A few weeks ago, I ran a Ginormous 30,000 Hit Giveaway. Shortly afterwards, I wrote a Tuesday Tip on the meaning of giveaway and gifting as a result of several authors not actually delivering books their winners could own. Instead, they were emailing files around as though that were "gifting a book" to the winners. In my followup post, I tried to note how self-defeatist this behavior was but I think I was so focused on "reporting the misbehavior" that I forgot to advise in a positive way on why you shouldn't do it.
As I was catching up on my reading of Joe Konrath's blog, I saw he beat this dead horse over the holidays as well. Click through the jump break for more on the self-destruction of not gifting books in a giveaway.
Joe Konrath is a much larger, more-visible figurehead than I. He's read and written thousands (tens of thousands?) more reviews than I. He's got a following ten-fold larger than mine. Even he got whacked by Amazon's recent policy change.
If you haven't read the entire text of Amazon's policy on reviews, do so by clicking here.
The gist of the changes filters down to two facts:
1. If you are not reviewing a "verified Amazon purchase," it's quite likely Amazon will not want your review on their site.
2. If you are related, in any way, shape or form, to the content provider for the product, it's quite likely Amazon will not want your review on their site.
It's Amazon's site. I've noted before that they can do whatever they like on their site. I can dislike and disagree with their policy; it's still their site, not mine. I might be a content provider and be the source of their ability to sell things but it's still their site and I am in no way "obligated" to allow them to sell my products. I am asking them to sell my products and by doing so, agreeing to their terms related thereto.
Most of us think in terms of "I upload a book to a web site and they sell it." In fact, when you sell a book through Amazon's Kindle Store, you have to agree to all kinds of other terms and conditions. You really should read the fine print sometime if you haven't already (or recently, as it does change!) Click here to read the December 14, 2012 version of the "Legal Terms and Conditions" but be sure to visit the KDP Community pages to read the half a dozen FAQs which also state terms and conditions. In fact, just keeping up with Amazon's widely-distributed and variously published and constantly-changing "terms and conditions" could well be a full-time job! Kidding--but only half kidding.
So what does Amazon's review policy have to do with you? Well, most authors are trying to get reviews to validate their book's existence and the fact is, reviews do help to sell books. Therefore, we all solicit them and when we get them, our heart will do a little happy dance--even the greatest, most-successful author will do a little internal happy dance when they see positive reviews racking up for their book. They know that means they can expect increased sales next period. Money is always a good thing.
So when you nurture relationships and solicit reviews and finally get a solid collection that seems to be doing you some good, it could really hurt to have a slew of them simply vanish. That's what Amazon's policy does to you.
That's what you're doing to yourself, in essence, when you decline to gift a Kindle book and instead, email a Mobi file to a user's private email address, not even sending it to their Kindle Personal Documents Library! At the very least, you could offer to send it to their Kindle for them. Because you email a file, rather than using Amazon's built-in method for gifting a book, you are basically saying I don't want a review.
If that's what you meant to say, I suppose you're good to go. In my recent giveaway, however, the perplexing behavior was that many of the authors who emailed files also outright solicited reviews. That is, they sent a file, not a book, then had the gall to ask the reader to attempt to circumvent Amazon's policy to upload a review for a product they did not actually own.
If you want a gift of their time and effort, spend the piddling amount (you get 70% of it back, right?) to buy a copy of your own book to gift them with it. You'll be amazed at what the small effort of good will can "buy" you in reader appreciation!