by Michelle Gagnon
Figment.com has just announced a contest to celebrate the release of my YA debut DON'T TURN AROUND.
In keeping with the theme of the book, they're asking for a story about
teen rebels with a cause, in 1,200 words or less. The winner will
receive a 13 inch MacBook Pro (a computer that features
prominently in the storyline, since it's sort of a "Girl with the Dragon
Tattoo for teens"), and a signed copy of the book.
I'm really excited about this (especially since, for a
refreshing change, this time I won't be the one paying for the grand
prize!) However, I wonder...do giveaways really lead to more copies
For my second book, BONEYARD, I held a Kindle contest.
Anyone who signed up for my newsletter got their name thrown into the
hat (mind you, this was for the Kindle 1, which as a brand spanking new
device retailed for $450).
That was, to date, my bestselling novel.
I was hesitant about repeating that particular contest-after all,
signing up for my newsletter didn't necessarily translate to purchasing
the book; and many might simply unsubscribe as soon as the contest
ended. (For the record, I didn't experience an unusually high dip in
subscribers in the aftermath). Plus, it was a lot of money to spend
without a quantifiable return.
So for my third thriller, THE GATEKEEPER, I decided to
take it up a notch. I offered a MacBook (paid for out of my own advance)
to anyone who could answer two easy questions about the book.
received a decent number of entries; certainly not as many as with the
previous contest, but a respectable amount. To enter, a reader needed to
provide the names of two specific characters, in response to a fairly
simple question for anyone who had read the book.
But some people literally sent a full roster of every
character in every single one of my novels. One woman emailed me
directly twenty times over the course of a day, listing two characters
at a time (a few of whom weren't even from any of my books), asking
repeatedly, "These two names? What about these two?"
I gently pointed out that randomly throwing names at me wasn't really
keeping in the spirit of the contest, she got huffy and fired off a
nasty email about how spoiled authors were, and how this was the only
way she could get a new computer. Plus, she wasn't a big reader in
general, and found it unfair that she be asked to read something in
order to enter a giveaway.
*Sigh. The entire experience ended up leaving a bad taste
in my mouth (not to mention a dent in my wallet). So for my fourth
book, I skipped contests entirely.
I had no idea that Figment was going to be running this
contest until it posted; I love the idea behind it, though. Especially
since Figment serves as a virtual writing community. And I'm terribly
flattered that they're offering such an amazing, generous prize.
But will it translate into sales? Hard to say. I know the
old 50% marketing adage (half of what you do will work, but chances are
you'll never know which half). But it's a source of perpetual
frustration for every author--where do you concentrate your marketing
time and money, especially now that there's such a huge array of
options? Hemingway never had to deal with Twitter (although I suspect he
would have been fantastic at it, with his knack for sparse prose).
So what do you think? Has a giveaway ever persuaded you to purchase a novel you never would have picked up otherwise?