I want to talk about challenges -- specifically the types of challenges that Amanda and I approve or reject when we're planning Bout of Books.
After Bout of Books 6.0, we made a decision to no longer approve "Guess the Cover" type of challenges (where participants guess what the book is based off a small portion of the cover). We had reasoning behind this. To be truly successful, guessing the cover had to focus on a very narrow genre or sub-genre or there were simply too many books that could be drawn from.
What does this mean? Simply put, having covers that spanned all genres was too broad to be effective. People who exclusively read YA might not know adult PNR covers and people who only read contemporary romances might not know horror covers. So, the covers would have to be confined to a small subset genre for people to REALLY be able to to answer them.
We had a zombie cover challenge once and it was easy. For me. Because I read zombie books and the rules clearly stated that all these covers were drawn from the zombie genre. But not everybody reads zombie books and I did see some comments about how people didn't participate because they have no interest in "those type of books."
Yeah, you might be thinking, but at least SOME people would be able to participate and answer.
True, but one of our goals with Bout of Books is to be as inclusive as possible. Which means that we try to avoid the genre trap and choose challenges that can be adapted across multiple platforms by people who read a variety of genres/authors/subjects.
This isn't always easy. We declined a couple of GREAT challenge ideas for Bout of Books 8.0 because they were limited in the way participants ... participated. Having the only option being to "take a picture" of something limits those who don't have a camera. (Stop laughing. IT HAPPENS. The camera in my phone died a while back and I was camera-less for MONTHS before I got a new phone.) Also, consider that asking people to post their response on their blog now limits the people who can participate to bloggers. During Bout of Books 7.0, we had a huge upswing in the number of booktubers that joined us. Their medium of communication is different enough from traditional blogging that we had to think creatively to make sure they were able to participate in challenges.
In our experience, giving participants the flexibility to (a) use multiple mediums to post their responses/answers/etc and (b) use their own books to create/find/etc something for the challenge garnered the best participation. It also upholds our goal to be inclusive. Win/win.
I'm going to pause here and point out that Amanda and I try to be inclusive in more than just the Bout of Books challenges. When we first began playing with the idea that would later become Seriously Series, we had to think long and hard about how to structure it so that people would WANT to join us and could do so easily.
On the other hand, we host an every-so-often naughty read-a-thon (Doin' It Dirty) that is specifically geared toward those who read erotica. While the focus on the books that can be read is narrow (our rules state "You must read erotica or any subgenre of romance that borders on erotica."), how participants can update/approach/choose their books is left to their discretion.
Our rule of thumb when we're approving and/or creating challenges is to ask WHO IS THE AUDIENCE WE'RE TRYING TO REACH? For Bout of Books, we want the challenge to be accessible to as many people as possible. For our naughty read-a-thon, we're not as concerned with EVERYONE, but rather with those that enjoy reading dirty books. So, consider your audience. Where are they at? What platforms will they be using to post their responses?
The reason I'm posting this is to point out that the best challenges (no matter WHAT you're challenging people to do) aren't so rigid that only a handful of people can participate. This is one of those think outside the box moments that you can totally embrace. Allow flexibility for people who only use Twitter or who hate Twitter with a passion and only use Facebook. Get creative with both the challenge and with how participants can respond to the challenge.
Think big! Think bold! Go ALL OUT the next time you create a challenge!