I’m running a giveaway for both of my completed series, epic fantasy the Rise of the Fifth Order and the dystopian thriller Friends of my Enemy! And while pondering posting an announcement here, I realized a better discussion is why run a book giveaway in the first place and if you do, how do you do it well?
By book giveaway, I mean something other than posting book 1 of a series for free (which both of my series do have). I mean giving away something different or more, such as signed paperbacks or a complete series.
While I offer giveaways occasionally, I know other authors who have a prize every month. Yes, every month! Why the difference? It really depends on your goal followed by your budget. And goals are a great place to start.
2 Goals for hosting a book giveaway
This could mean increasing awareness of several things including:
- Yourself as an author
- Your books
- A new product
There are different nuances to achieve each of the three, which I’ll go over in a moment, but the first step with exposure as a goal is that you want to reach new readers by spreading awareness of your author brand and your books. To do this the best, you want to use a viral giveaway template so that every entrant is rewarded by sharing the giveaway and thereby recruiting new entrants.
Giveaway platforms to increase exposure
In this post I’ll cover three platforms for giveaways: Kingsumo, Rafflecopter, and Google forms. There are many other variants, but these three illustrate different uses and are the ones I use most frequently.
So which is the best one for a viral giveaway?
Kingsumo by far. Why? After entering the giveaway, entrants are immediately shown a new giveaway page with share links and are emailed a lucky url. If new entrants follow that lucky url and enters, the original sharer receives more entries (the number being set by the author!). Plus the setup allows an image specifically for sharing, guaranteeing a controllable eye-catching share.
To see what I mean, check out my current giveaway (see, you knew I’d find a way to stick the link in here somewhere!)
The background, prize images, and verbiage are all selected by the host as is the start and stop and the length of giveaway. For slick and catchy giveaways that are easy to share, Kingsumo is awesome. I won’t lie and say it is cheap. At $199 for the plug-in, Kingsumo has a cost. But once you buy it, you own it and can run awesome giveaways whenever you want. (No, I’m not an affiliate marketer and won’t get anything for sending you over to Kingsumo).
Rafflecopter has a free and paid version and I’ve used the free version for giveaways, just not for viral ones. I’ll get to when I use Rafflecopter in a minute. Rafflecopter does have options for sharing, tweeting, liking Facebook pages, and more. But for pretty and eye-catching shares you have to upgrade to the paid version. It may be worth it, but a few months with a paid version of Rafflecopter and you could have purchased Kingsumo.
I’ll just skip Google forms for now. I wouldn’t recommend them for a viral share option.
How to reach new readers?
The whole goal of a giveaway to increase exposure is to bring in new readers that are beyond tweeting, Facebook posts, Goodreads forums and such. And the best way to reach a new audience is to advertise.
I have three book giveaway sites that I like to use and two are free!
There are other giveaway promotion sites too and many are free. You can google to find lists. But to reach readers it is usually best to stick to places where people would look for book giveaways. Like Goodreads! So don’t forget that creating an event is free on Goodreads and another awesome place to advertise.
How do you attract new readers to sign-up when they don’t know who you are?
That is where the prizes come in! Prizes are where the nuances on what sort of exposure you are looking for is important.
If you are looking to expand awareness of your brand, the easiest method is to make the main prize the books (ebook or paperback) of a better selling and better known author who is in your genre (and whose books have a similar style or tone). I used this in my first Kingsumo giveaway, giving away four paperback books by Peter Brett as well as the three books in my epic fantasy trilogy.
Did it work? Absolutely! I had 2226 entries (which is actually rather low. If I’d aimed for an even better known author like Brandon Sanderson, I probably would have gotten more) and the winner, who’d not heard of me or Peter actually, ended up loving both Peter’s books and mine AND leaving reviews for everything as well as picking up more books that I’ve written. We even talk on Facebook still! So yeah, total success!
You can also team up with other authors for a multiple book giveaway (again sticking to your genre), hoping that sheer volume will attract entrants. Or you can offer other prizes a reader might like, such as an ebook reader. This last method though has the lowest conversion rate because you’ll invariably get entrants of readers who aren’t interested in your genre. But by sheer volume, you might end up with more new readers as the number of entrants can be that much greater (I’ve seen over 10,000 entrants).
If you are looking to gain exposure for a new product, you can simply offer it as the prize. This is what I’m doing with my current 8 book giveaway. I’m offering my two newly created bundles to spread awareness of their existence. When the last two audio books in the Rise of the Fifth Order are complete, I’ll be running a giveaway to win all three audio books.
What to do with everyone who didn’t win?
Give them a book. That is the best option. Keep the emails of those who do pick up your offered free book for your newsletter list (make entering the giveaway also an agreement to sign up to a mailing list in the rules) and then work on converting entrants to new fans with newsletters on your writing.
What if you only have one book out? Offer half your book. Just be sure to offer something. You just reached a lot of new readers so find a way to keep their attention. My giveaway using Peter Brett’s books resulted in around 500 new readers picking up my first book.
Reward your Readers
Another fantastic use of giveaways is to reward your current fans. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and one of the best ways to do that is to give them something such as an exclusive opportunity to win something.
With an exclusive giveaway, you want a non-viral platform. You already have the target audience and, to be fair to them, you shouldn’t be trying to grow the list at the same time.
This is when I prefer Rafflecopter or even something as simple as a Google+ form. Even free, Rafflecopter can be dressed up quite a bit with some website coding. Take a look at this giveaway I ran when I released my last book.
Rafflecopter allows you to invent a method of entering. I like to ask a specific question such as who wrote the book being given away (me!). After all is there a better way to get someone to remember your name than by typing it?
I’m also always interested in feedback, so asking readers who their favorite character is a great question (then I know who to avoid killing). For Virtual Fantasy Con, I created a Rafflecopter giveaway to randomly select between the readers who entered the most character names from the series. I wanted to reward my super fans! Because of this flexibility, Rafflecopter works great for scavenger hunt type giveaways too.
And this is why Google forms also work for this type of reward giveaway. Create fields for people to enter their name, email address, and answer a question or two. Don’t make it too long, but if you are seriously looking for some feedback on favorite characters and why, ask your fans through a giveaway.
How to advertise
Advertise! But this is a reward giveaway… which you need to tell your fans about somehow! The good news is that advertising this sort of giveaway can be as simple, and cheap, as sending an email announcement with links to your mailing list. Posting somewhere readers can see it, tweets, Facebook page, is also great, though it may draw in those not on your list. I consider that a non-problem as reaching new readers is always a nice bonus, even if not your primary goal.
Prizes for a reward giveaway
Prizes can be smaller and more personal: maps or posters of book covers as well as signed books, and gift cards to Amazon or iTunes. If they like your writing enough, hopefully winning any swag that you sign will mean something.
Consider too running the giveaway for those who purchased something like your newest release. Have the link to the giveaway in the back of the new book or the entrance requirement be the first word of chapter 28 (or something at least too far along for the free sneak peak). For this to work you need to have a list big enough that the giveaway will simply entice people to buy the new book now. And that is a great use for a giveaway.
Build excitement for the giveaway and your newest release ahead of time though. Sending out an unexpected emails saying “Buy my newest book and win!” works, but it helps if you already have been hinting that the new release is coming along with a super special prize.
A quick word of caution: By Amazon’s rules you can’t run a giveaway in exchange for a review AND by US law all giveaways must not require purchase. So be sure to post a link to where the giveaway is on your Facebook page or blog, somewhere! Check the rules for your country/state/county and follow them. And don’t forget that if you are going to keep the emails of entrants to send out newsletter that has to be in the rules too!
What to do with those who don’t win?
They are already your loyal fans, so giving them a new book doesn’t work. Thanking them, keeping your newsletters interesting, giving them sneak peaks into new work, and telling them about other free books that you enjoyed will hopefully keep them around even if they don’t win this time.
It is the “this time” that can be important and why I’ve seen other authors use this type of giveaway monthly. Every month brings a new chance to win! I haven’t used this tactic, mostly because I’d be wondering if my loyal readers were really sticking around to win a gift card or for my writing, but prizes could always be the next book in the series or something similar (have other authors donate books?). If done well, this could easily keep your newsletter list engaged and opening your announcements!
Do you like giveaways? Have you used them? Tell me how they went, what platform you used, and other places to advertise if you’ve used something different.