Writer Stuff: DIY Scavenger Hunts

A scavenger hunt sends readers to author’s websites to find answers to trivia questions. Ideally, this means the readers read blurbs or excerpts to find the information giving participating authors the opportunity to sell the book. If you choose to put up a prize, you have the cost of that and sweat equity invested in the promo and it’s fun for the readers. You can do this with only your books if you’d like a test run. (My first scavenger hunt centered around one of my series.) The major pro of a scavenger hunt is that readers get a good look at your website. The major con, once it’s over, it’s gone. Unlike a newsletter crossover landing page, at the end of the raffle, that landing page disappears.


  1. Decide on parameters. Do you want to include other authors? Do you want prizes? Do you want to restrict to one sub genre? At this stage it’s all what you want. My caveat here is that the bigger the prize, the more treasure hunters you get. I prefer to keep prizes at $15 or less so anyone willing to invest the time in entering probably is more interested in the authors than the prize.


  1. Decide on timing. This can be done, initial sign up to end of contest, in a week and a half, but it’s snug. Most authors will sign up within the first couple of days, how much longer you leave it is up to you. The raffle should be up for a week so that authors have time to spread the word and readers have time to find it.


  1. Create a Google form for information. At the top detail your objective, theme, and parameters as well as the deadlines. You can C&P this information when you put out your call in whatever groups and forums you belong to, but it should also be at the top of the form. I ask for a donation toward the prize. It seems to work better for me than requiring a fee for author participation. YMMV.


On your form, you will need the author’s name, email, website link, trivia question, and answer. Remind authors that the question should be answerable within one obvious click of the home page. I like to link from the raffle to the home page. (I am not sure if the rules to sweeps apply to little guys like us, but technically there should be free ways to enter. Personally, I just think it’s less fun for the readers if they have to buy or read whole books to find the answer.)


  1. Put out your call. Like I said, you can C&P the info from the top of the Google form. Put the call anywhere you find authors that fit your parameters. Like I said, most authors will sign up in the first couple of days. I leave mine up for a week. Longer than that and people forget they’ve signed up and sign up again. Then you have to email them and find out if they really want to be in it twice and it becomes a thing, yadda yadda. So save yourself trouble and don’t leave the call open for more than a week.


  1. Create graphics and build your raffle. I use Rafflecopter, but if you’re more comfortable with something else, use that. I think the most successful way to organize is to put the author’s question followed by an invitation to join the author’s newsletter. I also count it as an entry whether they say yes or no. It reduces the number of unsubs later. I have a word doc that I cut and paste most of the language from instead of having to re-write it. I’ll add that at the end. Now, there are going to be people who try to game the system. They go in and respond no to all the newsletters and don’t bother to answer the questions. I consider that cheating and add language to my instructions to the effect that people attempting to game the system will have their entries deleted. I also curse at them. It makes me feel better.


  1. Double check everything. Because of the nature of the raffle, nobody can proof your work unless someone else has your passwords to the raffle site, so you’ll either have to check yourself, give somebody else access, or endure a rain of emails the first day with people telling you you skipped someone or the links are broken or something went wrong with the C&P (which are all things that went wrong on my last hunt. Go me.)


  1. Send out info to the participants and hope everyone follows through. On this last hunt I used a site called CoPromote and got some retweets there.


  1. Post hunt. You will have to award prizes, download the participant lists, and separate the names and emails of people who asked to be put on mailing lists after the hunt is over. You can C&P those easily enough, but make sure you save as a csv file for uploading.


My raffle C&P:


Visit [here](http://AUTHORHOMEPAGE.com) to find the answer.


Only correct answers accepted as entries.


Would you like to join (Author)’s mailing list?


Yes, and your name and email will be forwarded to her. Say no, and it won’t. Either way, you get an entry.


Yes or no.


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