Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Contests: Do 'em or Don't?

Contests. Everyone does them. No matter what field you're in, someone's going to have a contest to generate buzz. Grocery stores try to get you to spend more. Retailers want you on their mailing list. And authors...  Authors sometimes seem so freakin' desperate for you to buy their books that they're wiling to auction off their young if you'll just read that first chapter.

I know I've gotten caught up in the fever. When I was a newer writer, I tried to generate buzz. I offered great contests, not realizing postage can sometimes cost. One contest I'd left open to everyone and truly picked at random, so when my kid chose the winning entry number, I was stuck mailing a lovely gift basket full of goodies to Finland. Not a great memory considering I nearly had to cut off my left arm to afford the postage. I think mailing it actually cost more than the goodie basket. But hey, it was cool someone from Finland had entered.

This is not to say contests don't offer something of value. More exposure means more people are tempted to give you a look. However, the same contest sharks swim in the waters, and most of the time I had the same people entering. I love readers who care, don't get me wrong, but when I offered contests, it was to snag new readers as well as exciting the older ones.

Now, with postage so high, I try to offer ebooks. There's no mailing fee, and international is no problem. But again, who enters to win? Because there's so much "free" out there today, people don't seem to care about giveaways. And every time I turn around, some author or another is offering a free book, a gift card, a bag of donuts. Hell, a new car AND an ipod, if you'll join her/his mailing list. And that's something that's baffled me. New writers offering expensive prizes. I'm not sure if it's an excitement thing or just an author getting caught up in the publishing frenzy, but if your book hasn't even come out yet, and you're offering something that cost $400, aren't you risking a loss? Because honestly, most epub houses don't pay out in the thousands for a brand new author with one book on her her/his list.

I've slowed down on the contests. I try to offer some stuff just to newsletter subscribers as a thanks for reading me. And I think it helps not to overdo on giveaways. Then again, perhaps I'd up my blog traffic if I gave more stuff away. I don't know. I do know that good books sell. No matter how hard you try, the best advertising for anything is word of mouth. That's how a buzz gets started. And with the Internet bringing the planet together, it's pretty easy to let a friend know if you like/dislike something without ever picking up a phone. Then again, the best book in the world won't move if no one knows about it. Contest do or contest don't? Wish I had the answer.

Now just out of curiosity, does anyone recognize the picture reference above? I saw it and immediately knew, but I'm a rabid fan. Should I offer a contest to see who gets the right answer? haha


seelk said...

Word of mouth is the best advertising, it has been tested in many fields and it works. Contest are good, especially when starting out. We all love contests, we all love FREE, but it has to be done smart so both sides win.

Elle said...

The picture? Looks like something from Seinfeld... maybe when they made the bet to see who could go the longest "without"? (And I almost hate to tell you, but I never really got into the show, just a few random episodes here and there.)

As for contests, I have to admit that I'm not really influenced by them. I can't think of a single blog or site I joined with the allure of a contest. I read what/who I'm interested in, and I've been known to throw my hat into the ring when it comes to a free ebook on one particular review site, but that's about it. So saying, I have to laugh and shake my head when I see the same names over and over on EVERY free book giveaway... well, that, or admire their persistence. ;)

Marie Harte said...

I totally agree, Seelk. Smart is key. :)

Marie Harte said...

Good one, Elle! I admit I'm rabid about the show. I've watched all the Seinfeld episodes a bazillion times and still laugh at them. Yep, proof positive of brain damage. :)

Sometimes I'll enter a contest of an author I like. But that's about it. I'm like you. I'm not influenced by contests or reviews. Unless I hear about a lot of folks talking about one book/author in particular. Then I might check them out. But if I don't like the blurb or excerpt, I won't buy.

Laughing at the persistence comment.