1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

All About Email Lists

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by BWFoster78, Nov 4, 2015.

  1. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    PURPOSE OF THIS POST

    I’ve been told that my posts come across as, “You should definitely view this situation exactly as I do.” That is not usually my intent. Instead, I usually mean, “Based on my current understanding of the situation, this is how I think things are.” So to be clear, this is the reason I’m posting on this subject:

    - The topic is extremely important, and I think that, if I and others want to be successful, we need to give more attention to it.

    - I need to work through my thoughts on the subject, and typing it out helps to accomplish that objective.

    - Maybe the post will inspire others on the board to take actions that will eventually increase their level of success.

    IMPORTANCE OF THE EMAIL LIST

    It seems to me that success as a self published author comes down to two factors — writing and marketing. The former has been discussed in many posts, but less focus has been put on the latter. As far as I can tell, marketing for a self published author primarily comes down to two big components — promotions/advertising and building an email list. So if marketing is half the battle in becoming successful and the email list constitutes half of marketing, one could say that this subject makes up 25% of your overall strategy. Okay, that reasoning is specious at best, but it’s still a tremendously important subject.

    GOAL OF THE EMAIL LIST

    It seems to me that a fundamental truth of selling books on Amazon is that Amazon’s algorithms help those who help themselves. Stated another way: the higher you get in the rankings by yourself, the more Amazon will sell for you.

    Imagine hitting Save and Publish on your book, waiting until you get the confirmation that its live, sending out a single email, and then, BAM!, you instantly sell a freaking thousand books in the next twelve hours.

    That’s a good way to get you to a five figure month.

    USEFUL DEFINITIONS

    Before we go much further, I think I need to define a few terms. Note that the first is commonly used; the others are my own invention.

    Organic Subscribers — These are people who read your book and like it so much that they sign up for your email list. At the low end, they’ll probably buy the next book in your series and quite possibly will at least consider any other books you put out. At the high end, they’ll enthusiastically await all of your new releases. The primary positive about this group is that they’re much more likely to buy your book. The negative is that they’re pretty hard to acquire. Basically, the only way to find them is to get your work in front of as many readers as possible.

    Inedible, Genetically Modified Subscribers Chock Full of Antibiotics and Pesticides — These people find your mailing list through ads and usually sign up in exchange for something free. At the low end, they’ll unsubscribe (or report your newsletter as spam) as soon as the first email appears in their inbox or simply never open any of your emails in the first place. A small percentage of them, however, will end up in the same range as your Organic Subscribers. The positive here is that you can, for a cost, acquire as many of these as you desire by running ads effectively. The negatives are that the percentage of them that will buy your book is low (meaning you really need to watch your acquisition costs versus ROI); getting lots of spam reports can seriously screw you up, especially if you’re using MailChimp; and the more subscribers you have, the more you have to pay to maintain your email list service.

    Friends and Family — This definition is only useful in that you’re probably going to have people who you know sign up, and it’s hard to really put them in either category above. Note that I count people who I “know” from Mythic Scribes in this group.

    Note that everything about your email list is a numbers game. Whether your list is Organic or Inedible or a mixture, you can get the same results. It’s simply that you’re going to need to acquire a lot more Inedible Subscribers to sell the same number of books as an Organic Subscriber base.

    STATS FROM MY LIST

    Current Total Subscribers: 78

    Inedible: 54

    A couple of years ago, I offered the 2nd Edition of Abuse of Power for free download on my website and included an option on the form to sign up for my email newsletter. These subscribers come from that effort. I didn’t do anything with them until September of this year and started with 63 of them. Since my first email, I have lost 9 of these subscribers as either spam reports, unsubscribes, or invalid addresses.

    F&F: 6

    Organic: 18

    Six of these signed up after I contacted them to review an ARC. The other 12 are completely Organic.

    As my list adds Organic Subscribers and loses Inedible ones, the open rate is increasing. Here are the details (thus far, I send out one email each month somewhere around the 1st):

    September — 67 subscribers, 21.2% opens, 0% clicks
    October — 71 subscribers, 29.6% opens, 0% clicks
    November — 81 subscribers, 30.0% opens (in less than 24 hrs so far), 7.5% clicks

    Note that “clicks” for September and October were links to AoP and RotM respectively on Amazon. The “click” for November was a free deleted chapter from RotM available for download.

    LIST-BUILDING STRATEGIES

    To the best of my knowledge, none of these terms are used by anyone else but me.

    Low and Slow — Build your list purely organically by putting a link to your sign up in each of your books. Your only opportunity to gain subscribers is when someone buys one of your books.

    Aggressive — Learn how to do ads and spend thousands to bring in subscribers. Build lists numbering in the tens of thousands.

    I see advantages to both of these tactics. Going slow minimizes risk. As you grow as a writer, you add more and more subscribers, and each launch gets bigger. If you want to get to the 5 figure a month club quickly, though, you need to be aggressive. But with that aggression comes huge freaking amounts of risk.

    Hybrid — Grow mainly organically but do a few ads and promotions here and there.

    To me, that last is the best of both worlds. Keep your risk low but, at the same time, gain valuable experience in dealing with ads and maintaining lists. This is what I plan to do.

    MY PLANNED TACTICS

    FreeKindleGiveaway.com — This site offers participants a chance to win a free Kindle in return for subscribing to a “sponsor’s” email list. The monthly platinum sponsorship costs $50, and sponsors average between 800 to a 1000 signups. The sponsorship is linked to a specific book as well, so there’s a possibility that I will see an uptick in buys and/or reads of RotM. I plan to participate in December.

    Facebook Ad — I have to say that I’m a little nervous about dipping my feet into this pool as I’ve read that this is not an easy process. I’m really scared that I’m going to sink a lot of time into it and get little in return. On the other hand, I think this is something that I simply have to learn at some point if I’m going to be successful as an indie author. My plan is a small campaign in December in which I offer a free short story set in my Repulsive world in exchange for a sign up (note that the respondent will not have to subscribe to get the short story).

    Separate Lists — MailChimp (as far as I can tell) allows you to place subscribers in separate lists, and you don’t have to pay until the total number exceeds 2000 subscribers. The FreeKindleGiveaway.com promotion will probably result in a high number of spam/unsubscribes, so I plan to put those subscribers in a list of their own and handle them with kid gloves until I see some responses. I also want to keep subscribers who indicate an interest in my superhero stories separate from my epic fantasy list.

    Track Buys per List — I think that there are a couple of ways to track purchases (in lieu of simply tracking clicks). One way would be to create a separate funnel page for each list and track incoming and outgoing clicks to that page. I’m hesitant to pursue this option because a) it seems like it just creates another opportunity to lose potential customers and b) I’m still not tracking actually purchases. A better way, I think, is to use affiliate codes. I think that Amazon allows you to create multiple affiliate accounts, and you can track purchases independently. Thus you can put separate codes with a link in the email sent to each list and track actual sales. The downside that I have to investigate is whether using an affiliate link makes being reported as spam more likely.

    Cleaning Lists — I read a post from someone who really seemed to know what he was doing, and he advocated frequently dumping subscribers who aren’t opening/clicking. I’m unclear at this point as to the exact reasoning/value of doing this (until I near the 2000 mark), but it’s something that I wanted to flag for future research.
     
  2. danr62

    danr62 Sage

    254
    46
    28
    Probably using affiliate links is the best way to track sales with your various links. You can have one account, but in your account you are able to crate multiple affiliate IDs, which you can track separately. Also, if someone clicks on a link and then buy's ANYTHING on Amazon, you get a commission.

    Facebook advertising: I've done a little for my non-fiction blog. Not much, and I can't really say if it helped all that much. I think I'll try to do more soon.
     
  3. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    That's what I was trying to say, but I got the terminology wrong using "codes" instead of "IDs."

    I know that most of the promo sites don't let you use affiliate links, though, and I thought it had something to do with making them get flagged as spam. I need to investigate this before using them.

    The general advice seems to be, "FB Ads - horrible for selling books; good for getting subscribers in exchange for free stuff."
     
  4. danr62

    danr62 Sage

    254
    46
    28
    I think the reason sites don't let you use affiliate links is because they want to use their own.

    And I'm not sure, but I think mailchimp frowns on affiliate links.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
     
  5. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    Here's what MailChimp's FAQ says:

    They follow that up with a long discussion and end with this:

    So it sounds like MailChimp is fine with an author using an affiliate link to track book sales.
     
  6. danr62

    danr62 Sage

    254
    46
    28
    Cool, I know I've heard that they don't like affiliate marketers, but didn't know if that extended to authors promoting their own stuff.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
     
  7. M P Goodwin

    M P Goodwin Scribe

    25
    7
    3
    This is excellent stuff...I have the 'save and submit' publishing side of being an author mostly in hand and improvements will come through more writing, but email listing etc. are arcane secrets of the ancients as far as i am concerned. I purchased a number of domain names in readiness for website building and am now looking to build, so info such as this is very, very helpful.
     
  8. Ryan_Crown

    Ryan_Crown Troubadour

    179
    50
    28
    A great author to follow when it comes to email lists and author platform is Nick Stephenson (he's a thriller author who also does marketing for authors training). He talks a lot about building email lists and the best ways to do it. He's also recently been talking a lot in his newsletter about Facebook Ads. One of the things he emphasizes is that done right Facebook ads can be great for authors, because you can target the ads to people whose interests match up with your book. And I guess there's now an ad option specifically designed to get people signed up to your email list. Haven't played around with it yet, since I'm still working on my first book so I'm not ready to spend money getting people onto my mailing list, but it looks like a worthwhile option to investigate.
     
    Russ likes this.
  9. danr62

    danr62 Sage

    254
    46
    28
    Yeah, you con track conversions with a pixel, and tell Facebook to optimize the delivery for conversions. And you might be able to target other books similar to your book, or similar authors (if Facebook recognizes them as an Interest).

    You can also use pixels to make ads that will only be seen by people who've already been to your site.
     
  10. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    424
    242
    43
    This is good stuff, Brian. I'd add just a few extra points:

    1) You can put a signup link at the front AND back of your books. I put a list of all the books (released and proposed) at the front, after the copyright page and before the TOC, and put a link to the signup page there. Then again on the next line after 'The End'.

    2) The link should go to a squeeze page, that is, a page that's solely dedicated to handling signups. Clean, no distractions, just an entry box for email address.

    3) Don't forget to make it easy to signup from the front page of your blog or website - a single click to go straight to the squeeze page.

    4) You can add a popup to your blog/website to encourage signups. I use SumoMe (an addon for WordPress sites) which is particularly subtle.

    5) A point I mentioned in another thread - pre-orders and signups are two sides of the same coin. Readers will do one or the other, but not both. They're both readers wanting to know about future books, but pre-orders are only for the next book, whereas mailing list signups will still be on the list (you hope!) for all your future books. If mailing list signups are what you want, don't set up pre-orders on your books.

    For comparison, my own list, which is totally organic, stands at 48. It gets 62% opens, 23% clicks.
     
  11. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    I'm going to update both my books in early Dec to include advertisements for Repulsive. I'm going to add the front link to the email list at that point.

    What do you think about moving the TOC to the back of the book? I'm seriously considering that move as well.

    I just cannot do this. I know that it is good advice and would gain me subscribers that I don't get now. But I am so anti pop up, even subtle ones, I can't make myself do it.

    So far, I haven't set up any pre-orders. I've read some about them, but I don't feel like I'm knowledgeable enough about them other than to understand that there are both positives and negatives. For the moment, I'm going to forego them and concentrate on sign ups. I reserve the right to change my mind later :)

    All of these are excellent additions to the conversations. I incorporated 2 and 3 into my strategy and should have included them in my OP. Thanks for bringing them up!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Since sending out the last campaign, I lost three subscribers and gained one, putting my total at 79. I then went through my list and deleted 37 (leaving my list at 42) subscribers who did not open any of the three campaigns that were sent to them. I did this for two reasons:

    1. I thought it exceedingly unlikely that these people would suddenly go from not even opening my emails to being strong customers.

    2. These people are much more likely to get tired of seeing my emails every month and hit "unsubscribe" or, worse, report the email as spam.

    I've seen a lot of reports on kboards lately about MailChimp giving authors real trouble about too many spam reports and unsubscribes. I haven't had any problems with the service, but I'm starting to get really worried. I'm going to do a promotion soon that will get me 800-1000 inedible subscribers. I'm likely to get a lot of spam reports and unsubscribes from that list. Should I just switch to a new service now or chance it?

    EDIT: I recently learned the MC gives you the ability to upload a file and easily send a link to that file. I was just creating a private page on my website and putting the download there, but MC's method seems easier. I'm not sure all other services give you that ability.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015
  12. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    Here's the promo site I just signed up for:

    SPONSOR FAQ |

    They have three different levels of "sponsorship" that you can choose from (Note: I'm not counting Gold as one because there's a waiting list for it).

    Bronze Monthly - $10
    Silver Monthly - $20

    Both of these go out at the beginning of the month and will contain no more than 50 authors (if I remember correctly). You'll probably end up getting 100 to 200 inedible email addresses. You can also pay for a "boost" that presumably will get you more addresses. No idea how much that adds or how much it costs.

    Platinum - $50

    This sponsorship is limited to 20 authors and goes out when the 20th one signs up. My impression is that it goes out every 1 to 2 months. It supposedly averages 800 to 1000 email addresses.

    The feedback I read (and this was at kboards, not hand selected on the site or anything) is that this is a pretty darn cost effective way to get email addresses and that the list generated is pretty decent as far as click rates compared to other sources of inedible subscribers. If you're going to use this method, I recommend you have a strategy for dealing with the new subscribers, though.

    I chose platinum for $40 (someone from the site graciously posted a coupon code that gave me a 20% discount). I'll document my experience with this promo (from when it fills to several months of results) here.

    Additionally, most participants do note some uptick in KU reads and, possibly, sales. I'll give you those results as well.

    EDIT: I'm so incredibly happy that some of us are starting to really discuss the business side of things on this site! Kboards is fantastic for information, but it's so big that it seems hard to really ... I don't know - connect? - or something ... with people over there. I really hope that some of these conversations help members of this board obtain more success.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015
  13. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Brian, awesome and informative post. Just an FYI, but I've had success with Facebook ads before. They're absolutely worth the money, at least in my experience. I've used them to grow in Facebook followers on two different accounts, which boosted my numbers by 16 overnight on one account and 20 within two days on the one. From just one set of ads (which I took down because my books aren't quite ready yet). I'll be trying it again for my mailing list/book bundle once my novelettes are ready for publication. Anyway, with the success your books are experiencing this early on, I'd take out a FB ad and run with it. Good luck!
     
  14. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    Is increasing your number of FB followers a good use of your resources? I thought that almost everyone suggests trying to build your email list in lieu of anything else. FB seems especially bad since your posts aren't guaranteed to even be seen by all your followers unless you pay for a boost.

    I've read that they can be very, very effective for building your email list. My problem is that, when I start thinking about doing ads on FB, it feels like this huge learning curve that I have to master, and every hour I spend on doing that is an hour that I'm not doing something else.
     
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    6,698
    4,698
    313
    FTR, Brian, I have little patience for people who complain that others here are too didactic. You should not have to say "it seems to me" or "in my opinion" in anything you write here.

    Of course it seems to you! To whom else would it seem?

    Of course it's your opinion! It's posted under your name!

    I hate that kind of hedging; it smacks of false modesty. Say what you have to say. Let it stand on its own merits. Sometimes I agree with you and sometimes I disagree with you, but I always appreciate your clarity. I, for one, would be glad to see all the hedges burn.
     
    Russ likes this.
  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    Even with that kind of language, I still get people who complain that I'm too strong with my opinions. It seems to me that, in my opinion, I can't win ...
     
    danr62 likes this.
  17. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    6,698
    4,698
    313
    Yes, by all means let us be weak in our opinions.

    "I'm looking for advice, but don't tell me what to do."

    *harrumph*
    (I'm having a harrumphing sort of day)
    (<aside>Also, evidently 'harrumphing' is actually a word. So is humph, which presumably is the diminutive for harrumph. </aside>)
     
  18. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Hey, Brian. That's a fair question about building Facebook followers. I did it mostly as an experiment and the other time was for a class. It worked well in both cases. I'm still building material to be able to give out with my mailing lists, which is why I haven't started working on adding names yet. :)

    Edit to add: Using Facebook isn't really that hard. You've mastered the hardest stuff already (like writing, publishing, etc). The way I've done it to take a chunk of money to spend per day, then created the ad with a little banner, and let it get seen. The ads manager is pretty good about giving you steps to follow as well.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2015
  19. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    I just hate learning new things :)
     
  20. danr62

    danr62 Sage

    254
    46
    28
    The thing to remember about Likes is that they are not worthless, but they are worth less than subscribers, especially given the organic reach of FB posts.

    However, advertising to your fans is cheaper than advertising to your non-fans (from what I've read), so one reason to advertise for fans is to have the ability to advertise your opt-in page to these fans. Also, some of your fans could still sign up without having to see the paid ad.

    More fans also gives you social proof and could help you fan page grow organically.
     
Loading...
Similar Threads
  1. Philip Overby
    Replies:
    10
    Views:
    1,631

Share This Page