Why the R.I.P. Challenge Works


R.I.P. ChallengeEvery year it seems Carl manages to generate a lot of interest and participation in the R.I.P. Challenge. Why is this challenge so successful? As both a participant in several challenges and a challenge host, I have been thinking about it, and I think what Carl gets right that other challenge hosts, including myself, don’t, involves several key factors.

First, Carl is running it for the sixth year in a row. I decided to host a challenge on a whim, and I have no intention of hosting the same challenge next year (and, if I’m honest, I can’t even really muster the enthusiasm to complete it!), but that is probably the best way to generate interest in a challenge. I can’t confirm this (perhaps Carl could), but my hunch is that he has more participants each year. It stands to reason that as those participants talk about the challenge on their blogs and convince others to participate it grows each year a little bit like those old Faberge Organics commercials from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Carl has built the R.I.P. Challenge into such an event that he would have to recruit another host if he ever tired of it.  It’s one of the longest-running challenges that I can think of.

Another element of the R.I.P. Challenge that differs from other challenges is that while it doesn’t quite completely take over Carl’s blog for the two months it’s running, it is certainly prominently featured. For example, Carl usually finds an artist to design the buttons and banners and features that artist in a post. Carl also hosts several giveaways related to the challenge. The giveaways might be fun Halloween decorations or bookmarks. Carl also features R.I.P.-appropriate books during the challenge. In other words, he doesn’t just create a post explaining the challenge and leave it at that. The challenge becomes an event that drives people back to his blog to participate more.

Another thing I think Carl gets right is the length of the challenge. A lot of challenges, including most of the ones I am currently participating in and the one I am hosting, are year-long challenges. Year-long challenges are nice in that they allow late-comers to participate and also give participants flexibility without time-pressure. However, in keeping the challenge at two months and running it only during a certain time of year, Carl makes the R.I.P. Challenge more of an event, like a festival. Part of the appeal of festivals is that they don’t happen every weekend. They happen once a year, and they become something to look forward to and plan for.

Finally, I think Carl has married the perfect form of literature to time of year with the R.I.P. Challenge: creepy, gothic, scary stories are perfect for fall. By keeping the definition loose and allowing users to decide what constitutes the perfect R.I.P. book, but also putting constraints of some sort, Carl encourages readers to read books that for whatever reason just seem to define fall. It culminates appropriately with that old pagan holiday that celebrated the new year when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was especially thin—Halloween, of course—long celebrated for ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties. And naturally perfect for the challenge.

Carl does all of this with his Once Upon a Time Challenge as well, but I think the one element that the R.I.P. Challenge has that Once Upon a Time does not is that perfect marriage of time of year with subject matter. I don’t care what the temperature is outside, when I see the R.I.P. Challenge has begun, it suddenly feels like fall. The air feels crisper and I can almost imagine the leaves turning, even here in Georgia, where fall happens so much later.

I’m currently reading [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link] by Ransom Riggs for the challenge, and despite compiling a longlist the other day, I may or may not read those particular books for the challenge. After all, I just acquired [amazon_link id=”1463612214″ target=”_blank” ]Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes[/amazon_link] by Bernard J. Schaffer for $2.99 on my [amazon_link id=”B002FQJT3Q” target=”_blank” ]Kindle[/amazon_link] (it is still available for that price!), and who knows what else I might get my hands on before the end of October.

The Sunday Salon


8 thoughts on “Why the R.I.P. Challenge Works

  1. Wow, I think you got it down perfectly. I often marvel at the life this challenge has taken on and I think you hit on many of the reasons it did so.

    I started it only because I was new to book blogging, always read this kind of thing during this time of year, and wondered if others did as well. Thought maybe the challenge would be a good way to find out.

    It is indeed a perfect marriage of time of year with subject matter. I think that is one big key to its popularity. I also think that not pressuring people to read a certain number of books and not being a stickler to what constitutes a counted read helps.

    I also think it is successful because bloggers meet other bloggers with shared interests and they end up being really good friends with each other, which is so rewarding. It is that community that makes people want to do this and talk about it.

    When I decided to do a "challenge", which was just ramping up when I jumped on the band wagon, I decided to do one the way I would want to see one done. Which meant giving stuff away, not to entice people to join but because I am a gift giver by nature and love to share things I love with other people.

    I wanted art to be involved because I am a very visual person and want to support artists.

    I wanted to make sure I visited participant's blogs to make them feel welcome, show them how much I truly appreciate their involvement when there are so many other things to do with one's time. And I am fortunate to have a few dedicated blogger friends who also try to visit everyone's site. I think that makes people feel that they belong and are not just hanging on the coat tails of other people. And that is all that I want.

    I want to see bloggers have some new visitors, maybe make some long time friends, and share their passion for reading.

    And so I thank you for taking part and thank you for this incredible, and incredibly insightful, post. Wow!!!

    1. You're welcome! Thanks for being such an awesome host. I forgot to mention your visiting each participant's blog. I remember how welcome that always makes me feel, and I know it must be a lot of work.

  2. I think you got it exactly right! I've gotten tired of challenges … including my own … and I plan on giving it up next year. I do enjoy the RIP challenge for all the resaons you mentioned — it is low key, seasonally appropriate and doesn't last too long.

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