Question from anonymous: What do you think about giving away a short story as an incentive to sign up for my email list. I have several good ones I was planning to weave into the third book of my upcoming trilogy. How about offering a link to a PFD of my writing tips page?
I love answering questions, especially when I can turn it into a blog post.
Email List Signup Incentives
When you give something away as an incentive to join your email list, you want it to tick off a few important check boxes:
- It should be valuable enough that it hurts, just a little bit, to give it away.
- Give away the milk, not the whole cow (i.e. – give a short story if you only have one novel, give the first book for a trilogy), you still need something to sell once they sign up to your list.
- It should be an easy to consume gateway to the product you want them to buy – Not too long that they will “save it for later”…indefinitely. On topic, so that it plants the desire to purchase your full book/series.
So if you want to sell a book of writing tips, then give away a pdf on some of those tips, but if you want them to buy your novel then give them a taste of the world or the character that is so irresistible they must have more. A short story that will be worked into a future book is good as long as a) no spoilers b) the short story comes to a satisfying conclusion (i.e. not just part of a larger story, because that feels like a trick, not a gift).
Once you get email list subscribers…
Think beyond the initial attention/email getting giveaway. Because that interaction is not the only one you want to have. Getting as many people subscribing as possible is not an ideal goal. And it can be harmful to your bottom line.
Your best goal in email list building is to slowly and naturally grow a community of readers who are receptive and engaging.
Ask your self a question: Do you actually want to be on mailing lists?
The average person does not wake up and start their day thinking, gee I wish I was on another email list.
Now another question: Are you on any email lists that you actually pay attention to? Which ones are those? What do they have that makes you read rather than contemplate unsubscribing? They have value. Right?
So to keep your subscribers truly engaged, you need to keep giving them value. Not necessarily as valuable as the initial giveaway, but something that makes them anticipate your email, and open it to see what they got this time. You don’t need to do this in every email, but you do need to do it consistently enough to set up the expectation and the desired behavior…AKA engagement.
Don’t let your desire for subscribers lead you astray
You might be wondering how it could be harmful to have a lot of subscribers. That’s a no brainer. If you use Mail Chimp, for example, at a certain number of subscribers you have to start paying for them. On other platforms you pay from subscriber one. Do you really want to pay to keep people on your list if they don’t read your emails?
You don’t want to have your subscriber numbers explode and then have to figure out who to cut. So avoid using schemes that net you a few thousand subscribers all at once. But do actively create irresistible reasons for the right people–your readers–to sign up. And don’t sweat it if this process takes time. Worthwhile things take time and energy.