Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Lisabet Sarai's in the house!
Contests as Market Research
by Lisabet Sarai
I can't begin to represent myself as an expert on promotion. Like most authors, I struggle, trying to figure out how to best allocate my scarce time in order to increase name recognition and ultimately sales. One promotional trick I've tried which has ancillary benefits is running contests that also provide me with information about my readers.
Every month I publish a “newsletter” which includes information on latest releases, acceptances, reviews and so on. A regular feature is my contest of the month. The newsletter is actually a page on my website, so it is easily accessible throughout the month. I've experimented with various types of contests: trivia contests, scavenger hunts, review posting, prizes for joining my email list and so on. One thing I've discovered is that anything that requires much work will not generate a good response! My most successful contests (in terms of response) have involved asking readers to send me an email with their opinion about some question.
I've asked my readers to tell me what Yahoo groups and review websites they like the best or visit most often; whether they like M/M romance and why; whether they enjoy F/F romance and why; what kind of paranormal themes they like best; and so on. I gather entries throughout the month (I have a special email address just for contests), then I randomly select one participant to receive the prize (usually a free book).
I have no idea whether these contests improve my sales. However, they offer other benefits. For one thing, I get some feedback on what readers are looking for in the books they read. I've received some thoughtful and detailed replies to my questions. I won't necessarily tailor what I write to match readers' preferences (for one thing, they don't all agree!), but a commonly held opinion will definitely influence my choices to some extent. Another positive aspect of this contest format is that it gives me the opportunity to engage my readers in email conversations. (I try to reply personally to every entry.) Finally, the responses give me fodder for blog posts and other articles. For example, I wrote about M/M romance on the Total-E-Bound blog last April and quoted from some of my readers' comments (with their permission).
I'm running a contest this month asking readers to describe their pet peeves in reading romance. The prize is the winner's choice of my two most recent releases, Getaway Girl, M/F light bondage romance , or Monsoon Fever, a historical multicultural M/M/F menage romance. I'd love to see some reader of Ginger's blog become my winner! Details are available at http://www.lisabetsarai.com/news.html