Audience Building Via Contests & Giveaways

by MM Jaye, @MMJaye

FREE_StickyNoteWe’ve all seen or entered other authors’ giveaways, but if you’re still on the fence about holding one of your own, here are the answers to basic questions you may have, plus some useful tips and tools to guide you through the process.

Why a giveaway?

The Holy Grail for every indie author is the creation of a dedicated fanbase. That’s easy to conceive and a challenge to achieve. However, the first step is clear and all authors (should) strive for it:

Build an audience.

The best way to build an audience is to share original content through social media accounts and your blog. But retweets and Facebook likes are passive endorsements: What if you want more personal involvement and a greater outreach? There’s no better way to do that than to offer some sort of reward—a prize or two—that are all about your brand. That brings us to the giveaway.

Is that some sort of contest? Is it even legal?

The “giveaway” is actually bloggers’ lingo for a contest or a sweepstakes promotion, depending on how it is set up. If the winner is not randomly selected, and his or her entry will be judged based on a particular skill set, then we’re talking about a contest. Random selection of a winner means you’re holding a sweepstakes. (But beware: charging a fee to enter would be the same as running a lottery, and you’d have the authorities at your door.)

What could I offer as prizes?

  • An e-store gift card
  • A short story or novella
  • Deleted scenes from one of your books
  • One, two or more electronic or print copies of your book(s)
  • Branded promotional material (mugs, pens, bookmarks)

You could even join forces with other authors and create a group giveaway, adding more prizes. This way you will make use of each others’ platforms, increasing outreach.

How will I benefit from holding a giveaway?

  • Create buzz for your titles or brand
  • Collect reviews
  • Connect with readers or followers on a personal level
  • Spread the word about a new release or sale
  • Gain followers on social media
  • Improve your conversion rate (followers turned readers)
  • Expand your mailing list (read on to see how)

Okay, I’m sold. Where can I hold one for free?

Your Facebook Page: Using a straightforward call to action, ask your followers to enter a poll, share a picture of them with one of your books, or simply comment. You’ve got less than ten commenters? Put their names in a hat and draw the winner. You’ve got dozens? Use Woobox, a free tool that connects to your page and draws a winner for you. (Note: it can choose a winner among people that simply Liked a post.) Facebook rule: Giveaways or any sort of promotional effort should be posted on a Facebook Page, not your personal profile page.

Goodreads giveaways are very popular: the site claims that over 40,000 people visit giveaways daily. All you have to do is set a number of (print only) books as a prize, and you’re good to go. Keep in mind that you are responsible for shipping the books to the winners. See more details here.

Amazon is a relatively new option, and entrants can only be U.S. citizens. You can set up an Amazon giveaway by selecting any physical Amazon product (your paperback or any other product—there’s a “set up a giveaway” option toward the end of the product’s page). You can select as many products as your credit card limit can hold. Tell Amazon whether you want either the first five entrants to win the prizes (first-come, first-served) or for the prize to be awarded to a set number (every 30th entrant wins, up to five total winners). Amazon will send you a unique url, which you’ll share on social media. Find out more here.

Rafflecopter is the go-to giveaway tool for book tour companies, and a great way to increase your social media followers. All you have to do is set any number of opt-ins, allocating a number of entries to each, such as “Follow MMJaye on Twitter (3 entries),” or “Visit MM Jaye’s blog (2 entries).” You can add as many opt-ins as you want, but it’s advisable not to exceed ten, as it can get tedious for the entrant.

A huge benefit is Rafflecopter’s CVS export file! When I discovered this option, I experienced a jaw-dropping moment. Rafflecopter actually provides a full list of all entrants, including their name and email address. This is amazing! My first reaction was, why wasn’t I told about that list when a book tour operator used a Rafflecopter giveaway for my book tour? I emailed the tour operator and she said, sure, she’d send it over. She did, and it contained over a hundred email addresses!

Can I add entrants to my mailing list?

In my book (pun not intended), the answer is yes. The people on my Rafflecopter list shared my book on all kinds of social media, some tweeting each day for the duration of the giveaway. They followed me on Facebook and Twitter. They know who I am and provided their email address in exchange for a chance to win the prizes I offered. As raffles go, entering means you’re interested in the free goodies, so if I send a follow-up email alerting them about a free book would it be considered spam? I think not. Marketing-related emails are required by law to include an unsubscribe (opt-out) link, anyway. Read more about that here.

However, if you think this is a gray area and you’d rather go for explicit permission to use the entrants’ emails, Rafflecopter offers a paid email sign-up service that will appear as an extra opt-in in your giveaway.

instaFreebie is very useful, and I bet few of you have heard of it. Have you promised five copies of your books as a giveaway prize? Do you want to send at least ten ARCs to prospective reviewers? Instead of emailing your book file to each person separately, you can set your book up on instaFreebie, assign the designated number of copies that are to be downloaded plus an expiration date, and instaFreebie generates a download link for your book, which you can share with reviewers or giveaway winners. Easy, breezy and free. There are pricing plans if you want the service to collect email addresses or you want to add branding to your page.

Any specific rules or code of conduct?

Yes. The main rules are:

  • Set a specific deadline and stick to it
  • Set age or residency restrictions. If your prize is a book with a high heat level (3 or 4), make sure you specify that entrants should be 18+. Also specify if the giveaway is open internationally or only US residents can enter.
  • Accept all valid entries
  • Announce the winner(s) immediately after the deadline expires
  • Notify the winner(s) and make sure they get their prize

Bottom line, contests and giveaways are a great tool for authors. Use them wisely, promote them widely, and your outreach will improve. Good luck!

MariaMessiniJaye_OpMM Jaye is the pen name of Maria Messini, a bilingual Greek native and certified translator who has been teaching the art of translation for over fifteen years. Writing was Maria’s idea of therapy when, back in 2009, her spirits had temporarily nosedived. Fate Accompli (Spicy and Clean) is her debut contemporary romance, the first book in the Aegean Lovers series. She lives in Athens, Greece with her husband, daughter and Kindle. Maria blogs at MM Jaye writes, and you can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Questions? Please leave a comment, and Maria will gladly address it!

All original content by Molly Greene and guests is copyright protected – did you enjoy the article? You can show your support by checking out Molly’s Amazon Author Page – and hey, buy a book while you’re there! Or, subscribe to this blog and you’ll never miss the weekly posts. Your email will NOT be sold, shared, abused, or rented – that’s a promise. If you’re not already, follow @mollygreene on Twitter. Mwah! Thank you so much.


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25 Responses to Audience Building Via Contests & Giveaways

  1. Sue Coletta September 21, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    Fabulous info, Maria! I remember entering a contest a while back. There was only one winner, and it was me! I didn’t even know until the author contacted me on Twitter. I sent her my mailing address and waited…and waited…and waited. The book never came. That was one year ago. Safe to say it’s not coming. So, your point about following through with sending the prize is an important one. Now, I have zero interest in reading her book(s). If she didn’t care enough about gaining me as a reader, why should I?

  2. MM Jaye September 21, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    Point well made, Sue. Respect your readers if you want to gain respect as an author. And it starts with little things. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Kim Wenzler September 22, 2015 at 4:20 am #

    This is so helpful. Thank you! I have only participated in the Goodreads giveaway (for my last book.) The winners were so positive and I found new fans.
    I haven’t done a giveaway or contest on Facebook.
    This information is so helpful, I just might!

  4. MM Jaye September 22, 2015 at 4:24 am #

    Thank you, Kim! I’m glad you gained new fans through Goodreads.

  5. Deborah Jay September 22, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    Great feature, thanks Maria.
    I’ve run several rafflecopter giveaways because they are so easy to do, and I enjoy the interaction with contestants when I email them to tell them they’ve won. I’ve had several reviews as a result, and there is also the side bonus that they boost your twitter and facebook follower numbers.
    What I hadn’t heard of before, was InstaFreebie – that sounds like a great tool. I’m off to investigate right now 😀

    • MM Jaye September 23, 2015 at 4:08 am #

      Thank you, Deborah! I’m glad I helped you discover something new 🙂

  6. Molly Greene September 22, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Maria! I’ve thought about doing a rafflecopter-type giveaway but just never got around to it. I’ve also heard about Instafreebie just lately, which makes the “delivering giveaways” part so much easier. Just a note on that, I believe this can also be done via Dropbox by creating a folder that can be shared. Great info!

    • MM Jaye September 23, 2015 at 4:19 am #

      Thank YOU for lending me your space, Molly! Yes, Dropbox could certainly work this way as well.

  7. Bette A. Stevens September 22, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

    Excellent post! Thanks; I’m sharing…

    • MM Jaye September 23, 2015 at 4:19 am #

      Very kind of you, Bette! Thank you!

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2015 at 7:52 am #

      Thanks, Bette!

  8. Nicholas C. Rossis September 23, 2015 at 6:26 am #

    I love all of MM Jaye’s posts – and this is another winner. Many thanks for putting all that info together!

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2015 at 7:53 am #

      I agree, Nicholas, and I second that!

    • MM Jaye September 23, 2015 at 11:35 pm #

      Very kind of you, Nicholas. Thank you!

  9. angelaackerman1 September 23, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    Just something to note: my understanding of sweepstakes type giveaways is that a person cannot ask for social sharing to be part of the condition of entry, so a person has to be careful of implying it is. A sweepstakes giveaway that has a form of “consideration” included (such as asking for likes or shares) can be viewed as an illegal lottery.

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

      Thanks so much Angela, for clarifying and providing the link. Life is complicated 🙁

      • angelaackerman1 September 23, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

        It is, isn’t it? I would love to have someone explain whether rafflecopter is okay to use or not, seeing as it essentially does this–you trade shares & likes for entries. To me that falls under “consideration” rules, yet I don’t see anyone going after them or people who use it in their giveaways.

        • Molly Greene September 23, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

          Maybe an ebook giveaway is just too “small fry” for the FTC to go after, lol!

        • MM Jaye September 23, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

          Indeed, Angela. No one goes after them. I’m a host for two virtual book tour companies, and all authors who book tours host their own Rafflecopter giveaway, requesting shares in exchange for entries. It is a shady area, but a safety zone (perhaps) is the Terms and Conditions section in which the host (the author) can specify exactly what’s expected of the entrant, including whether her email will be included in a list or not.

          If the Terms and Conditions are detailed, specific and not misleading, I think the host of the giveaway should be okay.

          Of course, I have no legal knowledge on the subject, but that’s what I’ve gathered from what I’ve read.

          Thank you for commenting!

  10. angelaackerman1 September 24, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    I found this very interesting.

    These ladies make a great point–just because a tool exists that allows for a giveaway doesn’t mean it follows legal rulings.

    I definitely wouldn’t use Rafflecopter because of the definition of consideration I mentioned earlier, but that’s just me. Good discussion. 🙂

    • Molly Greene September 24, 2015 at 10:26 am #

      It is a good point. Here’s another article that presents the complexities. However, I like her wording. Requiring someone to follow or “like” you as part of a giveaway “could be construed as consideration.”

      Which is, of course, simply repeating what Angela and Maria have both said. It’s a gray area. I’d still use Rafflecopter but make the T&C clear – as Maria suggested. I’d assess the risk: What are the chances of getting sued over a $2.99 ebook giveaway? Again, as Maria said, I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice.

  11. Laura Zera September 24, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    Did not know that Amazon added a giveaway function! Thanks for a great post, Molly and Maria!

  12. MM Jaye September 24, 2015 at 11:37 pm #

    Yes, it’s a relatively new feature. Thank you, Laura!

  13. Marje September 25, 2015 at 8:39 am #

    Lots of very useful information Maria, will be keeping a note of this for future reference. Thanks. 🙂


  1. Audience Building Via Contests and Giveaways | MM Jaye writes... - September 24, 2015

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