Sweepstakes, contests and giveaways are becoming increasingly popular amongst authors vying for the attention of potential readers and book buyers. In this guest post by Writer’s Relief, you’ll get some helpful tips on how to make your contest a winner!
For self-published or traditionally-published authors alike, marketing is a key aspect of the book writing process.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the toughest.
Getting your book out there into the minds and, hopefully, the hands of readers can take tremendous effort and dedication—so why not make it fun?
We’re here to help you creatively and enthusiastically host a book contest or giveaway!
9 Tips To Host A Book Contest
To start, let’s look into the two different types of contests you can host:
Sweepstakes contest: With a sweepstakes, the winner is chosen at random.
Skill-based contest: With skill-based, the winner is chosen based on talent.
For book giveaways, it’s easiest to do a sweepstakes, and it’s also more likely that people will participate.
1. What’s your objective?
First things first: what does success look like? Before diving in, make sure you have an objective in mind.
It will be difficult to determine if your contest was successful, if you haven’t first established what you are trying to achieve.
Here are a few possibilities:
- Increase awareness of your new release.
- Generate reviews.
- Increase newsletter subscribers.
- Increase social media followers (Facebook fans, Twitter followers, etc.).
- Increase sales of your book.
Once you have zeroed in on the results you hope to get from your contest, you are in a much better position to structure your contest in a way that will help you attain them.
2. What are the rules?
Set parameters and make sure they’re clear and concise.
What’s the deadline? What do your fans have to do to enter? Don’t make your fans jump hurdles to understand your contest, otherwise they won’t enter.
Once you’ve set the guidelines, be sure that they don’t violate any terms of service on your social media platforms.
Carefully check the terms of service for the social media platform you plan to use for your contest, as well as regional laws and restrictions before you start planning. (For more on this, check out this post by Sarah Hawkins on contest and sweepstakes law.)
Selecting the right sweepstakes tool can make your job easier too, by streamlining and automating many of your sweepstakes tasks.
Rafflecopter is one such tool and takes only minutes to create a giveaway. It gives you the ability to create multiple entries and it can be integrated into your webpage and Facebook (plus it’s very inexpensive).
3. Get creative!
Ask your friends and fans to give a mini book review of your book or quote a favorite line as their means of entry.
Ask your friends and fans on social media to share your contest as a way of entering to win. Be sure to include info about your book so the word spreads.
Have a “caption this” contest! Post an image related to your book and ask your fans to share some creative words about the photo.
Self-published? Ask your readers to vote on the cover design.
If a reader subscribes to your blog, have that count as two entries into the contest.
Post a picture of the contest prize on your blog and enter anyone who leaves a comment on the picture into the contest. Or, have a question about the photo already written that they can answer, and then choose the answer you like best.
Perhaps there’s a plot twist in your book. Host a contest in which the winner is the person who can come up with a clever alternative to the one you’ve written.
Ask friends and fans to simply leave a comment. However, let them know that you’re going to randomly close the contest at some point, and whoever the last commenter is will be the winner.
This will entice people to comment but also create a sense of excitement and urgency—and it will keep people coming back to see if the contest has closed yet!
4. Tweet! Post! Pin! Share!
Social media is a contest’s best friend.
Post about your contest on your Facebook page, tweet about it often—hey, you could even create a fun Pinterest board about it.
The more juice you feed social media, the better the outcome. Social media has a ripple effect, so if your one friend tells two friends, then those two friends tell two friends… you get the idea!
And remember: Hashtag! Start a catchy hashtag for your contest that’s easy for friends and fans to remember so that you can keep track of who’s talking about the contest.
And don’t limit yourself strictly to social media.
Use an email marketing tool like Aweber, (aff. link) to send out emails to all of your friends and fans about the contest.
5. Use your blog or author website as a tool.
Promote the contest on your website or blog as well. Create a page or post dedicated primarily to the contest, and promote that page or post across all of your social media platforms.
It’s a great way to lead readers onto your website while simultaneously plugging your contest.
What’s the contest about? Be concise and clear in terms of what you’re contest is about and what you’re offering. People can be turned off by murky language, too much text, or grey areas, so it’s best to keep it simple.
Make it completely clear as to the action that the visitors should take to enter the sweepstakes.
Include a compelling or attractive picture of the prize, and let your visitors know that it is quick and easy to enter (make sure your “submit” button is big and easy to find).
Share the particulars of your contest to reassure your visitors that the sweepstakes is legitimate (e.g., end date, winner announcement process, terms, and so on).
Remember that if your fans have to jump through hoops to enter your contest, they’re likely to not follow through.
6. Timing is everything.
Is there a particular holiday that ties into your book? Consider hosting the contest during that time and offering a special holiday-themed prize.
You will also want to take into consideration the duration of your contest. You don’t want the contest to be too long or else people will lose interest or forget about it altogether.
But you also don’t want your contest to run too short or else you run the risk of not having many participants or building enough chatter around your book (which is the whole point in the first place!). Finding a happy medium is important. Two weeks is usually a good length.
Also, adding a countdown clock to your contest can add a sense of urgency and encourage your friends and fans to participate immediately instead of putting it off.
7. Show gratitude.
Let your friends and fans know how much their participation means. When fans feels appreciated, they’re more likely to participate.
A thankful writer is a successful writer!
Be sure to thank EVERYONE, not just the winner! This will encourage friends and fans to participate in the future if you ever hold another giveaway. You could even go a little further and give each participant a small gift, perhaps 10% off your book.
8. Get inspired.
What other book contests are out there? Do you know any of your favorite authors who have hosted a book giveaway?
See what other authors have done to find out what has worked in the past and what has flopped.
Can’t tell how well a contest went over with a particular author’s readers? Reach out to the author and ASK. Let them know that you saw their contest, found it enticing, and wanted to know if they felt the promotion made an impact.
Don’t ask for their “secret contest recipe”! Just be open to any advice or insights they’re willing to provide.
9. The prize.
The better the reward, the more participants will enter. But it’s also important to ensure your prize is particularly compelling to the audience you want to reach.
Here are some great prize options:
- Something related to your book. If your novel takes place in New York City, perhaps a nice NYC tote bag.
- Something related to your genre. Have you written a romance novel? Have flowers delivered to the lucky winner’s house.
- Team up. Join together with a few other authors you know in your genre, and create a book bundle.
- Offer your readers a chance to become part of your next book! Perhaps name or base a character after them.
- A $25 Amazon gift card .
- A signed copy of your book and a reader’s guide (with book club questions, worksheets or other exercises).
Make sure the prize is tempting.
Think of it this way: Would YOU want to win your contest?
BONUS: Follow up and Assess
Aside from getting the prize to the winner as quickly as possible and promoting the winner on your social media platforms, there is much to do after your contest is over.
- If you required an entrants email address, or informed entrants that they would be added to your mailing list, download the spreadsheet from Rafflecopter (or other sweepstakes tool) and add the emails to your email list.
- Remove the contest widget from your site (all of the links and publicity generated to that internal page of your site will remain).
- Did you meet your objectives? What worked and what didn’t? What would you do differently next time?
- Share what you’ve learned. Write a post for your blog or a guest post for another blog outlining lessons learned during your promotion.
Hosting creative contests is a great way to promote your book or novel, and the more you can stand out from the crowd the better. Find inspiration from your work and tailor a contest that is as unique and creative as you are!
Writer’s Relief is an author’s submission service that has been helping creative writers make submissions since 1994. Their work is highly recommended in the writing community, and there are TONS of freebies, publishing leads, and writers resources on their website. Check it out!
Susan Jennings says
Kim, fantastic article. I’ve been struggling as to how to add a contest to my upcoming marketing campaign and you nailed it. Thank you.
Kimberley Grabas says
I’m glad you enjoyed it Susan, but I can’t take all the credit. This is a guest post via the lovely people at Writer’s Relief. 🙂
I have been an avid comper for years and as a Blogger and writer, I just started to use this tactic with great results. Something I would like to add that some people don’t know about: Join a Competition Club! The Australian Competition Club Lottos.com.au is great and you can post your comp there, you are guaranteed to get a couple of hundred entries or thousands depending on the prize.
Kimberley Grabas says
Thanks for sharing your tip, Nicole.
I haven’t done a lot of research in this area (hence the guest post), but here is a site that I found that also might be a useful resource: http://contests.about.com/od/sweepstakeslistings/tp/freebooksweepstakes.htm.
I think with a little digging, a motivated author could find several places to promote their contest. 🙂
Another wonderful post! Thanks. I don’t have many fans on social media so I’m not sure if I’m ready to promote the contest. What’s you opinion on that?
Many, many thanks
Kimberley Grabas says
Often, promoting a contest will actually help you increase your fan base. As word spreads about your contest (even from just a few supporters), more people will take notice.
In fact, your primary objective for a contest can be exactly that: increase your followers or email subscribers. 🙂
Thank you for your reply! I will follow your advice!
You have written such a useful information that will guide us lot thanks for providing such a information
Kimberley Grabas says
Jessica Werner says
This is a fantastic article, actually the whole website is so very helpful. I am a newly self-published author and am always looking for ‘How to’s and found so many useful articles on this site. I was just thinking about how I could do a giveaway and stumbled over this article. I can’t wait to put into action what you (or the angels at Writer’s Relief as you said) have inspired to try out. Thank you!
Kimberley Grabas says
Awesome Jessica! Happy to be of help, and grateful for serendipity. 😉
Best of luck on your giveaway!
I already created my own three books which I sell on one of my blogs.
The problem is that lately, orders are less and less month after month and I don’t know what to really do to recover my old customers.
I will try to use some of your tips, hoping that my orders will return to the same volume like before.
Kimberley Grabas says
Are you building an email list Dave? It’s essential. As well, can you pinpoint anything you’re doing now (or that you’ve stopped doing), that might account for the decline in orders?