them away. It also conditioned readers to expect to recieve Indie books for nothing, and not to buy but wait, as a free offer was bound to soon be forthcoming.

    I think this attitude is slowly changing. With the emergence of KU, readers dont care about free or cheap books anymore, in fact they want the expensive ones, it feels like more of a bargain. Which means it is easier for authors to use the giveaway as a reward to loyal fans,,or a competition prize, or an incentive to entice new readers… which are all good and appropriate reasons to give stuff away for free.

    As for the donations, I give to worthy causes, like the charity which supports my daughters syndrome. A hard up Indie author trying to publish a book is not a worthy cause in my view. I’m one of those myself, so I know, and I wouldnt dream of taking people’s money as if I were a charity, when it could go somewhere more worthy and that really needs it. Indies can publish for free, theres no need to take donations. Readers can pay for the book when its written and published.

  7. I agree with your post! I’ve never seen a problem with giveaways, they always seemed like a fun way to interact with the readers, see who genuinely wants to read your book. I never did think about people reselling the books they won. But despite that, I find that giveaways are generally positive. Some people can’t afford a new book or can’t reach the resources to buy one. So a giveaway is a fun interactive way to give them a chance to read your work. I think it also hypes up the excitement for the novel. Once new people read it, your story can spread like wildfire. And like you said, it makes the book invaluable. The thought that you were chosen, whether handpicked or randomly, is exciting. Although it may be true that there are negative parts to giveaways, I think it’s one of those scenarios where the pros outway the cons.

  8. What a wonderful post!
    I’m glad I found your blog.
    I just started my blog and I’m still figuring things out, but I think I want to make a donate page too.
    In the middle of blogging and writing in 2008, I told myself, I want my writing to help people and to change lives for the better.

    I agree about the TED talks, every one can learn a lot.

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