Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Wendy S. Marcus - Planning Contests

The last time I was here, back on June 7, 2011, my post focused on planning a blog tour. (Presently this is stop #15 on my 30 stop blog tour to promote my debut Harlequin Medical Romance, WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN’T ENOUGH.) This month I decided to follow up with a post on planning contests – specifically my experiences and not the legalities involved.

I see them all the time. Join my mailing list. LIKE me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter. When I reach 500 friends/followers/subscribers I’ll give away an Amazon gift card. And I thought, heck, if it’s that easy to boost my friends/ followers/ subscribers sign me up. An Amazon gift card giveaway it is! But, in a desperate attempt to jack up my numbers quickly, I decided to take it one step further. How about separate contests for the months of May, June, and July with the prize of a $25.00 (U.S. currency) Amazon Gift card each month. All people had to do was LIKE me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter AND join my mailing list. And hey, since I wanted people to follow me on my blog tour across the continents, I also offered a $50.00 (U.S. currency) Amazon gift card to the person who visited me at the most stops as well as a book giveaway to one lucky commenter at each blog I visited.

Here’s what happened:

May $25.00 (U.S. currency) Amazon gift card contest:

Problem #1: After I promoted my contests, Facebook put out some new rules about people running contests where you need to LIKE a Facebook page to enter. The new rules were, in my opinion, confusing and made me nervous about running a contest that in any way involved Facebook.

Problem #2: People didn’t follow the contest rules. I got some new LIKES on Facebook, some new followers on Twitter, and a few people joined my mailing list. But very few people did more than one out of the three. The result: For the entire month of May, only 5 people met the criteria to officially enter my gift card giveaway contest. And one of them was already a Facebook friend who joined my mailing list. Another was already a subscriber to my mailing list who LIKED my Facebook page.

Problem #3: It was hard to reconcile if the RandyRedhead who followed me on Twitter was the Mary Margaret who subscribed to my mailing list on the same day. And because of the Facebook fan page vs. personal page issues, it was hard to distinguish between familiar author names that followed me on Twitter and the names that LIKED me on Facebook or subscribed to my newsletter.

Book give away at each blog stop contest:

Problem #1: I was told contests should steer people to your website. Make people work for that free book. And after seeing an author do this, entering, and actually winning a copy of her book, I tried: To enter into the contest to win a free book, all you have to do is go to my website, read an excerpt from WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN’T ENOUGH, and answer this question….. Maybe I got 20 comments on my post, most of them saying how much they hoped to win my book. But only two people actually followed the rules, read the excerpt, and e-mailed me the correct answer.

Problem #2: Now this problem may be unique to me, but since medical romance has an international audience and my blog tour consists of stops across the continents, I had no limitation on who could win a free book. Did you know it costs over $7.00 to mail a book that costs $4.75 to South Africa? This is something to think about folks. Postage can really add up. Then there’s the time it takes to mail international packages. Each requires a separate form to be filled out. After the first few packages I wised up and requested a handful of the forms so I can fill them out ahead of time.

$50.00 (U.S. currency) Amazon gift card to person who visits me at the most blog stops contest

Problem #1: Recordkeeping. Do you have any idea how time consuming it is to track all the people who comment on the blogs you visit so you can keep a record of how many times each particular person visits? Trust me when I tell you…it takes more time than you think. Luckily I have the help of the wonderful Nas Dean who is at this very moment compiling a list of everyone who has commented my blog tour thus far.

Problem #2: Originally my blog tour was supposed to run from June through July so in my initial rules for the contest I’d put the winner would be chosen at the end of July. Well, then I added dates in August. Dilemma. Do I change the contest rules or stop the contest encouraging people to visit me on my blog tour in July, as planned, and make it seem like my stops in August are less important than my previous stops?

Problem #3: As people found out about the contest, they went back to comment on old blog posts where I’d been and gone and hadn’t returned. Nas found this when she went back to compile a list of all my commenters. Prior to her help, I’d simply printed out the list of commenters three days after each post and had planned to go through them at a later time.

What ultimately happened?

After much angst, I picked the winner for the May $25.00 (U.S. currency) Amazon gift card and canceled the contests planned for June and July due to lack of interest. I am continuing with the book giveaway contest at each blog stop and have written off the cost of postage as a cost of doing business. I have tweaked the rules of my $50.00 (U.S. currency) Amazon gift card contest to specify that it now runs through August and each entrant has to visit me within three days of the post. No going back after the fact. I also cancelled the requirement that entrants also LIKE me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter AND join my mailing list.

Going forward I will think long and hard before I run any more contests. Oh, I’m sure I’ll run them here and there, but only with help. And I will put much more time into planning out requirements that are easy to track – so I don’t have to make changes to my website that confuse people. How embarrassing!

Go ahead and file all this under don’t let this happen to you!

So, are you an author who’s run a contest? Anything you’d like to share? If you’re a reader, what’s been your experience with contests?

One lucky commenter will win a copy of the 2in1 UK edition of my debut Harlequin Medical Romance, WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN’T ENOUGH – the winner to be plucked from my trusty margarine bowl of names by my beautiful daughter. (And I’ll mail it anywhere!)

To read an excerpt from WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN’T ENOUGH or to see where you can purchase it, visit my website:
Visit me on Facebook:!/pages/Wendy-S-Marcus-Author-Page/184507031577429
Visit me on Twitter:!/WendySMarcus
Visit me on Goodreads:


Wendi B. - Wendi's Book Corner ~ Rainy Day Reads in Seattle said...

What a great post! I've never thought about a contest from an author or PR standpoint, but from a blogger point of view, we can hit similar snags. I've found that the key is making them easy to enter, and limiting where I'm willing to ship things if I'm sending them out myself. :) I don't think people who don't host giveaways understand how much time goes into writing up the giveaway, monitoring it, keeping track of who is eligible, and sending stuff out... it really adds up!

Very eye-opening... Hee Hee - maybe one of us should specialize in running contests for people.

~ Wendi

Laurie G said...

I'm a reader. I do enter contests online at blogs. I have tried liking on Facebook but then received so many news updates I couldn't find info on my regular friend friends that I had to quit a lot of the sites.

I've also had trouble where I never receive the promised book.

Best wishes on your contest!

Thanks for the chance to win When One Night Isn't Enough!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Wendi!
Love the name, BTW! Growing up I never knew another Wendy until college! (And for a while, just to mix things up, I spelled it Wendie!)

I find with writing, many things take a lot more time than I think they will!

And if one of us ever specializes in running contests for people, it will NOT be me! I'm thankful to Nas Dean for helping me out of that tight spot!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Laurie G.!
I tend to LIKE authors on FB but if they clutter my feed, just like you, I unlike them. But I find that most authors do NOT clutter my feed and I'm interested to read what they have to say. If you like following authors, one option is to set up a page just for that. Then you can hop on and off as you like without interrupting your friends info.

And I, too, haven't received a promised book on occasion. Once I followed up with the website and never heard back. Oh well. If you win my book, please send me an e-mail if you don't receive it. So far, to my knowledge, everyone has...even with the Canada mail strike.

Thanks for stopping by.

Rachael Johns said...

As a newbie author, I found this contest post VERY enlightening! Thanks :)

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Rachael!
Make sure you check out my June 7th post on this blog on planning a blog tour, also. It was full of great info. Or you can find the link on my website: on my News Page.

Good luck with your book, and thanks for stopping by!

Ju Dimello said...

OMG Wendy! I was in awe that you were planning so many stops in your blog tour but never in my dreams did I imagine the problems that crop up in it!
Now that I see, I am doubly in awe of you / Nas for handling this in a great and professional manner. Hats off to you ladies!

And as an aspiring author myself.. I guess it's never too late to note down such points ! Thanks for being so open and honest to share this with us..

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Ju!
I suggest you make a folder of some sort with posts you find helpful and author website you like, because once you sell you're life will get crazy, and you won't have time to go searching for them.

Thanks for following me on my blog tour!

Regina Richards said...

This is one of the many things I love about you, Wendy. You're always willing to share your challenges as well as your triumphs and by doing so help to smooth the path for the rest of us. You are not only a talented writer, you're a generous one as well. Thanks!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Regina!
You made me smile! Many people helped me along the way to publication, and I believe in giving back. I'm glad you found this post helpful.

Thanks for stopping by!

Christina Hollis said...

Some great tips, Wendy. I've copied them and your earlier blog tours post into a 'Wise Words' folder as suggested. Thanks!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Christina!
I can't tell you how happy it makes me that my post ranked high enough to earn a spot in your 'Wise Words' folder. I'm going to share your comment with my children. Hopefully they won't laugh too hard!!!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wendy S Marcus said...

And by laugh too hard I meant to imply that they feel my words hold little value!

Desere said...

Hi Wendy,

I am the guilty winner of the expensive book to South Africa sorry about that I know I live on the complete other side of the world !

But mine oh mine how I loved the book is was super wonderful and so gorgeously written! And I so appreciated that you mailed it all the way to South Africa for me !!!

I am sorry however that I did not get to join you on all the stops of your tour so far, work has prevented me from joining in on all my favorite author things but my vaction had to end and it was back to work!

Take care and all the best'

Nas Dean said...

Hi Wendy,

You're indeed so generous for sharing all your challenges as well as triumphs. I just followed your advice, it's just that another pair of eyes/hands are good!

Thanks for sharing!

Estella said...

I have entered contests on blogs and won books.
Have also not received some books I won on blogs----this was mostly from publishing houses.

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Desere!
Please don't apologize. I was just using South Africa as an example. I've also mailed books to Fiji, Australia, Croatia, England, Malasia, and Canada. I was just pointing out something people should think about when planning a contest.

I'm so happy you won my book and you enjoyed it....and you joined my mailing list, and my author FB page, and Twitter and you visit me on my blog tour!!! Money well spent in my opinion!!!

Thanks for visiting me!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Nas!
Thanks so much for all your help with my blog tour/contests. I'd be nuttier without you!!!!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Estella!
It's frustrating when you don't receive what you're promised. From the author point of view I'll admit that after I mail a book out, due to time constraints, I don't typically follow up to see if people receive them. I have yet to notified any of my books did not arrive. Fingers crossed they all get where they need to be! And I appreciate when winners e-mail me to tell me they received it!

Thanks for stopping by!

Kaelee said...

Hi Wendy ~ I'm the one from Canada who finally got your book after the mail strike was ended. I haven't quite finished it yet but wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed it so far. Ali is a heroine I can really relate to.
I have won quite a number of books and have only had two authors who have not sent the books to me. I love the fact that you are willing to send a book around the world as so many authors limit their contests to residents of the United States. I usually don't buy their books. The authors from Australia and New Zealand are very generous with their books usually. I can't imagine going on a blog tour as long as yours is. I did start to follow you but life got in my way. Good luck with the rest of your tour and I hope to see you on some more stops if I can manage it.

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Kaelee!
I'm so happy you're enjoying my book! And I certainly understand how life gets busy. I appreciate all the blogs you've visited thus far and look forward to chatting with you again.

As far as authors not sending books, I prefer to think of it as they sent the book but for some reason it didn't arrive.

And since medical romance has an international audience, it wouldn't feel right to me to exclude people from my book give away contest. But that's me.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Nas Dean said...

Wendy, I also received your WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN'T ENOUGH and it is different from all other Medical Romances. It is more of everything! More sexier, more flirtier and very intense!

All those who've already read it will attest to this.

And my review of WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN'T ENOUGH is on Amazon, Goodreads etc. I also invite all folks to check out this author page:

which has all the links and other interesting stuff!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Thanks, Nas!
I'm so happy you enjoyed my book, and thanks for the wonderful reviews.

Laney4 said...

Hi Wendy!

I wrote down that you'd be at ASR on July 5 - and here you are! I'm glad you gave us your schedule awhile ago. I have not been to most of the web sites on your tour, but I have tried to comment on those web sites that I usually follow (like this one).

Even though I am a reader, I can totally relate/understand your frustrations/problems noted above. Perhaps it would be easier to make them shorter-term, as some authors say things like, "I'll post a winner on this blog on Saturday morning." An ending date might help so that stragglers who come in a few days later have missed it, but your loyal followers haven't - and you don't have to return ages later to check for comments. I know that some authors don't include ending dates, and weeks go by before someone reminds them, but they still don't always choose a winner. I've seen some "pass the buck" through the years, as I too haven't heard again from some authors when I have supposedly won their books. Some authors claim that they sent the book ages ago and it must have gotten lost in the postal system, but I'm not buying that with all of them. One author recently said that something like ten people won, and I just happen to correspond with a couple of those other winners, and none of us received her books, yet we live in different countries. We don't think she sent them and honestly don't think she intended to send them. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, though, I emailed her and suggested that PERHAPS the problem was with HER local post office, as I have received books from other authors just fine. She finally admitted that she had heard that some people hadn't received their books when she mailed them from this particular post office, so I'm wondering why she (supposedly) continues to mail them from there! As you can see, I am torn between believing it could be her post office, but also believing she could be feeding me/us a line, especially with so many books "missing". Ahhh, the joys....

Good luck on your blog tour. It can't be easy....

chey said...

I'm a reader and have entered some contest. I never thought about the headaches the person who's putting on the contest might go through.

Kaelee said...

Okay ~ Finished the book ~ I agree with Nas. It's a more book. It is a very sexy intense read. I love Ali and her kindness and insecurities. Jared is a great hero. He's very charming and very burdened by his past mistakes. I love the ending orange ~ oops ~ tangerine dress and the all the rest.

Now I'm looking forward to Valerie's story coming to NA in 2012.

Na said...

Thank you for an insightful post. I am reader and do enter in book giveaways. Sometimes when I find the rules too stringent I do tend to shy away. That is because I may not have a twitter, facebook account etc. and I feel with all the people getting extra entries there's no point in trying.

I do appreciate authors who guest blog, do interviews and tour their books. It is very time-consuming and can be costly. I wish you much success with your tour, hope you reach many readers and keep writing :)

marybelle said...

I laughed from beginning to end of this post. Hosting a contest is fraught with danger. Obviously NOT for those entering.


Nas Dean said...

Kaelee, it's Victoria's story coming next...Ali's best friend, the charge nurse in 5E? Read the interesting starting excerpt here:

After reading that starting I can hardly wait for ONCE A GOOD GIRL!

And Laney4, I was also one of the ten from that Harl Blog ;) And I haven't received the book till now! I did email back and asked her what date she sent so I could follow at my local Post Office, but no reply!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Laney4!
I appreciate you noting my schedule and where I'd be on my blog tour! Yeah, those ending dates are important! It's all a learning experience for me, and I'm trying to give those who will soon be running contests the opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

I'll be at the Medical Authors Group Blog at eharlequin on Thursday celebrating my U.S. release. I hope to see you there.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Chey!
It's not a headache. Just time consuming. But in my opinion, well worth the effort. The book give away contest has given me the opportunity to send books to readers who may not have read it otherwise. It makes them happy, and the fact that so many of them like it, makes me happy. So it's a win win!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Kaelee!
I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. If you're available on Thursday, maybe you'd be willing to come chat about it at the Medical Author's Group Blog on eHarlequin on Thursday where I'll be celebrating my U.S. release.

No pressure.

Thanks for stopping back!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Na!
I've met so many wonderful people on my blog tour so far. I know everyone is busy and appreciate people, like you, taking the time to visit and especially comment.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Marybelle!
Fraught with danger...Maybe only in the parking lot of my local post office when I go to mail my packages. And I hadn't thought of it before, but maybe by winners thinking badly of me if they don't receive my book. So far, the only person I know of who didn't get the book was Nas. (But that WAS my fault because I'd mailed it to the wrong address. But she found it at her local post office. Sorry!)

Thanks for stopping by!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Nas! (And Kaelee)

Yes. My next book is Victoria's story. The title: Once a Good Girl. It is scheduled for a December 2011 release in the UK and a January 2012 release in the U.S. Other release dates are still pending.

Wendy S Marcus said...

Thank you so much to everyone who visited today, and especially to those of you who commented. I hope you'll visit my website to learn more about me and to check out my books.

And now....for the book give away winner. (Chosen by since when I wrote this post I neglected to consider that my lovely daughter would be at sleep away camp.) #1 Wendi B

Congratulations! Please visit my website (address above). On my contact page is my e-mail address. Send me your mailing address and I'll mail out your book at the end of the week.

Laney4 said...

Congrats to Wendi!!!

And Nas? Thanks for letting me know you were one of those ten who didn't receive it. I just went back. We were promised the book in early Mar/11 and in early June/11, she replied to say she was out of author copies and didn't have another book out till Nov/11, but will forward a foreign copy in meantime if it's in English. Am not holding my breath.