Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Big Ticket Giveaways

by Michelle Gagnon

I promoted my last book release by holding a drawing for a Kindle reader. People called me a fool. Even my agent expressed concern that I was overdoing it, that there was no guarantee that a big ticket giveaway would translate into sales.

Perhaps. After all, the old marketing adage is that fifty percent of what you're doing will work. The trouble is, chances are you'll never know which fifty percent.

So where in the scheme of things did my Kindle promotion fall?

It definitely helped. All someone had to do to enter the drawing was sign up for my free newsletter. My newsletter mailing list grew exponentially during the months that I was promoting the giveaway. Granted, there's no guarantee that subscribers even read the newsletter, never mind bought the book. But having thousands of people receive updates on my next release was far better than hundreds.

A large chunk of the marketing budget of major corporations is devoted to establishing brand recognition. Similarly, my goal was to get my name and the title BONEYARD out there, to build familiarity so that when people saw the book in stores, they would be more inclined to purchase it.

And in terms of actual sales, my second thriller outsold the first by nearly ten-to-one. Not that all of that was necessarily attributable to the Kindle giveaway, but I don't think it hurt.

Additionally, I promoted the contest through other marketing avenues. I featured it on Facebook and MySpace ads. I pitched it at signings and conferences. I mentioned it on every stop of my twenty-four blog tour.

Now, there was one criticism, and it came mainly from booksellers who were understandably loathe to support the Kindle. Personally, I think that ereaders such as the Kindle have the potential to increase readership across all formats. After receiving one as a gift, I've ended up buying more books each month than I did in the past. And I wanted the giveaway to be linked to reading and writing in some way, shape, or form.

However, I understood the complaint. For that reason, this time around I chose something that hopefully everyone could get on board with: a MacBook laptop computer (well, okay, maybe not Bill Gates. But nearly everyone else).

Again, I received a flood of emails from people telling me that I'm nuts. I respectfully disagree (although I concede the point is debatable, but for other reasons). For one thing, I did come up with a way to (hopefully) link the drawing to sales: anyone who answers a question that relates directly to two of my books receives ten additional entries in the contest.

Also, when I look back on the marketing budget for my first book, I spent far more and gained less. All things considered, pooling your resources into one big ticket item that draws some attention, and which you can cross-promote for free on blogs and social networking sites, is far less expensive than hiring a publicist. There are nearly 15,000 books published EACH MONTH in the United States alone. It's hard to stand out among all that noise.

Recently someone told me that Joseph Finder gave away televisions at bookstore appearances on his 2006 tour. Televisions! I have no idea if this is true (or, if it is, how the heck he afforded it) but apparently that spurred his book on to the bestseller lists (and I'm sure his events were packed, which always makes the booksellers happy).

Hmmm, televisions. Maybe next year.


  1. Marketing in most any form only. finds its worth in the end result. I think the giving away of a high value item will achieve a much higher number of sales than the giving away of bookmarks or water bottles, even more than giving away refrigerator magnets in the shape of a big eyeball with a spike through it and blood drippng over the title of a book. OK some audiences might like that last one. Anyway, I like the idea, Michelle. Giving something of value proscribes a sense of value to what you are selling. And people pay for what the perceive to be valuable. On that note, I have some value to create in my own mss...Enjoy your day.

  2. Michelle, you come to St. Louis and you won't have to bribe me with a television, but if you'd give them away, I'd have 100 friends that would fight for a place in line.

    I thought about giving away flash drives with a short story saved on it, but with all the viruses out there, I didn't want to be blamed for destroying somebody's computer.

  3. Michelle - I say, if it works, go for it!:) I'm terrible at marketing so my opinion probably isn't worth much but I think your strategy has been very effective so far!

  4. Basil- I"m going to throw that prize in with your elusive Flort (which was finally back in stock at IKEA, btw- it'll be heading to you tomorrow!)

    And Wilfred, I'm working on the TVs. Maybe next time.

  5. Hi Michelle,
    It seems like everyone agrees marketing is voodoo science, so your approach sounds as good as, and just as defensible as, anyone elses! It may not be an elusive Flort, but I wouldn't turn my nose up at a macbook.

    I'm looking forward to your BP signing... I can't make the SIC extravaganza, but should be able to make your signing.

    BTW, BP needs to correct the prices on your event detail page... looks like they split the difference between your book and Marks and you're both at $14.95, unless they printed new Trade PBs for you both! ;-)

  6. hmmm, seem to be slightly apostrophe challenged in that post. Must have used up my quota in the work day!

  7. I signed up to your news letter when you were having the giveaway and I have been reading your letter ever since , so it worked because as a writer I had never bought or read one of your books until I entered the kindle contest. I just wanted to pop on and tell you that thanks to your kindle promotion you gained another loyal reader even though I didn't win the kindle :) The promotion worked and I'm proof of that.

  8. That's so great to hear, exotic 1! Fingers crossed for you to win the MacBook...