Contests, promotions, class…

22 Feb

Not too long ago, an author asked what readers liked about contests. Scavenger hunts? quizzes? random draw? etc. And, are contests a good idea, or are readers bored of them?

There were, as you can expect, as many different favorites as responses to the question. The common thread, though, is that readers like contests—and the prizes that go with them. From the responses, and as a reader myself, free books and gift certificates are the clear winners. A well thought out and strategically advertised contest will draw readers, and even if only one or two win something, the rest would have talked about it to friends, sent the link to the author’s blog/website, mentioned the book(s)—and created buzz.

And really, word of mouth is not only the cheapest promotion tool, but also one of the most effective ones.

A couple of very smart authors (full disclosure: they’ve both given yours truly ARCs of upcoming releases) ask winners to review the book somewhere (their own blog, a friends’, a message board, somewhere). Both of them ask specifically for an honest review—no gushing if the reader doesn’t think the book deserves it. From where I sit, that’s a very savvy way to handle it. It lets the reader off the hook in one way but, by implying trust, also ensures the reader feels honor bound to do her/his best to fulfill these requirements.

So, yeah, by and large, contests are a good idea.

Unless they backfire, of course. And here we get to the flip side, albeit in a roundabout way (I’m constitutionally incapable of brevity, in case you hadn’t noticed yet).

This February I have been really weirdly lucky, vis-à-vis blog contests. Really, a total embarrassment of riches. (No, I’m not going to tell you how many books I’m getting—suffice it to say, I’ve been rendered speechless twice. Well, mostly speechless.) After the third prize, I started saying how amazed I am about it, because hey! win nothing for a few decades, then suddenly a flood.

And then I remembered that I lied.

Yes, shocking, I know. So I’m here to publicly admit that I’ve lied *hanging head in shame*

I had won something before. Around these days last year, at Paperback Writer’s blog, I won a couple of Alison Kent’s books. I was amazed that one could get free books simply by reading blogs and commenting—yes, I’m that innocent—and so I started paying more attention, going around to more blogs, entering more contests. And lo and behold! within a month or so I had won two more books at two different blogs.

Yay!!! Joy!!! *happy dancing*


Well, actually, no.

‘Cause I never got those last two books. Never. I didn’t hear back from the authors at all. Zilch. Nada. Niente. Nichts. Nuthin’.

After a couple of emails, I stopped asking. It felt too much like begging for a freebie, you know? And I realize that authors—particularly midlist or newbie authors—don’t have all that much money to devote to promotion, so perhaps they ran out of author copies. I also realize that many have day jobs that actually pay the bills. And families. And hopefully a life. And things happen. So I let it go.

A brief email explaining the circumstances would have left me happy—I know that I’m not entitled to those books, they would have been gifts, and I certainly hope I would have been mature and gracious enough to accept and understand any explanation or reason given. But I have to say, the deafening silence? It left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth.

Which is, I think, why I had pretty much forgotten that I had ever won anything, you know? Better not to think about the negative, if at all possible.

Another aspect of the contest thing that bothers me is when a contest is announced with a big fanfare. People come from all places to participate. Temporary increase in blog traffic, lots of comments, and it’s a given that some of those drive-by readers will become regulars. All good.

And then, the big day! Everybody stops by, on tenterhooks, hopeful, excited, willing to be happy for whoever wins if it’s not him/herself.

Only, no announcement.

A new post comes up. Other conversations start and die. Then days become weeks, and still, nothing.


I mean, honestly, I do understand that bloggers really have no obligation to offer prizes to their readers, but once they have done so, it’s only good manners to follow through, wouldn’t you agree?

And it’s much better PR for both blogger and author to follow through than not to. And, if life happens and the prize can’t be delivered for whatever circumstance, transparency would be a much better choice—no matter how hard to admit to whatever it is—than silence.

The former will earn sympathy and respect, while the second will either make the reader resentful, or make sure she forgets the author’s/blogger’s name pretty much permanently.

(Yeah, don’t ask me whose authors’ books I never got, ‘cause for the life of me I can’t tell you.)

2 Responses to “Contests, promotions, class…”


  1. Contests as a promotional tool (again) « Her Hands, My Hands - 29/05/2012

    […] reading some of the comments to my previous piece (over at Karen’s blog), I realized that I didn’t make myself very clear—or perhaps it’s […]

  2. Contests, promotion, professionalism and choices « Her Hands, My Hands - 29/05/2012

    […] couple of days after I wrote this piece, I happened upon one of the blogs where I won—and never received—a couple of books last year. I […]

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