Everyone loves free stuff. And everyone loves to win the prize. You can use your author swag to create interesting prizes for giveaways. Here are some ideas (and what I’ve learned).
Gift Baskets: People love baskets filled to the brim with goodies and lots of ribbons and bows. I build several each year for charity auctions that I support. Come up with a theme and look for fun items to add (e.g. Tea and Books, Mysteries and Chocolate, etc.). Don’t forget to add your swag (e.g. pens, pencils, bookmarks). Make sure to autograph the books you include.
Buy a cute or useful basket or container to use as a base. Make sure it’s the right size for your give-away. A small, overflowing basket looks more appealing that a giant one with three things in it. Arts and craft stores (or Amazon) sell rolls of clear plastic cellophane wrap for gift baskets. Top it with ribbons or a big bow. Flashy baskets draw lots of attention at silent auctions. One year, our Sisters in Crime - Central Virginia chapter made one for the Friends of the Library’s fundraiser. We had over twenty-five books in the basket. And one of the gals made a big bow from yellow crime scene tape. A mystery reader’s dream!
Keep receipts and records for your taxes for charity donations. Talk to your tax advisor for details and specifics.
Social Media Giveaways: Facebook Hops, Facebook Parties, and Twitter Parties are great ways for you to meet readers and build up your audience. A lot of authors give away ebooks, and that often doesn’t bring the excitement or responses that a physical prize does. If you can, think of ways to incorporate small things in your prizes (e.g. small gift cards, fancy bookmarks, themed wine charms, etc.). I like Etsy, and I often find pins, wine charms, and notecards. Search Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, or Nancy Drew gifts, and you’ll be surprised at all the creative ideas that pop up.
You want your item to be able to be mailed easily. Tina Glasneck gave me the best advice. Make sure your prize fits in a standard business envelope. When you do online contests, follow the terms and conditions of the site and specify where you will mail the gift to. One author friend bought really cute mugs, but they were expensive to wrap and ship. Also, postage jumps considerably when it is out of your mailing area/country.
I keep a shelf of swag and prizes in my office closet. Instead of throwing unused gift cards in a drawer, add them to your collection and use as a prize.
Swag Bags: I ordered a box of small purple bags with ribbon ties. (I found them on Amazon under birthday or shower gift bags. They come in all colors.) I make small swag bags (e.g. pens, bookmarks, pins, notecards) for people I meet with. These are like hostess gifts for the coordinator when I do events for libraries, schools, or senior community events.
Notes: I always add a “I hope you enjoy this/It was great to meet you” note with the prize. I had postcards made with my book covers at Vistaprint. The back is blank and perfect for a personalized note.
Contests and prizes are fun ways to excite readers and draw them into your social media sites. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, and a thoughtful gift is always memorable.