Okay. I’ll start with a confession. Contests are a source of endless frustration for many authors. I hear the complaints, and I understand. One of my own just ended. My readers and website visitors had the opportunity to win a Sister’s Choice quilt that I purchased from Quilt Pink, a collaborative effort by American Patchwork and Quilting magazine and more than 500 quilt shops, to raise money to support breast cancer research.
When I decided to buy a quilt and sponsor this contest to promote my novel, Sister’s Choice, I considered my options. I could simply ask people to fill in their names and addresses and choose one at random. I could ask them for something as complicated as an essay, or something simpler, which was the compromise I decided on. Since I wanted this contest to be either fun for the readers who had already purchased the book, or a way to introduce myself to new readers, I asked a question.
What are the first names of the youngest pair of sisters in the novel, the two little girls who are the children of Jamie Dunkirk?
Now, this doesn’t seem so hard, does it? In fact, anybody with a little sleuthing ability could have discovered the answer without buying the novel. It’s on my website, as a matter of fact. Yep, right there under “inspiration” on the pages devoted to Sister’s Choice. It’s also easy to glean from Amazon.com and other places on the web.
Still, I got complaints. Many people routinely enter a multitude of contests each day, through sweepstakes sites. They don’t want roadblocks or detours. One woman told me I had a lot of nerve insisting she answer a question. When I explained that one of the purposes of the contest was to bring people to my site to see what I write, she said she would boycott my books forever. I am not losing sleep.
One of the largest sweepstakes sites has a bulletin board, and a participant published the answer. However, to their eternal credit, when I asked the powers that be to remove that post, they did so. I love that their participants can come to my website to look around, find the answer and enter to win. May they continue. But automatic answers? Uh uh.
I also got the oddest replies. Random names (what are the chances that anyone would randomly choose two correct names out of thin air?) And many incorrect answers that showed “some” knowledge of the book, but not attention to the question itself.
So those are the frustrations, minor at best. But here are the rewards.
One, I publicized Sister’s Choice.
Two, I was able to donate to a wonderful charity that supports breast cancer research. And since my book deals in part with breast cancer and a great deal with quilting, this was a serendipity.
Three, I made the winner very, very happy.
Four, I had the fun of creating the contest. And that’s where I differ from some of my colleagues.
I LOVE thinking up contests. For me this is not a chore, this is almost as much fun as writing. Coming up with the perfect giveaway, something readers will enjoy owning, and something that is really appropriate for my next book is, pure and simply, a joy.
So, frustrations or not, there will continue to be contests on my site. There may be a lull as I prepare for the next one, but check my contest page frequently. And don’t frown if you have to answer a question along the way. That should be part of the fun. Put on your Aggie Sloan-Wilcox trench coat, and sleuth a little.
This week was the big payoff. I listed all the contest entrants who had answered the Sister’s Choice question correctly, numbered them and discovered that I had 270 good entries. Then I used a random number generator to choose a number between 1 and 270. Finally I emailed the winner, Sue in Matthews, North Carolina. A few minutes ago I heard from her. She is delighted, and luckily a big fan of pink.
Talk about rewards? That was the best reward of all, because Sue will enjoy and appreciate this lovely quilt for years to come. And meantime, while she’s cuddling under it, I’ll be organizing the next contest.