If you’ve ever won a contest or lottery, you’ll know that soaring sensation you get when you’re proclaimed to the world to be a “winner”. We all love to get something for free, don’t we? Some of us also love giving things away, and I’m one of them. Authors, like me, have found many opportunities to give away their ebooks, print books or gift certificates, and by doing so we’re creating relationships with fans and readers, which in turn help me to promote my books.
Over the years I’ve witnessed many ingenious contests held by authors and I’ve learned some things along the way. People don’t really want to just ‘enter’ a contest, they want to participate, interact, be part of the action. If a contest asks them to do more than submit their name, they tend to take more of an interest. So if you’re holding a contest, make it entertaining and interactive.
I’ve held 2 main contests that have been quite successful:
My ‘Create a Corpse Contest’ asks entrants to send in a name (could be fictional or their high school bully or boss or ex-friend) and I “kill off” the character in a novel. In my romantic suspense Lancelot’s Lady, you’ll be meeting one of the corpse winners--Winston Chambers. Trust me, it’s not only amusing to enter this contest, it’s very therapeutic.
My ‘Become a Character Contest’ has entrants submit their own name (or someone else’s) and their character gets to live but might be a good guy/gal or a bad one. In Divine Justice, a thriller my agent is pitching to publishers, you’ll meet one of the winners--Deirdre Dailey. The incentive for people to enter is that they get to choose a novel character’s name and I often give them a free copy. How exciting is that?
How do these contests benefit me as an author? First, they give me something cool to announce, something a bit different from the norm. They appeal to people with a sense of humor--or those who want some secret form of revenge. You can bet they’ll be talking about it, telling their friends. Word of mouth advertising is still one of the best ways to get the word out about virtually anything. Imagine if your best friend told you she was going to be a corpse in a new suspense thriller.
I’ve also held contests on Twitter. Here’s a great way to get your name out, get people re-tweeting for you and create some excitement. I asked other authors to sponsor the prizes. In exchange, I promoted them on my contest page on my website. Twitter is basically “live”. Get their attention now and get them interacting by asking for a reply, something very specific. Limit your winners. In a recent Twitter contest, I gave away free ebooks and asked people to email me if they wanted one. First three to reply won.
How does this benefit me? First, I’m creating a sense of excitement--and we can all use excitement in our lives. I’m also creating “winners”, and who doesn’t want to be one? I’m getting my name out there. People re-tweet my contests to more people “and they tell two friends and so on and so on and…” Plus, I’m building up my email data base with people who are interested in future novels.
Other authors see the value in giving away free books:
“I think the giving away of books for free can be a useful tool as long as it is part of a smart, focused, targeted promotional activity or event,” says Anthony Bidulka, author of the Russell Quant Mystery series.
Betty Dravis, author of the celebrity book Dream Reachers, says, “Giving free copies is a great way to reach out; the more exposure, the better. I mostly give free copies to reviewers and the print media, but blog contests are another good way of reaching more readers.”
“Offering a book for FREE is a good and rewarding idea when you are building readership,” states Edward C. Patterson, author of The Jade Owl. “It should be a temporary measure to stimulate readership or to introduce readers to a series. The exception, I find, is when you are providing information to a specific community, other authors for instance, where it can become an information service and builds into your brand. The other time FREE books are important is as a community donation, such as Operation eBook Drop, where you donate your titles to the men and women in the Armed Forces.”
Next time you need a little buzz and excitement, try an innovative, creative contest that invites your readers to participate. Promotion is hard work, but it should be fun too!
And follow Cheryl on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/cherylktardif