Promoting with Contests

Purpose of Hosting a Contest

  1. To drive traffic to your blog or website
  2. To generate future blog followers
  3. To launch a new release with extra draw in traffic
  4. To create new interest in an older published work

Types of Prizes

  1. Book giveaway–Many publishers will provide the book to give away. If you are supplying the book, this is still a fairly reasonable cost for the potential benefit.
  2. Prizes related to something about the book. For example I write a lot of cowboy romances, so I’ve done several contests where I gave away small cowboy/cowgirl statues. Or for my medieval story, I gave away medieval-style necklaces, bookmarks, and small plastic sword pens. I now give these bookmarks and sword pens away to the non-winners in other contests and the readers love them. Or for my holiday stories I have given away ornaments or decorative holiday pillows, which everyone loved.
  3. Gift certificates for $10-$25 to Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Types of Contests

  1. Comment Contests: These require an entrant to go to a specific blog and leave a comment with their email address to be part of the drawing. Some entrants will actually read your blog post and book promo, others just go right to the basic comment and saying something generic.
  2. Excerpt contests: These are contests where the entrant must read a specific excerpt and then answer 1-3 questions about something in the excerpt. The excerpt can be in your promotional post wherever you advertise the contest. Or the promotional post requires the entrant to go to your blog or website to read the excerpt and enter the contest there. I prefer this because it makes the entrant take the time to read part of the book and, hopefully, look around your website at your other work.

Planning the Contest

  1. Check your blog/website stats to see which days you have the most traffic and plan the contest for one of those days.
  2. Generally speaking, hosting a contest Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday is a good idea.
  3. Set your contest rules. See above, the “types of contests.” Give a set time for the deadline of accepting comments. (i.e. leave a comment by Friday at 10:00 p.m. CST)
  4. Decide on the prize(s).

Where to Host a Contest

  1. Be a guest author on someone’s blog and talk about the book, talk about some topic related to the book, or be interviewed. As a bonus and to draw readers, add a book giveaway contest.
  2. Do a contest on your own blog/website.
  3. They list the giveaway book on the giveaways page and select the winners at the contest stop date. They give you the winning addresses and you are responsible for mailing the book(s). Paperback or hard cover books ONLY. You can give away ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) to create buzz on your upcoming book. I do giveaways on already published books of mine.
  4. On your publisher’s blog or their authors’ blog.

Advertising the Contest

  1. Promote it on Facebook and Twitter and, of course, on your blog or website.
  2. Send an email announcing the contest to former contest entrants.
  3. Promote it on the listserve groups (mainly Yahoo groups) to which you belong where people post blog contests or other news.

Choosing the Contest Winner

  1. You can list all of the entrants on pieces of paper, fold them, mix them up, and have another person draw the winner. This is a method I generally use if I don’t have too many entrants.
  2. You can list and number your entrants, then use to choose the winning number. The instructions for this and the random sequence generator are on their website (
  3. Email the winner and request their mailing address.
  4. Send the prize, save any receipts for expenses (the book, gift item, postage) to claim on your taxes.
  5. Optional follow-up to entrants, depending on the number you had. Send an email to each of the non-winners expressing your pleasure that they entered the contest but, unfortunately, did not win. Depending on your budget and what promotional materials you have in stock, offer them a bookmark or pen or both if they send their mailing address. These bookmarks or other promotional item don’t have to be of the book you were promoting. I do this on my contests and offer to send them a bookmark from another book and a pen. So far everyone has asked for them. Quick, fairly cheap promotion of another piece of my published works.
  6. Keep a database of all contest entrants for sending news of future contests.


The Smarts Button

This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.