Contests: Pros & Cons

You have a book coming out. Other authors run contests. Should you?

Pros:

    • By announcing a contest with a prize in newsletters, on bulletin boards, and in chat rooms, you draw readers to your site. Once you have them there, you can impress them with reviews, awards, excerpts, etc.
    • If you announce it up front, you can add all entrants to your mailing list.
    • Fans who win contests come back frequently.
  • If you don’t want to run a contest on your own site, there are romance community websites (NovelTalk, Fresh Fiction, Romance Junkies, etc.) which run contests for authors, streamlining the whole process.

Cons:

    • By announcing a contest with a prize in newsletters, on bulletin boards, and in chat rooms, you draw non-reading, gift-grubbing, sweepstakes fans to your site. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true. If you don’t take measures to mitigate this, you can have your mail server locked up with a thousand entries in an evening.
    • If you add all entrants to your mailing list, you’ll end up paying to send mailings to people who came for the prizes, and really aren’t interested in your mail list or buying your books. (Have a separate sign-up for those who will truly be interested.)
    • Cost. Not only the prize, but the packaging, gas to the post office, and shipping. (Gift cards to online bookstores allay some of this. And once you know the cost of mailing out a “free” book, you can at least use stamps and do it from home.)
    • Cost. Many webmasters/designers charge extra for this.
    • Designing a unique contest takes time away from writing.
  • While some of the romance community websites that hold contests for authors do so freely and without consequences, others will turn around and bug you for free stuff for other contests. (Spring Special, Valentine’s Day Special, Holiday Special–see where I’m going?) They’ll make you feel as if everyone else is doing it, so you might feel as if you’d be crazy not to. Sage advice: Only do as much as you like to do.

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