Blog Give-Away Etiquette

I found a home for Kelly Moore’s book, Absurdity is My Friend, with Jeanie Thorn. Remember, this is the book I gave away before, but nobody claimed it and I had to try to do it again. I discovered I’m not the only one who sometimes has trouble with blog give-aways, and although it seems kind of basic, I thought maybe some tips about blog give-aways might be A Useful Thing. There are lots of generous people out there in the blog world offering everything from books they’ve written to art they’ve made to parts of their fabulous stashes–buttons, beads, paper, ephemera. If you’re a mixed-media artist–or just a collector of wonderful stuff–you might be tempted to sign up for everything, no matter what it is. You can do that, of course, but here are some things to think about along the way~~


1) Make sure it’s something you really want. Sure, it’s tempting to sign up for cool free stuff, but if it’s cool free stuff that you already have or probably won’t use or maybe just think is only semi-cool, maybe it’s best to give it a pass and let someone else have a better chance of winning. Sometimes give-aways are like the free food buffets at holiday parties, where everyone brings something from home, and it’s all laid out there on the folding table in front of the copy machine, and you go through the line and load up your plate with a little bit of everything, never mind that you hate marshmallow salad and can’t really identify the gelatinous substance in that mint-green Tupperware bowl and are actually kind of allergic to peanuts. It’s there, it’s free, and you’re going to get you some. Sometimes it’s OK just to pass on by and let someone else have your share. If, on the other hand, you see that nobody has signed up, and it’s almost time for the host to pick a winner, and you know someone who’d love whatever-it-is, then by all means: go ahead and enter your name. Hosts really want to find new homes for the things they’re giving away, and if no one else wants it and you know a way to put it to good use, go for it. It’s like seeing that no one has taken one of the decorated day-glo orange turkey cookies and politely oohing and ahing and wrapping up a couple to take home to your nephew, who adores any food that comes with chocolate sprinkles on it.


2) Read the rules before you toss your name in the hat. If it says “for US mailing addresses only,” and you live in Costa Rica, then this one’s not for you. It may not seem fair that international addresses are so often excluded, but most give-aways are offered by individuals, not companies with a big budget, and shipping things overseas gets expensive. I know this because I’ve done it. And although people will often say, “I’ll reimburse you for shipping,” it never, ever happens. Well, OK, maybe it happens to someone, but not to most of us. And when you’re giving something away, you don’t want to send a bill for shipping, you know? You want to feel generous, feel like you’re giving someone a gift. But you don’t want to have to spend a lot of money doing it. If the rules say it’s a give-away for kids only, don’t pretend you have a kindergartner who would love that crocheted bunny when the truth is that you want to add it to your collection of 264 handmade rabbits. Play fair.


3) If the rules contain instructions about going somewhere and reading something or “liking” something or following someone’s blog or board, decide whether or not this is something you feel comfortable doing. If it is, do it before you toss your name in the hat. Don’t say you did it when you actually have no intention of doing it. There’s a reason they’re asking–maybe they’re trying to get new readers or up their stats or whatever. Sometimes there *is* an ulterior motive–you get to decide whether you want to play along. If not, give it a pass.


4) Read the post to find out when the winner is going to be announced and how you’ll find out about this. Will it be in a blog post? Will the host contact you by email? Will it be announced in a tweet? Whatever it is, take note of what you need to do–check back on Friday, provide your email address, check it to Twitter–and *do it*. Let me tell you this: there is nothing more frustrating to a host than offering a give-away, reading the comments, picking a winner, announcing the winner, and then waiting to hear back from them. And waiting. And waiting and waiting and waiting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to host a second give-away for something because the first winner never got in touch.


5) Don’t forget to say thank you. You won. You got something for free. Whatever you may imagine about the host–that they have tons of stuff they don’t need, that they’re supported by some corporate sponsor, that they’re obscenely wealthy and owe everyone else a present–the truth is that they took the time to offer something, went to the trouble to post it and host the give-away contest and pick Your Name and send the prize to you, and if your mother taught you anything at all, she taught you to say “thank you.” Right? It’s not that we, as hosts of contests, need to be thanked profusely, but we do want to know that the package arrived at your address and you received it. Again: I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve given something away–packaged it, stood in line at the post office, sent it on its way–and never heard another word, ever. No, most of us don’t track packages–we’re sending them as cheaply as possible (one year I spent almost $2000 in postage sending off packages to people who won things on my blog, mostly hefty little boxes of rubber stamps; if I’d paid for insurance or tracking or anything extra, well. I would had to have taken out a loan)–but we would like to know it arrived intact.


Having said all that, let me say that I have had some of the most fun ever finding homes for things through give-aways on my blog. There’s nothing like taking something I once loved/had to have/swore I would use forever and finding a new home for it so it doesn’t have to spend the rest of its little life in a bin under my desk. It’s just the best. The winners send me notes telling how they’ve been wanting whatever-it-is or how they’re going to give it to their niece who’s been looking for one of these for YEARS or how they’ve started reading the book and it is literally Changing Their Life. Nothing is cooler, and I love doing blog give-aways. I hope you’ll consider them for finding new homes for the fabulous things you no longer need, too.


If you’ve got other tips that might make the process easier–for either people signing up to win stuff or people trying to find new homes for stuff–leave us a comment and tell us about it–we’d love to hear!


RicΓ« also blogs (and sometimes gives stuff away) at The Voodoo Cafe.


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2 Responses to Blog Give-Away Etiquette

  1. I have done give-aways and won give-aways as well. I heartily agree with your article! There is nothing better than getting a thank you email saying something arrived. I like your idea for re-homing items through your giveaways!

  2. Caatje says:

    How timely you’re posting this as I’m right now working on a give away journal that will be part of a little journaling kit. It’s good to remind people to be considerate when it comes to entering giveaways.

    I do giveaways for the sheer joy of making something and handing it over to somebody who likes it, who might not normally have access to it. Since my blog is international (I choose to write it in English instead of Dutch) I do ship overseas, but since I also only do a giveaway like maybe three or four times a year I can afford it.

    I’ve had the occasion where it was almost impossible to locate a winner (very frustratinig), but I’ve also had somebody be so grateful they sent me an enormous envelope of goodies in return. You never can tell and it’s better not to expect anything. It’s no good to give away in order to receive. I’m just hoping the person enjoys it and says thank you. πŸ˜‰

    I don’t like giveaways that come with conditions and I don’t put any conditions on mine (except that they have to comment of course and get back at a certain date). I will never enter a giveaway that asks me to become a follower or put a button on my blog or jump through any other kinds of hoops. I think followers that become followers for a giveaway are pretty useless anyway, they just crack up the stats. So what? I want people to become followers because they like my blog and my stuff.

    I also will not host a giveaway for an external commercial party. It has only been asked to me once so far by a company, and I was surprised how easy I found it to turn them down even though they offered both me and the winner of the giveway some free interesting stuff. I just don’t want mine to be that kind of blog. But that’s personal.

    And I agree: I don’t understand why people would enter a giveaway just because the stuff is free. What’s the point of that. You’ll just end up with things you don’t even like all that much and take away from someone who would love to own it.

    I hope a lot of people read your post and practice better give-away etiquette!

    PS The only giveaway I ever ‘won’ was on your blog two years ago! I still have that issue of Somerset Studio!