Monday, April 27, 2015

Why You Need a Giveaway or Contest to Promote Your Books

Should you run a Giveaway or Contest to promote your book?  If you want to gain the attention of potential readers, then yes, you want to host a Giveaway or Contest.  Unfortunately, this can be a sore subject with authors.  There are always complaints about giving away the book that the author has spent countless months or years working on.  Why should the author have to give their work away for free, or spend money to promote a contest?  It’s a tough problem to consider, but once you realize that giving a book away, or offering a reward will gain the attention of more readers, then it outweighs keeping extra copies of your book in a box under your desk collecting dust.

FREE FREE FREE - Consumers have become accustomed to getting something for nothing, even if it’s something small.  This is why extreme coupon clipping has become a sport.  The time spent on collecting the coupons may not be worth the $0.35 off a frozen dinner, but it’s the satisfaction that you save money on something.  Giving discounts or freebies warms the heart of a consumer and will grab their attention faster than a beautiful book cover will.  Sadly, the author has to give something up, but hopefully the reward of gaining new readers will be worth it.

In my everyday life, I have sold promotional giveaways and walked through tradeshows.  I will tell you that interesting toys or giveaways will bring people to your booth at a tradeshow.  The more interesting or unique the giveaway, the more people will line up.  Will you sell every person who walks into your booth?  No, but they will remember you every time they look at the giveaway stamped with your business name on it.  Personally, if the booth had candy in it, I was the first one there, but even candy can be imprinted.  In the case of the author, giving away their beloved book can be a good way to get a review in return.  A good review can definitely outweigh the price of a printed copy if it helps to sell more books, or raises your book in the ranks of book selling sites.

The best way to think about it is to consider the exposure that your book can garner when a giveaway is done the right way. is an excellent place to host a giveaway.  They are a social media site where readers exchange their ideas on books.  Their site will regulate the giveaway and promote it on their site.  You will need to define the giveaway, but they will only allow hard copies of books to be given away at this time.  You can offer up as many copies as you want.  You will set the time period for the contest and write the description.  Once approved and the giveaway goes live, there is a page dedicated to all of their giveaways.  It will be up to you to drive additional readers to the site.  The nice thing about Goodreads is their giveaway app.  You can copy the HTML into your website, or blog and it will link the giveaway in seconds.

The Cupie Doll Goes to the Boy in the Blue Shirt - Hosting a contest is another way of attracting the attention of potential readers.  Here, the prize doesn’t have to be your book, as long as the contest references the book in some way.  You can give away a gift card or some kind of merchandise associated with your book.  When you run a contest, you can ask for something in exchange for the chance of winning.  In this case, you may ask for LIKES on your Facebook account, or Email addresses that can be used to build your email campaign to promote future book releases.

The key is to offer something enticing, which won’t break your piggybank, in exchange for something you find of value.  I have seen contests where the site will talk about the book and then offer an interview by the author.  To enter the contest the reader has to answer a question such as, “What was your favorite part of the author’s interview?”, or “What was your favorite comment about their book?”  I assume that they will later use these comments in marketing campaigns or on their websites as testimonials.

The Structure of a Contest - If you decide to run a contest, you will need to decide on your objects, your platform for the contest, the rules, what you are willing to offer, and how can someone win.

Objective: Before you even decide to run a contest, decide why you need one?  Are you selling something?  Are you promoting something?  These are necessarily the same objectives.  Selling implies that you want a direct purchase from your contest.  Promoting is selling the concept of your book.

Do you want to sell more books? - This is Direct Sales.  A giveaway would be more suited for a direct sales approach.  A giveaway will expose potential readers to your book for the first time.  There is an instant gratification upon seeing the cover, or reading the blurb.  They may enter the giveaway for a signed copy, but if they are interested in the book, they may buy an ebook.

Do you want to gain more visitors to your website?  Do you want more LIKES on Facebook? - These are Promoting Strategies.  They are long term investments if you have a series that you need to build a following for.  You want people to bookmark your site for future events and news, or LIKE your Facebook to stay up to date on your posts.  Contests can be geared to help you achieve both of these objectives.

Platform for the Contest - You will need to be realistic in your expectations.  The bigger the prize, the more people will run to your site, but you may not want every person looking for a gift card to enter.  This is where the platform becomes important.  If you want people to LIKE your Facebook, then you will have to host it there and drive people to the Facebook page.  The same goes for promoting your new website.  These contests may have to be a little more creative.  You may not want to offer something large, but perhaps something related to the book.  To enter the contest, require an email so that you can contact them if they win, and ask the contestants to tell you their favorite book or favorite genre when they enter.  You can search through the answers to find readers that may have an interest in your book.  Those are the people that you want to put on your mailing list.

You can also make the contest part of a book release.  If you are creative, or make your own book covers, then host a contest to pick between different versions of the cover.  The winner can be pulled from those contestants that picked the winning cover.  You can use a gift card to entice them to enter, but make them part of the book launching process.  You could also have them choose the opening sentence for the book, or vote on a favorite excerpt, based on three choices.  These are ways of getting people interested in the book and make them feel like they are a part of the experience of creating a book.  People love to have an opinion!  Use their feedback to understand how readers view your writing.  This can be very valuable, especially when writing a series.

Rules of the Contest - Be sure to state very clearly what the rules are before the reader enters the contest.

- Define what the prize or prizes are.

- State the time period of the contest.

- State the restrictions of 18+ since it is a contest, but you may include other restrictions based on state and federal regulations.  You may want to exclude certain groups of people, like employees of a publishing company, or anyone that shouldn’t enter the contest depending on what type of contest it is.

- State how many people can potentially win, but that not everyone will win.

- State how the winner will be chosen.  Randomly is preferable.

- State how any information obtained through the contest will be treated.  Will their information be sold to a third party (hopefully not), will it be used for future marketing campaigns, will it be used in any other manner, or will it not be used at all?  People want to know how their information is handled; otherwise, they might not enter the contest.

- State how they will be contacted if they won, and how they can obtain their prize, or find out if they won.  Will the winner be clearly shown on Facebook, the website, etc.?  Will the prize be mailed or emailed?

These are some of the things that need to be taken into consideration before running a contest.  It’s always best to find out what kind of state and federal laws, such as taxes and restrictions, apply in your state.  There are different types of apps on Facebook that can assist in running contests.  Contests for websites will have to be more carefully researched.

As painful as it may be to offer up a free book, or a gift card, the exposure can be invaluable.  If no one knows that your book is out there in the sea of millions of other books, how can readers be expected to find it?  Make your book stand out but be creative about it.  The most popular booths at my local Health and Wellness Fair weren’t the booths with the cool banners or the ones with the video monitors, they were the booths that interacted with people and offered them something worthy of their attention.  While you may not be able to offer face painting, give them a chance to win something exciting.

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