Are you future-proofing your author business?
How do you currently collect newsletter subscribers at the end of your books?
Do you include a back-matter call-to-action with a link that points directly to [insert your newsletter provider]? (Mailchimp/MailerLite/ActiveCampaign/etc.)
If so, you may be making a costly mistake…
Let me tell you about the stupid error I made years ago. (Looking back now, I’m super grateful I made that mistake early on when I only had a handful of books out.)
Like many authors, I started out with Mailchimp because it was free for up to 2,000 subscribers.
Right after the final chapter (NOT on a new page, but right there on the same page, after a scene break), I included a link that people could click to join my reader group (a.k.a. my mailing list).
I was so proud of myself!
I didn’t make the mistake of creating a new “section” that could inadvertently NOT get shown to readers since that’s when Kindle readers typically see a pop-up inserted by Amazon where they recommend your next great read (instead of letting our readers see our precious calls-to-action that may exist after the book officially ends).
I got quite a few subscribers from that. I enjoyed watching my stats go up over time.
But after a while, I realized that Mailchimp didn’t work for my needs.
(That was well before they changed their terms. If you care to know: I had several lists, several automations, and every week I had to manually go in and export spreadsheets, merge, and then delete duplicate subscribers from various lists so I wouldn’t inadvertently send the same message multiple times to readers because they were on multiple lists. I hate it when I get duplicate emails, so I wanted to avoid that at all costs, and Mailchimp didn’t make it easy for me. My VA and I wasted at least one hour every week with a useless spreadsheet dance.) So I took Tammi Labrecque’s course (yes, the Newsletter Ninja gal herself), and she recommended I switch to ActiveCampaign, which lets people send the same campaign to multiple lists WITHOUT sending duplicates as long as those lists are all selected when setting up a single campaign. In case you also have that problem, here’s my affiliate link to ActiveCampaign, but even on the Lite plan, it’s an expensive service.
So I signed up for my new newsletter service, then spent a lot of time duplicating my onboarding/auto-responder sequences, exporting/importing subscribers, and testing things out. ActiveCampaign worked perfectly for my needs. My spreadsheet dance was officially over.
I poured myself a generous serving of my favorite Malbec, canceled my Mailchimp account, and…
That’s when I realized I had made a HUGE mistake.
My e-books needed to be updated and re-uploaded, and FAST!
I set aside my wine and proceeded to update the back-matter of ALL my books to point to ActiveCampaign instead of Mailchimp. I recompiled them all. (Thank goodness for Vellum!)
But as I was about to hit publish on the first book, I realized something:
What about all of the e-books I’d already given away or sold?
From past experience, I knew there was NO easy way for me to “force update” them all to include a link to my latest sign-up forms.
Side note if you don’t know this: Apple Books is pretty good at letting users know if updates are available (if users care to check and then manually update their existing books), but Amazon is different. They do NOT update readers’ existing e-book files unless you have a REALLY good reason (like 90% of your content has changed. If you want to ask KDP support, good luck. You’ve got a tough battle ahead of you, my friend). And I don’t read books from Google Play, Kobo, or other retailers, so I can’t comment on those reader updates.
All of my old e-books were floating “out there,” some (or perhaps most?) still unread, sitting on readers’ devices, queued somewhere in their virtually endless TBR piles.
Whenever (if ever?) those readers got around to reading one of my books, and if they liked it enough to reach the end, and if they wanted to hear more from me, then they would reach a broken 404 page because I had disabled my Mailchimp account.
[insert your string of swear words.] (I’ll spare you my foul ex-sailor’s mouth.)
My celebratory glass of wine was giving me the evil eye as it sat just outside of my reach while I tried wrapping my head around my options.
I couldn’t do much about this now, but I became determined to avoid finding myself in the same problematic situation again in the future. What if ActiveCampaign no longer worked for me, years from now?
The solution was simple.
To future-proof my e-books, I had to send people to a URL that I controlled. I own my domain names. They are set to auto-renew so I don’t risk squatters grabbing them from me if I miss the renewal date for some reason. No matter which website platform I used, I would always be able to redirect my own links.
All I had to do was send people to my own website instead of my newsletter service.
So I created a form, embedded it on a new page on my WordPress site, and then modified the back-matter of all my books to send people to that page on my own author website.
But even with that simple solution, a question kept pestering me: Should I create a separate form and/or a separate page for each sign-up placement (front- and end-matter of each book)?
Several of my books (but NOT all) sent people to the same auto-responder series, so I could greatly reduce the number of pages and forms to create and embed, but I wanted to get as much information WITHOUT creating too much work for myself.
Authors can never have too much information.
Wouldn’t it be nice to know which book was sending me more subscribers?
Marketing our books is hard enough, so why shouldn’t we try and figure out what works and what doesn’t?
Knowing if the majority of people are subscribing from Book A or Book X can be super helpful. We can find problems with our books. Perhaps the end-matter sign-up appears too late, perhaps we are giving too many calls-to-action (review my book, share on Twitter, email a friend, then join my list), or perhaps our book contains a broken link, and we don’t even know it’s broken!
Setting up different forms/pages for each book would offer valuable information, but it seemed like a lot of work, and I was supposed to be celebrating, remember?
That delicious glass of wine wasn’t going to drink itself.
That’s when I thought of a better solution.
What if I sent:
- Readers from book one end-matter to https://myname.com/book1end
- Readers from book two end-matter to https://myname.com/book2end
- Readers from book two front-matter to https://myname.com/book2start
- Readers from book three end-matter to https://myname.com/book3end
- Readers from book three front-matter to https://myname.com/book3start
And then redirected ALL of these links to one page with one form? (Like https://myname.com/newsletterA)
Best of both worlds
I would control my sign-up URLs, reduce the number of forms to create, get valuable data, AND finally get to drink my wine.
Fortunately for me, I knew just the right (free) plugin to make it happen.
At a glance, I would be able to tell how many clicks came from various books, and I only had to create one page that contained one embed form (for each automation flow).
If you have a WordPress site*, then the following short video may be of interest to you. I’ll show you how to install a free plugin and create as many link redirections as you want. As a side note, you can also use link redirections/tracking with affiliate links.
The video is only five minutes long. Your future self will thank you.
TLDR: So what’s the lesson here?
Do NOT point your calls-to-action to URLs that you do NOT control.
While you may be happy with your current newsletter provider, the situation may change. Your needs (or newsletter provider) may change! (Mailchimp is proof of that.)
Keeps things under your control whenever you can.
Don’t let your fans’ precious email addresses go uncollected due to a mistake that could have been avoided.
*If you are on a free or personal WordPress.com plan (WordPress with the blue interface, learn more here), you cannot install plugins. The video above is for WordPress users who are self-hosted (on Siteground, GoDaddy, Bluehost, etc.)