Friday, January 4, 2013

Goodreads Giveaways--A Cautionary Tale

If you post giveaways on Goodreads, or plan to, please read!

Would you send your XXX, BDSM, menage book to a twelve-year-old? Of course you wouldn't! Or... would you? If you post giveaways on Goodreads, the answer is... maybe.

I write M/M, and though I don't consider my work erotica, it does contain explicit scenes between two consenting adults—both men. My work is not for children. 

Recently I posted a giveaway at Goodreads, trusting that their rule, listed below, meant that of all the members requesting the book, only those suitable would be selected: i.e. had books of similar genre on their shelves and were over legal age to possess such material. 
"Goodreads will collect interest in the book, and select winners at our discretion. Our algorithm uses member data to match interested members with each book." 
I stand corrected. Concerned with what I'd read on the profiles of my two winners, I contacted them to ensure they knew what they were getting. One didn't and declined the book. Believing that the other might be underage, I also messaged a Goodreads spokesperson.

The spokesperson replied:
" is against our rules for you to contact the winners of the giveaway. It is considered SPAM and is not allowed."  
What? I can't ensure that the winner is old enough to read my book? I stated that I thought only adults were allowed to request books tagged "Gay Romance".

I received the following response: 
"I think you might misunderstand a bit about how winners are selected. We select the winners at our discretion and you have to send the books. You are welcome to put a disclaimer at the top of the giveaway description (18+ material) but once someone enters to win the giveaway they are eligible to win regardless of age. After the winners are selected you must send them the books." 
Do what?! Their policy states that I have to knowingly send adult material to a minor if they enter and win?

I wrote back: 
"My concern is this: if the winner of my book is under 18, I will be in violation of law if I send them adult material. I want to abide by your rules, but again, I misunderstood that only adults were permitted to request books tagged as mine was." I also asked how I could avoid this situation in the future. 
Here's their response: 
"The next time you list a giveaway that has adult subject manner, include a line in the description that says "Intended for adult audiences only 18+". However if someone under 18 enters and wins you have to send them the book."  
This post is not intended to bash Goodreads or their policies. Those who follow my blog know that I've met many wonderful people (and books!) there. Their existence has helped me promote my work and interact with readers. The purpose of this writing is simply to make others aware of this situation.

The bottom line for me is that providing a minor with adult material is illegal, immoral, and unethical. And I most certainly wouldn't knowingly send one of my books to a child. In this case, the winner contacted me to confirm they were adult. But what if they hadn’t? 

With no guarantees that only adult readers will get my books, I can no longer in good conscience post giveaways on Goodreads. There are sites where I offer ebooks, and again, I can't know the age of the entrant, but they have to hit an "I'm over eighteen!" button just to get into the site.


  1. Wow, yeah. Do they not realize that if you sent that book to a minor and their parents found it you could be arrested for soliciting a minor or suspected of pedophilia? Are they crazy? It's illegal. Definitely something to take into account and I guess we all learn as we go.

  2. Goodreads' response did not address my "illegal" comment. I'm not sure how many minors ask for books, but I will not risk it. The authors I've talked to were shocked as well, and many had simply sent the books to the winners, without second thought.

  3. Goodreads' response was pretty poor IMO. I don't blame you for ceasing GR giveaways.

  4. A surprising lot of minors will ask for free books, I suspect. How much trouble an author could get into is unclear.

    But I agree with you: a GR giveaway is completely wide open and you have no way at all of knowing to whom you are sending an adult book. GR wants to protect its readers from being plagued by promotion hungry authors, I get that. But it should also safeguard participating authors who follow their rules for giveaways.

  5. It really blew my mind to discover that the giveaways were wide open. Never in a million years would I have guessed that, until this situation occurred that prompted me to dig.

  6. Talk about a catch 22 situation!!! Damned if you do, damned if you don't!! =(

  7. I hate to put an end to my offering print books, but I'll save them for conventions. The risks are too great.