Promoting Your Books, Products or Services With Contests (Part Two)

OK, you’ve decided to run a contest. Now you have MORE decisions to make and a few steps to take before you can get started

Choosing the Type of Contest You Will Run

Your first decision is, what kind of contest will you run? You have several choices: a sweepstakes contest, a free skill contest or a fee based skill contest.

Here are the pros and cons of each choice.

1) By law a sweepstakes contest must be free to enter and you must choose the winner through a random draw. If you charge money for this type of contest you have just entered the “realm” of a lottery or raffle and you have to have a state or provincial licence for that.

On the upside, a sweepstakes contest is “relatively” easy to set up. Just collect the names of the participants and when the time comes to choose a winner … make a random selection. On the downside is the fact that you will get a lot of very unqualified visitors who just want to win something. They will not spend much time on your website and they are not likely to explore your product, book or services. However … you will also attract, some qualified traffic. These people will look at your product. Some of them may want it right now and will buy right now.

2) Your second choice is to run a skill based contest with FR>EE entry. You will want to choose a theme for your contest that matches the theme of your product. For example if you are promoting a book on how to setup and run a bed and breakfast, you might ask contest participants to write an essay about their best B&B experience.

The upside for this type of contest is the fact that you will get more qualified visitors. People who enter will be interested enough in your topic to spend some time on it. People who enter the contest may purchase your product before entering the contest just to find out who you are.

On the downside of skill based contests is the fact that you will receive a LOT fewer entries. Any time you ask for “an action” in a contest, you will get fewer entries.

A skill based contest is much more work than a simple sweepstakes contest. You must collect the entries and you must DO SOMETHING with each entry. You will need to develop a way to “judge” the entries. Will you be the judge or will you get an independent “guest” judge? What criteria will you use to choose a winner?

3) Your third choice is a skill-based contest with an entry fee.

Frankly, if you are running a contest in order to get traffic and exposure, charging a fee will make it harder to achieve your goals.

Just “taking an action,” such as writing an essay, limits your audience. Charging an entry fee will narrow it down even further. If you choose to run this type of contest, you will have to balance the “fee” by offering a prize that is VERY enticing.

If you want to promote your product by increasing your traffic and exposing the greatest number of people to your product, then choose either of the “free” entry options.
Choosing the Prizes

Once you’ve decided on the type of contest you will run, you need to choose your prizes. What are the prizes and how many prizes will you give away?

With a sweepstakes contest, you can offer your book or your product or a “taste” of your services. I would suggest at least two prize offerings … ie two first prizes of the same book, or a first prize that includes a package of two or three different books and a 2nd prize that includes one book

With a skill contest, match the difficulty of the skill with the prize. In the Bed and Breakfast example above, you could offer a first prize consisting of a night at a well-rated B & B and 10 second prizes consisting of a copy of your book.
The Rules Page

You need a rules page for your contest. The best way to figure this out is to check out the rules pages from other similar contests. Don’t break copyright laws by copying other people’s rules pages. Use them as a guideline and develop your own rules page.

The minimum information you need is:

1) Who qualifies? Are there country limitations or will your contest be International? Are there age limitations? Are there any other limitations … such as who “cannot” enter?

2) A list of the prizes along with an approximate retail value.

3) A deadline date.

4) Judging rules. For example: “winners will be chosen by a random draw.”

5) Who the sponsor is.

6) You may want a clause in your “rules” page about what happens if you can’t contact the winner via email or phone.

SELLING Your Contest

You need a page that “sells” your contest. I know you are giving away something for free … but these days that’s not enough. You need to promote your contest and the prizes. Motivate people to enter. Your advertising page is called a “splash” page. Your splash page can be as simple or elaborate as you want it to be. Showing the prizes would be a great idea! If you are design “deficient” hire a graphic designer from one of the freelance job boards to build you a great looking contest splash page.

Some sponsors build the contest entry form right into their splash page. Others have a separate entry submission page.

Entry Submission Page
If you are running a sweepstake contest, make it simple. Ask for a minimum of information. First name and email may be sufficient. The more information you ask for, the less entries you will get.

If you are running a skill contest. You need very clear instructions on how your participants must “submit” their contest entries. Online is best. You will need some kind of forms submission provision either on your site or on a third party site.

Thank You Page

Once someone has entered your contest and clicked on the submit button, you must let them know their submission was successfully received. You can use the Thank you Page to give them more information about your product, to ask them to subscribe to your newsletter, or use it to sell them an affiliate product.


Melanie Rockett is THE Contest Guru! Her book Contest Guru’s Guide To Winning Sweepstakes has been downloaded by thousands of hopeful winners. Her website lists hundreds of skill based contests for writers, poets, photographers, cooks and musicians.

(c) 2007 Melanie Rockett
All Rights Reserved


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