Welcome back to The Ultimate Guide to Book Blogging! If you’ve never been here before you can catch up on previous posts in the series here.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and nothing in this post should be taken as legal advice.
So you want to host a giveaway on your blog–good for you! Giveaways are a great way to draw traffic, reach a broader audience, and connect with your readers in a meaningful way. Here’s how to host a successful, legally compliant giveaway in four easy steps.
1. Define your giveaway.
It may surprise you know that “giveaway” is not a legal term. In fact your giveaway will fall into one of three legal categories–a sweepstakes, contest, or lottery.
- Sweepstakes: A giveaway where a winner is chosen at random. No purchase is necessary to enter a sweepstakes.
- Contest: A giveaway where a winner is chosen on merit. For example, if you ask your readers to write a very short story in the comments and choose a winner based on which story you like best, that would be a contest.
- Lottery: A prize draw where a purchase is necessary to enter and a winner is chosen at random.
Most blog giveaways fall into the sweepstakes category. This is important to know because the laws governing sweepstakes, contests, and lotteries are very different.
2. Craft your official sweepstakes rules.
In order to host a legally compliant giveaway in the U.S., you must write and prominently display the official rules of your sweepstakes. Here are seven items that should be included in your official sweepstakes rules.
- Prize: Identify the prize and its monetary value. Keep in mind that prizes valued at over a certain dollar value (usually hundreds of dollars or more) may be subject to special requirements in some states.
- Duration: State when the sweepstakes will begin and end.
- How to enter: Outline how participants can enter the sweepstakes.
- Who can enter: Detail any entry restrictions. Entrants must be over eighteen years of age in the United States. If your giveaway is international, make sure that you comply with the sweepstakes laws of the countries allowed to participate. Here’s a quick guide to international sweepstakes laws. Unfortunately, all sweepstakes are illegal in Canada and any contests open to residents of Québec must display the official rules in English and French. Here’s a quick guide to Canadian sweepstakes and contest laws.
- How the winner is chosen: State how the winner will be chosen (e.g. Random.org, drawing out of a hat, etc.).
- How the winner will be notified: How soon will you notify the winner after the sweepstakes ends? Will you notify them by email or some other method of communication?
- How the prize will be delivered: If the giveaway sponsor (e.g. a publisher, online shop, etc.) is responsible for mailing the prize, you’ll want to state that here. You might want to give an indication of the timeframe in which the prize will be delivered.
If you’re not sure how to phrase your official rules, I highly recommend downloading Kiffanie Stahle’s “Official Rules Template.” It’s free and super handy.
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3. Use Rafflecopter to run your giveaway.
Rafflecopter is a free widget that makes running giveaways super easy. It allows you to specify how people can enter (e.g. follow you on Twitter, subscribe to your email list, etc.) and then automagically tracks all your entries for you. At the end of your giveaway, it will choose a winner via Random.org with the click of a button and it gives you total control, so if someone doesn’t follow the sweepstakes rules you can simply toss their entry out and randomly choose a winner with a valid entry. Here’s an example of what the Rafflecopter widget looks like in action:
4. Publicize your giveaway.
In addition to your usual methods of promoting blog posts on social media, I highly recommend using Goodreads to promote book-related giveaways. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, you can post a status update with a link to your blog post, but you can target your Goodreads friends more directly by creating an event. To create an event go to Goodreads.com and mouse over “Community” in the top menu bar. In the dropdown submenu click on “Events” and then click on “Add an event” on the right hand side of the screen. Fill out the form with the start and end dates, event name, URL of your giveaway, and a description of the giveaway. Hit “save.” Goodreads will then give you the option to invite your friends to the event. Instead of your link getting buried in someone’s home feed, each and every friend you invite will receive a notification directly.
The laws regulating sweepstakes are not difficult to comply with, as long as you have a little knowhow and a few good resources. Have fun giving your readers free stuff!
Questions? Leave them in the comments below!
Check out The Ultimate Guide to Book Blogging for more tips and tricks on how to become a book blogging wiz!