Got this email back before Christmas:
I don’t know if you’ve heard this or even if it’s legit, but someone posted [in a forum] that the FTC/FCC is cracking down on book giveaways where the winner is chosen by random because it is essentially a sweepstakes and is governed by very specific rules. Rumor has it there are fines. I don’t want you to get in trouble just in case this is true. I don’t know if it is and there are still plenty of giveaways going on. I just wanted to let you know.
From what I’ve read it seems like we can’t do giveaways and contests, but I’m not that savvy with this kind of stuff. My husband doesn’t think they can prevent contests but, again, I keep getting conflicting information so I look forward to reading your take on it. Thanks!
I did some research—for myself because I do a monthly book giveaway here—and also for you because I know a lot of you give away books on your blogs and/or participate in blog hops. I don’t want anyone to get in trouble.
I also don’t want anyone to PANIC because, well, there’s just no need to do so.
YES, you can give away books on your blog.
YES, you can select winners at random.
BUT…there are definitely some regulations on what you say, where you say it, how you say it, who can enter, blah, blah, blah.
Based on my research, I made a few changes to my monthly giveaway, the most noticeable is that now you have to enter to win using the form in the sidebar. Previously, you could enter just by leaving a comment—on any post. While this is still a good idea for blog hops and short-term contests where someone comments on A SPECIFIC POST, it doesn’t work so well here.
To the best of my understanding, these changes make my giveaways compliant with FTC/FCC regulations. Over the next few days, I’m going to post more detail about what I learned and how it applies specifically to blogging authors who want to do giveaways—as I understand it.
But just remember, I am not an attorney. I might be wrong.
In the meantime, here are some articles that I found. Some of the info is repetitive, but each of them adds some extra insights and thoughts on the subject.
- Advertising FAQ’s: A Guide for Small Business (FTC site; not very helpful, but official; scroll way down to find the info on Contests and Sweepstakes)
- Structuring Online Sweepstakes and Contests: New Challenges for Marketers (Keller & Heckman, attorneys; a little legalese-y, but generally clear)
- Next Crackdown on Bloggers: Sweepstakes & Contests (Stephanie Schwab; includes several links and example of what not to do)
- Blog Law—Is Your Giveaway Legal? (Sara @ Saving For Someday; easy to understand)
- Facebook Promotions Guidelines (for posting about your giveaways; they make this pretty difficult to do…)
3 thoughts on “GIving Your Books Away — Legally”
*gulp* Thanks for the heads up on this. It's something I never considered.
Thanks for sharing this information. I had no idea giveaways had so many legal strings attached!! Giveaways have been my biggest form of advertising, so understanding the legal side of it is important. I had NO idea mentioning a Goodreads Giveaway on facebook would be problematic. I'm going to link this post to facebook and Twitter. At the moment, I am going to continue to use Goodreads Giveaways with the hope that they understand and are following all the rules. With 40,000 new laws enacted this year, there were bound to be a couple that would impact writers. Thanks again for investigating and posting this information.
Thank you for mentioning my post. I’m glad you found it easy to understand.
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