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Friday, March 6, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Contests

There's seems to be a split among authors on whether contests work or not. When I first started promoting myself I asked a far more experienced and well published author for advice and she really put the kaibash on contests.

She said she never noticed contests bringing her any new readers, but she did notice "contest trolls" people who deliberately search out contests so they can win goodies.

I enter very few contests. As a matter of fact I had mentioned that very thing to an author who holds quite a few giveaways. I absolutely adore her blog and wouldn’t mind commenting more often, but I try to avoid her posts when she's giving stuff away. I don't want to make it look like I'm only there for the prizes.

I've also taken myself out of the running from a couple of contests with authors in which I had a business relationship with. My motto is never mix business with free stuff. I never want to be accused of having an "in" with someone and winning on account.

Other than that I disagree with the advice from the first author just a little. It's true that you might have to suffer contest junkies who only come for the prize, but I think the odds are good that a well publicized contest might bring you new readers, and that's what we all want.

The trick I think is the "well publicized" part. Unless you're a well known author, you need to expand your reach and get OTHER people talking about your contest.

Sadly, it's a crime that I'm guilty of as well, so I want to make amends and announce at least three contests that are still fresh in my memory. If you sign up for JK Coi's newsletter, she's got a question at the bottom of her newsletter that "should" be easy to answer. (I think.) Hurry and sign up because her contest ends March 10!

And Allie Boniface is having a big juicy contest coming up on her blog in honor of Small Press Month.

Patricia's Vampire Notes is hosting a drawing for a Kim Harrison book for new subscribers to her newsletter.

I view well over 300 blogs a day. I see a LOT of contests.

Back to what makes a good contest. Good publicity is a must. But the contest should also make the reader work for it (just a little), otherwise it's just a lottery. The bigger the prize, the more work is involved.

Random drawings can backfire if a contest junkie wins too consistently. (I've seen it happen.) But random drawings do work if you have scads of readers, increasing the odds of a new person winning every time.

Prizes don't have to be books, though it does seem to be the common favorite. I plan on having a contest in April when Touch Of Fire comes out in print. While I haven't decided exactly what the prize package will consist of, the book will only be one part of the prize. Since I don't hold a lot of contests, I do plan on making the prize for this one special. And yes…you'll have to work for it. All right, don't start whining. It won't be that hard.

Tips for a good contest

• Tell everyone you know about your contest.
---heck, tell me. If it's publishing related, I will give you a mention the next time I blog.

• Set a deadline. Before the Google Reader I was always a week behind. Keep the occasional blog reader in mind who may only read blogs once every few days.

• Make the prize fit the labor involved. If you make people go on a scavenger hunt, it better be worth it. If you're just doing a giveaway to get your name out, the prize doesn't have to be too extravagant.

• Don't make the contest too complicated. I have a simple brain. If you make it too hard, you'll drive traffic away, not gain it.

• Take into account what it will cost you to ship your prize. If you ship internationally, it WILL be expensive. But remember too that (at least in the States) it is tax deductible.

• Acknowledge winners publicly. Other people want to know who the winner was.

• Contests are not mandatory. Don't feel obligated to have a contest because everyone else is doing it. They are as much for you as for the reader.

Want to get a whole book with this information for $2.99?

Find it on Amazon.


Marcia James said...

Hi, Maria! This contest post is very informative. I use the monthly contest on my Web site as a way to bring traffic to my site and possibly persuade some entrants to also sign up for my email announcements. Yes, it can be a pain when one of the sweepstakes-lovers message boards posts your contest and you get 500 entries in a week, but I figure that at least some of them are also readers and maybe having to answer a question about my book to enter the contest will make them curious enough to read my book excerpt.

My contest prizes are usually sterling silver necklaces that I get at a VERY reduced price and don't have to spend a lot to mail. This is good since I've had people from all around the world win my contest.

I think the pertinent question about contests is where you are in your publishing career. If you're starting out, promoting your author brand and building an author newsletter readership, I think contests definitely can help with that.

-- Marcia James ;-)

Maria Zannini said...

I love the necklace idea. Cheap to ship and unique to boot.

You are absolutely right about designing a contest in relation to your career.

Thanks for stopping in, Marcia.

PS, Gang! Please make it your mission to visit Marcia's website. You won't regret it!

I mean it! There'll be a pop quiz later. *g*

Marshall Payne said...

Hi Maria!

I tend not to enter contests, though I enter WoTF for the first time in a long time. The reason is that I had a story I thought was right for it, and after it being rejected from Asimov's and F&SF, I wasn't ready to go to the semi-pro zines.


Glad you found the cartoon amusing. *g*

Maria Zannini said...

Entering writing contests is a post unto itself. ---something to add to my fodder folder for future posts. Thanks!

Everyone else: stop by Marshall's blog and check out his Daylight Savings Time cartoon.