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Book Blogging 101 - Why host a contest?

Spawned from the Big Sis, Little Blog program, Book Blogging 101 was born. Do you have a question? Leave it in the comments section or email me parajunkee at gmail dot com

Q. Why should I host a contest on my blog?

Hosting a contest is purely up to your own discretion. Chime in if you disagree, but the usual goal of hosting a contest it to generate buzz regarding your blog and garner more followers and increase traffic to your blog.

I will give an example from my experience to demonstrate exactly what kind of buzz a contest can generate:

The first contest I hosted on my blog that had a noticable impact was a 200 follower contest.  I had hosted a small contest with a single book from my library, but really only about 20 people entered.  My second contest was the 200 follower contest and by this time I had learned a little from visiting other people's blogs and entering their contests. It was a tiered contest, meaning the more followers I garnered the more prizes I gave out. Some folks do look down on these contests, and call them "buying followers" contests but personally, with the amount of paranormal blogs out there (and I was just starting out), you have to lure readers in some how.

  • This contest jumped me from 200 follower to nearly 500 followers within a month
  • Total cost ran me $40
  • I gave specific titles of books that I was giving away, instead of a general "any" book depository book for $10 etc.
    • By giving specific books, I could control the amount of money I was spending, without looking like I was obviously controlling it. I had a budget and I didn't want to go over
    • I went through the book depository (offers international shipping for free) so my contest was open internationally
    • Readers loved the international
    • Specific titles got people excited, instead of an exact money value
    • Now don't get me wrong if you put up a $50 or $100+ gift card people will get very excited, but still for my $50 Visa Card giveaway I had a lot less entries than my 200 follower contest? Why is that? I mean that is $50?
      • We are book bloggers, and marketing to book readers, we get excited over the hot new books.
      • $50 is just not as exciting as an ARC of Linger or the recently released Burned right?
    • Marketing is psychology, which is why a lot of things are 9.99 instead of $10
    • In my recent 666 contest I offered a choice of books or Amazon Gift Cards, both winners chose books, which in the end saved me money
      • Why do readers do this?
        • For one they will have to pay shipping on anything they buy at amazon
        • A book is just more exciting to receive in the mail than a gift card in your inbox, right?
To view the details of the 200 follower contest, here is the link:

A contest is a wonderful way to generate more followers.  My 200 follower contest was my biggest follower generator, but even for contests where I give away just a book provided by the author, I usually generate at the least, 10 followers.

Author solicited reviews will sometimes offer you a book for giveaway, but if they do not, it doesn't hurt to ask. Also, you can sometimes contact a publisher/author directly about having a giveaway on your blog and they will offer copies to you.  I personally solicited the publisher of Beautiful Creatures, with a general question... "Is there anything available, such as a Q&A session, guest post or giveaway?" and they came back with 5 copies for me to giveaway. I was very excited!

Your first contest most likely will be with a book that you donate. You might want to go through your stack and find a LIKE NEW book, or a book that you have two copies of etc. For a cheaper contest (all you have to pay for is postage). Make sure it is a hype generating book, or something with a bit of popularity.  If you don't have one in your possession go the the route. You can find a cheap popular book and then offer the contest internationally.  For example you can get Dead And Gone (TruBlood) by Charlaine Harris for 4.49 on the bookdepository.  With no shipping costs, for about $5 you can have a popular giveaway.

Also some general information.  Go sign up on the NING Book Blogs site. Hachette and Pocket both have sign ups for tours and giveaways (In the Groups Section), this is a great way to get started on your path to contest and blog tour greatness.

BTW has anyone heard if the moderator of is going to stay active since the Ning changes?

More on the subject (from the Big Sis, Little Blog ning site):

Q. I read recently a big blogger saying that bloggers that do the "add more books or money" to a contest are trying to win and buy followers. Im wondering any tips on hosting contests that make it simple for people to enter but also generate a bigger following base without people thinking....Im buying you?

A. I haven't found that simple entry, large follower generating, perfect contest. It might be out there..but I haven't found it yet. Simple one day contests, that just require a comment usually generate maybe 2 or 3 followers.

I've had contests that get absolutely no response, with maybe about 20 entries from already followers.
I've had contests surprise me with generating a ton of responses. It really depends on what you are giving away.

About the "buying" followers, personally I think if you say you have to be a follower to enter this contest, well then, isn't that buying a follower?  Giveaways are about Marketing - you are generating buzz and excitement, luring people to your site. Contests are a wonderful marketing scheme, if you approach your blog from a business outlook, you shouldn't look at it as buying followers, but as good marketing practices.

Usually to stem the "fishing for followers" noise, reward your old followers with extra entries. Reward top commentators, etc. this is a great way to keep your loyal readers in the yellow happiness.

Q. I haven't hosted any contests yet, but I was wonder about and how it actually works for multiple entries. I watched a tutorial on the site which explained how to enter all the emails for your contest, but couldn't find anything about multiple entries. Maybe this is really easy, and it's just gone over my head, but for me a tutorial would be helpful. Also, is this the best way to calculate competition entries or are there others (besides manually counting them and picking entries out of a hat!)

A. To answer your question quickly, I kinda taught myself this also. I use google docs and ask the entrant to add up their entries, so I have their entry number. Than I just add them down the list. For example:

Entry 1 has 10 entries: 10
Entry 2 has 6 entries: 16

Etc. Than I to pick a number and the number corresponds to the number next to the entry. So if says 12, it is Entry 2.

This is a view from one of my google docs. You see the area that says TOTAL POINTS +1 is the area I asked them to total up their points. The area that says is my area. I total the points. Entry 1 has 8 points generated so they are 1 - 8.  Second entry has 9 points generated so they are 9 - 17, 3rd entrant...etc. So when chooses #25, the winner is entry #3.


Dren said...

Great post! Thanks for taking the time to post info like this. I'm only 5 months old (blog wise) and I'm constantly learning the who's and why's of book blogging in our Genre. You're helping to tie the pieces together! Thanks!

salarsenッ said...

Thank you for this vital information. I'm almost at 100 followers right now and these are great suggestions. I really appreciate you helping out the newbie. ";-)

1inseveralbillion said...

Really insightful post! Thanks for sharing, I was hoping to host one soon and was a bit unsure of how I was going to go about it

Mrs. DeRaps said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I've been thinking about hosting a contest and am a little afraid that it'll turn out to be a lot of work. Maybe I should just host one and see what happens!

Tara said...

Thanks for all the helpful information!

Missie said...

Yes!!! Thank you! I have been curious about this!

Felicia S. said...

Great Post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. We kicked our blog off with a giveaway of a Lara Adrian book and I think it helped. I actually let the moderators of her fan forum know and they posted the giveaway up for everyone to see.

I've been thinking about contacting the publisher directly but I wasn't sure if that was really ok. Thanks for all the helpful information it really helped clear a few things up for me.

Stephanie G

Joanne Brothwell said...

Interesting post. I've been thinking about hosting a contest on my blog lately, so I'll be back to check this post before I do! Thanks!

Lily Child said...

Great advice! I pretty much agree with the entire post! I really did have fun when I posted my series giveaway. Yeah, I had to shell out a little cash, but it really was worth it. :)

Natasha A. said...

Great post! And great advice! Thank you!
I am hoping to host my first contest sometime this summer, and I am pretty sure I will be using this! :D

Christinabean said...

I really appreciate your Blogging 101 bits. I have been reading tons of blogs for a few months and am considering a book blog myself but like to be prepared before jumping in. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

Enbrethiliel said...


I love this post! =D

May I confess that before I read it, I was one of those people who looked askance at "fishing for followers" contests? =P But you've made the point well that book blogging is about marketing, and reaching out to one's target audience, getting the word out, and promoting some good books are all part of marketing.

Having said that, I must say that I'm not really into book blogging for the marketing. I like discussing books, especially old favourites which don't get much buzz these days. And I hardly ever read something that's new!

I hoping to host a giveaway to celebrate my one-year anniversary this July (Yes, I plan ahead! LOL!), but my main objective will not be to gain followers as much as to thank my old followers for all their support. There will still be an element of book promotion and blog promotion, of course, but I hope that the followers I attract will end up being active commenters after they join. =)

mountie9 said...

You've got tons of fantastic advice and ideas -- Thanks!

Nikki said...

really great post on the how-to's and why's of contests. i'm learning day by day by reading other bloggers' posts and advice. it's a whole other world with it's own etiquette rules, and i'm having a blast diving in. thanks for your valuable info!

Anonymous said...

I'm having my first contest tomorrow and I'm nervous - thanks for your advice!

bibliophile brouhaha said...

I just love this series. I am hosting my second contest now with the Gratitude Giveaway, and I've been stunned with the response. I went from 89 followers on Friday morning to 161 today. I hope they stick around after and truly enjoy my blog, but I just can't believe it. Here's hoping that I don't have a drop off once it ends! Thanks so much again for this series!

Book Lover said...

This was so helpful! I'm actually looking to host my first giveaway soon so I really needed the help! Thanks for posting this! :)

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