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Giveaways Part Deux: Have I Learned Any Lessons?

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Regular readers of this column (Wait. Do four previous blogs make a column? Can you even make a column out of blogs? Will have to look that up in OED. Anyway), may remember that a few weeks ago I wrote a blog entitled "Do Author Giveaways Work?" where I investigated a new phenomenon I'd observed on Facebook: authors banding together to do large book giveaways to support another author.

As far as I can tell -- being the crack investigative writer that I am -- the trend was started by Allison Winn Scotch (The One That I Want), and spread from there to Leah Stewart (Husbands and Wives) and so forth, with each giveaway getting larger in terms of participants and books available to win.

The latest such giveaway -- again as far as my slightly obsessive Facebook watching can tell - was hosted by Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy) in support of the launch of the paperback version of her book. Because the theme of her book centers on the relationship between sisters, she asked the participating authors to donate two books each -- the winner would receive both, one for herself and one for a sister or close friend. Therese was able to attract 54 authors to the giveaway, for a total of 108 books being given away.

Therese reports that she was looking to achieve three goals with her giveaway. The first was to create buzz for the paperback launch by connecting potential readers with the theme of the book. The second was to attract new readers to her Facebook author page (in order to enter, you had to "Like" her page), and the third was to set up the campaign to potentially go viral by giving participants an opportunity for additional entries if they advertised the giveaway on Facebook or Twitter.

After some hard work -- putting together the information on each book and author was time consuming -- Therese is pleased with the results. In the end the giveaway had approximately 650 entries, and she received an additional 500 members of her fan page. Therese believes that the fact that so many authors participated in the giveaway was one of the reasons for its success. Strength in numbers is important in the noisy world of book promotion. "Social media only makes that world noisier," Therese said, "and having so many participants captures readers' attention."

An aspect of Therese's giveaway that particularly intrigued me was her requirement that participants write a note on Facebook where they listed the books they wanted to win. Each participant had to list The Last Will of Moira Leahy, the idea being that the simple act of writing out the name would keep it top of mind. This kind of marketing technique reminds me on an old adage I learned in law school: if someone hears something once, they might believe it, if they hear something twice they'll probably believe it, and if they hear something three times you'll never convince them it isn't true.

So, now, what do I do with all this newfound insight into a successful book giveaway? Throw one of my own, of course! Oh, and tell you a little about one I already threw. Again, if some of you are regular readers (and hey!, I have 22 fans on here, so a few of you must be), you'll know that I started a project on Facebook called "I bet we can make these books bestsellers" to bring some attention to books I loved (the current selections are Jessica Z. and Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens). After toying around with giving away a book or two, I decided to give away a Kindle and see if that generated some book sales. And, low and behold, it did. There were approximately 2000 entries into the contest (merely being a member of the group gave you an entry, as did spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter), and 100 of those came from purchases of Jessica Z. and/or Two Years, No Rain.

Was it worth it? Well, in terms of spreading the word about these two books, definitely. But did it generate Oprah-like book sales? Obviously not. That being said, I am convinced these types of giveaways have both an immediate and future pay-off. And because I'm still curious about figuring out a formula that works, I'm holding my own big book giveaway in support of the Facebook group. The contest will start on Monday, August 23rd and run for a week, and I'm really excited about the authors who have agreed to participate. Check out the group page or my Facebook page for details.

Which brings me to my closing thought -- for now -- on the topic. What have all these giveaways really taught me? That there is a community of authors out there who, while all going after essentially the same audience, are rooting for each other. What a nice lesson to learn.