Congratulations to Lily Cooper of Tempe, Arizona, who is the winner of my first YA book giveaway! She’ll have some awesome summer reading to do!

This was my first attempt at a giveaway, and overall I’m pleased with the results. Doing something the first time always takes way longer than you think it will, so I’m doing this wrap-up post to compile my own lessons learned for next time, and to help you authors or internet entrepreneurs who might be thinking about doing your own giveaway.

So, without further ado, here’s my quick and dirty list of five steps to giveaway success!

1. Identify your objective

The first step is figuring out what you are trying to accomplish with your giveaway. Is it to drive traffic to your website? Is it to gain exposure to a certain audience? To grow your mailing list? Increase your following on Twitter or some other social media? You can’t be all things to all people, so identify your top priority for this giveaway and tailor your approach to that outcome.

My primary objective for my giveaway was to build my email list, and any additional traffic to my site or social media platforms would be a nice bonus.

2. Procure your giveaway item

Select your giveaway item based on what type of audience you want to attract. Giveaways do attract some folks who are in it just for the free stuff, so you want your prize to be tailored enough to weed out some of those people. If you give away a generic item like an Amazon gift card, you’ll get more of entries from people who aren’t even remotely interested in the industry you’re in or what you’re selling down the line.

I chose five trending YA books for my giveaway item. I write YA fantasy, and I wanted the people entering and signing up to my email list to be potential readers of my book. When I was putting together the plan for this giveaway, I read through Derek Murphy’s great post on how he used giveaways to build his mailing list to 8500+. In that post, he also recommends contacting author’s reps to buy signed copies of their books to give away. I wasn’t sure I would have time for that, because I wanted to conduct this giveaway before my book launches next month, but I will probably try that next time and see if it garners more interest.

3. Find your platform and select your rules

Now that you have your giveaway item procured, you have to choose which company to run your giveaway through. The main ones are Rafflecopter, King Sumo, and Gleam. Rafflecopter has a free version and the least functionality, and King Sumo seemed like the most expensive, but with more than I needed, and so this Goldilocks picked Gleam. Since I wanted to focus on growing my email list, I liked that the Pro version of Gleam allowed me to have people sign up for my email list as one of their entry actions. The Pro version is $39/month, but you sign up month to month, and since my competition has ended I downgraded my account to the free version. I found Gleam very easy to use, and the code was easy to install on my wordpress site.

Gleam allows for all sorts of entry types. To enter, I selected “sign up for my email list” as a required action. Then, people could share, follow me on twitter or facebook, visit my website, etc. for more entries. (You cannot require people to like your Facebook page for an entry though, as this is no longer permitted by Facebook). Allowing people to gain more entries by sharing is great because it gets the word out beyond your own social media reach, and drives further traffic to your giveaway and website.

A note on how long to run your contest. I ran mine for 12 days. I definitely would not do longer than this, and I might do shorter next time. I probably could have run it for a week with about the same results. Most of the activity happened right in the beginning, and then in the last few days, when I was tweeting and posting that people only had one day left to enter. The middle seemed to lag, and I was worried about oversaturating my social media following with posts about my giveaway, so I wasn’t advertising it much. You will have to figure out what is best for you, but 1-2 weeks seems right.

4. Advertise your giveaway

The most important part! If you’re going to the time and expense of hosting a giveaway, you want it to get the results you hope for! So advertising is key. Here is what I did to advertise my giveaway:

First day I did a blog post which went out to my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Google + pages. I went into the Google + communities, Goodreads groups, and Facebook author groups that I am a member of and posted the info for the giveaway (where it was allowed by the rules).

I then posted my giveaway on the following sites: Contest Girl, Just Sweep, Online Sweepstakes, as well as a subreddit on Reddit about Gleam giveaways. I also paid $4.95 to post on Free Book Friday, and $14.95 for one week of premium advertising on Giveaway Promote. I could tell from my site statistics on wordpress that I was getting daily traffic from all of these sites, so I think these were worthwhile to list on.

I also Tweeted daily about my giveaway, using the giveaway hashtag. Once each time in the giveaway, I added the handle for each one of the authors whose book I was giving away, in the hopes that they would retweet to their followers. This would probably work even better if you had arranged with their reps to buy a signed book, so you were already on their radar.

The second to last day of my giveaway, I sent an email to my email list encouraging them to enter or share for more entries. I also republished my post indicating there were only two days left, which refreshed it to all my social media. The last day, I tweeted about the giveaway ending, and used the handles of all five of the authors whose books I was giving away. Two of them retweeted and I got a ton of new entries that last day!

5. Pick a winner and evaluate results

Picking a winner with Gleam is easy, you just press a button and it selects someone. Make sure to contact the winner and send out the prize in a timely manner!

Overall, I was pleased with the giveaway process. I had never done this before so it was a bit of an experiment for me. I spent about $110 on the whole thing ($50 for the prizes, $39 for  one month of Gleam Pro, $20 for advertising), and I got about 250 new email subscribers. Sure, it’s no 8,500 like Derek Murphy, but I am basically starting from scratch, so it’s better than nothing! I got the most page visits I have ever gotten on my blog, and a lot of new followers on all of my social media platforms.

Next time, I think I would partner with other bloggers and authors ahead of time so I could gain more exposure and reach. Partnering with five to ten other authors and each promoting each other’s giveaways would allow for a lot more engagement and entries. (Anyone interested in partnering with me next time?)

As a last thought, giveaways are great to drive traffic, but they don’t convert this traffic into fans. You have to take the next step to convert that name on your email list into someone who is engaged and excited about your work. That can be through providing great content to your subscribers, or giving them a piece of your work like a sample chapter or novella for free to get them exposed. I am just finishing up a novella, and I will be offering a free e-book copy to everyone on my email list in a few weeks in the hopes of getting some of those people to start reading my work and becoming fans. The giveaway is just the beginning!

Don't forget to grab your FREE copy of Burning Fate, my young adult fantasy romance!

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