How I Increased My Mailing List by 800 in 80 Days

Navigating the publishing world is not easy. The deeper I dive into the marketing area, the more I realize I don’t know.

On Twitter some authors, indie and trad alike, often engage in follow-backs to increase their following to hopefully impress agents and publishers, but if you ask the pros, they will most often discount the Twitter follow number if it is roughly 1:1 proportionate (equal followers and following). That’s because Twitter follow backs most often are not following because of content but rather numbers. It’s a hollow strategy that unfortunately many seem to spend much time on.

However, constant advice from writers and agents alike is to have a strong mailing list. This demonstrates marketability by showing a following of readers interested in your work. This is important because strong reader following equates to potential book sales. But how to gain interested subscribers? Book shows and author signings may net a handful if you’re lucky.

Here’s the key – you have to provide value first in exchange for a follower. How can they follow you if they are not familiar with your work? And how do they become familiar with your work if they don’t follow you?

An effective solution I have found is book promotions, specifically through BookFunnel. For those unfamiliar with Bookfunnel, it is essentially a book distribution service. Whether it be sending out beta copies, providing a reader magnet, or offering free copies of a novel, Bookfunnel is an efficient and secure method to manage your free electronic distributions. It’s not free; the basic plan begins at $20 per year, but it’s the mid-level plan at $100 per year that offers the ability to collect email addresses.

You can place a link on your website offering a free download that will collect the reader’s address, but that requires constant traffic to your site. You can of course promote on social media, but I didn’t see much chance of success going that route. What did produce results beyond what I’d hoped was a Bookfunnel promo.

Promos are hosted by an author and usually focus on a specific genre. The more that join the promo, the better chance of exposure. It’s a multiplier; instead of posting that you have one work for free, depending on the promo participation you can post on social media a link to dozens of free ebooks. Every participant is encouraged (sometimes by offering perks such as a premium place on the landing page based on number of shares) to share their unique link to the community page.Capture

I signed up for my first one in April, a twelve-day window that I hoped might result in twenty or so addresses. I ended up with over two-hundred. This prompted me to participate in two more promos in May and June. My total subscriber list approached 900 at the end of June, from a starting point of zero in April. The image to the right is from one of my giveaways (still active at https://dl.bookfunnel.com/kc5ix83t35 ) that I provided for two of the three promos.

There are caveats, of course, the first that you have to have something to give away. All of the promos I’ve seen require a published full-length work. If you have yet to publish, this venue isn’t for you at the time. Also, if you are fortunate to have a catalog to draw from and offer a different work per promo, you will get duplicate subscribers.

You will also lose subscribers when you send your first email to the new signups. From my limited experience I expect around a 10% attrition rate, but your mileage may vary. Note that may trigger an alert from your mailing list service (you need to use one to satisfy spam laws) that your unsubscribe rate exceeds industry standards. At least I did get a note from MailChimp. So long as you can prove that your subscribers provided consent (a feature of the Boofunnel process) you should be fine (though I have yet to have to provide this).

To summarize, from three promos running less than 80 days total (though two ran concurrently), I gathered 882 signatures, of which I anticipate 88 unsubscribes on “first contact,” leaving roughly 800 followers. Plus, that’s 800 readers that now have one (or more) copies of your work to enjoy. True, this method produces no direct income from sales, but when you’re an author looking to build that important email following, perhaps the compensation is greater than sales.

 

Writing Tools – BookFunnel

A common theme among authors, especially indie authors, is frustration of lackluster sales and exposure. Luck is the product of preparation and opportunity. We don’t know when we will “get lucky” with our marketing efforts, but we can prepare for the opportunity when it arises (or when we create opportunity through marketing efforts). There are many preparation paths.Bookfunnel

BookFunnel is an eBook distribution platform. There are several levels of membership but the basic level ($100) allows for up to two pen names and 5,000 downloads per month – that is the level I signed up for.

I was introduced to BookFunnel when preparing for my first blog tour promotion of my novel Leaving Darkness as one possible method to distribute eBook copies to reviewers. I went a different route as the $100 fee just to allow for distribution I deemed excessive. I didn’t see much value for BookFunnel beyond that – at first.

One strategy for building email lists is to offer a magnet, a giveaway that others may value in exchange for an email address. In that sense it’s not free; you are “selling” for an item of value. Publishers and agents consider email lists as one indicator of the strength of an author’s platform (and therefore marketability). I realized I needed to begin collecting email addresses.

I did not market my first two novels at all out of nativity and ignorance, and am only now working to catch up to where I need to be as an author. I’ve understood the magnet concept for most of my life but its importance from the marketing side never clicked for me until recently. I decided to offer a magnet. but what, and how?

The answer to what was easy – my first novel, Forgiveness. I wasn’t worried about lost revenue from sales impact because there was no sales to begin with (a consequence of that lack of marketing I mentioned). But I believe it is a solid novel that many would enjoy. At the very least, my exposure would increase by the dozen or two that may download it, and I’d have a few email addresses that, ideally, most would convert into fans.

The how to offer the magnet presented a challenge. I opted to try Facebook ads, as I had success building my author page following with ads several years ago (okay, I did try a bit of marketing then I suppose). I was pleased with the initial success as I began to receive signups for my email list in exchange for the download.

Up to this point, I had planned to just email the eBook in the format they specified, but I realized this would take a lot of my time, so I looked at BookFunnel again and decided to try the basic plan. In the end, $60 of ads produced 57 contacts – a nice number, but costly.

It wasn’t until the end of the ad period that I explored BookFunnel further and came upon the promotions section. One author set a promotion theme and invited others to join to fill limited spots (I believe this promotion capped at 26). With nothing to lose and low expectations, I signed up.

My expectations were not only met but exceeded. In 12 days Forgiveness was downloaded approximately 170 times. With minimal effort and zero additional capital, my email list had about quadrupled. No surprise – I’m sold on BookFunnel now. Even if there are no other features that I opt to use, BookFunnel has already proven its value, as far as I’m concerned. Note I have no connection to BookFunnel beyond the customer relationship.

Image snipped from BookFunnel’s web landing page at https://bookfunnel.com/