Lose-Lose Situation

Stepping to the stage is: Ms. Toni
Open Mic

“You won!” It’s nothing like seeing or hearing those two words when you’ve entered a contest. In my best Cuba Gooding Jr. voice, “Show me my prize!” Like many today, I enter contests. Sure, the odds of winning may not always be great, but what the heck! Nothing to lose, something to gain. As an avid reader with a voracious appetite for books, book contests often come in handy as is the case with many readers. It fuels the reading addiction. But also as is the case with many readers, I’ve entered a contest and not received my prize. I got beat out of a box of books by a well-known and recognized literary organization. I won’t even pretend. I was HEATED! The years have passed and I’ve moved on, but to this day, I don’t and won’t support that organization. What I didn’t realize, though, was that this was such a hot button topic until I posed a question among a group of readers. The question was simply if anyone had ever entered a contest and not gotten their winnings. I didn’t hit send good before everyone had a horror story to relay. Seriously? Yes, seriously. Reader after reader recounted a contest or contests they entered and won sponsored by authors, publishers, literary radio shows and blogs and they never received their prizes. Winnings ranged from books to gift certificates to t-shirts. In response to inquiries about the contest winnings, readers have heard it all. “It’s in the mail.” “What had happened was.” “I don’t have any more books.” “Oh, that’s your address, I thought it was….” “The post office must have lost it.” “I never got the email with your address.” “I ran out of t-shirts.” “The author backed out of the contest.” My favorite would have to be, though, is the authors that don’t even bother to respond. Hello, can you hear me now??? I guess not.

It’s evident in today’s literary environment that for many the book business is just a hustle. Writing, publishing, selling, editing and even reviews – all a hustle…for some. Geesh! Are book contests the newest hustle? Are there authors, publishers and others somehow literary related that host contests for attention and exposure but have absolutely no intention of following through? Say it ain’t so! Well, when you have more readers than not that haven’t received their winnings, it’s a question that begs to be considered.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Things happen. We all know that sometimes mail gets caught in a black hole never to be seen again. I’ve been on both sides of the contest coin. I’ve sent the book that was never received. I’ve dealt with the winner that won the contest on Monday and on Tuesday was asking why they hadn’t received their book yet. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about those who never planned to send a prize. Those that sent a prize after so much time has passed that the person forgot they won. Those that won’t respond to messages about the status of a prize but are all over Twitter telling you what they had for lunch or on Facebook playing Words with Friends. Those that send prizes only after a reader puts on camouflage and waits outside in the bushes in full stalker mode. I’m also talking about those that condemn these behaviors with their peers and publicly but behind closed doors are those very behaviors. And let us not forget those that flat out accuse winners of lying when contacted about not receiving a prize. Really? Yes, really. These authors do exist. You’d be surprised at who some of them are. Reader after reader can attest to it.

I’ve heard some say they didn’t know this or that was wrong because no one ever said it was. Well, I’m telling you today: It is wrong to hold a contest that you have no plans on following through with. Do not offer to send something you don’t have. Don’t create a contest and then have a lassie fair attitude about it. Don’t catch an attitude when someone asks about something you promised them. Don’t accuse winners of being liars.

Beat me out of a book or other prize and you’ve beat yourself out of support. You may have gotten the exposure, but not the kind you want and not the kind readers will easily or quickly forget.

Toni, co-founder of OOSA Online Book Club, is a voracious reader and reading is her favorite pastime. Diverse in her tastes, she enjoys many genres. Toni’s favorite authors include Eric Jerome Dickey, Jane Austen, Brenda Hampton, Keith Lee Johnson, Jackie Collins, Al-Saadiq Banks, J. D. Robb, Moses Miller and William Shakespeare.


  1. Yes, I've been through this as well. But I got on the person and eventually got my gifts...and wondered if it was worth the wait!

    I know I have sent out books in the past to organizations, to readers, and contest winners. The last one offered in 2012, the contestants didn't follow through on their part, but towards the end of the year...I just gave in and sent the books to those participants regardless of them not doing their part fully to win the books and eBooks.

  2. How tacky. I have had several contests and prizes go out within 48 hours of announcing a winner. I always encourage winners to post a picture of the prize and those pics are posted on my website, Facebook, and Twitter. I always send prizes with a delivery notification but if a winner is adamant the prize was not received I will resend certified mail.

  3. This made me laugh, but it is also very sad. I wonder how many of those authors have a successful career.