The Dangers of Using Contests to Self-promote
As a new author, I have spent hundreds on contests and tours to promote my book. In the beginning, I made theme basket that were adorable, but costly to ship. Sometimes, it cost me twice as much to ship an item than it cost. The idea of a contest is to help you get your name out there. When does it not work for you?
Jayne Ann Krentz when addressing the subject of contests at 2010 RWA conference spoke about knowing your audience. These are the people most likely to buy your books. What do they want? Her answer was chocolate. In the Pacific Northwest, this might be a good possibility. Where I live there are months we can’t ship chocolate. What she was really saying is watch that your prize doesn’t attract folks who have no interest in your books.
For instance, many people give away Kindles hoping the winner will download their books. Not so, people who do not care for your genre will participate in the contest sometimes hoping to win an item to gift or resale it. Krentz’s point was not to spend too much money on something you may get no return on. What’s even worse is getting a negative return.
The lack of follow through kills the contest, the company and your name. A few months ago, I won an involved scavenger hunt for romance books. It took me two hours to complete it. The prize was a huge bundle of gifts including books. The author asked for my address. After about a month, I sent a note to see why my prize hadn’t come. Nothing. I checked my email to make sure it went. It did. It’s been three months and no gift. I realize I am not getting anything. Someone dropped the ball. I remember the author well because we have similar names. I remember the sponsoring organization too because I do not want to waste my time on any future contests on that site. As a reader, I felt unimportant.
If you run a contest, you are responsible for delivering the prize. Do not depend on a tour company to do it. I have won probably a half dozen books on tours that I never received. Sometimes the author will ask if I received them. When I tell her I didn’t, I still get nothing. I rather be told I didn’t win. At least, I wouldn’t expect anything. The author didn’t value me and it showed.
On the other hand, I’ve had authors follow up who were perplexed why I never received my prize and handled it on their own. Those writers saw a future reader and reviewer.
As a controlling personality, I send out all my own prizes. Sometimes, they do not end up where they should. This happens more with e-gift cards. I keep checking back to see if they are picked up. One woman had a very difficult time picking up her card. I resent it six times. This is my job. I can’t leave it to someone else to do. Not having follow through hurts credibility. A person might be inclined to read your book, but she didn’t get the prize she was so excited about winning and her inclination changes.
My first boss told me no one talks about you when you do a job right. If you do it wrong, then that’s all they talk about. Same with contests, get your prizes out as soon as you can. Announce the winners if they are okay with it. Thank people for entering. Do not allow yourself to become a victim of contest backlash.