How to set up a successful online contest


When done right, online contests and giveaways are an effective marketing strategy for authors. Before launching your next contest, review these how-to tips and guidelines to create a successful online giveaway.

Know your goals

When deciding what type of contest to run, the first question you need to answer is what do you want to accomplish? Once you’ve identified your desired outcome, you can structure your contest accordingly.

• Are you trying to attract more traffic to your social media/website?
• Do you want to collect names for your mailing list?
• Do you want to build relationships/name recognition with readers?
• Do you want to generate excitement/interest in an upcoming release?
• Are you trying to maintain reader relationships in the lull between releases?
• Are you trying to stimulate engagement/interaction between you and readers?

Decide on a prize

The next element for consideration is what type of giveaway will be offered. Again, this will depend on the goal you are trying to accomplish through your contest. If your purpose is to increase readership, give away copies of your book. If your mission is to generate return traffic, consider offering weekly gift certificates. If you offer an actual prize, don’t forget to factor in the cost of shipping. For example, a $10 paperback may only cost a few dollars to mail to someone in the U.S., but what if your winner is from New Zealand? Many times is it more cost effective to offer a gift certificate or e-book to avoid shipping/postage. Have fun with the prizes you offer, but try to connect it back to your author brand or books to reinforce that message to your audience.

Contest type

What action will be required for people to participate? Do they need to refer a friend, sign up for your newsletter or comment on a Facebook post? Keep in mind that the simpler a contest is, the more participation you will have. These are some popular types of contests:

• Photo/video (submit content or vote on content)
• Picture captions
• Like/Share a Facebook post
• Comment in response to a prompt

Frequency and Timeframe

Again, this depends on the goal of your contest. If you want to keep readers engaged and coming back, consider offering a weekly contest (featuring it on the same day every week is a good strategy) with a lower-value prize. If your goal is to build name recognition and attract new fans, consider offering a higher-value prize and running the contest for a longer time period. Contests that run for longer periods of time require regular and frequent promotion. The downside is that people who initially entered and were excited may lose enthusiasm waiting to see if they’ve won.

Know the rules

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have strict regulations about contests and promotional activities. Take a few minutes to research these regulations to avoid having your contest or giveaway cancelled.

Terms and Conditions

Before launching your contest, you need to establish the terms and conditions: Who may enter? Is it geographically limited? What is required to enter? What is the prize? How will the winner be selected? How will the winner be notified? What must the winner do to claim their prize? Is there a time limit on claiming a prize? If no winner comes forward, will another winner be selected?

Contest promotion

Promotion is critical for a successful contest. After all, you’ve invested time and money in creating the contest and you want people to be excited about winning. Announce your contest on your website, blog, social media channels and in your newsletter. There are also many reader groups on Goodreads and Facebook that allow you to share announcements such as contests and giveaways. Encourage friends and peers to share the contest on their promotional platforms also.

Contest apps

With the increased number of people accessing social media from mobile phones, it’s important to make sure your contest is mobile-friendly. Many DIY apps (such as OfferPop, North Social, Wishpond, PromoSimple, Rafflecopter and SnapApp are an easy (but not always free) solution to this problem, plus they help simplify contest management.

What type of online contests have worked well for you? What didn’t work? Share your favorite contest strategy or most popular giveaway.



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