Janet Nitsick and I just ran a week long Facebook Giveaway Party. This was the first time I ever did something like this, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I see authors running Events that typically last for a few hours. Since my schedule is hectic with kids and such, I couldn’t set aside a specific block of time. I needed to have at least one full day to be able to hop on Facebook and catch up with the discussions that were going to take place. So Janet and I opted for 8 days. Actually, 9 if you count the final day to “catch up” and tie up any loose ends.
As a disclaimer, I want to say that Facebook parties are not about selling books. They are about mingling with your readers and giving something back to them. They are a chance to get to know them, something that we don’t often do given the very nature of our work (which is to sit at the computer and write our books). So if you do this, go in with the mindset that you’re going to socialize and hang out. It is a relaxed and informal way to get to know your readers and for them to get to know you. It’s a place where you can establish friendships. If you understand this is the purpose of the Facebook party, you’ll have a great time.
Now having experienced this, I thought I’d pass along some things I learned about hosting a Facebook Party.
1. Let people know you’re going to have it.
Yes, it sounds basic, but if they don’t know the party is going to happen, how will they to show up? My method was to post the information on my blog and my Facebook timeline, my Facebook Author Page, and on Twitter. I thought about emailing people to invite them (and this is fine), but I decided not to do this because I have some authors in my friends’ list on Facebook and figured they’d be busy enough with their own stuff so why bother them with another email they didn’t need to wade through in their inbox? But I see nothing wrong with sending out invites through Facebook to people on your friends’ list.
My advice is to let people know at least a week in advance. Then follow it up with a reminder 1-2 days before.
2. Plan out the party.
Are you going to have special guests? Are you going to have giveaways? What questions will you have to help break the ice? On what hour or day will you do what?
To give you an example of what Janet and I did, here was our schedule which we came up with 2 weeks in advance of the party:
Day 1: We had Rose Gordon as a special guest. We gave away some of her books to the giveaway winners and talked about how we met her and opened the discussion to any questions. She also came in and mingled with the people there. This was a special treat.
Day 2: “Romantic Memories”: On this day we posed the question to the group what their most romantic memory was. All entrants were entered into the giveaway for the day.
Day 3: “Loving Those Heroes”: On this day we posted the question about the best qualities in a romantic hero. Again, all entrants were entered into the giveaway for the day.
Day 4: “Small Treasures”: On this day we posted a question about something small (but meaningful) people owned, along with a giveaway.
Day 5: Another question with a giveaway.
Etc. until Day 8 which was the final day of the giveaway.
Day 9 was a wrap-up day so we could go in and answer any final comments that had come in late on Day 8.
Day 10: We deleted the group page, which officially ends the party.
3. Allow for some impromptu moments.
This was more fun than I thought it’d be, and it was totally spontaneous. Based on some discussions in the threads, we realized that some people either needed or knew someone who needed ereaders. So we decided to run a giveaway on the spur of the moment that was for a chance to win an ereader.
Two other impromptu moments occurred. One was when I invited Stephannie Beman to join us and talk about co-authoring books with me, and that turned into a very fun discussion. Two, I invited my husband to join us and they got a chance to know something about him, which I think was fun for romance readers to get to know the author’s husband.
Impromptu moments are flexible and based on the discussions you’re having. Sometimes they can be more fun than the planned stuff.
4. International readers need more time to enter giveaways.
This was brought to my attention before the party began, thankfully. Because one of my readers mentioned that people who live in other countries need a full 24-hours to get caught up on the party and giveaways, we posted every giveaway and question the evening before we picked the winners. (We picked the winners using random.org, by the way. It’s a great site to go to for picking giveaway winners.)
Since ebooks are going global, I think it’s important we reach out to our readers in other countries. It amazes me how many people in other countries read English. I’m impressed by this because I have a horrible time learning other languages. One of my readers in India told me that they’re encouraged to read fiction in order to learn the English language. How cool is it that we get a chance to help them learn English? You just never know who is out there reading your books, and I think these people should be included as much as possible into our giveaways and parties. Yes, sending paperbacks can be costly so specify if you’ll only gift ebooks. But I would encourage you to consider sending at least one paperback to an international reader. A signed paperback is a special and unique gift to someone who loves your books.
5. Show up
Yeah, I know. This is a “duh” moment, but you will only get out of a party what you put into it. Set aside time to go there. Try to answer all comments if possible. I know real life can come in and prevent this, but try to answer as many as you possibly can. I did very little writing during the week in favor of hanging out on Facebook and getting to know the people who took time out of their own busy lives to attend the party. If they are willing to attend your party, then show them they’re important by showing up, too. Readers want to know authors. This is a relaxed way of doing that. Plus, they get to know each other. Who knows what friendships will form because of these parties? Some readers seemed to connect really well, and I suspect they friended each other on Facebook and might become friends down the road.
You just never know what will happen if you show up somewhere. I have developed friendships because of social media. Even if we’re at a computer (or other device), we’re still human and can develop friendships in the most unlikely places. Case in point, I will get a chance to meet Lauralynn Elliott next week at a writer’s conference, and I met her because she has been commenting on this blog for years. And Stephannie Beman and I met through LiveJournal when it was popular and now co-write books together. I met Rose Gordon through the forum we had (for a very short time) on this blog, and she and I became friends and met last year at a conference. We will see each other again next week. Then there’s a reader (Judy) who emailed me and became my friend and now edits my books. I’ll be meeting her, too. These are four people I would never have known if I hadn’t been on social networking sites. You just never know what the future will bring if you simply “show up” somewhere.