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Book Bloggin 101 - The Perfect Online Giveaway

I'm about to host my first sponsored contest. SO EXCITED! But, I'm a little scared. What do I do? Do I require people to follow me? Do I offer extra entries? Or do I do something fun like I've seen scarvenger hunts and stuff? - Anon
A: For most this really is a matter of opinion. So I thought I would do something different this week and open it up for discussion and debate. I've also included some polls so we can get even more feedback. Please VOTE we would love to hear from you. And chime in, your opinions do matter ;)

Topic #1: Comments vs. Google Docs Form

Do you prefer to do a contest where entrants just leave a comment, or do you prefer to use a Google Form?

Comments Google Docs
Pros Cons Pros Cons
Easy Set Up Takes longer to format & requires basic HTML knowledge
People can see who entered Protects entrants from spammers
People can continue to enter even after contests ends You can pull the form down the moment the contest ends
Easy choosing of winner Easy choosing of winner
Verifiable entrants Entrants can enter for every email address they have

Topic #2: Required Follow vs. No-Follow

Do you require entrants to follower, or do you prefer to just let them enter?
Required Follow Not Required Follow
Pros Cons Pros Cons
Increase Followers Followers don't increase as well as contest with required follow
Followers are only interested in contests Your followers are more viable and more likely to visit without a contest
Might aggravate people by forcing them to follow Easy entries, instead of making entrants jump through hoops
Only book bloggers and peoeple with a GFC are able to enter Everyone can enter

Topic #3: Extra Entries vs. One Entry

Do you like to have a lot of extra entries on your contests?
Extra Entries Straight Up 1 Entry
Pros Cons Pros Cons
Increase Followers in other areas like twitter, facebook, etc Follower levels stay the same as opposed to contest that do allow extra follows
Making entrants jump through a lot of hoops can be aggravating Easy entry
Entrants feel like they have more of a chance of winning, odds seem to be in there favor Entrants feel their odds are lower
Word spreads about your contest through the social networks News of your contest does not spread as far as possible
Non-followers become aware of your contest Only your followers know about your conest
Blogs that do tons of extra entries can confuse entrants Straight up, ease of entry

Topic #3: Including Address vs. Staying Anonymous

When hosting a contest, wouldn't it make it easy to have entrants include their address in a secure Google Form? Or do you think this is requiring too much?
Entering Address Stay Anon
Pros Cons Pros Cons
You don't have to email entrants for their address, they are going to give it anyway, what's the problem? You have to email the entrant for their address.
Makes entrants uneasy about giving out personal information. Entrants feel more secure.
A lot of the time, puttint WINNER will send an email into junk email, so entrants don't know they win, so sending the book out makes it a sure win. Winners might not know they won and miss their chance of winning the book.
You can also weed out the international entriest, if it is a domestic contest, for entrants that didn't follow direction Ever have a contest where even though you stated it was US only there turned out to be an international winner - and you don't find out until after you email them for their address and make the winners post?
There are entrants that will not enter contest that require and address, just because they think it is wrong to ask. Entrants feel like you aren't fishing for their personal information, or a spammer in disguise, or will sell all theire info to a marketing company.

Topic #4: Creative Contest vs. The Usual

More of the usual? Or let's get creative?
Creative Contest The Usual
Pros Cons Pros Cons
Spices up the contest and leads to a more fun contest environment The usual can sometimes be ignored by veteran bloggers
Your entrants go down because creative usually leads to "harder" More entrants because people like things that are easy.
You get more quality entrants. They get into it and you feel rewarded by their participation. You get a lot of "just wanna win" entrants instead of "die-hards"
Going "viral" might be more likely with a very creative contest You are seen as just another contest for a certain book...
Might be more intense to organize and require more time. Easy to implement and host.

That's it kids. Talk less. Read more. Happy Thursday!

Ask your BB101 Questions here...


Joy Tamsin David said...

As a reader, contests I can enter from my blog feeds are pretty easy so I like google docs. As a blogger though I prefer contests where the entrants at least visit my blog to enter, so I use a comment system.

Jennifer (An Abundance of Books) said...

I like the creative contests but either can't think of one to hold myself, and don't have the skills to pull of the "new cover" contests.

Lisa @ Read.Breathe.Relax. said...

This is kismet because I JUST finished my first ever giveaway. I did the following:

1. Included a Google Form
2. Did not require an address; emailed the winner
3. Added one OPTIONAL extra entry (tweeting)
4. Made it a "usual" contest as it was my first one :)
5. Did not require entrants to follow

My end thoughts are: the Google doc was so easy to use, and I got the chance to ask my entrants for ways I could improve, which added a lot of value to my blog.

I was ABOUT to email the winner to ask for their address (because I felt really weird asking for it initially)- and through checking their Twitter first - saw that they lived in the UK. My contest was for US entrants only. I saved myself some time, but could have been very frustrated by this process.

Including one extra entry by tweeting was amazing! I gained a lot of followers on Twitter and really expanded the reach of my contest.

I have seen bloggers have 10 different ways to gain extra entries and do not recommend this as it's very, very confusing.

And lastly, I strongly dislike contests that require a follow- it seems so self-serving, and I would immediately unfollow just on principle.

I hope this helps anyone new to the contest idea. I certainly learned a lot. Sorry this was so long, but I hope it helped!! :)

Moonlight Gleam said...

Great post hon!!! For my giveaways, I usually require the entrants to fill out a form and in addition, they must leave a comment to make the entry valid. In the form, there is a question asking if they commented on the post and it indicates that they must. So far I have had no problems with this and entrants can see who is entering my giveaways :). For the rare few who don't comment, I contact them and ask them to do so, so that they can still participate.

Birgit said...

Thanks for the great post!!

I'm relatively new to having giveaways on my blog, but I learned a lot from the first two I hosted - in other words, I did things quite differently the third time round!

1. One entry per person is sweet and simple and fair too (because not everyone is on FB, Twitter, etc)
2. Following is only required when it's a giveaway related to reaching a milestone number in followers, other than that it's no must do, because I only want people to follow me if they really want to (and oddly enough you will still get a lot of new followers even if it's not mandatory)
3. Using comments instead of a form workd for me (until I come around to learn how to set up that form, ha)

Oh yes, and it appears that no matter how SIMPLE you make it, there will always be people who DON'T READ THE RULES and head straight to the comment section.
Come on? Is it really that hard to answer one tiny little question to enter? Apparently it is. *SIGH*

P.S.: Just a lil' side note - sometimes bloggers don't state whether their giveaway is open worldwide or just in a certain region (in some cases it seems almost as if US bloggers "forget" there are people following who happen to live somewhere else) so please please please let people know where it is open!!

Missie said...

I really, really don't see the harm in asking people to follow you if you are sponsoring the giveaway. Of course it is self serving because you are the one making the investment in your blog, but what is so wrong with that? The hope is that your investment will pay off in some way that benefits your blog. If the following requirement bothers a person so much, I think it is important to keep in mind that, you don't have to enter.

Very informative and helpful post as usual, PJ!

Emily said...

I did a quick experiment with my last couple of giveaways- I allowed, in one case, an extra entry for tweeting about the giveaway, and in another case, an extra entry for being a follower. I didn't see a whole lot of folks taking advantage of the extra entry, and in the case of being a follower, many of the people who got the extra entry are people who enter every giveaway I host and have for quite some time, so I didn't gain as many new followers as the numbers would suggest. I also freely admit that I don't have the time or the desire to go through my followers list and verify that everyone who says that they're a follower actually is one (the winning entry from that contest was a non-follower so it didn't end up mattering.) Given that I have a sadly limited amount of time to blog these days, I'd rather spend the time writing cool stuff for people to read than tallying entries. I'd much prefer to pop the number range into and get my winner.

This a great post, as always. :D

Jolene and Family said...

I love contests and having a chance to win and I'm open to entering in most areas. I love the google docs, but don't mind commenting. I love extra entries and also don't mind following the blog but will always scroll through the blog first and see if our book preferences match before I follow. The only thing I don't like are the contests that make you jump through hoops. The scavenger hunts etc. I'm a busy mom with kids in sports and school and I don't have the time to sit down and do all the stuff necessary to enter those contests and if I need to come back daily, most often than not, I forget. I usually avoid those. Not always, but most of the time

ParaJunkee said...

@Joy – That is a great point. I like comments also because I also want people to know how many have entered, so if it is a low entry contest it might pick up speed later.

@Jennifer – I'm not good at thinking up stuff like that either. LOL I do it all day long at my work, but the contests that I come up with are for face to face clients so this can sometimes be so different for me.

@Lisa – I'm glad all that worked for you. Google Docs are easy to use, but I find half the time a lot of users don't follow directions. The last contest I used a Google Doc I had so many people I had to disqualify for some reason or another – I just changed the rules with my contests and usually do comment based. During the Paranormal Spring Break I did use Google Docs for one set of contests and once again, you can not believe the amount of wrong entries, double entries --- etc. Just weird, I don't know if it is something about Google Docs.

Now about checking the international thing on really might want to watch this. On two occasions I've had winners that were international when I stated it was US only. One had a US address that forwarded stuff for them and the other had family in the US that would forward the mail to them. I might ask first and judge later, just to be fair.

The tweet extra entry really works for me also. Very well and it spreads the word. The multi-entry system can be very hard, some of them make you jump through hoops to enter this. Prime examples of this are BIG mommy blogs. Wow. They will make you follow them, all their friends, all the sponsors, tweet, name it, LOL. This can get confusing, but if you want to win that prize enough people will do it. All a matter of taste...not for me personally so I don't enter those contests (well if the prize is good enough LOL).

The forced follow once again is a matter of perspective. You want people to follow you and when you are starting out a contest this is a good way to garner new followers. I think self-serving is a little harsh, its promotion, marketing, giveaway/reward system, it might not be the way you handle it, but once again contests are a wonderful way of increasing your readership. Give a blogger a break...most are just fighting to be seen in this crazy blogging world ;)

@Moonlight – That is a great idea to combine both. Thanks!

ParaJunkee said...

@Birgit - You know about the not following directions, that is one of my pet peevs. Do you know I still have people entering my contests that closed last year??? At least one a week. EVEN when I have a big THIS CONTEST CLOSED across the top. LOL I had to disable comments on my Iron Queen giveaway because I was getting more than one a week.

I also like to do the Answer this question in the comments section XX you know that kind of thing. But I'll get at least 10 – Great giveaway! And then the email address. Thanks for entering my contest peeps but really I wish you would read the directions. There are not that many....

@Missie – Once again all a matter of perspective. To each his own right? There is really nothing wrong with a forced follow, I used to do it. Back in the day – it is how I got to 100 and 500 followers. I really didn't stop forcing follows until I reached 1000 and then I was like --- oops I think I might have gone over board. I claimed my blog stuff on my taxes (can you believe it??) cause of the design I do on the side, umm I pay a considerable amount of money to do this, between the domain hosting, the shipping, the sponsored books, the linky memberships, the flickr hosting, the amazon gift cards that I give away every now and again...yup, it was over $200 in 2010. Not a ton of money but still it is an want a return on that investment, even if you consider a return on that investment a follower number. You make a great point, if you don't like it, don't enter. Thanks chick! And I appreciate that you keep coming back and making thoughtful honest comments!

@Emily – I hear ya, I don't have the time to verify all this stuff! LOL I do pick up quite a lot of followers during a particularly “hot” giveaway. In hot giveaways most everyone takes advantage of extra entries. You should have seen me and Tynga's twitter mention boxes for the Paranormal Spring Break. I literally couldn't answer people because there were so many mentions with me and her because we made it an extra entry for all contests --- it was inundating but really cool. We also did not make it required to follow but between the two of us our followers increased in the hundreds. Pushed me over 2K.

@Jolene – You seem just happy and open to it all LOL. I think the scavenger hunts work for some. I did it for one book during PSB and it had very low entries but everyone that entered were happy with it. I can understand how it can be a bit aggravating – but sometimes I like to shake things up ;)

Sarah said...

When I hold contests, I use a Google docs and make following an optional entry.

This was actually a topic on another blog recently, and they had some interesting legal things to say about it:

Man of la Book said...

My first few contests I required a follow, but then I re-thought about it and came to the conclusion that its silly.

I do have three extra entries (follow blog, follow on tweeter and tweet the post).

The idea is to make it as easy as possible to enter.

nymfaux said...

WOW--Great post!!!
--I think the only kind of giveaway I wouldn't enter is the referral based--I don't mind tweeting or following, or liking, but I feel sketchy about signing up friends/family, and unless it's something I think they're interested in, I wouldn't want to bother them about it.

I wouldn't require a follow/like/tweet for a giveaway, but I would still enter a contest that did, and I like having the additional entries--I don't get what's complicated about it
-I wouldn't require it myself, because even if it gets me more followers, it's just not me, and I can't do a lot of giveaways right now, so I wouldn't want there to be expectations

-On the other hand, I enter someone's contest, I almost always follow them anyway, because I figure it's only fair if someone's giving me something--also, if I follow them, I'm more likely to hear about any future giveaways they have

-I like the additional entries, makes me feel like I have a better chance of winning, whether that's true or not, and usually it doesn't take that much time or effort--I don't see what's so complicated about it--If you want to do the extra entries, do them; if you don't, don't. Yes, sometimes it takes more time--But if I really want something, then a couple minutes to tweet and copy the link and add up points is worth it to me
--As for not being fair, well, yes and no--No people don't get equal entries, but then, people aren't putting in equal time--If they want to put in the extra time, then they could have extra chances, too---It just depends on how much time a person has, and how much they want the prize
--As for some people not having twitter, etc.--I didn't have twitter at first, but I looked into it when I saw my first book giveaway--it was easy, so I signed up--And I've used it many many times since then, maybe it's not worth it for everybody, but it was worth it for me--But I like having the option

As for creative vs. plain--I've entered both--and again, for me it comes down to how much time I have and what the prize is

As for commenting vs. forms--as an entrant, it doesn't make too much of a difference for me--but I actually like the combination of both, because sometimes when there's only a form, I can't remember if I've entered the contest or not, and there's no way for me to check

--I started bookmarking contests when I enter them, and adding the contest close date to my bookmark, so I remember to check back once the contest has closed, also this helps me remember what I've entered

--One of my pet peeves is when contest winners aren't announced--because even if it isn't me, I still like to KNOW there's a winner...I know if I'm not emailed, then that's probably a good sign I'm not the winner, but if I don't see it, it keeps me wondering if there's a *chance*. Also, last year I entered a creative contest, with a big prize--I spent a lot of time and energy, I don't think there were a lot of entrants, and from the other entrants I saw, I was pretty sure that I had a VERY good chance of winning--It was a good prize, so it was worth it to me, but because they never posted it really soured me on the blog--I just want to know that SOMEBODY won, whether it was me or whomever.

Again, AWESOME post!!! I'm thinking of having a giveaway soon and it's great to see all the opinions and feedback!!!

also thanks @Sarah for the link, good info!

inga said...

I absolutely adored this post. And you know why? Because I have been kind of struggling with the topics you write above.
I was just participating on the contest for first time. It is hosted by two experienced blogs and I was so happy to be able to be part of it.
And what happened next was... questions of course. What should be the giveaway item(s)? What is google docs? How should the form look a like? Should I ask for follow GFC goodreads, Twitter etc? What exactly is
I learned very quickly how to use google docs, read about and then... I was stuck with the "following" topic.
I decided to go for mandatory GFC following and added two optional: Goodreads and Twitter.
I just saw a giveaway, wher you had to fill in 8 so called optional items - I gave up when I was halfway through it.

Riv Re said...

~On form/comments: I don't think Google Docs takes such a long time to set up. I don't know HTML, but I often use Docs. Comments can be disabled, on regular blogger comment setup, by the way. (Not so sure about intensedebate.) I prefer filling out forms, because in comments I try to be polite to the hoster, not just "awesome contest! thanks! [email]" making forms easier.
~On following: I think if you're supplying everything yourself, you can make it follower only. But if the contest is completely sponsored by someone else, how can you? I've only had 2 contests in my year of blogging (one just ended), so contests are a big deal. But my second contest was completely sponsered, so I offered extra entries to followers, but it wasn't necessary. I found a way to encourage new followers without making it follower only: offer three or four extra entries to followers.
~On addresses: I don't like it, and I'm often tempted to write in the address box "please email." If you want to weed out internationals, add a quick little question at the end "US?" for followers to check. If you're worried about "winner" going to junk, change it. Paranormal Spring Break went to junk (sorry PJ!) but it had a title that I knew wasn't spam. Personally, I stopped giving blogs my real name to send things too. I now just go by "Riv Re". (Which confuses UPS sometimes XD)
~On creativity: I rarely enter the recreate a cover contests, but some contests are really fun and I like them a lot. I had a contest where you had to go to the sponsor's site and fill out a personality-type poll. I don't think half the entrants did it, as 3 out of the 5 entrants (it wasn't a big contest) happened to have gotten the first choice I listed.

Wow. Sorry for the long comment, PJ! Thanks again for the great post! These really do a lot for me :)

Tipsy - said...

I'm so happy you're doing these types of posts. I love hearing your advise and other's thoughts!

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

The part about giving the address. I did it once only to expedite the information given to the publisher before I deleted the whole thing. I didn't require it and I stated I would delete the information after the winners were chosen/confirmed (if one didn't have an address given).

My problem isn't giving it to a specific blogger. My problem is having the information saved. I'm not worried about the blogger I visit, but hackers. I really don't want a hacker to have easy access to that information in one spot (not that it isn't easy to get the info, but darned if I'm going to make it easy). So, therefore I only give it to those I've known who I'm certain delete the info after the contest.

As far as google docs vs commenting. I've noticed that more will enter a google doc contest opposed to a comment. I will do comment contests for authors so they can get the feedback from readers. I do google for personal or blog hop giveaways. Just an observation. ;)

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

So I have one of each going on right now. Follower/non-follower. I like follower better. I like when I draw a name, it is someone I know and interact with everyday. I am showing them that I really do appreciate them. But what about new followers? Well...I feel like requiring a follow is aggravating enough that people will only do it if they like my blog. That's fine with me. If the follow requirement is aggravating...skip. I like that better.

I do not enter contests that require an address. It' not that I mind so much but I have to be responsible and extra careful when considering my family. It's not like I think someone is similar to the Craigslist killer or anything. I just sleep better at night knowing I am being as careful as I can.

As for creative contests...
It's a matter of time. I want to win free stuff but I rather spend my time visiting websites and commenting. If a contest slows me down, I probably won't enter because of different priorities. Don't get me wrong, I love winning and I love free books, but I have soooo many to get to that not having the chance to win a couple won't kill me.

I like extra entries because the provide optimism and choice. If I don't want to I won't. If I do, I will participate.

Cait said...

Really interesting post. My first contest was a follower contest-cause it was to celebrate getting 100 followers which was a big deal for me.
My current contest is sponsored, so it's one entry per person.
I like optional extra entries (I usually follow and tweet) I think if people dont HAVE to do them but can they can make a decision on how many entries they want to give. Honestly I usually tweet contests anyway-even without an extra entry ;) If people have taken the time/money to set up a contest it's nice to advertise that I think.

Alison said...

Fun variation on BB101. I just did my first giveaway where I had people enter through comments - out of laziness more than anything else. It was nice, but I prefer Google docs now that I've tried both. I had 2 contests at the same time. I noticed that the one through Google docs got more entrants than the comments. But that could be b/c of the book.

Also, I like contests where you don't HAVE to follow, but where it's an extra point. I don't have anything against requiring someone to follow for the contest, but I think it's better form to make it optional.

Savannah said...

Very informative! I love reading these things! I did have trouble with my first giveaway, but I did learn from it. It taught to be more precise with what I say. I got myself in a lot of trouble because I left things out, then changed it cause I made a mistake. Glad that never happen again.

marybelle said...

When it comes to contests just keep it simple. For yourself as well as the entrants. You don't need the hassle.


Jess Richardson said...

I actually prefer to enter contests where all you have to do is comment, even if you have to answer a question to win. The extra entries are annoying because I feel like I'm spamming all of my friends on FB and Twitter, 90% of whom would have NO INTEREST of entering. I'm sure some of them have actually hidden my posts on their newsfeed because of this.. True, I don't HAVE to do the extra entries, but then if I don't, my odds are drastically reduced so it's kind of a no-win, especially when it's a contest I'm excited about.

I don't mind being forced to follow blogs though, because chances are if they're hosting a contest that I'm interested in book-wise, I'd be interested in their reviews. I agree with the previous comment about having that as an optional extra entry though. As a fairly new blogger, I long to see a higher number of "followers" if for nothing else than that helps to convince publishers to give me ARC's ;)

I love scavenger hunt contests :D

nymfaux said...

@Jess--that's an interesting point about spamming--I guess I don't think of it that way, because I mostly use twitter for contests and the book people I know who would probably be interested in authors/contests, anyway--and as for facebook--I know a lot of people who do the farmville/mafia wars games and I just usually skim over those posts, so I figure someone can skim over my posts if they're not all changes so fast anyway...I guess it all depends on who your friends are/the way you use it

Patti (Book Addict) said... comment dissappeared :(

I like the comment giveaways b/c sometimes I might not enter at the moment I see the giveaway and then I'll go back and can't remember if I entered or not. I also like twitter (like you said, spreads the word), but not all the other hoops some bloggers make you jump through. It gets confusing. Simple is good.

April (BooksandWine) said...

I will follow a blog for a contest, but I won't ever read it again. I don't have blogger followed blogs in my google reader, I disconnected that because I don't have time to wade through memes and such, I only RSS subscribe to 100 or so blogs. (FYI I am RSS subscribed to Parajunkee in case you were wondering).

I don't particularly care for hard to enter contests, including extra entries. But, maybe my opinion isn't quite as valid because I haven't entered a contest in months, as I get the books I want and I feel guilty adding to TBR via contest. I don't even know if I'd read a contest book immediately.

Cialina at said...

This is a fantastic post! TBH, I never even thought about entrants cheating using Google. That's terrible and I really hope it doesn't happen too often.

BooksforCompany said...

This is a great post!
Thanks =)

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