Blogging from A to Z: Reader Reward Contest

Blogging from A to Z is a month long challenge to post every day of the month (excluding Sunday) using a different letter of alphabet. This month I'm sharing unusual book marketing tips as part of my Marketing From The Edge Series.
Reader Reward Contests
As an author you can't ever stop trying to expose new readers to your work. At least, not if you want sales to continue. That said, in marketing there is a truth that is applicable here. It is easier (and cheaper) to retain an existing customer than to obtain a new one. What does that mean? It means, don't ever forget about the readers you already have. Not only will these fans be more likely to buy your next book, they will also help to spread the word about all your books to new readers. 

That's why I love the idea of reward contests that are specifically targeted to folks who have already read and loved your book. Due to the audience for this kind of contest, you'll  have to wait until at least a month or so after your book releases before this will be effective. 

So what kind of contest works best? It should have two components. The first is a focus on the content of the book. The second is a public space. Let's break those down.

A focus on the content makes it so only people who  have read your book can participate. Of course, you'd never make that an actual rule, but it will be understood. This creates exclusivity that makes your readers feel special, like part of the in crowd. 

Here are some ideas for a content focused contest:
1. Readers create their own advertisement or trailer for the book
2. Readers create their dream cast list
3. Readers create an original song or artwork that represents the book

Contests like this invite readers to make the book their own and take ownership of the story.

Once you've determined what the contest will be, you need a public space to host it. While the contest will target existing readers, by holding in a public space you invite others to see what all the excitement is about. The ideal space will depend on the type of contest you hold, but consider sites that allow users to view content without logging in. For example, anyone can view content on Tumblr or YouTube, even if they don't have an account.

I would advise against hosting the contest on your own site, though you'll definitely want to talk about it there. While your own website or blog allows you to control the format, you lose some visibility. On more public spaces, you increase the chance that people will find your contest entries when they follow one of those internet rabbit holes that tend to suck us all in. Remember, the contest is about recognizing your existing readers, but that doesn't mean it can pull double duty to attract new readers.

The reward can be any number of things, so long as it's something your readers will want. I would suggest keeping this more personal, a reward readers can only get from you. This means an Amazon gift card probably isn't the best idea. Remember that these readers are invested in you and your books. The reward can be something intangible, like including their artwork in your next book, or taking their video and posting it on your site. Give your readers an experience and they'll give you their loyalty.