Despite some folk predicting the demise of email, the email list is growing in importance (especially for indie authors). I’ve blogged before about Amazon’s changes over the last year and a half that have been gradually throttling indies. The price gap between tradition and indie has closed. Free as a temporary promotional tool (pulse) has lost its potency. And now Kindle Unlimited is choking indies further.
All of this should have succeeded in convincing the indie author of the importance of owning direct access to readers. It should be evident that Amazon blitzes and Bookbub bursts are no longer the panacea many made them out to be (the horror).
I’ll be the first to admit my idiocy. I’ve blogged steadily for eight years, and I’ve only collected emails via my blog for the last three. I resisted forever, mainly out of laziness and lack of direction. The focus of my blog has meandered from Industrial Hemp, to humor, to wine, science fiction, the Simpsons and now mostly subjects of writing, publishing and geek culture. Until just recently, my email list languished around 500 subscribers.
Over the last several months, I’ve retooled my indie author business to grow sales via my own website. I still sell stuff on Amazon and Kobo, and I hope I always will. But I no longer drive traffic there. If the connection to my stories is made by me, I want the buy to happen directly. If Amazon and Kobo bring me new readers, then they can have a cut. If they do nothing to get the business, then why should I pay them 30% royalty?
Due to this new focus on my personal website, I’ve put renewed efforts into the old email list. In the last few weeks, I’ve grown it to 1,500. I hope to forge it into a *solid 2,500 by the end of the year. (*40% open rate and 10% action rate.) Here is how I’ve done it so far.
Cultivating an eMail List Requires Gathering Emails First
There are lots of ways to grab emails, some less ethical than others. For clarity, I’m talking about growing a list of people that actually care about what I’m doing and creating. An email list that provides somewhere in the neighborhood of a 30% to 40% open rate and a 5% to 10% response rate (clicking through links, downloading stuff, etc.) is tough to cultivate and maintain. But that’s what I’m talking about–quality emails from real fans. The good news is that new platforms are rolling out all the time. Out of my two current favorites, one has been around for a couple years and two others are brand new.
NoiseTrade has been around for indie musicians for what seems like forever. NoiseTrade for books started (I believe) in 2013. Although I monitored NT for over a year, I didn’t create my first products on the site until this past December. At first, all I did was throw up a couple of shorts and a novel from my Lost DMB Files series. No promotion. No nothing. Just created the product pages, uploaded and published. That effort got me 12 emails over a few months.
A few weeks ago, I began communicating with NoiseTrade about paying for a feature spot in their email newsletter and on their site. They are a little selective about who is eligible, but they must not be too strict, because they seem fine with me. The newsletter spot went out on May 8th. After 48 hours, I’ve collected 855 emails. Granted, these emails are brand new, and I have no data on how many of them will prove to be genuine fans. All I know so far is that they claim to be consumers of digital content and that they were willing to gamble an email address in exchange for my free DMB Primar Library.
I’ll report back in a few months once I have a better idea of how many of these folks will convert into action taking fans.
Pirates ho! I can hear the concern oozing out of some of you before you even voice it. But BitTorrent has grown up. For those of you who don’t know anything about BitTorrent, congratulations, you’ve probably never pirated content. But back in the day, BitTorrent massively disrupted several content industries by providing a revolutionary manner of sharing digital stuff via the webs. The fact that some people used this new capability unscrupulously can hardly be blamed on BitTorrent!
Anywho, now a days, BitTorrent still maintains a massive gathering of faithful techies and geeks despite going more legit. BitTorrent Bundles appears to be their latest effort to convince Indie artists that we can all share the internet in harmonious beauty. Now Indies can create bundles of content (video, audio, textual, etc.) that fans can download directly from the artist in exchange for an email or some money.
I created a couple of bundles on a Saturday a few weeks ago to see what would happen. Initially, the traction seemed pretty good. As one of only a dozen recent bundles in the “Books” genre, I received 69 downloads, but only 5 emails. The action quickly trailed out to almost nothing after the genre tabs disappeared. As of May 8th, it hasn’t reappeared. Without them, my discoverability is next to nothing. There are still keywords people can use to search with, but not very many people seem to use them.
BitTorrent does have a highlight slider at the top of the page, but I’m not sure if it is open for paid placements. I haven’t pursued it yet, but would certainly be open to paying for a feature if it becomes available. As far as a platform for gathering new emails, it seems to currently be limited to 1-5 new emails a month at this point. Continuing to post new bundles every month or so could keep the emails trickling in.
Discount Books Daily
Not all book email list services are created equal. While BookBub drives traffic only to retailers such as Amazon, B&N and Kobo, some services are willing to drive traffic directly to the author’s website. I recently ran a promo with Discount Books Daily that did just that. The result was 72 new emails for a $75 weekend spotlight. I thought it was a satisfying result that I plan on repeating at some point in the future. While DBD is still much smaller than BookBub, I think they understand several key insights that BookBub seems less attuned to.
Next Comes the Cultivation
My next steps will be to continue following up these new people with a combination of personal messages and insider content in order to win them over as true fans. That will be one of my next posts! If any of you have platforms you’ve recently used to grow your email list, please share!