Three Reasons for Authors to Run Contests

Michelle Ule

Blogger: Michelle Ule

I’m filling in for Wendy Lawton, who is on a book tour with Lauraine Snelling. Today Lauraine will be signing books at Pleasant Hill Library in Hastings, Minnesota, in the early afternoon, and later at Lifeway Christian Store in Burnsville, Minnesota. Check here for further information.

Last week I ran a contest on this blog site for the chance to win one of my books. The winner is Julie Johnson,whom I’ve become acquainted with through the Books & Such website. Julie is an author herself. I enjoyed reading Over Coffee We Shared Our Secrets, aย story about ministry at a crisis pregnancy center.

She’ll receive a copy of my Bridging Two Hearts. Thanks to all who commented.

Last week’s contest prompted today’s blog question:

Why do authors run contests?contest

1. To drive up social media numbers

Jenn DePaola of Mixtus Media advises contests as a way to attract followers:

Contests are a great way to not only draw in new fans, but create more content for your social media outlets.

Announce the contest on your social media outlets and direct them back to your website to enter. What I usually do is have them leave a comment on the blog post that has the contest details as a way for them to enter. (Facebook has some really strict rules in regard to contests, so the safest bet is to direct them back to your website).

The idea here is to expose your book to people who might never have heard about you before. Leaving comments on your blog post as a context requirement is a way to increase your blog readers and your visibility. (My highest “hit” blog post was part of a blog hop with the other Log Cabin Christmas writers.)

In theory, contest entrants will sign up for your newsletter and/or to receive your routine blog via email.

Blog host Connie Almony
notes that her site gets much better stats when the author offers freebies than when they don’t.

“I know that it sometimes took a book several mentions on blogs for me to buy it–even ones I had no interest in the first several times I read about it. Exposure is key!”

ย 2. To start a buzz about your book and keep momentum going later

One social media expert advises authors to run contests in advance of their book launch to encourage pre-sales and then run a second contest several weeks after the book launches to keep momentum going.

If you can run a contest that generates enough “buzz”–discussion and interest in your book–people may purchase it before the launch just to find out what’s going on. Early purchases drive up pre-sales and increase your book’s chances of making a best-seller list.

“For me, especially as a debut author, giveaways were vital for getting my title out there,” said Sarah Sundin, author of two World War II series: Wings of the Nightingale and Wings of Glory. “They served as a form of word-of-mouth . . .ย  I kept seeing comments like: ‘This book must be good–I see it everywhere!'”

3. To introduce your book to new readers

Several Books & Such authors noted they’ve found loyal fans through contests run on books early in their careers.

“Some of my dearest readers found me through giveaways (which I’ve come to think of as divine appointments),” said Laura Frantz, author of The Frontiersman’s Daughter and the about-to-be-released Love’s Awakening.

Cynthia Ruchti, author ofย  the recent nonfiction Ragged Hope as well as the novel When the Morning Glory Blooms, has a positive view of contests as well, seeing it as a way to make new connections.

“That new reader who takes a depressing line–‘I’ve never heard of you before’–and turns it into the beautiful encouragement of being intrigued enough from the small snippet to watch for my name in the bookstore or order the book whether or not she wins [a contest] or take a look at what else I’ve written.”

What are some of your observations about book contests? Have you participated? Have you found a new author through a book contest?

Have any of these three reasons for authors to run contests resulted in positive outcomes for you as a reader?


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38 Responses

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  1. Jeanne T says:

    Michelle, not being published yet, I hadn’t considered the advantages of having contests on my blog. But, I’ve seen a number of other bloggers host them. Thank you for sharing an effective way to get book buzz for if/when I’m published.

    I have participated in book contests, and they’re fun, especially when I win. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have met a couple new authors through them. I have noticed that the contest posts have more comments, so I can see how that’s beneficial for the blogger, the author and the reader.

    • Michelle Ule says:

      My question to all of you who have won books in contests is, what did you do with them?

      Did you write a review on Goodreads or Amazon?

      Did you pass them along?

      Did you start to follow that writer as a result?

      A year later, say, do you have any observations about the value of the contest you won for the author?

      I’m just looking for information, no judgment forthcoming!

      • Jeanne T says:

        Great questions, Michelle. For me, it depends on when I win themโ€”as in what else is going on in my life. Right now I’m uber-busy, so I don’t have time to write reviews for anything. But, I have written reviews for some books, and if I like them, I definitely pass them along, or buy them or recommend them to friends. And yes, I’ve become a fan of some of those authors and looked for their coming/or their other books.

      • Leah E. Good says:

        I have won several books via contest and giveaways, and I reviewed all but one of them on Goodreads. One book in particular I’ve promoted on my blog and stayed in fairly regular contact with the author.

        However, I haven’t even read one book I won. The person who ran the contest didn’t announce which book she was giving away in advance, and it ended up being one I wasn’t interested in. So it’s still on my e-reader waiting for curiosity to strike.

      • Laura Jackson says:

        I read them, review them, and give them away on my blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I definitely notice when an author is giving away a book, Michelle. Who wouldn’t notice something for free, right? ๐Ÿ™‚ Part of my marketing plan (for that glorious day when I have a book published) would include a giveaway or contest. I would particularly like to do a pretty basket with other goodies besides my book.

    • Michelle Ule says:

      Gift baskets in addition to the book are an interesting idea and that is what my Log Cabin Christmas co-writers are doing. We’ve put together quite an assortment of items related to our stories for a contest we’ll be running through Jane Kirkpatrick’s website September 9-16.

      In my case, because my story in that collection, The Dogtrot Christmas, takes place in Texas, I contributed several Texas pens, three Texas-shaped lollipops and Tomie dePaola’s classic kid’s book The Night of Las Posadas.

      Anyone winning that basket will get an enormous treat–not to mention a copy of the book with signatures from all nine authors.

      If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll hear about it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Lori says:

    I love book contests and have won numerous books. I have been introduced to numerous authors through book contests on an author’s Web site and on a group author blog like “Petticoats & Pistols” (which you guest wrote recently). Some of these authors have now become new favorites.

    I went and saw Lauraine and Wendy last week. Lauraine gave a great presentation about her new book! Currently, I am reading another book (which I did not win) that was by another author that I was introduced to on a blog. When I am done with that book, the book I bought at Lauraine’s signing is next on my list.

    • Michelle Ule says:

      Hey, thanks for stopping by to see them. It sounds like they’re having a wonderful time.

      Getting out and meeting readers is the best part of writing a book, but it takes a lot out of the author, not to mention tremendous logistics. They’re traveling for two weeks and covering a lot of miles.

      It would have been easier and cheaper to run a simple contest–but not nearly as much fun for everyone!

  4. Rick Barry says:

    You’ve given some interesting information to consider, Michelle. I’ve seen many author contests where I recognized every entrant as fellow writers rather than unknown names from the larger pool of non-writing readers. So, my impression has been that contests too often target the choir (small, limited number) rather than the larger throngs out there. Perhaps the trick is finding innovative ways to place the right links in front of book-loving strangers.

    • Michelle Ule says:

      It’s a great question, Rick, how to expand outside of our small circle of friends/readers to find others.

      One recommendation I’ve seen is to take out adds in places where readers congregate–like Goodreads. I’ve not tried that yet, but am mulling it over.

      Another excellent question is, what is the return on investment for free books and paid ads. I’ll discuss that another day.

    • This is a wonderful point to bring up and mull over.

  5. Angela Mills says:

    I don’t have a book yet, but I’ve done a few giveaways on my blog and they always bring in new readers, many that end up sticking around. It’s also a great way to show readers that you appreciate them!

    • Great idea Angela….new people become acquainted with you…and when your book is published, they’ll be in the know!

      • Michelle Ule says:

        Do you know how new readers find your blog, Angela? Is it the word free?

        That’s a good question to ask when you’re considering a marketing campaign.

        One of the advantages I’ve had working with seven and eight other authors is to go broad across their readership through the blog contests.

        But Rick is right, we don’t want to sing only with the choir. How do we find a spot for attention in the world outside of our reading circles?

    • Leah E. Good says:

      I’ve found this too. One way of spreading the word about giveaways is joining the book blog giveaway group on Goodreads and posting there whenever you do a giveaway. I’ve found several new readers that way.

  6. Even though I don’t have a book published yet, I’ve been thinking of doing contests on my blog site. It seems like a great way to meet new folks and to thank readers. After all, it does take time to read a blog…and how fun to offer an incentive!

    Thanks for your thoughts on this subject Michelle.

    • Michelle Ule says:

      Gaining followers is always important–if for no other reason than the give and take of information between what people like to read and what you’re writing.

      Other media specialists suggest offering freebies like a deleted chapter from your book as an encouragement to subscribe to a blog.

      I ran the original opening chapters for my The Dogtrot Christmas on my blog two weeks ago. You can read them in the link and can then understand why they did not appear in the final NOVELLA! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. My novel is written for upper middle-grade boys. (9 – 13)

    I’m not sure how to run a contest for boys – or even reach this age group with a blog? Maybe someone can enlighten me.

    If I did run a contest, these are the “cool” prizes I would offer.

    1. The Encyclopedia of Immaturity by Irving Klutz.

    2. An indoor fireworks light show. (Fire extinguisher not included)

    3. Complete directions on how to build a “full sized catapult”.

    4. A boomerang that doesn’t come back. (Also known as a stick)

    5. A Carnivorous Creature Terrarium Kit (Fresh meat not included)

    • Michelle Ule says:

      I know some boys who would want to enter . . .

      Tricky with children, however, because of legal issues. My guess is you’d run the contest for parents. You could still offer the same gifts (comes with clean up instructions!), but you’d need to aim it at the parents.

      • Clean up instructions? You mean the verbal instructions my mom will give me or actual written out instructions.

        That would never happen in my house, my mom spends all her time writing a novel about how to get your children to do their chores, clean up their bedroom, set the table properly and feed your fish.

        I found out the hard way that the last one is very, very important.

  8. Sydney Avey says:

    Hi Michelle, Thanks for this post. I’ve been confused about the value of contests because I personally have not seen the incentive to participate in one (so many contests, so little time) or offer one, but you have made the process seem easy and the value clear.

    My book The Sheep Walker’s Daughter will be released Dec. 3. I’m going to give some thought to fun, theme-related prizes I could offer.

    • Michelle Ule says:

      It’s about exposure. I went to Goodreads to look at the recent contest for A Log Cabin Christmas (ended on Sunday or it would have fit in here perfectly!) and while getting there, saw a book I’d never heard of that sounded interesting.

      I joined the contest. Why not? ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I wonder if the way to widen the audience is to find something in your book people relate to and look for bloggers on that topic (maybe including the idea above of a gift basket?)
    My next novel is about babies and parenting and I want to approach parenting blogs to see if they’ll host a giveaway. I haven’t plucked up the courage to do it yet! Maybe if I can put together a goody bag that might help, although I’d have to investigate international shipping (as I’m in the UK)

    • Michelle Ule says:

      Good point, Amanda.

      Shipping charges internationally can be high, which is why on the aforementioned Log Cabin Goodreads contest, we limited winners to the US.

      You might consider having something in the US SENT to the winner. Say, a basket of baby items from Target (or wherever. I’m sure you can buy something like that on line.)

      OR, an e-book copy of your book.

      You could even send flowers, say, if your book is about gardening or flowers or something of that nature.

  10. Michelle Ule says:

    If you WOULD like to follow me on Twitter, I’m at


  11. Kathy says:

    Thanks for this great post, Michelle. My novel, Thirty Days to Glory, releases in October, and I’m working on giveaways.A nativity set shows up in the book a few times, so I’m giving a couple of those away at live events. I’m dipping in my toes at Goodreads, but I feel mostly overwhelmed there. Did you find it difficult to navigate?

  12. Michelle Ule says:

    I have not mastered Goodreads. Their contests, however, are beyond simple to run. You basically choose how many books you’ll give away as prizes and how many days you want the contest to run. They take care of the rest and send you the names of the winners at the end. You then have to send the books to the winners, preferably within a couple days.

    • Lori says:

      Have you considered Fresh Fiction? They run contests, which usually are about a month long. I have won twice from their One Day Blog Contest for two different authors.

      Their Web site is

      • Michelle Ule says:

        I’ve not heard of fresh fiction before.I didn’t recognize the names of the authors currently listed, so this indeed might be a way of getting your name in front of a different marketing crowd.

      • Lori says:

        I’ve seen Books & Such client Cynthia Ruchti
        on that site a few months ago. In fact I partipated but didn’t win that day.

  13. David Todd says:

    Doing a giveaway contest right now on Goodreads for two copies of my latest novel. With eight days to go, only 72 people have entered, with 36 of those adding it to their to-be-read lists. I was expecting more entrants than that by this time.

    • Michelle Ule says:

      How much marketing have you done, David? Tweeting, FB announcements, that sort of thing?

      We ran the Log Cabin Christmas Collection Goodreads contest for a week, with a number of us tweeting and FBing–and got nearly 700 entries.

      If you look now, you can see the biggest contests are for Dan Brown’s latest book and Debbie Macomber’s–signed copies with the contest running for six months. More than 10000 entries, but does that mean anything?

  14. Laura Jackson says:

    Great post! My first book releases in February, so this is perfect timing as I’m brainstorming ideas.

  15. Yay! Thank you, Michelle. I can’t wait to receive “Bridging Two Hearts” and will definitely read it and review it on and Goodreads. After that, I’ll probably put it in my Wee Lending Library, the little mini-book exchange that sits outside my house on the street. My husband made it for me and neighbors (young and old) stop it to exchange books. So fun!