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.