After Karen Quinn toured for her first book, 2005’s The Ivy Chronicles, she wasn’t convinced the traditional author roadshow was the best use of her time and her publisher’s money. So for her second book, Wife in the Fast Lane, Quinn talked her publisher into cutting the number of cities on her tour from six to two, and putting the leftover money—she also put in some of her own—toward an online contest. The winners were announced on her site.

Wife In The Fast Lane (an S&S/Touchstone original paperback) is about a woman trying to juggle a career, motherhood and a marriage. So for the contest—which drew 750 entries—women offered stories about how they live life as a "wife in the fast lane," by submitting one-liners (e.g., "I knew I was a wife in the fast lane when I stopped in a bagel store and asked for a Sesame Street bagel with cream cheese"), short essays or videos.

A former v-p of advertising for American Express who later started a company to help Manhattanites get their children into the best schools, Quinn used her contacts and persuasion skills to secure the contest prizes: a $2,000 gift certificate to Canyon Ranch Spa, jewelry from Christian Tse, Trish McEvoy beauty products. Quinn covered 60% of the expense of the contest and ads, though she declined to say how much they cost.

She hired marketing strategist B.L. Ochman to create and produce the contest. Ochman placed ads for the contest on 25 blogs, including Perez Hilton, The Daily Puppy, The Random Muse, Crazy Aunt Purl, I Don’t Like You That Way, Feministing and Adrants. Ochman used content from contest entries to create ads targeted to specific blogs. For example, witty but cynical ads ran on snarky gossip blog Perez Hilton; while sweetly innocent ads ran on The Daily Puppy, a blog that catalogs adorable dogs. Ochman tracked the ads, and if any weren’t pulling in readers to her site, she immediately substituted a different one. At one point, 7,500 people visited Quinn's site in a day.

"The impact on sales remains to be seen," said Quinn, who put a click-through to Amazon on her site for anyone who wants to buy her book. "While many might order the book up front, others may see it in a bookstore and pick it up because they recognize the cover and were involved in the contest." At the very least, Quinn now has e-mail addresses for everyone who entered the contest, and got her name (or at least her book title) out there in a way that an author tour never could’ve done. "I really wanted to reach out to women who feel they are living fast and sometimes out-of-control lives," she said, "because I thought they’d identify with—and ultimately want to read—Wife in the Fast Lane."