When authors think about book marketing, they often begin with a groan. It seems like an endless trudge from one social media site to another, trying to spark interest in readers who have hundreds of offers, ads, and other promotions coming at them every day.
That’s not a pretty picture.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, and authors who find ways to stand out from the crowd get a lot more eyeballs on their books than those who sink without a trace.
One of the easiest ways to generate some interest and enthusiasm is by making your promotion more fun, and more rewarding for people who participate.
That’s where contests, giveaways, and freebies can boost your marketing to a whole new level. Let’s take a look at some ways you can use these reader-engagement and promotion tools to gain more attention for your books.
Contests Engage Readers
Like most of these promotions, contests are mostly used around the time authors are launching a new book and trying to get some attention while it’s still hot off the press.
But you don’t have to be limited to running contests during your launch. You can also tie them to holidays, special events, and any other time when there’s some link to the subject matter of your book; you can also do them just for fun!
And who doesn’t want to win something? What you give away is up to you, but you might be surprised how many people will enter your contest even if the prize is something modest, like a $25 Starbucks gift card.
Contests bring traffic to your site, put names on your email list, and help spread your brand.
Tips for using contests:
Choose a prize or prizes for your contest carefully. Most authors want to give away a copy of their book, but you have to ask yourself whether that’s going to motivate people to enter.
Consider giving an e-copy of your book to everyone who enters your contest and you might get a head start on your word-of-mouth marketing by putting your book into the hands of a lot of people over a short period of time.
Keep the entry time limited, since our attention spans seem to be shrinking all the time. A contest that goes on for a month will likely lose steam.
The bigger the prize, the more interest and attention your contest will generate. If your budget is very limited, get some other authors together and run the contest jointly, with everyone contributing to the prize and sharing in the excitement on their own blogs. You can amass a lot of books in the same genre from different authors, for instance, for a more impressive prize, or chip in and give away a more expensive gift than you could manage on your own.
Clearly state the rules and deadlines for the contest when you ask for entries. Make sure your rules and deadlines are simple to understand.
Entries can take any form you like. For instance, if you want more comments on your blog, make commenting the way people enter. If you want links back to your blog, make the entry a blog post on the entrant’s own site that links to yours.
Be careful what you ask for. Don’t make posting a review a condition for entering your contest, as e-retailers have to be careful about authors trying to “game” their ranking system. You don’t want to run a contest and end up getting banned or demoted.
When the contest is over, get those prizes out right away. Follow up to deliver the goods, and make sure you post an article telling everyone who the lucky winner was.
Freebies and Giveaways
Besides being declared the “winner,” the next best thing is to get something for nothing. Giving stuff away is one of the most common marketing techniques, and it’s easy to see why.
If I offer to give you something of value in exchange for a few minutes of your time, or your email address, or for taking a survey, you’ll balance what the cost is against your own perceived value of the “freebie.”
Most authors want to use their book as what they’re giving away but, again, think about whether your new, and therefore mostly unknown book, is really the best thing to motivate people to take part in your promotion.
More on Contests and Giveaways
There’s a whole science to running contests that focuses on social media sites. If you have a good-sized following on Facebook or Twitter, a contest can be a great way to engage with your readers, spread the word about your books, and make a lot of new fans.
For instance, you might run an entire contest on Twitter and gain a lot of new Twitter followers at the same time.
If you decide to use Twitter for your contest, you’ll want to create a unique “hashtag” so people can follow your contest. This is a way to tag tweets so they can be filtered out of the stream of all tweets, and it will allow people following the contest to stay up to date with developments.
On Facebook, the most common request is to ask readers to “like” your fan page in order to enter. That’s a very low barrier and, depending on what the prizes are in your contest, you may want to raise the bar and ask for a comment, a suggestion for topics for your next book, or for results they’ve achieved using your ideas or your program.
These forms of feedback can be very helpful to your other promotions down the road, since you are soliciting testimonials at the same time that you’re running your contest.
The best guides for authors who want to incorporate contests and giveaways into their book promotion is to see what other authors are doing, and to approach it as if you were going to enter the contest yourself. Is it worthwhile? Will the prize motivate you? Is it fun?
Be creative, and use these proven promotional tools in your book launch. Your readers will thank you.
Joel Friedlander is a self-published author and book designer who blogs about book design, self-publishing and the indie publishing life at TheBookDesigner.com. He's also the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, where he helps publishers and authors who decide to publish get to market on time and on budget with books that are both properly constructed and beautiful to read.