Three subscribers wrote to ask why I was excluding non-U.S. residents. Here's how I responded in the message announcing the contest winners:
Three people have e-mailed to ask why I made this offer only to people with U.S. addresses. It's a fair question, and here's the answer: Mailing one of these books to a U.S. address costs $1.59. I can affix the proper postage to my padded envelopes and shove them into any mailbox. But to send a book to another country requires that I make a trip to the post office, where I must stand in line to have the packages weighed. I must also fill out a Customs form for every package sent outside the U.S. And the postage will be quite a bit more than for a U.S. address.
I hope you all understand that while I am trying to give away lots of free books (last week I mailed 40 books to bloggers as a publicity experiment), I'm just not going to be able to make everybody happy.
One of the non-U.S. residents who had objected e-mailed again to complain that she was annoyed that so many U.S. authors don't "appreciate" their foreign audiences. She wrote about selfish authors who refuse to "give back" to their foreign readers, and--
Aha. Finally, I understood. This lady believes book giveaways are about thanking readers. Well, they aren't about that at all.
The primary purpose of a book giveaway is to generate buzz for the book. If I send you a free book, I'm going to autograph it, put my business card inside it, and probably even write you a personal note. Yes, I'm grateful for your interest in my writing. But make no mistake: I am hoping you'll do something for me in return. I'm hoping you'll show the book to your mom, tell your hairdresser and your best friend about it, and maybe even buy another copy to give as a gift. I'm hoping you'll lend your book to the women who work in your office, and I'm hoping a couple of them will want to buy their own copies.
This, my friends, is called promotion. If any author says her book giveaways are all about "giving back" to her readers and not stimulating sales, I'm going to raise a skeptical eyebrow. If you see an author gushing on her blog about how she is "giving back," maybe you ought to wonder why she's so eager for us to know what she's doing.
Hey, I'm all in favor of publicity. But I think we should be upfront about it. When a major corporation writes a fat check to fund a charity project and then sends out a press release about the donation, we all know exactly what's going on. Why should anyone be surprised that authors--who are small-business owners--might operate in the same way?
The books I send out "for free" are not free to me. I buy them, and then I snuggle them into expensive little padded envelopes and tuck in a snazzy purple pen (I ran out of pens last week, but I expect to order some more). The total cost for me to send one of those packages to a U.S. mailing address (including the book, envelope, pen, and postage) is nearly $7.00. Can you blame me for hoping I'll get some payback for all the time and money I've invested? And is it at all difficult to understand why I might decline to spend even more time and money sending these packages to countries where people can't even go into a store and buy my book?
Most of the romance authors I know are struggling to earn a decent living. Very few are "comfortable," and fewer still could be considered wealthy. In general, when the author of a $4.99 mass-market paperback answers a letter from a reader, she spends several cents more on the stamp than she made in royalties on the book purchased by that U.S. reader. Maybe that will put things into perspective for anyone who insists authors owe their readers something more than a thank-you because of "all the business" those readers have given them.
I'm wildly delighted whenever somebody plunks down money and buys one of my books. But in the end, these are ordinary business transactions. You're paying for a story and I'm giving you one. I've strained my brain but simply cannot understand why any bookbuyer would believe I owed her more than a simple thank-you.