With the PR Notes Wednesday, I’d love to answer questions. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll go and find answers. Email your questions.
Creating a Contest as Book Promotion
Mary Nethery took the time to ask this book promotion question:
Kirby Larson and I have written Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival, and Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle. I have a new picture book just out from Clarion, The Famous Nini: A Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star.
Mary Nethery’s question is:
What’s the best way to do a contest with bloggers where your book is the prize (and is this strategy effective)? I see lots of that going on, but not sure how to actually implement the strategy. So, that’s my question!
To answer, I asked three authors to comment on their experiences with contests:
- Lisa Yee, (website or blog), author of Millicent Min, Girl Genius; Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time; So Totally Emily Ebers; Good Luck, Ivy; Absolutely Maybe; Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally)
Angela Ackerman, owner/blogger of The Bookshelf Muse, Canadian author of MG to teen novels.
Joelle Anthony (website) , Canadian author of Restoring Harmony.
What was the goal of your contest?
- YA: I usually run a contest when I have a new book released, or when a paperback version of a book comes out. For example, my most recent contest was to announce the paperback release of BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY). It’s a fun way to promote the book and connect with readers.
- AA: To increase readership and awareness of my blog, strengthen my writing platform. Also to thank readers for their loyalty.
- JA: During the month of my launch, I did hope to get new visitors to my site by holding contests, but for the most part, the idea behind them was to thank people for all their support. I feel weird promoting my book by giving it away. I’ve actually never given my own book away on my site. For the most part, when I’ve had contests in the past, it’s been to give away books I love or in conjunction with authors that I’ve had on my site as guests.
How do you structure a contest?
- YA: The last contest I had was a photo caption contest. I’ve also run book title contests and other word games contests. The first week I post the contest and the rules, and then on the next blog, a couple days later I hint at who the “celebrity” judges are and list the prizes. On the next blog, the judges are revealed. (In the past I’ve had Newbery authors, editors, agents, illustrators, indie book sellers, librarians, etc.) Each contest runs about two weeks, then the judges are given a week to select the winners.
- AA: I find the less hoops the better. People don’t like having to do a bunch for an entry. If you ask for less, you often get more. For example, if I ask people to retweet or mention it somewhere, then often RT, FB & mention it on their blog. If I asked them to do all of that on the outset, less people will participate or they might resent all the time they have to take to do these things. I feel too that if you ask them to provide links to where they promoted your contest, it’s a negative thing like you don’t trust them. I’d rather avoid that and take people at their word, and I think they appreciate that. I do ask that all people become followers of my blog.
- JA: Some people do really elaborate contests, but I like them to be easy for everyone. In general I do a blog post about the prize and why I’m giving it away, and then anyone who leaves a comment is put into a drawing. It gets really high tech from there – I write all the names on slips of paper and my husband draws one out of a hat!
How do you announce a contest and get participation?
- YA: The contest are announced on my blog and on facebook. Lots of times, others will blog about it, too, and that’s fun because it draws in new readers/contestants.
- AA: Blog about it and make sure Contest is in the title, then announce it on Twitter, FB, & forums. Many people have me in the sidebar/blogroll and the word ‘contest’ always is noticed.
- JA: I post it on my blog, tweet about it a few times on Twitter, and usually post something on Facebook. Others tend to pick up the news and post about contests in their own social networking way too.
What reward/prize do you have for participation?
- YA: The prizes include autographed books, and stuff I find in my office and around the house. Plus, this last time, since the judges were animators/illustrators (Tom Warburton and Bob Boyle), they each contributed autographed books, and the illustrator of BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY), Dan Santat, drew a picture for the winner.
- AA: Prizes that will appeal to my target audience: writers. Often I give away critiques which are extremely valuable for a writer. Do enough of these well and word will spread, and more and more people will enter for a chance to win a critique.
JA: Usually my prizes are ARCs or books and they’re almost always promoting the release of a book I love, often by someone I know. During my launch month, I did have other prizes that tied into the book like vegetable seeds, music CDs, bookstore gift certificates, and Restoring Harmony SWAG.
Note from Darcy: I had to ask Joelle what SWAG was? Joelle says it’s free gifts to promote something. She used Random House postcards, magnets, post-it notes, notebooks, and totebags.
How has the use of a contest helped your book promotion efforts?
- YA: I’m not sure, but I do know that it’s lots of fun!
- AA: I do not have a book to sell yet, but contests have really helped my followship and increased my platform. Agents, Editors and authors mention my blog as a resource at conferences and workshops, and my blog has been mentioned in at least 1 writer’s magazine that I know of.
- JA: It’s really hard to say. I know I got more visitors during the month of May than I normally do, but there’s no real way to tell if any of them bought the book or just wanted the prize. It doesn’t really matter to me because I do the contests for fun.
Would you use a contest again?
- YA: Absolutely.
Any other tips/comments?
- YA: Because I have both kids and adults entering my contests, I make sure that all the entries aren’t higher rated PG-13.
- AA: Don’t make the rules of the contest complicated. Readers are giving their time by being on your blog and they appreciate it when the blog owner respects their time by not asking a lot just to enter a contest. Like I said, I find that if I only ask a little, people tend to do more than I asked in the first place, just to be nice. I think it also promotes loyalty by not asking a lot. Good luck!
- JA: Don’t make contests too complicated or people get turned off. Also, think about whether you really want to give your own book away or not. It can come off kind of arrogant if you’re not careful. Like “Win this great autographed book by ME!!!!” I’d rather use my site to promote other writers. The way I see it, if someone comes to my site, it’s pretty obvious I have a book out and what it is, so why pound my blog readers over the head with it?
I think that giving a book away on Goodreads is probably better promotion. A few people gave Restoring Harmony away on their site and I think the most entries one of the really popular blogs got was about 60 entries. On Goodreads over 2000 people entered to win one copy of my book.
Fiction Notes by Email
When a new post appears on Fiction Notes, we'll send it to you by email.
We love to make it easy for you!