Sunday, September 23, 2012

Marketing & Promo: Running a Contest by Stephanie Burkhart

A contest is a great way to drive Internet traffic to your sites so I thought I'd discuss a couple of tips today.

People love free and a lot of people will show up for a contest if your contest has a free prize. Now there's a pro and con here. The pro: by offering a prize for your contest, Internet lurkers will come, check it out, and even enter. You've exposed yourself to a broader audience and maybe even picked up a follower or fan. The con: they come, they go.

Say you decide to run a contest. Here are some things to consider:
Where will you run it?
On Twitter? Your Facebook Fan Page? Your website? Your blog?

Once you determine the location, what is the prize?
Popular items include:
A copy of your book, print/ebook
Gift cards to: Amazon, B&N, Sony, Target, Starbucks, Panera
If you make items like book bags or jewelry you could offer that
Coffee mugs/Mousepads

3rd, determine the criteria for an "entry"
Answer a trivia question
Leave a comment on a blog/FB Fan page
Answer a specific question (for example: who is your favorite author and why?)
Fill in a form (Google Docs)

Make sure you list the RULES.
How long will the contest last?
What is the prize?
How will you choose the winner?

I usually place everyone's name on a sticky note, fold it, put it in a hat and draw out a random name to pick the winner.

Lastly, don't forget to tell people about your contest. Send out announcements on your FB page, Twitter, Linked in, Google +, networks and your Yahoo Groups. Put up notices and news items on websites – Manic Readers is a great one that reaches a larger audiences. I also have pages on Deep In the Heart of Romance and Romance 4 Us where I put my announcements.

I'd love to hear what works for you. What prizes do you offer? How long do you run your contest for? How often do you have contests? Do you have a contest for Christmas?

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. A native of New Hampshire, she spent 11 years in the US Army and now lives in California. She's married with two young sons. Her books with 4RV Publishing include: The Giving Meadow and First Flag of New Hampshire.

Find me on the Web:








  1. Hi Stephanie,
    I've hosted several contests, usually around the release of a new book. In the beginning I gave away jewelry and other prizes that needed to be mailed, but I prefer now to give prizes that I can email, such as PDF copies of my books, or gift certificates. Since I live in Canada and most of the people who enter my contests are from the States, it's much cheaper and easier that way.

    Thanks for the tips,

    1. Thanks Jana, - those prizes are also very popular for contests. There's a train of thought of give out a copy of the book and you'll get a review, but there's no garentee that will happen. Heck I'll be happy if you read a book and give me a recommendation word of mouth.

      Then there's the train of thought of never give out a copy of book. Give out something else and have them buy the book. I'd love to hear thoughts on what works for authors.


    2. Often, people won't buy a copy of the book if one is being given away. Everyone waits to see if he/she wins. Then the excitement is gone without any sales.

  2. Loved this article, Stephanie. I'm trying to figure it all out right now about running contests/giveaways. Thanks for this informative blog post.

    I wonder if online Amazon gift cards are a good idea. I haven't looked into this yet. Anyone?

    1. Amazon gift cards are very popular and you can send them via "email," which is very convient.

  3. Great tips, Stephanie!

  4. My publisher has a community on LiveJournal and we're encouraged to host a day as promo. I use contests to generate traffic, because the fact is that no matter what you're doing or talking about, you'll rarely get much visible traffic, and a post with only one or two comments, or even none, makes it look like you have no fans. [wry smile] Comments encourage comments, so what I do is plan to post at least three times during the day, and tie commenting to drawing entries. Folks get one slip in the bowl for each post they comment on, so if there are three posts, they can get three chances to win the prize. This encourages lurkers to comment, and it encourages folks to stop by throughout the day and continue participating.

    There's a school of thought saying you shouldn't give away your books; I'm of two minds about that. Having a copy of your new release as a contest prize helps stir up interest and excitement about it, but OTOH it'll also prevent most people from buying the book until the contest is over, because they want to see whether they won. If they don't (and of course most won't), then they might go buy it then, or the disappointment of not winning might dull their enthusiasm, or the lessening of excitement when your yay-promo-whee! day is over with might leave them focused on the next new thing. "Eh, I can buy this later." [yawn]

    Like Jana above, I'm less eager to offer prizes that need to be mailed these days; e-mail is so much easier for everyone. :/ I'm more likely to give something intangible rather than hassle with packing and mailing, and having the other person worry about a package arriving, arriving in good condition, and not getting stolen off their doorstep.

    At the same time, giving away an e-book sort of punishes your biggest fans, who of course already have all your books. What's the point of them entering the contest if they already have the prize? I give e-books occasionally, but usually I'll offer a gift certificate; my publisher sells books off their site, and offers their own gift certificates, so that works well. If a contest winner already has all my books, I'm more than happy to reward them for that, and at the same time spread the promo wealth to writer friends who are with the same publisher. Saying to a fan who has all my books, "Sorry, no contest prize for you," seems rather like punishing behavior I'd rather encourage. Gift certificates solve that problem.

    The point, though, is to generate interest, and make your blog (journal, forum, Facebook page, wherever) seem like a fun place to hang out. It's like an open room party at a convention; if you peer in the door and only see the hosts in there, nervously tweaking the snack bowls, you tend to move on. If there are already folks in there talking and laughing and sounding like they're having a good time, you're more likely to go in and join. Pulling traffic with a give-away can help your party look lively and inviting.

    Angie (linked from MFRW)

  5. Hi, Stepanie,

    I use contests for marketing quite a lot. Rather than writing the names of sticky notes, I use to do my drawings.

    One thing I've discovered: readers will only do a small amount of work for a giveaway. So I try to make the contest pretty easy.

    I run a monthly contest that's announced in my newsletter, which usually requires entrants to send me an email (to a special "contest" address). That way, I have the opportunity to interact with them individually, and to invite them to join my mailing list. Plus I already have their address if I want to send them an ebook or a gift certificate.

  6. I have contests on my blog on a regular basis. I also participate in blog hops, which seem to bring in the most traffic because you're on a linky list that is promoted by multiple bloggers. I've stopped giving away copies of my book, and opt for Amazon gift cards or other prizes.

    Rafflecopter is a great way to manage contest entries. You add in the prize, how people can enter, and the rules of the contest. Then copy and paste the HTML code, and it places a form on your blog that followers use to enter. When the contest is over, you go to Rafflecopter and ask it to select a random winner. You can even email the winner directly through Rafflecopter. You can see what it looks like here:

    I use Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to promote my contests, but some people I know have had success using Pinterest too.

  7. Good info. I've thought of a contest. Your guidelines help me.

  8. Great info. I've run contests but hadn't thought of a few of your ideas. Would love for you to join our weekly feature group, Writer's Words of Wisdom. We post articles like this every Wednesday - check us out...

  9. Thanks for the info, Stephanie. I agree you can't beat online gifts, especially gift cards to Amazon or other easily accessible retailer.

  10. Holding a contest through internet is definitely a great marketing strategy. Through a contest, you promote your business by giving incentives to people. It creates a way for potential clients to come to know your business. However, it will only become an effective marketing strategy if your contest actually draws people in who are likely to be interested in the products and/or services you offer.