Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Are Book Costests Worth it?

By Mark W. Danielson

Writing novels is fun, and reading them is entertaining. Contest giveaways offer exposure. But whether contests are worth pursuing is for each author to decide.

In the past couple of years, I’ve done contests with Good Reads and Omni Mystery News because their readers love to win. Who can blame them? I like winning things, too. So whenever I agree to support a contest, it’s because I truly want someone to win a signed copy of my book or a prize package like the one pictured above. Borrowing from the Master Card commercials, winning is priceless. Not like Charlie Sheen’s “winning” – just winning something. Heck, I still remember winning a hot dog at a YMCA party decades ago, and Oscar Myer didn’t even sign his name to it. So a personal note from an author becomes a memory that will linger for years.

But there is also a business side to any giveaway, and unless you are fortunate to have a big promotion budget (which is practically unheard of these days), advertising in any form usually comes out of the author’s pocket. My contest giveaways cost between fifty and one hundred dollars, and since I earn roughly a dollar a book, it takes a lot of sales just to break even. But considering that a small web site icon runs at least seventy five dollars, contest costs are about the same and are a lot more fun.

My latest Good Reads contest produced four winners from four different states. If they enjoyed Writer’s Block, they will likely mention it to other readers, which is certainly a desired outcome. I’m still waiting to hear who won the most recent Omni Mystery News contest. It seems the chosen person hasn’t responded to Omni yet, and if they don’t respond soon another winner will be selected. I look forward to mailing the package to the winner when I return from my two week international trip.

Personalized gifts leave lasting impressions, particularly when they are books. I found this to be the case a few years ago when Tim Dorsey was a keynote speaker at Men of Mystery in Irvine, CA. I’ve been participating in this event for many years and always enjoy meeting the guests and other authors. But several weeks after Tim spoke, I received a signed copy of one of his books in the mail -- a kind gesture from him to all of the participating authors. It was quite a surprise and I was delighted to receive it. Years before, Stephen Cannell was equally generous by purchasing a book from each participating author. In this regard, a personal note to the contest winners will likely leave equally lasting impressions.

Over the years, I have participated in author panels, lectured, and done signings at libraries, malls, and bookstores big and small, and I don’t believe any of them match the benefits of a contest, so when I hear feedback from sponsors saying some authors consider their giveaways a waste of time, I am stunned. In every sense of the word, novelists are entertainers, and it’s important to keep this perspective regardless of one’s success. Some might compare lesser known novelists to street performers, but they are still out there entertaining for those willing to take notice. And since no one knows who may be watching, reading, or listening to you, it’s always best to embrace anyone that shows interest.

The bottom line is if you’re writing to make money, you might be better off as a professional gambler because the risks are about the same. Finding enjoyment in everything you do will always bring your words to life. Supporting book contests can help gain smiling fans.


Jaden Terrell said...

Thank you for sharing your perspective and experience on contests, Mark. From what I can tell, they are a good way to raise a books visibility.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Thanks, Beth. Now that I'm back in the States, I can actually read Murderous Musings again:)

I don't see how you can go wrong with contests. If you're going to spend money promoting your books, you may as well make some readers happy in the process.