So if I started my blog and offered free books, free critiques, and other cool free “stuff”, people would follow me like the mice of Hamelin followed the Pied Piper, right? Well, not so much. Because free is like hot. Neither means a whole lot unless attached to something else. A hot stove, hot salsa, and a hot male are not the same “hot”.
So it is with free. Free books, free critiques, and even free e-readers by themselves aren’t going to build you a following because free is only as good as what’s being offered and more importantly, how much your target audience wants it and what they are willing to do to get it.
See? The cat people are like “whatever” to the puppy and dog people will love it but probably already have a dog and can’t/won’t take on another. Readers may like the free books but if they already have a to-be-read (TBR) pile ten titles deep, that’s not as exciting unless one of the titles being offered is one they want or think they might really like. The cash is cash. Enough said.
Giveaways are not a waste. They will not build a platform, but they will sustain one when used correctly. For giveaways to function this way, they need to be extensions of your value proposition.
Value Proposition = What your social media outlet provides that is worth the currency of time and effort for followers to partake of it, even when that means nothing more than read it. This is what builds a following.
Seekerville is Exhibit A. Their value proposition is teaching about the craft of fiction and the publishing industry, and building relationships with other authors and readers. The chocolate, books, critiques, and contests are great value-added that we REALLY LIKE, to help pull the lurkers out of hiding and make it more rewarding for us to be here.
Super-Agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog is Exhibit B. Her following is tremendous because of her insight into the current publishing climate as an agent. This is her value proposition. Giveaways there are rare, and are typically a critique of a query or something related. Her value proposition alone is strong enough to maintain a loyal following and when the giveaways come, they still tie in specifically to her value proposition.
Fiction Addiction Fix is Exhibit C. It’s free in its purest form. This blog advertises fiction giveaways for others. It is all this blog does, and for someone looking to win free books or have their giveaway advertised, I highly recommend it. Being a clearinghouse for giveaways is their value proposition and is building their following.
For the multi-published author: You have readers and a fan base. Sure, you can give away books but if we’re really the kind of fans you hope we are, we’ve already bought them and are telling our friends about them. Utilize all kinds of fun contests like fan-fiction, strangest place to read my book photo contest, and other strategies that reward your fans for being fans. Make the prize/giveaway opportunities to name a character, be featured on your website for a week, or win something autographed that relates to your current release. Promote them through your established social media outlets and connections.
For the newly published author: You are establishing readership. You should give away books but because these are finite, make the most of them. You want those books to go to people who will get other people talking about how much they like them in a highly visible way like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Capitalize on the established value propositions of others, and sweeten the deal by offering a good giveaway like an Amazon gift-card drawing for your hosts and hostesses and other influencers to increase their incentive to help you get your novel out there.
For the pre-published author: You’re in the twilight zone of platform building right now. Consider how what you blog, tweet, Facebook, or pin is different or unique in the value proposition you offer. Let’s face it. Chronicling the journey toward traditional publication in an online diary of sorts or reviewing books is already being done to the point of web saturation. Those with successful followings have them because there is something very unique in their value proposition that makes their followers engage and remain engaged.
I’m a success story with this. After floundering for two years to understand what my value proposition was after disappointing results and failed giveaways, I took a step back. I looked hard at what I was passionate about and prayed to God for help. All the pieces came together and One Author’s Adventures Writing Epic Historical Heroes became Fiction Hero Features. My value proposition became showcasing great heroes and I supplement that with giveaways of the novel for new readers and giftcards for existing readers of the featured hero. My hit counter shows what happened. So don’t give up.
For the readers and followers: You’re the real prize for the authors, bloggers, and book reviewers hosting the giveaways. Here’s a not-secret. We love when you comment on our blog posts, Facebook pages, and tweet us. If you stopped by for a chance to win whatever we’re giving away and don’t follow our blog, don’t think it’s tacky to just enter the drawing. We know we’re trying to earn the right of your time and attention and that may take a little time. If you want to stick a “thanks for the opportunity to win
- Giveaways enhance a following, they do not build one.
- Consider the cost/benefit and your end-goal and strategy with giveaways before shelling out those gift-cards or the newest e-reader to give away.
- Sometimes really great stuff is too unique for most people to care. You can have a drawing for the most amazing antique sewing machine ever on your book blog, but how many people are really going to want that? (I’m sure we’ll find out in the comments.)
- For your critiques, opinions and advice to carry strong value, they need to be substantiated by some credible awards, contest finals, or some other “street credit” like a good sized and engaged following backing it up. A blog with five hundred followers and an average of two comments per post tells me something, but that’s an entirely different blog post for another day.
- Find your value proposition or keep trying things until it finds you. That’s your platform. Then tailor your giveaways to supplement your value proposition and strategically invest the time and money right for you.
Nancy would love to hear what you think, today she is giving away a $25 gift card, Amazon or Barnes & Noble, winner's choice, to one commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
Award-winning author, avid reader and shameless hero addict, Nancy Kimball makes her home in Houston, Texas. She doesn't understand the point of white crayons and is always on the lookout for another great fiction hero when she isn’t busy writing them. Eventually some inspired literary agent is going to seize upon what the contest judges are beginning to recognize and her manuscripts can continue on their way to becoming books. Until then she’s content to enjoy the journey, form great friendships, work hard and always trust God and His perfect timing. You can keep up with her happenings and various writer randomness at www.facebook.com/authornancykimball and are always welcome at her blog http://www.fictionherofeatures.com where you can enjoy the heroes, enter the giveaways, and nominate candidates for upcoming features.