Over the past couple of months, I've been exploring the nature of book giveaways, particularly in conjunction with my project on Facebook ("I bet we can make these books bestsellers," which is currently promoting two great books by Shawn Klomparens -- Jessica Z. and Two Years, No Rain). One of the authors I've noticed doing a lot of giveaways on was bestselling author Emily Giffin (The Heart of the Matter). She was kind enough to answer my questions on giveaways and even a question on Franzenfreude.
1.) I've noticed that you are quite active on Facebook, and that you've been doing a series of giveaways connected both to the release of Heart of the Matter and the movie for Something Borrowed. Can you please describe the types of giveaways that you've done recently.
Yes, I have been doing a lot of giveaways on Facebook. My favorite type is to ask a trivia question from one of my books and whoever gets the answer first wins a signed copy of the book. Once I asked for a character's SAT score, other times full names of minor characters. Probably the most obscure question so far dealt with a character in Something Borrowed who is from Montana but references his hometown Shoney's -- a chain that does not exist in his home state. I was sure that I could stump everyone, but a very discerning reader got the answer within an hour! I've also had readers take photos with my books in interesting places and send them in. I got a wonderful response -- my novels on beautiful beaches, the cockpit of an airplane, and in front of the Egyptian pyramids. I had such a hard time deciding on my favorite and ended up awarding a seven-way tie!
2.) How do you come up with your giveaway ideas? Is this something you do on your own or is it at your publisher or publicist's suggestion?
My publisher supports such interaction but so far it has been my idea and initiative. (Although my publicist did help coordinate one large contest). Facebook allows me to connect with my readers in such a satisfying and immediate way -- which has really changed my career from the early days when the only interaction came from emails and book signings. It really feels as if we're in a great big book club together. For that reason, I try to recommend other books as well as my own. People are always looking for a new favorite author or book -- and there can never be too much reading in the world!
3.) What is your general philosophy about giveaways? What are you trying to achieve when you do them? How do you measure whether a giveaway has been successful?
I'm sure the contests generate buzz and interest in my books, but I'm really not trying to achieve anything other than to make my readers happy and have a little fun myself. A giveaway feels successful if there are a lot of comments in a thread and people seem to be enjoying themselves. I also love giving away my logo and movie buttons and signed bookplates to anyone who sends in a SASE. I know how much it has meant to me to connect with my favorite authors over the years (at book signings, etc) so it's nice to be able to be on the other end of things.
4.) Do you think giveaways generate book sales?
It's very hard to measure what sort of impact these contests have, but I have the sense that I'm rewarding my already loyal readers (who have already read the books) rather than cultivating new sales. Then again, word of mouth is a powerful thing so if these "friends" share my page with their friends, it could make a difference over time.
5.) What is the giveaway that you would consider the most successful?
I like tying trivia questions into Facebook friends added. When I add 1k new friends, I run a contest. The photo contest I described above is my favorite so far.
6.) Do you find that being involved in giveaways takes a lot of time? Is this true for all social media?
I think giveaways are much less time intensive than blogging -- and really don't take up that much time. (Although my assistant who prepares the mailings and goes to the post office might have a different opinion!) Honestly the bigger drawback is the cost of shipping, which really can add up some weeks when I'm sending out a lot of books to auctions, charities, and contest winners. But it's worth it to me to be involved with my readers. I am so grateful to them and very overwhelmed by all the generous comments on my wall and in emails.
7.) Do you find your involvement in social media takes time away from writing
It certainly takes time away from everything, including writing. But I consider it a form of relaxing. Talking on the phone to friends, or reading magazines, or watching TV takes time away from writing, too, but we don't eliminate all of these pastimes in the name of efficiency. I enjoy the interaction. Of course it can be a great way to procrastinate, but in those moments, I just try to log off of Facebook, along with my email and phone.
8.) I've noticed that it's predominantly women authors who seem to be doing these types of giveaways. Would you agree with that? If so, why do you think that is?
I hadn't noticed, but it makes sense, for the same reason women are more likely to chat with friends on the phone. Men meet up to golf or have a beer; they don't generally exchange pictures and ditties on Facebook! ... That said, I do have some very loyal male followers, and I love when guys chime in on my page. They typically add a very interesting perspective and get a lot of attention from the rest of us. I've had a few send great photos too -- including one of a guy hiding my pink book behind a Tom Clancy jacket. As I told Ryan Seacrest, if he's not man enough to read a pastel book...
9.) Do you have any thoughts on the whole Weiner/Picoult/Franzen debate? Have you found that your books have been ignored by more "literary" book reviewers?
I admire Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult for their honesty and candor and understand where they are coming from. In addition, I'm not going to pretend that it wouldn't be a thrill to be reviewed by the Times in something other than a few sentence summer round-up. But to me, it has always been about connecting with the reader. If readers love what I'm doing and feel satisfied, I am happy. Beyond that, I just try to stay focused on writing the best book I can -- after all, others' perceptions of your work is often out of your control so I try to direct my energies toward things I can affect.
Follow Catherine McKenzie on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cemckenzie1