NOTE FROM PUBLISHER: I subscribe to Su's newsletter. They are very informative and I have learned a lot about promotion. She has agreed to share her advice with us. I know her column will help you with promoting your books and yourself. I also recommend you sign up for her newsletters.
Can Website Contests Sell Books?
Author contests are becoming a dime a dozen. But do they actually sell books?
Brenda Novak, author of Taking the Heat, isn't convinced. "I don't think there's any way to track this. I think it has more to do with establishing name ID (brand naming) than anything else. My object is to get my name and my book covers in front of as many people, as many times as possible while providing an interesting site and a great prize. I love win/win relationships! I'm hoping those who sign up for my contest will eventually try one of my books, like it, and buy more, of course. But I think, as with any type of promotion, that takes some time to build."
Reading this article may not guarantee you a sale through a contest but you can raise the odds.
The goal in running a contest is to get readers interested enough in your writing to buy your book. However, if entering your contest is too complicated you may lose the potential reader all together. Let the rules be comparable to the prize. If you're giving away a simple prize, don't ask entrants to answer a multitude of questions. On my own site, http://www.earthlycharms.com/sukopil.htm I challenge readers to find a picture hidden somewhere on my site. Keep it simple, fun and creative.
Once you pick a winner don't just plop the prize into an envelope and send it on its way. Prepare ahead of time. Ask the winner to take action. How do you do this? By including an order form. Where can they purchase your book? Spell it out for them with URLs to bookstores, publisher's address, phone numbers. Can you sell them the book directly? Cover all your bases.
A common complaint from Award Winning Harlequin Presents author, Sandra Marton, is "Winners who don't acknowledge receipt of the prizes with a quick email. It's not that I want to be thanked; I just want to be sure my prizes reach their destination. Most winners, though, are very nice about dropping me a line to say they've received their gifts."
Combat this by including a short note politely asking the winner to tell you when the prize arrives. Some readers may be afraid to email the author. Reassure them by including your email address and your wish to be notified.
The count is still out on whether using your current book as a prize is a good idea. Some authors argue this may keep readers from buying the book when it first comes out in hopes they'll win a copy. However, if you do use your current book or one from you backlist make it work double time. Silhouette Romance author, Susan Meier, says, "Contests are a way to get feedback." Create a comment card. Ask the reader what they thought of the book, the characters, the cover, the setting. Use the back of a postcard for easy mailing. Be sure to ask permission to quote the reader on your website. Not only will you gain, hopefully, wonderful testimonials but you'll get an insight into what your readers like.
Choose your prizes carefully. Sandi Haddad, author of Ticket To Romance from Amberquill Press tells this story. "After multiple problems with getting everything assembled for my "pamper basket" and finding a box that would hold it all comfortably, then a trip to the post office right before closing only to discover I'd left the box in the OTHER car at home, I had to put off a return trip to the next day. Left the box in the car so I couldn't forget it again. Big mistake in Florida. The candles melted through the box. What a MESS. At least the car has smelled good ever since. Now I offer Godivas that I can have shipped direct to the winner. "
Earthly Charms http://www.earthlycharms.com, offers a variety of items that can be used for contest prizes. Simply mail your promotional items/order form, etc and ask to have the prize ship directly to your contest winner.
Yet, all the wonderful prizes in the world won't help sell your book if you don't get the word out about your contest. Promotion is key. There are many sites that will list your contest. A few are:
Create a database and religiously submit your contests to these sites and others. Don't use a generic blurb. Create something fresh and exciting for each contest you hold.
It is possible to create interest in your books and gain valuable insight from readers by holding website contests. Take the time to plan your prize, your promotional material and your promotional efforts. Be sure to follow through. Don't keep changing deadlines or forget to pick a winner. Word of mouth works both ways. Earn a reputation of reliability, fun prizes, and, of course, wonderful books and watch your readership grow.
And you may find unexpected benefits as Silhouette Desire author, Bronwyn Jameson, did. "I will never forget one in particular, from a lady who arrived home from an especially bad day at work to find my package (she had forgotten about winning) had arrived in the mail and the timing couldn't have been better. She was totally delighted and her THANK YOU!! email arrived to me on a bad day, cheering me up. A small thing, but it brought a smile to her face when she needed it and she, in turn, brought a smile to my face when I needed it. That benefit is worth its weight in gold on any day of the year!"
Su Kopil owns Earthly Charms, a promotional site for writers, which includes a newsletter, a discussion listerv, articles, custom promotional items and more. Stop by and say "Hi" at http://www.earthlycharms.com