Why you shouldn't give away a book for your blog tour

Let's be frank for a minute. What is the goal of a blog tour?

1. Exposure. I really can't drive the importance of exposure in enough. If you are a debut author, or even a mid-list author, no one knows you. That includes me. Harsh, but true. Though I may have a small following here in my little slice of the interwebs, I am a nobody. The main objective of the blog tour is to start changing that.

2. Sell books. Not to underscore the importance of exposure, but organizing a blog tour is a lot of work to not sell any books. In a perfect world, readers will see multiple posts from their favorite book bloggers and rush to buy their own copy. I'd take a slow meander, but you get the idea.

So why then do so many authors insist on using their own book as the giveaway during their blog tour? Because here's what happens. Readers find out about a book that sounds interesting to them, so they jump through the various hoops to enter the giveaway and hope they are the lucky winner. And then promptly forget about that book, because there are other books to check out. They are not going to rush to buy your book if they are also waiting (sometimes for several weeks depending on the length of your tour) to find out if they won a free copy.

"But Sarah," I hear you hesitantly ask from the corner in the back, "didn't you just do a book giveaway." Yes, yes I did. And I think you should do them as well, just not during your blog tour. I did my giveaway for a few reasons. One, the paperback was finally available and I was pretty excited about it. Two, it was my birthday and I wanted to celebrate. Three, I wanted to do a little something to say thanks to all of you. I knew that wasn't going to be a huge giveaway with thousands of entries. That wasn't the point. It wasn't about exposure. Blog tours are different.

Ask a book blogger and they will tell you that giveaways bring more traffic to a blog tour post, so you'd be crazy not to do one. You'll just need to get a little creative when it comes to prizes.

You can go with a traditional gift card prize, but unfortunately, that's going to cost you. Because so many authors offer a gift card, readers have been desensitized by them. You're $10 or $20 offer will likely be considered not worth the rigamarole to enter. Readers like to see the big money. The downside of a big prize is that you are also going to attract a lot of traffic that has no interest in your book, or maybe any book. This is also why I don't recommend big ticket items like Kindles or iPads.

The sweet spot is finding a prize that is going to be attractive to readers without drawing in all the people who aren't your audience. Because you want a reader to win. A reader will tweet or post about winning, maybe even share a picture, all of which earns you additional exposure. A non-reader is not going to do that.

I've decided to give away a #RiteOfRejection Reader Survival Pack. Yep, I'm pulling out the hashtag again. :)

I'm excited about this because it offers one of a kind items that readers will hopefully want, but won't be all that attractive to someone just scanning the web for prizes. So here's what I'm giving away.

1. A Chapter 17 tissue pack
Because that's when you'll need them (Sorry, but not really). Once you have them out, it's probably a good idea to keep them handy. You know, just in case.

2. A jumbo sized chocolate bar
Real food of any kind inside the PIT is a major find. Chocolate is a minor miracle. I shudder to imagine living in world without chocolate.

3. An orange scented candle
This one is courtesy of Rebecca's fondest memory from home. I wish you could scratch 'n sniff your screen. It smells soooo good.

4. A dandelion pen
Obviously, from the cover, dandelions have a significance in the book. I don't want to give too much away, but using this pen should make you smile.

5. Handcrafted Molly bag
Named after the character responsible for sewing them in the book, these are the bags used by the main characters to carry everything and anything they need in the PIT. And yes, I did make this one.

6. $10 Amazon gift card
On it's own, it won't draw much of a crowd. But as part of a larger prize pack, it's a nice addition that gives the winner a little something extra for their stocking this year.

I was able to keep costs low by making some of these (the pen and the bag) and selecting items that aren't expensive, but are unique and/or have some special significance to the book. In total,I put all of this together for less than $20. That's a completely reasonable amount to spend on a blog tour prize pack that will hopefully draw hundreds of new readers to learn about my book.

When it comes time for your own tour think about locations, special moments, symbols and physical items from your book that would make good prizes. It's a good idea to create a mix between practical and meaningful prizes. Even if you don't spend a lot, you want your prize to have a high perceived value. Including an item that is limited in quantities (like the handmade bag) can really bump up how valuable readers think your prize is.

If you aren't crafty or lack the creativity gene outside of word slinging, ask your early readers for ideas. The book should be fresh in their minds and, ideally, they represent your target audience. You might be surprised with what they come up with.

So what do you think? Is the #RiteOfRejection Reader Survival Pack a prize you would want to win? What are some unusual items you've used or seen in author giveaways?