You need to build your email list. Everyone says so.
It’s the best way to grow a loyal readership. Simply lure people to your website and then encourage them to sign up for your enewsletter.
So you’ve got your website and you’ve got your newsletter sign-up, but not much is happening. Maybe you get a subscriber now and then, but your list isn’t growing nearly as much as you’d like it to.
How do you get more people on board?
One of the best ways is to give away a freebie in exchange for an email address. Unfortunately, a lot of authors get this part wrong. Here’s why and how you can avoid making the same mistake.
Why Authors Need to Offer Freebies
Today, more of us are trying to cut back on the number of newsletters we receive each week. They take up our valuable time, so we’re being choosier about which ones we sign up for.
That means that you, as an author, have to work harder to overcome your reader’s resistance.
Offering a freebie can help, but it needs to be the right one. Too often, authors feel they should offer an example of their writing, like a short story, missing chapter, or free book.
This is great if the person who’s coming to your website already knows you and your work. Or if you write nonfiction and the short piece you’re offering helps your reader improve her life in some way.
But if you write fiction and you want to capture readers who don’t know you yet, often a free bit of storytelling isn’t going to help much.
That’s because the reader doesn’t yet know you or your writing. They don’t know if they would like your short story, book of poems, or novella. So it’s far too easy for them to pass by the sign-up form.
It’s much better to get creative and think up something that would be more attractive to your reader.
5 Steps to Offering an Irresistible Freebie
1. Take an attitude of experimentation.
No writer is going to know straight out of the gate the type of freebie their readers will best respond to. This is marketing we’re talking about, and it’s not an exact science. Plus, every author’s audience is different, so you have to find out what works for your readers.
That’s going to take some time and experimentation. Understand that your first try is probably not going to be your last one. You’ll want to test at least three different freebies and then compare how they perform.
2. Consider your reader’s point of view.
As you’re coming up with ideas for your freebies, the most important thing to keep in mind is that they need to be valuable from your reader’s point of view.
Yes, your short story is valuable to you and you hope it will be to your readers. But they’re not going to see that value if they haven’t read any of your work before. You need to entice them with something they believe will be valuable to them the second they see it.
Make sure that each freebie idea has the following characteristics:
- It gives readers something they want, even if they don’t know you
- It’s appealing to your reader right away (i.e., write a great headline!)
- It offers enough value to your reader that they’re okay with giving up their email address
- It connects to your writing somehow
This doesn’t mean you can’t include a short story, chapter, novella, or other similar option along with your main freebie. That’s often a good idea. Nothing is saying that your freebie can’t include more than one item.
Just make sure that your main item is attractive on its own.
3. Create your first three freebies.
Once you’ve got your three ideas, it’s time to write, design, and prepare them for downloading.
“But I don’t know what to create!” so many writers say.
Here are some ideas off the top of my head to get you thinking:
For Romance Writers
- Report: Relationship Tips for Moms
- List: Most Romantic Date Ideas for Couples on a Budget
- Quiz: Which Celebrity Would Be Your Best Match?
For Mystery Writers
- Instructions: How to Organize Your Own Murder Mystery Party
- Report: The Most Common Mystery Clues and What They Mean
- Quiz: Name that Mystery Author!
For Fantasy Writers
- Quiz: What Would be Your Best Fantasy Pet? (dragon, unicorn, troll, etc.)
- List: 5 Real-life Fantastical Locations Perfect for Your Next Vacation
- Report: 5 Fantasy Games You Can Play with the Whole Family
4. Advertise It
Once you have your freebie completed and up on your website, it’s time to advertise it. Often writers neglect this step. They’re good at advertising their books, but not their freebies.
The best way to get the word out about this great free offer you have is to share it in:
- Social media posts
- Guest posts (add your offer at the end of the post with a link)
- Your blog
- Podcast interviews
- Email signature
- Anywhere you can talk about it
5. Compare Your Numbers
Remember that your first freebie may not be your best one. The only way to tell is to experiment with the other two freebies you created. Run the first one for one month, then the second one for the next month, then the third one for the third month.
Each time, keep track of your new subscribers. Make sure you advertise each freebie equally or your results will not be reliable.
At the end of the three months, go back and see which freebie brought in the most subscribers. Put that one back up (if it’s not up already), and then create three more that are similar. Over time, your readers’ responses will show you what kinds of things they like or don’t like.
This is valuable information for you to have as you grow your list. The more you know what your readers like, the better you’ll get at giving it to them. As you do that, your list will continue to grow, as will your fan base.
It takes time, but it’s worth it. The information you’ll gather is information you can’t get any other way.
Note: Your results hinge on your ability to deliver what you promised in your enewsletter. We’ll talk next time about how to make sure your email lives up to your subscribers’ expectations!
Here’s my newsletter advertisement! Click to get my free report and free chapters of my award-winning books for writers. If you’re interested in affordable, personalized writing coaching, click now and contact me for a free introductory call!
Here are three additional helpful posts from Resident Writing Coach Colleen M. Story. If you have any newsletter, freebie, or blog questions for Colleen, please leave them in the comments.
Colleen M. Story is a novelist, freelance writer, writing coach, and speaker with over 20 years in the creative writing industry. In addition to writing several award-winning novels, Colleen’s series of popular success guides, Your Writing Matters, Writer Get Noticed! and Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, have all been recognized for their distinction.
Colleen offers personalized coaching plans tailored to meet your needs, and frequently serves as a workshop leader and motivational speaker, where she helps attendees remove mental and emotional blocks and tap into their unique creative powers. Find out more about our RWC team here and connect with Colleen below. Free chapters | Writing and Wellness