How to Create a Winning Author Contest!

A new kind of giveaway turns contacts into evangelists to sell more books

Guest Expert: Penny C. Sansevieri

We have marketed hundreds of books over the years, and many of our authors have launched their own book giveaways. For them and every other author we’ve spoken with, those giveaways just don’t do much to generate awareness, buzz, excitement or sales.

While book giveaways are common (a Google search for “book giveaway” yielded 1.7 million results), they don’t do much for the author, and they may even be counter-productive.

Let’s talk about why your typical book giveaway doesn’t work, and then we’ll talk about a new approach.

When we worked with Book Sweepstakes LLC to develop a new kind of Viral Book Sweepstakes platform, we knew that we needed to analyze all of the reasons typical giveaways don’t work and craft a solution that met those challenges. In fact, we wanted to go further than that; we wanted to create a platform that was inherently viral. We wanted a platform that would turn contacts into evangelists to promote the book, bring more visitors, and turn them into evangelists to bring even more people.

First, if you’re going to do a giveaway I suggest that you look at all of the elements of a successful campaign.

Have a great prize: First, a book isn’t the best prize to give away. Why?

Well, it’s a low dollar item. To attract attention, to get visitors to come to your site, to get them to fork over their email address, and to get them talking about your book so more people come, you need a sexy prize.

Giving away a book has another downside: it actually undermines sales. How so? Well, you got someone to your website, and they’re interested in your book. Now, it’s time to close the sale. Sales are what you want, yes? But why should they buy now if they might win later? Bye, bye, customer. No sale today for the nice author who is giving away her book.

When we created our AME Viral Book Sweepstakes platform, we decided to give away the iPad2, which everyone really wants.

So offer a great prize!If you don’t want to offer an iPad, make sure the prize is worth at least $500.

The importance of going viral: You probably know the term going viral, where things spread from person to person, and from more people to more people, like the flu. That’s what you want for your book. You want your contacts, friends and readers to tell more people about the book. Why is that so important? Because that’s what generates sales. NPR reported that 80% of book sales are prompted by word of mouth!

A typical book giveaway certainly doesn’t drive viral word-of-mouth buzz about your book.

How to go viral: Typical giveaways stop at ‘register here to win,’ and they don’t reward people for spreading the word.

You need a couple of things to make your book spread virally, and since a typical book giveaway doesn’t do that, we set out to develop a platform that does. Here’s what it takes:

People are busy. Why should they take the time to tell others about your book? You need to offer an incentive. Remember that great prize – the iPad2 – we talked about above? In addition to entering the giveaway for that prize the normal way, by providing your email address, we also provide additional chances every time you take certain easy, measurable actions that help the book giveaway spread.

How’s that for an incentive? Consider this: every time your consumer tweets your message about your book, they get another chance to win. And every time they share a personalized link and get another visitor to click it and come to the site, they get yet another chance to win. And the best part: they’re spreading the word about your book.

You also need to make it easy. Some people use email. Some use Facebook. Others use Twitter. Or they have a blog. Provide tools to make it easy to share those personalized links in all those ways. Let’s say you happened on, which is the book sweepstakes for Marci Shimoff’s wonderful book, Love For No Reason. You might grab the text with the personalized link and send it to 100 of your friends. If half of them click the link, you get 50 more chances to win and, that’s 50 new people exposed to your book.

You might not be able to easily replicate all the tools we built into the platform, but you get the general idea.

Did it work?  Oh, yes!  We’ve seen people sharing this like crazy.  Some of our book pages are getting 20,000+ hits in a month!

Don’t make people write: When you are encouraging people to share information on your book, you need to make it easy. The minute you ask them to “write whatever they want” you’ve now lost a potential evangelist.  Give them the text for the email, Facebook messages, tweets, etc.  And be sure to include the right #hashtags in the tweets.

Make your book look great: Of course, the reason to do all this is to promote your book, so be sure to present it in the most appealing way possible.  Provide an overview, excerpt, video, if you have one; and information about you, the author.

Get more followers:  A successful giveaway should also capture email addresses to build your newsletter list and should get people to follow you on Facebook and Twitter so you can continue to market to them and share tidbits that they might share with others.  It’s called growing your social media footprint.

Sell the Book!A campaign should also make it easy to buy your book, right on the spot.  Many book sites offer an Amazon or other affiliate button, but what if your potential reader prefers another bookstore?  We know that some authors have strong feelings about some bookstores, as do consumers, and publishers. Give people what they want, and they will give you what you want: a sale.

Start with your base: Exponential growth is a wonderful thing, but you need to start with the largest number you can.  The more contacts you start with, the more of them will help spread the word and the more of their friends will visit the site, discover your book, and in turn spread it to their friends until it spreads like wildfire.

Start with whatever you have.  Use your mailing list (even if it’s just 50 people) to get them to share this giveaway.  Ask your friends.  Put notice of your sweepstakes wherever you can reach people: your book’s page on Goodreads and LibraryShelf; your Amazon book page; on bookmarks you hand out at readings; etc.

It’s a numbers game: Last year, 1,500 books were published each day in theU.S., and that does not include the recent eBook surge. What does this mean for you? It means that you have to get your book out in front of two or three times as many people in order to make a sale. While you may think that a giveaway like I describe is a big undertaking and expensive, it’s actually a very effective and productive way to promote a book.  I cited a large number earlier: 20,000 hits to a book sweepstakes page. Marci Shimoff’s recent campaign actually had more than 30,000 visits.  Imagine, 30,000 people presented with her book. Now, you might say that they aren’t all going to buy it, and you’re right. But some of them will, and others will tell friends about it.

Regulations: One more thing: a giveaway is a sweepstakes, and so it is regulated by state law.  Not just the state where you live, but every state.  Be sure to provide rules that meet all the requirements and be sure to register in any states that require it.

That’s all it takes.  Now you know why traditional book giveaways don’t work and how you can launch your own campaign to turn contacts into evangelists so word of your book can spread like wildfire.  Good luck!

Here are a few sample pages of books sweepstakes now on our platform:

Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author, an internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert, and an Adjunct Instructor teaching publishing and marketing for NYU. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. She is the author of five books, including Book to Bestseller which has been called the “road map to publishing success.” AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through The Virtual Author Tour™, which strategically works with social networking sites, blogs, micro-blogs, ezines, video sites, and relevant sites to push an authors message into the virtual community and connect with sites related to the book’s topic, positioning the author in his or her market. To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her website. To subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to:

Photo Credit: Siddy Lam

Guest posting on BookBuzzr blogs will definitely boost your business and possibly earn you more clients. However, your writing must be unique and engaging to the audience. If you have an article or even just a topic in mind, relevant to writing, publishing, selling, or marketing books, we would love to see your proposed content! Feel free to submit Here!
Posts created 300

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top