Promotional Gimmicks – Have They Outlived Their Usefulness?

I’ve held a number of book giveaways since I started publishing. I’ve always considered them a good way to get the word out and certainly worth the cost of a book or two. I never considered them gimmicks, however, it was just a straightforward opportunity for someone to win a free book. After all, word of mouth and a personal recommendation is a better promotional tool than advertising’s fanciest bells and whistles.

When I finished publishing the Critter Tales Series eBooks, I had the idea to ask readers to hold giveaways. They would get free copies of the volumes they wanted to give away. They simply had to host the giveaway and email me the winner’s email address so I could send them a link to their prize. It seemed like a win-win. It has been interesting that none of these giveaways have generated a lot of interest. One gal told me she’d pretty much stopped doing giveaways altogether, because they are a lot of work but no one really seems interested in participating.

I think what’s happened is that giveaways have turned into gimmicks and everyone knows it. To enter most giveaways you have to sign up, follow, like, and sometimes jump through a few other hoops. I never asked readers to do any of these things, because I don’t collect email addresses, don’t do a newsletter, and don’t try to follow up to see if I can get them to buy since they didn’t win. I’ll usually offer a discount code for anyone who wants to take advantage of it, but that’s their business.

Marketing experts say you need to get an email list going by offering a freebie in exchange for an email address. As a website visitor and reader, I know this means I’ll start getting regular emails, almost all of which are advertising for whatever they’re trying to sell. Don’t get me wrong, I think being able to have an internet business is a great way to work from home. I’m all for that. The trouble is, most sales approaches are way too pushy.

I do a lot of research on the internet, follow a lot of links, and read a lot of articles. Nothing is more annoying than just getting started and then having a pop-up block my view because it wants me to sign up for their email list. I’ll get a free copy of thus-and-such and be the first to know about all their special offers. But I haven’t even read the first article yet, so how do I know they have anything to say that’s worth signing up for? Then the same pop-up appears on every page I visit. It’s rude, annoying, and it doesn’t take long before I’m outta there. Unfortunately, this is another common gimmick.

I reckon I’m just a square. I believe that good information on my bookshelves is worth paying for, and that’s what I try to offer. I’d rather give a straightforward description of what the reader can expect and then let them make up their own minds. The trouble with modern marketing is that making money has become more important than offering a quality product or service. The consequences are that almost everyone is becoming immune to advertising and its gimmicks. I know I no longer believe the hype I read or hear in the sales pitch. The challenge for someone like me is how to get straightforward information out there; how to compete with all the marketing “noise” that fills the web. I can’t say I have it figured out, but this is what I believe in, so this is how I’ll keep doing it.

The Challenges of an International Giveaway

I was daring with my last giveaway, and opened it up to worldwide entries. The challenges to this not only include higher shipping, but also customs, duties, and import taxes. These must be paid on the receiving end, and there is no way to accurately calculate what they might be. Amazon offers estimates for them, but admits the estimate may or may not be accurate. (See “About Customs, Duties, and Taxes.”) That got me wondering if I couldn’t somehow order through a different branch of Amazon if need be, say in the UK or Germany. I queried the CreateSpace community, and heard from someone who had indeed done this. That was hopeful.

The non-US winner turned out to be in Australia. Australia, however, doesn’t seem to have a branch of Amazon, but the overseas shipping from the U.S. didn’t seem too outrageous. Still, I didn’t want my winner having to pay anything to receive their prize, so I looked for an online bookseller in Australia who took Paypal.

To find that I used It’s a great site for finding where any book is being sold online and for how much. It searches by ISBN, author, or title. The book I wanted to send was listed at, so I contacted them and they were very helpful. They accepted Paypal and had free shipping to the recipient from their US warehouse. Book price included import fees. All I needed was the recipients postal address and phone number to fill out the forms.

The total cost was a little more expensive than buying it in the US ($20 USD for a $12.95 book), but it was worth to me it because this was a giveaway prize. Plus with Paypal there are no currency conversion fees, and I’ll get a little bit of it back in royalties. So it all worked out very well in the end, and I would definitely do a worldwide giveaway again.

Update: I chatted with an Australian on the CreateSpace community forum and learned that import fees aren’t applicable for purchases under $1000. I also learned that since this was a prize, it was technically a gift, not a purchased item. Therefore it could be declared a gift on the Customs Declaration form and be exempt from import fees. I’m recalling that the same applies to gifts sent to Europe.