Self-Printing Promotion: Contests, Giveaways and Freebies


The easiest and cheapest way to inform a lot of people about the existence of your book in a quick, sudden shock is to give copies of it away for free. News flash: people like things that are free. You can use this to your advantage to promote your book, increase blog traffic or get more Twitter followers or Facebook fans.

The Coffee Contest OR How I Sent Visitors to My New Blog

On the 1st February 2010, I left my blog (which was really just a mish-mash of messy stuff) and defected to WordPress, where I was determined to have a shiny new organized blog. To jump start its readership, I decided to hold a coffee contest to celebrate (read ‘publicize’) its existence.

I like coffee.

First, I needed something to give away. Mousetrapped was far from being out yet, so I went begging. I approached Cork Coffee Roasters, told them I was having a Twitter contest and asked them for three bags of their own blends. In the email I told them how many people, potentially, would hear of Cork Coffee on the day of the contest* and that in all honesty, I’d just buy the bags if they didn’t give them to me. (I would have). They kindly agreed; the contest was on. Coffee was the perfect prize – it was easy to mail, it was something special to Cork, where I live, and the name of my new blog was Catherine, Caffeinated.

I ran the contest for one day. All you had to do to enter was to retweet one of my ‘contest tweets’ or tweet something with the hashtag #corkcoffee. I had an instant readership for my blog – which, thanks to the contest, got over 500 visits on its first day – and three lucky gals won some scrumptious coffee.

*At the time, I think I had something like 400 Twitter followers. I hypothesized that if each of my followers had, on average, 200 followers, then 80,000 people (400 x 200) would potentially see the Cork Coffee brand name on their Twitter feed during the contest day. Was that worth three €6 bags of coffee? You betcha.

99c E-Books OR How I Got More Facebook Fans

If you publish your e-book with Smashwords, their discount code function allows you to give away copies of it at discounted rates or for free. You give the discount code to The Chosen One, they enter it at Smashwords’s check-out and lo and behold, they have a copy of your e-book for free or for something ridiculous like 99c.

I’ve used this trick a couple of times. When I was teetering on 99 Facebook fans for a couple of days, I tweeted that I’d give away a free e-book edition of Mousetrapped to fan number 100. (Within half a minute, I had 100 fans.) Another time I thought I encourage people to become FB fans so I’d have as high a number as possible for online launch day, so I tweeted that at some time in the future (like 3pm tomorrow) I’d send all my FB fans a voucher enabling them to purchased the e-book for just 99c (its regular price is $2.99). That worked a treat too.

You often see people do it on Twitter when they are follower fishing, e.g. ‘When I get to x followers I’ll give away a copy of my book to one of them. Please RT.’ This is a great way to get more followers and promote your book, and us Twitter folk like it when we win free stuff just for clicking the ‘Follow’ button. Bring it on.

Free Books OR How I Told 584 Strangers About Mousetrapped‘s Release allows authors to give away books in the easiest way possible. Pre-release or within six months of it, simply sign up to be a Goodreads Author (if you haven’t already – and you should have!), click on Giveaways and then simply tell them:

  • how many copies of your book you’d like to give away. A lot of people will enter, so it’s best to give away 3-5.
  • what countries/regions you’re willing to mail them to. As a Goodreads Reader, it annoys me no end when authors have giveaways but only spring for US postage. It doesn’t cost that much to send a book across the Pond, you know. In either direction. So don’t be a meanie and make your contest all inclusive, geographically-speaking.
  • how long you want the contest to run for. If you scroll through the existing Goodreads giveaways, you’ll see that they vary widely in length. Maybe run for weeks, some for months. I chose to run mine for just five days, the reason being that I wanted to tweet about it, to encourage people to enter, and five days of it is about the limit before people get annoyed.

Then you can just sit back and relax. Giveaways seem to get a great response from Goodreads users – my contest had 584 entries, and some on at the same time had over a thousand. The best bit is, you don’t have to pick the winners. Goodreads will do it for you and then send you their names and addresses. You pop the books in the post, confirm with Goodreads that you’ve sent them and that’s it. Meanwhile, 584 more people know about your book than did last week, and your winners might even review your book for you too.

See all self-printing posts.

Read about Mousetrapped, the book I self-printed.

Next on Self-Printing Promotion: Fun with Vistaprint (Wednesday).

4 thoughts on “Self-Printing Promotion: Contests, Giveaways and Freebies

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Thanks Marsha! You really should give Goodreads a go for giveaways. Even just test the waters with one or two books. It’s organized so well and they always seem to get a great response, and you’ll find that a good portion of the entrants add your book to their ‘To Read’ lists if they don’t win.

      Good luck! 🙂

  1. Suzie Q. Wacvet says:

    It was scrumptious coffee! Thank you, again! I didn’t realize they’d donated it to you. Good for them (and you). Now I guess I’ll have to order some more from their website. I still haven’t found anything I like as much.

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