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Newsletter with Free Gift?

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by Momtoast, Feb 14, 2020.

  1. Momtoast

    Momtoast Dreamer

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    Greetings all.

    I'm hoping to start growing my newsletter list over this year, so that when my book comes out in the Spring I will have a fan base to announce it to. So here's the question:

    Do you give away something free when people sign up for your newsletter? What kind of things do you give away (or like to get)? I have a few ideas, in addition to occasional contests.

    Art prints
    temporary tattoos
    enamel pin
    plushie critter (like a dragon or something)
    Short story anthology or other short writing thing
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Gifts get expensive fast. Unless there’s funding involved about the best you can do is probably a print-quality digital poster that people can then print themselves.
     
  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I've had similar thoughts, but still not gotten around to it. The most common rewards, as far as I've heard of, are free stories of varying length.
    Physical items will need shipping, and you'll need to pack them up and have them delivered in time. It's work and time and money.

    Also consider the number of people who might sign up in order to get free stuff, and then unsubscribe.
    It would be cool to be able to give an actual physical thing, but I think the costs and logistics would be prohibitive.

    Digital items other than stories could be things like desktop backgrounds, other art, and similar things.
    For me, once I get to that point, it'll be a story of some kind.
     
    AMObst likes this.
  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Honestly, I’d be wary of using your own writing as a free gift unless that writing is already for sale and it’s a limited promotion. Your work is a product and you need to treat it as such. People should be signing up for your newsletter because they’ve already read something and are hoping to pay for more. Don’t cheapen your work.

    I mentioned print quality digital poster above. An even better choice might be an original art badge with a quote that people can use in signatures and websites and such.
     
  5. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Troubadour

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    I wouldn't like to receive physical items. Somehow, it sounds a bit too much. I like digital goods better. It feels more casual when you gain stuff and the giver doesn't actually lose anything, since it's just a copy.

    I think a short story with a high concept title and good cover art would be the way to go. I have signed up before, solely to grab some digital publication. I don't think a digital poster, like Devor suggested, would be enough. It would still just be an A4 print, and I have to do the work myself. But if the poster had some punchline of sorts that makes you want to print it out and hang it up right now, then maybe!
     
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Kind of an aside, but I wanted to mention something about email newsletters... which is that if you do a full newsletter, then you need to keep two email lists: one for the newsletter and one that is solely to announce your book when it comes out with a clear “no spam” type of promise. It may also help to post the newsletter content in other places in addition to email.

    Newsletters are great but some people just don’t want to use their email that way.
     
  7. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I don't have a newsletter myself, but I'm subscribed to a few (two or three), and I know a number of authors who have their own. Here on the forums, the only one I know who runs their own newsletter is skip.knoxskip.knox and maybe he will have some input.

    Offering a free story, ranging from a short up to a novella, in exchange for signing up to a newsletter appears to be a very common practice. This is an impression I've received both from people I talk to, and from what I've found when I get offered to sign up for mailing lists myself (usually at the end of a book).
    When/if I set up a newsletter, I will probably, (but not definitely) have a short-ish story that's exclusive to that, and which isn't available anywhere else. If I don't have a story, I'll probably not have anything at all. Stories is what I can do, and since the newsletter will be about my writing, it makes sense to have something that's close to that.

    I don't feel like that is cheapening my work. Rather, I want to offer something I take pride in so that I don't feel like I'm tricking people into signing up. That's why it's either a story, or nothing at all. If I want to offer something other than the actual newsletter, it has to be something that comes from me, and that I can stand behind.

    It's an investment in the relationship between me and my readers - if that makes sense?

    I can see the logic behind this, but so far, I haven't come across anyone who does this. It could be that this is because I just haven't looked enough, or paid attention enough, but it doesn't seem to be done. Mostly the discussions on these things seem to be about getting people to sign up at all, and the general advice seems to be to make it as easy as possible. Having a reader choose between two different newsletters seems like it would be an extra step that might dissuade someone from signing up at all.
     
    Momtoast likes this.
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    WRT physical gifts, they don't scale up. International shipping costs can get ridiculously expensive. If you do have physical gifts such as the ones the OP mentioned, save them for book signings, shows, and other physical events. And be prepared to give them away.

    WRT giving away writing, that's called a reader magnet and I do offer that. It's a novelette I wrote, it's a bit off the mainstream of Altearth (takes place in the 18thc instead of the Middle Ages), and is something that I had on Amazon for a while then I pulled it to offer strictly as a giveaway. I have three novels for sale plus a novelette. I have two short stories available for free at online magazines, and I knew this story wasn't ever going to sell in any appreciable numbers, so it was a natural to select.

    With all respect to Devor, I don't see this as cheapening my product. It's sharing my product. It's sharing my writing and sharing Altearth not only with people who have already read something of mine, but also with those who are simply curious.

    FWIW, I do have a specific email address that's specific to the newsletter. MailChimp sort of forced me to do it that way and I kept it when I moved over to MailerLite (glad I made that move, btw). If you want to see how my newsletter runs, go to altearth.net and sign up. You'll get a free story, and when you get the next newsletter you can look it over, then unsubscribe. One of these days RSN I'm going to figure out how to send a copy of the most recent newsletter to new subscribers, but I've not quite hammered that out yet.
     
    Momtoast likes this.
  9. Pemry Janes

    Pemry Janes Sage

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    I have a question as I'm trying to get my own newsletter going. How does one distribute a free story? Like, do you put it up on OneDrive or some such?
     
  10. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    One option that's tailored for authors is prolificworks.com. It lets you upload your book, and gives you a link to provide readers. Through this link the reader can then choose how to accept their book, depending on what device they use to read on or what format they want, etc.
     
    Momtoast and Pemry Janes like this.
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Pretty much, yes. I use Dropbox. You can also use Book Funnel, which isn't free but which does nice things like provide the source in multiple formats. Anyway, you put a link in the email over to the Dropbox or whatever, and that works.
     
    Pemry Janes likes this.
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    MomtoastMomtoast what kind of newsletter are you trying to put together?

    About the free gift, I subscribe to a couple of newsletters - both are on parenting, not writing. And the "free gift" for both of them was closer to a newsletter starter pack, with a bunch of content designed to get started. "Subscribe to our newsletter and get our ten-part pack..." It reads like a free gift before you subscribe, but then works because whatever happens to be the content for that week can be kind of random to start with.

    To be kind of honest, I'm struggling to figure out what a writer would want to start a newsletter for?

    Also, I disagree about bringing the physical stuff to a convention. If you're going to spring for something that costly do it for something like Patreon.
     
  13. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Troubadour

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    From a user perspective I would actually be very hesitant to subscribe to a newsletter that offered a physical gift. Given the cost of sending an item across the globe, I would guess the person sending the newsletter would need to make something like $5 off of me to break even. Which is a lot of money (just multiply that by 1.000) for just a newsletter subscription. And I would have to offer up my home address in exchange. That just screams "scam!" at me.

    It seems pretty common to offer a free story for a writer's newsletter subscription. So that's what I would go for (as a writer). I would personally make it a short story (max novelette size). Reason is that many people would just subscribe for the free novel and never actually purchase any of your books. Which is a lot of lost sales. And unless you're a prolific writer it's a significant portion of your potential writing income. Also, a short story you can easily rotate. Put a new one up every 6 months or so to keep things fresh (and reward people who remain subscribed).

    I would keep in mind here that, unless you have a very popular website already, no one is going to subscribe to your newsletter. Why would people find your website and newsletter in the first place? People don't actively go looking for you unless they have a reason to. So no matter what you offer, people are simply not looking for it (because they don't know it exists). There is already enough free ebooks out there (Google gives 1.440.000.000 results for the search free ebook). So you're not going to be found.

    So having the newsletter is not going to move the needle in regards to sales of your first book (as said, unless you already have a platform, in which case the newsletter is not needed and you can just announce it to your audience). You have the newsletter so people can subscribe after they like your first book and then hopefully buy your second book. It's only going to move serious numbers of books once you have a few successful books out.
     
  14. Momtoast

    Momtoast Dreamer

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    So how do we define a platform, a consistent audience like that? I doubt Twitter followers or choose your social media platform counts. I have seen lots of people saying how that doesn't constitute a consistent platform, that they are not an audience so much as a pool to draw you audience from.

    To me a newsletter constitutes a more committed audience. I'm not sure how else to find one, unless I committed to something like Wattpad or a full blog or something, and I'm not sure I can keep up that level of writing.

    What do you consider your audience? I'm trying to build one up so that when my book comes out I have them to announce it to and can reasonably expect some of them to buy the book. I don't feel like I can expect that from Twitter followers.
     
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    It's not like these terms have crystal clear definitions. Is this your first book? If so, you probably can't count on anything more than friends and relatives, at least for fantasy fiction. A how-to book or certain other non-fiction works have a different dynamic.

    I agree that the core followers are your newsletter subscribers, plus certain others who will buy your books consistently but aren't interested in a newsletter. Such do exist, but it's nearly impossible to track them. If you can manage to get fans before you even have a product, then my hat's off to you!
     
  16. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Troubadour

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    A platform for me is any group of people who take not of what you say (or write). This could be a blog, or twitter or twitch or whatever, as well as a newsletter.

    Of course, this doesn't mean it's an effective platform for selling your novel. If you have a lot of twitter followers because you post a cute baby photo each day, then that isn't the best platform to sell your slasher horror novel to. But it's still a platform. And if you go less extreme, and you have a bunch of pinterest followers who like your travel photo's then you might make a bunch of extra sales from them if you write a travel fantasy novel based on places you've visited.

    As an extreme example, Beyonce probably has a lot of twitter followers. It's one of her platforms. If she were to tweet that she absolutely loved a certain book and everyone has to read it then you can be sure that a bunch of her followers will pick it up. Not everyone, but even with your own newsletter that only goes out for new book releases you can't count on that.

    I think a newsletter is a great tool to have to build an audience. It's a pretty much free way to reach people who have expressed interest in your work.

    However, people first need a reason to subscribe to a newsletter. And to manage that they first have to actually find the newsletter. Just having a website with a subscription field and offering a gift is not going to do it. Just think of the last time you subscribed to a newsletter. Why did you subscribe?

    I'm curious to hear how you want to get people to see and then subscribe to your newsletter. Because it seems to me that people first have to read your book before they might decide to subscribe. Unless you already have a platform.
     
  17. Momtoast

    Momtoast Dreamer

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    Exactly. So I'm building up the first kind of platform you mentioned, the social media reach, and trying to do so based on fantasy interest type things. What I'm doing now is trying to figure out what sorts of things would get them to subscribe, to build that second kind of platform of people that would be interested in buying my book when it comes out.

    I have seen the suggestions on here to offer free fiction, which I think is a good idea, so they can see the writing style and all that. So I was thinking maybe offering short stories and possibly related art (I have a few artist friends that I could work with to get images of the characters) to entice them to sign up.

    Part of my plan is to self-publish a collection of short stories before my (indie press) traditionally published book comes out next Spring. Maybe I could offer a free ebook version to subscribers?
     
  18. Momtoast

    Momtoast Dreamer

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    Also I don't think it's a huge leap to expect to have some kind of platform before a book comes out. I know big publishers have a lot more money to throw at these things, but they work to get new authors buzz before their books release. Small presses do the same things. I don't think it's impossible for an individual to build up a little hype for themselves ahead of time.
     
  19. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Having a platform even before you launch your first book isn't unheard of. You'll just have to play the social media game and get people to take an interest in you, and, by extension, in what you do. Supposedly, it's trickier these days than it was a few years ago, but it's not impossible, or at least shouldn't be.

    I'm no good at the game, but I'm still there, and I've got a few readers (it's not all just friends and family) who cheer me on when I post updates about my writing and my stories.
    I've currently paused all promotion other than manually interacting with people and talking about my books where suitable, in order to just focus on finishing the current book, and then revise the first few books in my series. Once that's done though, I hope to be able to put some more effort into the promotion aspect, and to do it with more confidence.
     
    Momtoast likes this.
  20. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I find it distracting to hear the word platform used to mean audience. To me, the platform is the underlying tech. A website, a mailing list, social media, these are platforms. An author platform would be the specific ways in which a particular author uses them to build and maintain an audience. It's not a big semantic deal, but it does make me stumble on some sentences. Because if the two words are interchangeable, phrases like a speaker's platform or a political platform start to sound like nonsense.
     
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