Lola’s Advice: How to run a Giveaway

Posted October 3, 2016 by Lola in Lola's Advice / 34 Comments

Lola’s Advice is a monthly feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews, which will be posted on the first monday of the month. Lola’s Advice posts are usually how-to or tips type of posts. They are mainly aimed at authors, but I also try and show the blogger/ reader side of the topic I address. I share my knowledge or personal opinion on mostly book, authors, marketing and promotion related topics. I hope it’s helpful for authors and bloggers alike. Also even though it’s advice please understand that even if you follow all my advice it still won’t guarantee your book will be a success, but it hopefully will be helpful. I also believe that not everything works for each author, every author and book is different and different strategies work for different people. So please use whatever you want to or fits with your style. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.

Today I want to talk about giveaways. As I run a tour company the topic of giveaways comes up a lot, how effective are they, should a tour have a giveaway as well and what to give away. Often authors ask me for ideas or advice about their giveaways. And I set-up a lot of giveaways for my authors through rafflecopter. So I decided giveaways would make a good topic for a Lola’s Advice post. Most of this is focused on giveaways run by authors, but a lot will apply to other types of giveaways as well.

Why should you run a giveaway? And are they effective?

There are many different reasons to run a giveaway the most common ones are probably to grow your audience or to thank you followers/ fans etc. If you want to run a giveaway I think it helps to think about why you want to run that giveaway and what your goal is for that giveaway. The question on if giveaways are effective can only be answered when you know what your goal is. And then set-up the giveaway in a way to focus on that. Some people look at the amount of entries, or the amount to tweets, new likes, new adds for their book on Goodreads etc they get. If you want more people to add your book on Goodreads, make that an entry option. If you just want more people to hear about your book, use social media options.

I also think that if you are going to run a giveaway you have to do your best to promote them. And setting up a good giveaway is half of the work in making them successful. Which is why I believe in planning your giveaway. Start thinking beforehand on what you want to give away, how to run it and how to promote it. So the rest of this post will deal with those type of questions. In general I do think giveaways are worth it, go in with realistic expectations and do your best to make your giveaway the best you can and if it doesn’t go as well as you hope try and determine why and how to do better next time.

I have run a lot of giveaways a part of a blog tour and on that topic I can say that I think a giveaway during the tour can help. It’s not necessary, but I do encourage authors to do a giveaway during their tour. The giveaway helps promote the tour and the tour helps promote the giveaway. A giveaway can create some extra buzz around your tour. I have noticed that some tour hosts will do extra effort to promote a giveaway by either mentioning it in the title of their post or sharing about it on social media and entering the giveaways themselves (which is allowed as part of my giveaway policy). I also think that mentioning a tour has a giveaway can sometimes lead to more sign-ups, which is why I always ask if an author wants to do a giveaways beforehand so I can mention it in the sign-up post.

Steps involved in running a giveaway

Below I listed roughly the steps involved in running a giveaway. Not necessarily in that order, but that’s the order that feels most intuitive for me.

  • Decide what to giveaway
  • Decide whether the giveaway will be US only/ Uk only etc or international?
  • Set-up your giveaway
  • Decide how people can enter your giveaway
  • Decide from when to when your giveaway will run
  • Write down a giveaway policy or rules for your giveaway
  • Launch your giveaway
  • Promote your Giveaway
  • Pick a winner
  • Ship/ send the prize(s) to winner(s)

What to Give away?

I think what to give away is very important as it does matter what you give away and which people will be interested in the giveaway. Some ideas for authors on what to give away: physical copies, signed copies, e-copies of your current release, e-copies of any of your other books, books from other authors, swag (bookmarks, magnets, pens, posters etc), something related to your book (anything from topics to objects, like dragon jewelry or a stuffed animal for a book about dragons), something related to your books main characters, games/ books/ etc that have something to do with your book’s genre, gift cards, objects/ products for readers (think of general bookworm related things like mugs with bookish quotes on it, bookmarks etc), objects/ products for your target audience, an e-reader or ipad, mystery book (winner doesn’t know which book they will receive), etc.

There are a lot of things you can give away. Also here it’s important to consider what your goal is with the giveaway and who you want to reach. If you want to reward loyal fans something like a signed copy or swag would do great. If you want to attract a broad audience, gift cards always do well. Not everyone might be interested in your books, but almost everyone can use an amazon gift card. Consider what type of people would be interested in which prizes and then pick a prize for the audience you want to reach or pick a prize and then focus on reaching the type of audience who are interested in those prizes. When you run a tour there is some controversy whether it helps to give away the book you are touring or not. If you giveaway away book X people might not buy it as they hope to win it. So giving away either a physical copy instead or another one of your books might be more effective. I am not sure if this actually happens, but it is good to consider things like that as well.

I also think that it’s important to realize that you don’t have to giveaway super big prizes. If you want to go big, that does work, but it isn’t necessary to pull of a successful giveaway. I have set-up giveaways for as little as 5$ amazon gift cards that still did well. And if you want to give big things away it might be more helpful to spread things out then put all your prizes in one giveaway. Giving away 1 or 5 kindle e-readers might not make as much of a difference for who you reach with your giveaways, in which case doing 5 separate giveaways for a kindle might be more effective. As then you can incorporate things you learned from your first giveaway into your next ones or maybe tie your next giveaway in with another new release, special day etc.

How to set-up the giveaway and how to enter

There are different ways to set-up a giveaway. In some cases just mentioning you are going to giveaway something works well enough. For example I’ve seen giveaways for newsletter only subscribers were the author mentions you can win prize X, by doing Y for example. Or giveaways in a facebook post or in a tweet. There are also giveaways that are limited to a platform, like giving away paperbacks on goodreads or a kindle copy on amazon. They already set-up everything for your giveaway and you just have to promote it and make sure people get to that site to enter. Depending on which type of giveaway you run that might be enough.

Then there are also giveaway programs, like rafflecopter or kingsumo. I’ve also seen others around, but can’t remember all their names at the moment. Kingsumo is mostly focused on getting more newsletter subscribers, but after people supply their e-mail address they have the option to share the giveaway etc. It has a one time payment and integrates with wordpress. My personal favorite is rafflecopter as you can add a lot of different ways for people to enter. It also makes it easy to pick a winner and keep track of all your entries. They have a paid version, but with their free version you come a long way.

When setting up a giveaway you have to think about how you want people to enter the giveaway, which ties in with promoting it and also your goal for the giveaway. Do you have people comments on a blog post, share on social media, enter your newsletter, follow you on social media etc. I usually would advice to list a few different options so people who don’t have twitter for example can still enter. You can never please anyone, but I think it is nice to have multiple ways to enter. Also keep in mind that with giveaways you need to have one free entry. I often use a free entry were you just need to hit enter for this or the visit a facebook page entry. For author giveaways I usually pick some of the following entries, add book to to-read list on goodreads, visit author facebook page, follow author on twitter, friend/favorite or follow author on goodreads, comment on blog post, tweet about the giveaway (sometimes multiple) and answer a question. If the author has another social media site they use a lot I might also add a follow for that one or a sign-up for the newsletter one. If it’s a giveaway to go alongside a Lola’s Blog Tours tour I often set-up an entry that only counts for one point to follow Lola’s Blog Tours on twitter as well. By giving different points to different entries on rafflecopter you can reward the entries you value most with more points and the free option for example only with 1.

When/ how long to run your giveaway

From when to when you run your giveaway is also something to consider. A giveaway that runs for a long time means you have more time to reach people and to promote your giveaway, a shorter giveaways creates more of a sense of urgency. You can also create sense of urgency with a longer giveaway during the last few days by focusing on how little time there is left to enter the giveaway. If you want the giveaway to go alongside another promo or event consider that when setting it up. Do you do a giveaway to celebrate a new release, then you probably want it to start on your release day (or slightly before that). If you run a month long promo for your book, it might help to set a month long giveaway alongside it and for example use entries like share the word about your promo for people to enter. So what your goal is of the giveaway and with what you tie it in is important here. You can even have a giveaway span multiple events. For giveaways that I set-up to run during tours I usually have the giveaway star the day before the tour starts (to make sure the rafflecopter will work on the first day of the tour) and then have it turn the duration of the giveaway plus a week or so. Not everyone’s post will reach the maximum audience on day one and some blogs do things like recaps or promote a post for a longer period of time, which is why I think having the giveaway run a bit longer than the end of the tour can be helpful.

Giveaway Policy and rules for your giveaway

This is one of those topics no one probably wants to think about, but it’s still important to consider. I didn’t have a giveaway policy for a long time on Lola’s Blog Tours until I finally made one. Now all the giveaways I set-up for authors I link to my giveaway policy so people who enter can read about the rules. If you do frequent giveaways it can be helpful to make a giveaway policy. Else you can probably make do with listing the rules for each giveaway specifically. Look up what is allowed and what isn’t, this way you can make sure that what you ask people to do to enter the giveaway is allowed. And also protect yourself for when a prize goes missing etc. I recommend to read some giveaway policies of other people and companies and see what they list. Think about how will the winner be chosen? Who can enter the giveaway? People in which countries can enter the giveaway? Who will be disqualified? What happens if the prize doesn’t arrive? Who’s responsible for shipping the prize? How long have winners to reply when they have won? Where will winners be announced? How will the winner be contacted?

Here are some helpful posts about giveaway policies or rules:

How to promote your giveaway

It depends a bit on what kind of giveaway you are running how to promote it, but one thing is for certain and that’s you need to promote every giveaway. You want as many people to hear about your giveaway, so make sure to try and get there. Schedule tweets about your giveaway, post about the giveaway on facebook, use the pin to the top feature on twitter or facebook, share on other social media sites you use, if you have a newsletter sent one out about your giveaway and ask your fans or followers to help and share or if you have a blog or site post about the giveaway there as well. The more people you can get talking about your giveaway the more people you reach. And often giveaways have options to tweet about the giveaway, etc so with every person that does that entry they also spread the word about your giveaway in return. If a giveaway runs during a tour you also have the tour hosts and/ or tour organizer to help spread the word and reach more people. I’ve even seen sites where you can list your giveaway or facebook groups.

Do I run giveaways?

As a blogger I don’t run giveaways, I can’t remember the last time I did one. Sometimes I feature a our wide giveaway on my site, but that’s it. While I do love giveaways, they are the first thing to go when you don’t have a lot of money. Having said that I do see the benefit of giveaways and with Lola’s Blog Tours I do my best to run a giveaway once in a while. They take time to set-up, so I like to start early and think things through. Mostly I do these on special occasions, like a anniversary. In fact I did a giveaway this year when Lola’s Blog Tours turned 3. It was quite fun to run the giveaways and I just picked the winners yesterday and notified them.

Authors: Do you run giveaways? And if yes what do you like to giveaway?

Bloggers: Do you run giveaways on your blog? And if yes how to you handle them?

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34 responses to “Lola’s Advice: How to run a Giveaway

  1. Great post! I like your breakdown of ‘why’ and ‘how’ with giveaways. I do think it’s important to know why you are doing a giveaway b/c that will guide the planning and determine the expectations.
    I’ve done giveaways at the blog and as an author so I’ve seen both sides there. I’m glad to see you linked to a discussion on the legal and ethical side of it b/c I know that’s a big deal. Those are well written posts by Lily. I had to quickly go to the blog and check our policy and was happy that Shari wrote a good one and we handle our giveaways in compliance with most of the requirements she listed.

    Our personal giveaways are always based on comment lottery and we don’t require any other actions unless it’s a game. When we have third party giveaways those are a split between just a comment lottery or rafflecopter. We put the details of the giveaway into the post and we also share about the giveaway on other social media sites. Our giveaways are meant for our readers and if they bring other readers, fine, if not, no biggie. Though, if it’s a special author post or tour, we do want to help the authors and their book get the best visibility we can offer through the giveaway which is why we require that tour posts and author guest posts be exclusive content so it is fresh for the readers (and maybe that’s a bit off subject, sorry).

    I like your point about the difference between one big prize and scattering the wealth to more. I know I’ve been happy to win an e-copy or a $5 GC or even a unique bookmark/magnet etc for my collection.

    Again, thought provoking post and I appreciated it, Lola!
    Sophia Rose recently posted…Family Portraits by Pamela Lynne #SweetDelightMy Profile

    • Even if the reason is something simple I do think it’s worth it to think about the why and how of a giveaway. I didn’t know much of the legal side until a few years ago and found it important to mention that as well here as it is something to keep in mind when doing giveaways. I thought Lily her posts on the topic were very helpful and I used some of her tips when writing my own giveaway policy.

      Comments lotteries are an easy way to do giveaways a swell and I like how everyone has a similar change to win that way. And I like the way you think about your giveaways with how they are for your readers and if they bring in new readers that’s an added benefit. I recently did some giveaways for Lola’s Blog Tours and mainly aimed them at my current author contacts and followers and tour hosts and it was to be familiar with all the winners.

      And having exclusive content does help with promoting the post and offering your readers something special. I did a tour posts for a change this week, but I usually only do them when I know the author.

      I think most people are happy with a small price already, so scattering the wealth can be something to consider. Then again I’ve also heard that some people are only attracted to the big prizes, but not sure how true that is. I’ve won e-copies and 5$ gift cards and already am very happy with those. And I won a few magnets and bookmarks as well and always treasure those. I have some bookish magnet son my fridge now thanks to swag or giveaways I won.

  2. Thanks for sharing these tips, Lola!
    I’ve run my own giveaways on my blog before. But this summer, I had to idea of doing a raffle rather than a typical giveaway. I did it this was because I wanted to reward my loyal readers. I rather like the format and plan to continue it.
    Happy Monday! ๐Ÿ˜€
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…Review ~ Breathe ~ Kristen AshleyMy Profile

    • I am not sure how effective giveaways are either, it’s hard to really measure the effectiveness for them and it also depends on what you count as effective.

      If you need help with picking winners and such just let me know! I wouldn’t mind helping you with that.

      I always find picking the winners one of the most fun parts, but it’s also a bit tiring if you wade through giveaway junkies. For my Lola’s Blog Tours giveaways I mostly got entries for people I knew so that was fun. I knew all the winners :).

  3. One time, an Instagram account (dedicated to giveaways happening in Singapore) came across a book giveaway I’m hosting on my blog. They reposted my picture on their Instagram handle and thanks to them, I received a lot of entries. On that particular day, I learned something new: never underestimate the word of mouth tool ๐Ÿ™‚
    Priscilla recently posted…People pleasing, what lengths will you go to?My Profile

  4. I’ve never run any giveaways, but I would like to, so I’ll definitely use your advice when I do! I’ve had a couple authors offer, but either I didn’t end up giving their book 4 stars (which is my policy, I don’t want to giveaway a book unless I give it 4 stars or more) or I just worry that not enough people will be interested, since, like you said, not everyone is interested in every book, and then I’ll feel bad for having wasted the author’s money :-/ I feel like I’d probably get enough entries if I were just doing a giveaway for a free book of the winner’s choice, but I don’t have money for that. Maybe one day someone will offer to giveaway a book for one that actually seems like one lots of my followers will be interested. Though I’m sure using social media could probably help a lot, spread the word to more people who aren’t my followers but are interested in that book. That sort of thing. I think I’m rambling. I’m sorry, I’m tired and stressed but still trying to visit blogs lol.
    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted…Book Review: A City Dreaming by Daniel PolanskyMy Profile

    • I don’t run giveaways often on my blog either. I did do a giveaway on Lola’s Blog Tours recently and am already planning the next one as I had a lot of fun with it.

      I also have had a few authors offer to do a giveaway, but for some of those I haven’t read the book yet or I forgot by the time I did so my review. i do appreciate the gesture. And like you said if you didn’t enjoy the book it’s also a bit weird to give it away.

      When i enter giveaways I usually pick the ones where I want the specific book being given away or the ones were you pick your price or gift cards. I feel that the pick your own prize/ book giveaways are nice because everyone can pick the book they want.

      And I know the money issue, if I had more money I probably would do more giveaways too. For Lola’s Blog Tours I can at least facture it in my expenses for the month and not feel as bad about it.

      I think social media and getting others to spread the word about a giveaway can really help as that way you can reach more people than the ones you would reach alone.

  5. Great advice. I definitely agree that spacing things out work out just as well as if you did one massive giveaway. Just about all my giveaways are hosted by the author/publisher. I just don’t have the money in my budget to host giveaways all the time on my own.

    • I do love doing giveaways, but can’t afford to do them at the moment. But even a giveaway hosted by the author or publisher are nice. Sometimes spacing out might even work better I think as over time you might get more followers etc and thus more people you can reach or maybe aim at a different audience with that giveaway if possible.

  6. I don’t run giveaways on my blog very often but I have had a few of them. If I get a physical gift card that I don’t want or decide to give away something else, I usually run a giveaway. Mine are usually very easy, I just requite a comment and an email address and let everyone know when it ends. They have 24 hours to respond to me email or else another winner will be chosen.
    Mary Kirkland recently posted…Amazon’s New TOS and What It Means For My ReviewsMy Profile

    • Same here, I don’t run them often, but they are fun to do. The leave a comment and pick a winner is indeed an easy way to run a giveaway.

    • Looking at what others do is also a good idea. Once I started running my own giveaways and writing my own giveaway policy I looked a lot at how others ran theirs.

  7. Great tips! I do run giveaways on my blog, but I don’t tend to do a ton because you’re right, it cost a lot of money, especially with shipping things. I love it when a company or author will offer to give something to give away, so then I don’t have to worry much (besides shipping if they send the prize to me) and this is nice here and there.

    Let’s Get Beyond Tolerance recently posted…Out of Frame by Megan EricksonMy Profile

    • It’s a shame prizes can get pricey so fast, especially with shipping costs. Which is also why I understand that a lot of giveaways are US etc only as international shipping is so pricey.

  8. I do host giveaways every now and then, but not all that often. One is running right now, but on my Facebook page. It’s for the French translation of Pride & Prejudice, as well as a gift card for ยด25 euros. And two lucky winners will receive their prize.
    I did this one to share what I got at the book festival last weekend. I don’t like to read translated books (which is why I’m giving away Pride and Prejudice) and it’s very seldom that I read in French at all – so I figured those gift-cards would be great for a French-speaking reader to win.
    My goal on that one is to gain FB followers, and it’s working ๐Ÿ™‚
    You have a lot of very good info here, Lola! Thanks for sharing.
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Thirsty Thursday and Hungry Hearts #85 – Magic Bites pt 2My Profile

    • Oh that’s neat you got to do a giveaway of a book you got at the festival. And if you don’t plan to read it yourself I think giving it away to someone who will is a nice thought. And it’s neat to hear your goal of that one is working :).
      I recently did some giveaways for my 3 year anniversary of Lola’s Blog Tours and it was quite fun to run the giveaways and see who won.

    • Yes I feel like people might be disappointed with a giveaway or feel like it didn’t do well, but if you want to judge that I think you should think of your goals beforehand and also be realistic about how many people you can reach.

  9. This is an awesome post, Lola! You have some VERY well thought out and detailed advice, this is really helpful! I do run giveaways, because… I don’t know, I just like them I guess! I mean, sure followers are a great bonus, but I think it’s like- I get GIDDY excited when I win one, so I love that I can do that for someone else every so often, you know? I think when I started doing giveaways, it was just because I was new and didn’t know what I was doing haha, and wanted a way to kind of jump into the community- and actually, it worked! I was able to find a ton of blogs to follow, and people started coming to mine. So it definitely has bonuses! And I think your advice to authors is FABULOUS. I do think that blog tours get more attention with giveaways, sad but true. BUT I know that I have also legitimately found books I wanted to read that way, so it DOES work! Such a great post!
    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted…It Starts at Midnight is THREE!My Profile

    • Thanks! I am so glad to hear you thought it was helpful. And yes that’s exactly what i like about running giveaways, making sure I can make someone else happy with a prize. I always get so happy and excited when I win and being able to do that for someone else is fun.

      I definitely think giveaways work and I’ve found books to read that way as well. Then again the good thing is that as little as a 5$ amazon gift card is usually already enough to get that giveaway bonus effect. I do think giveaways don’t necessarily have to be big prizes, although that works to. But small prizes are great too.

  10. Awesome post, there’s so much great info here! I’m fairly new to running giveaways but I have so much fun with them! Wish I could do them more often…right now I have just done them as a thank-you or opportunity to my followers, not as a book or author promotion. I definitely see an upswing in hits when they’re active, but only gain a few new followers.

    • I do feel that giveaways often appeal to your current followers already. You could make following you a requirement, then you might see more new followers.
      I don’t run many giveaways on my blog, but recently did some over on Lola’s Blog Tours and I had a lot of fun to do them. I like making people happy with their prize.

    • I remember how much your posts helped me when I was working on my giveaway policy so I hoped others will find your posts helpful as well. Picking the right prize and setting reasonable goals is very important I think for running a successful giveaway.

    • I’ve seen Giveaway Tools around a few times as well. I usually manually check for cheaters/ contest junkies. I guess it’s one of those things you have to keep in mind when running giveaways.

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