Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TUESDAY TIP More #Giveaway Lessons Learned #pubtip #howto #indie #selfpub

So the Ginormous 30,000 Hit Giveaway is over, and I'm starting to recover. I've only got one task left: contacting all of the winners to be sure they know what they won and/or have been properly contacted by their donating authors. As I've wrapped things up, I've realized a few more lessons were learned than I'd reported last week. Click through the jump break to learn along with me.

Size Matters
In 2011, I ran a Freebie Fridays feature, where I had only 3 to 5 authors, preferably of like-kind genres, and the handful of us would collectively promote the heck out of the one-day event for up to a week beforehand (no more) using really customized tweets and posts on Goodreads or Facebook.

What'd I learn from this? Well, I had 72 authors (with a collective a total of 418 books) rather than 3 or 4 authors with one book each and the same processes that apply easily to a handful or less decidedly do not scale up. At least, not given that there's still only one of me.

I'm also not entirely convinced that the readers got a better "bang for the buck" worth of effort. Some dozen or so "power players" got a boatload of books but for the most part, individual users just got one or two books anyway. In a Freebie Friday feature, all 3 or 4 the books are free for that one day and all readers can get all of them, no strings attached. They don't even have to enter any information to do it!

I might change that aspect of the Freebie Friday feature when I restart it and use a widget. Why? ROI--for me and for the authors. The entry widget is a nice way to count/track entries by individual users. The bottom line numbers on this ginormous giveaway were about a 1:1 ratio of reader to author, around or just over 70 of each. While that was better than having less than one reader per author, I'd kind of hoped to have a higher ratio of readers to authors. Since I can get the readers here, decreasing the number of authors modifies the ratio as desired.

Return on Investment (ROI)
Usually, my Freebie Fridays were what I called a "win/win/win." That is, readers won because they got free books (check, that happened in spades here) and authors won because they got new readers. As a couple of contributing authors have noticed, the readers during this giveaway were a little different than the usual raffle players. Even the "power players" were new to most of the authors. So that was probably a "win," too.

I haven't solicited any numbers from any of the 70+ authors, but already several have reported sales (as opposed to people just getting the free books with the coupon codes). During Freebie Fridays, about 20-30% of the downloads are for-pay versus for-free, so this is probably the same level of ROI regarding sales.

I won because I got more traffic to my blog and fans on my Webbiegrrl Writer Facebook Fan Page. Typically, I get about 100-150 hits a day and during Freebie Fridays it would spike up to 400-500 hits. During this event, it was spiking up to 600-650 so a bit higher but not dramatically so. Let's look at my results during this giveaway.

My hit count passed the 30,000 mark after 3 days of soliciting authors for books (back on Dec 2 or 3, I think it was) and I'm at just a dozen or so under 36,000 this morning as I write this. I'm not as interested in the hit count as I am in the readership actually reading my content and participating in discussions here. On that note, I got a little over 100 new "fans" on Facebook and about 50 new followers via Networked Blogs, which is all fine and nice, but I wonder if any of those people will read the content. I grimly suspect many will just uncheck "show in newsfeed" to make my marketing blogs go away. Hopefully, my evolving content will interest them enough that at least half stick around. That'd be enough ROI for me to call it a "win."

I don't usually sell any books of my own during a Freebie Friday event and I've sold a dozen or two copies of each of my books during this giveaway without actively promoting myself (too busy promoting the event!) so that was a nice "free win" for me. My promo tweets on Twitter fell completely silent except for the giveaway announcements--and there I lost. I try to keep my auto-tweets going 7 days a week.

I also lost 38 Twitter followers due to the high-traffic level of generic promo tweets. I suppose 38 is not a lot but I don't like to see anyone go due to "noise." I think the useful content was missing because the tweets were not customized to each author's books the way I do during Freebie Fridays. People don't seem to mind a promo tweet that informs as much as one that's an overt advertisement with no other semantic value.

Using the Right Tool for the Job
For Freebie Fridays, I didn't use any kind of "entry" tool--everyone was a winner! Anyone who came to the blog could follow the link to find the free book and having the book priced at "free" ($0.00) on the day of the event was one of the requirements for authors to be featured.

This time, I used a raffle widget from Rafflecopter. As noted, I liked the fact it kept track of who was here and entering but it wasn't a very reliable tool. I think it probably would've been okay if I'd had a small number of prizes (half a dozen) but since I had over 100 titles to enter, it was a fairly unweildy raffle and challenged the widget-code's limits. Added to that was the fact that the makers of the Rafflecopter had (unwisely) "upgraded" the widget a few days earlier--unbeknownst to me! The "upgrade" was causing their regular users one nightmare after another. My new user issues weren't even the worst from what I saw on the Facebook Page (or maybe I just didn't try to do much with the widget...or had low expectations at the start?)

The widget failed to function about 15% of the time. For a reader, that was incredibly frustrating. For me, it was annoying since I only heard about it if/when a reader got frustrated enough to complain to me (about 3% who got a failure did complain privately or via comments on the blog/Facebook event page). It was additionally frustrating for everyone at the end because it really slowed down the process of my announcing winners when I had to keep clicking five to ten times to get one name out of the widget.

For the authors, who were oblivious to any failures of the tool during the giveaway, this ongoing failure decreased their ROI without their even knowing it. I found another like-kind tool called Giveaway Tools (GT) but they are still in Alpha Testing (not even released to the Beta Testing stage yet) so I couldn't use them. I signed up anyway. I might like to try them out in the future but I'll start slowly--for one or two books, not 102 books!

Conclusions and Advice
Bottom line "first" is I'll never do another one of these giveaways. Never.

I definitely do want to reinstitute my Freebie Friday feature, however, and plan to do that sometime in the early part of 2013 (hopefully by March or April!) If you're an author and want to be featured in one, please be sure to follow the blog. I suggest subscribing via email so you can filter/search for messages about it or signing up via Networked Blogs so it'll be in your Facebook newsfeed.

Why do I dismiss doing another humongous one so readily? Because there are a lot of giveaway opportunities available that don't carry the same hassles this one did.  Here are a few examples.

If you're enrolled in Amazon's KDP Select Program, of course, you get 5 days for every 90-day period in which you're enrolled when you can give away a Kindle-only eBook. The problem, of course, is that if your book's in KDP Select, it cannot be anywhere else on the internet. That incredibly restrictive "feature" makes the giveaway very limited in terms of audience. As noted above, this giveaway really reached a mixed audience--mixed enough that most authors saw "new to me" readers and most readers found "new to me" authors to try out.

If you have a paper version of your book, of course, there's Goodreads Giveaways. It's unfortunate that they don't have a built-in function for giving away eBooks  but the Goodreads Event function works just great and allows you to invite friends, make updates to the event's text (resending the notice out to anyone who's invited) and you can use the link to the Event to post elsewhere (like on Twitter and Facebook). Goodreads Events are fairly widespread, however, and Goodreads authors seem to have a tendency to SPAM everyone and his brother about their book being on promo, so the usefulness of the tool has decreased as a result of overuse. Sadly.

LibraryThing (informal)
Another place much under-utilized is LibraryThing which has two different giveaway programs. One is author-direct-to-reader and is called a "Giveaway." As an Indie Author you can enroll your books at no cost so long as they are not available for free anywhere else. This is kind of the antithesis of Amazon's KDP Select program -- I love it!!

LTER (formal)
The second method for giving books away on LibraryThing is the LibraryThing Early Reviewers (LTER) program. These books are typically from publishers (traditional dominate but there are some Indies as well) and are selected by LibraryThing's Staff. I'm not exactly sure how to get a book into the LTER program but only because I've never looked. I suspect it's fairly easy--you submit a book and they schedule you.

The great thing for Indie Authors about the LTER program is that the whole point of the LTER program is reviews. That's what we all want and the LTER program specifically solicits them. In fact, "winners" of books in the LTER are obligated to write a review of any book won that is at least 25 words long (and not garbage characters or non-sensical words).  This is the only giveaway program I know of that is open to Indie Authors and will actually provide you with reviews, guaranteed.

Book Bloggers (freelancers)
In addition to Amazon's KDP Select, Goodreads Giveaways and Events, and the LTER program, there is the blog tour or book blogger giveaway. This is totally informal and an ad hoc event--that is, you deal with each one on an individual, customized basis. My Freebie Friday features will fall into this latter category.

To find book bloggers who are interested in running a giveaway for you, I suggest posting around on Goodreads in many of the review groups. I've seen literally hundreds of book bloggers soliciting for authors to give books away on their blogs. It's content for them, remember. They are invested into making your giveaway a good thing. Be sure to treat them with respect, professional and politeness. They're just people like you and can only do so much but they are highly motivated to do all they can for you.

I think the bottom line "last" today is that this was a good event, but probably not worth all the effort everyone put into it--not me, the readers or the authors. I think it was fun while it lasted because the energy was high but that energy could've been just as high for a smaller, more-focused group of books and authors and been more fun for everyone. I also think the readers, even the "power players," won't be able to read every last book they won--but they'll spend time/effort downloading them. They're free, after all! ^)^

What's Next....
Next week's Monday Marketing blog will continue the discussion on Division and Divergence. Be sure to tune in, same bat channel as always.

Remember you can subscribe to Webbiegrrl's Writings  via KindleBlogs. (for a small monthly fee), via Networked Blogs (free but requires a Facebook account) or via email (use the widget in the right-hand sidebar). I believe you can still even add the blog to your Google Home Screen if you'd like. I hope to see you back here however you subscribe.

Thanks for stopping by!



Anonymous said...

Great information, as usual. My question is if you actually got any new reader entries in the recent 30,000 giveaway than you did in the Friday ones?

I ask because my experience has been that the same people (what you call power players) show up every time. I've now done several blog tours for my books and though there is the potential of hitting over 30,000 member eyes, I don't know how many actually see my books. What I do know is that the same 10-15 people follow and comment. Though I appreciate their support, I rarely see someone new. In the tour I'm currently on, I've picked up only three new readers, based on those who comment, out of the potential 30,000 members over all the blogs. In my mind, that is a very poor percentage.

On the positive side, by participating in your recent giveaway, all the books I gave away were to readers new to me. AND four out of the 12 individuals (some one more than one book) actually volunteered to do a review once they've read the book. If that actually happens, that is a high percentage of reviewers to winners for me.

Thanks again for doing this, even though it was a challenging experiment for you.

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Hi Maggie,

In fact 100% of the entrants in this giveaway were new-to-me readers with only one exception : Patrick Breen. He's read all of my books. Other than him, I've never seen any of the names that were in the giveaway before--I didn't even know most of you authors! :)

During the Freebie Friday features, what happened was that each author brought a lot of their same audience with them--but because they were featured alongside 3-4 others in their same genre, they were introduced to (somewhat) pre-qualified readers that were new to them (familiar with one of the other authors) It seemed to work well for everyone unless the authors all knew each other. I only ran the feature for about 12-14 weeks and in those dozen or so times, I never accidentally or on purpose grouped together authors who already knew each other.

Thanks for pointing out the potential pitfall, though, because I'll bear that in mind when I start scheduling the future Freebie Fridays and make sure to cluster together authors who do NOT know each other so as to improve the chances their readerships will be different (and more valuable to share)


Webbiegrrl Writer said...

p.s. I should note that I think one of the reasons I keep running into new-to-me authors is that (a) I never frequent the author-centric "boards" or forums and (b) I take a very "everyone's welcome" attitude which sometimes doesn't happen. By "screening" people, other giveaways or author situations end up having the same people going in circles marketing to each other...useless.

Letitia Coyne said...

Here's my latest theory - based entirely on anecdotal evidence, no hard figures, just watching the market for the last 2 years.

There is no doubting that the strength of a giveaway is in reaching new eyes. That's a given. Just being featured in the lists of giveaway sites puts a book into places it wouldn't otherwise reach. eg http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/free-ebook-promotion_b52130 ; obooko, bibliotastic etc.

But here's the pitfall as I see it. From a number of examples I won't go into here, readers, eg the general population, often follow the deep seated belief that anything free is worthless, and prefer to pay the low end of moderate prices for a gamble on a new author, [everyone likes to feel they are geting value for money]. And another huge group who believe that anything free is profit. They will collect freebies because they are free, not because they notice a name or a title. An ereader can be kept fully stocked with free reads on a TBR list that will take years to work through before they need to consider an author for purchase.

The groups overlap and there is no hard and fast rule for everyone - but these two groups together go a long way to mitigating the value of giveaways. Some readers will never look at freebies - some will never buy even if they enjoy the read.

My theory. HA! It's free so you can apply your own value to it.