Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mailing Lists 3 - Creating a Plan

Mailing Lists: Recap

This is the third post in a series of articles about Creating and Maintaining a Mailing List. Here are links to the entire series:
Be sure to read those before you read the post below.

Part 3: Creating a Plan

Before you get all excited and announce your VIP or Reader Club, be sure you have everything set up! I made the mistake of announcing my VIP Club and THEN said, "HOLY HELLO! I have to make the freebies and create the autoresponders for next week!" Talk about pressure!!! Learn from my mistake and draft your program FIRST, set it up, THEN announce it!

As I said in the previous post, how you set your program up will depend on how many books and freebies you have. But let's start with the basics...

Start by creating a list of all the books you have on your backlist. Based on the suggestions I give below, you could conceivably generate a minimum of three messages per book, but you could explore more if you wanted. Let's not worry about pacing or when you'll send these message out just yet. We're forming a skeleton of a plan. We'll get to the meat of the plan in just a moment.

  1. Create a list of the freebies you already have (see Mailing Lists 2 for ideas)
  2. Create a list of possible freebies you can create
  3. so instead of speculating what you may or may not do, I'm just going to show you my schedule for my VIP Club. All of these are automatic e-mails that are sent out based on the day the member enrolled in the club. These are called "autoresponders" and not only does MailPoet allow you to create newsletters, you can also create autoresponders. Squeee!!!

If you have a mailing list service, look into their autoresponder options. WARNING: You may have to pay for this service, so I would recommend, again, getting a WordPress website so you can explore MailPoet or other such free plugins that will help you manage your mailing list. Be sure the plugin has "AUTORESPONDERS".

  1. New Subscribers - Welcome Letter 
    1. Should be sent within the hour of them subscribing to my mailing list AND encourages readers to add me to their "safe sender" list so they don't get those e-mails put into spam folder.
    2. One To Die For eBook. Coupon Code - gives members the Smashwords coupon code to download the short, erotic story for free.
    3. Let them know they'll be getting e-mails weekly for the first month, then monthly after that. Setting expectations goes a long way to keeping your list. If they know the e-mails are coming, they're less likely to get upset when they see the e-mail pop up in their inbox.
  2. 1 Week After Subscribing
    1. Desktop wallpaper of Vampire Masks w/quote "I want the taste of you on my soul". Provides a link to the image on my website (more on that later, too)
    2. $5 off coupon for paperbacks and $1 off ebooks - Since I have a WordPress website, I have installed the WooCommerce shopping cart plugin. This not only  allows me to give my readers $5 off all my trade paperbacks (which I buy directly from CreateSpace) through their coupon feature, my readers get all their paperbacks signed by me and I usually throw in a few bits of swag I have laying around as extra goodies. Also, the $1 off eBooks is actually a 25% Smashwords coupon for all my other books...which equates to $1 off for a $3.99 book.
  3. 2 Weeks After Subscribing
    1. Free Broderick MacDougal smart phone backgrounds - I have Photoshop templates for the various backgrounds here:
  4. 3 Weeks After Subscribing - DONE
    1. Hot Rod Haunting eBook - Coupon Code - another short, erotic story I wrote, which can be downloaded for free with the Smashwords coupon I've created.
    2. I also ask members to forward e-mails to friends and encourage them to sign up for the VIP Club so their friends can get vampire freebies, too.
  5. 1 Month After Subscribing
    1. Free Broderick MacDougal desktop wallpaper for their computer. 
    2. Remind them the freebies will now come every month
  6. 2 Months After Subscribing
    1. Midnight Captive quote - Radiant over the North Sea - desktop wallpaper of Scottish shore and sunset over the North Sea.
  7. 3 Months After Subscribing - DONE
    1. Midnight Hunt quote - Not even death - desktop wallpaper of misty, wooded road
  8. 4 Months After Subscribing - DONE
    1. Midnight Captive quote - Radiant over the North Sea - smart phone backgrounds
  9. 5 Months After Subscribing - DONE
    1. Midnight Hunt quote - Not even death - smart phone backgrounds
  10. 6 Months After Subscribing
    1. Midnight Eclipse quote - "I don't want you to be decent" - desktop background
  1. 7 Months After Subscribing
    1. Midnight Eclipse quote - "I don't want you to be decnet" smart phone backgrounds

Remember, you can always keep adding to the freebies as you publish more books and short stories. I have two more books coming out in my series, so when Book 5 & 6 are out, I'll be adding desktop and smart phone backgrounds for those, too! When I start my new series, I'll be including a short story prequel. The sky is the limit!

Part 4: Setting Up Your Program

You'll first need to create all the freebies. Like with the freebies I mentioned above, I needed to create the graphics for the backgrounds, publish the short stories on Smashwords (which I priced at 99 cents each) and generate a free coupon code for each story, and also created my 25% off coupons for my other books. Smashwords won't let you create a 25% off all of your books. You need to create a separate coupon for each book. I'm looking into whether or not Draft2Digital has coupons. As far as I know, they don't, so you could still publish to Smashwords, but do not publish to the distribution channels except for the ones Draft2Digital doesn't cover. THEN you'll have the ability to create your coupons and still have the joy of Draft2Digital.

THEN once I created the goodies, I created a page on my website listing all the freebies. CAUTION: You want to encourage people to sign-up for the freebies...not just access them on your site. As such, I've created "members only" pages on my WP site that can only be seen if someone has signed-up on my site with a username and password. Here are a list of plugins I use on my WordPress site that allow me to accomplish this and a few other tidbits I find useful:

  • WP-Members (by Chad Butler) - This is the plugin that allows you to block specific pages and posts on your website so they are ONLY visible to people who are logged into your website.
  • Import Users from CSV (by Ulrich Sossou) - If you already have a mailing list and you'd like to start using the MailPoet plugin, this plugin will allow you to import the CSV of your current mailing list with your service (e.g., MailChimp). I still have to implement the MailPoet plugin and manage my mailing list, so I'll be sure to include how this process went and some things to avoid. For example: I'd hate for my whole mailing list to suddenly get all their notifications all over again if they've been long-time subscribers. What a pain for them!
  • Improved User Search Backend (by David Stöckl) - The WP search function for the Users list stinks, so this plugin makes searching your list so much easier!!
  • MailPoet Newsletters (by MailPoet) - I've already touted the functions of this plugin above.
  • Pie Register (by Genetech Solutions) - This allows you to customize your registration process by adding new fields to your registration form AND giving you a shortcode so you can put the registration form anywhere on your website. Check out my registration page here. Keep your fields limited, though. People hate to fill out long forms. I'll be adding "birthday" as a field as soon as I upgrade to the MailPoet plugin. Then I can set up an autoresponder to wish my members a happy birthday and give them something special.
  • Rename wp-login.php (by avryl)- This plugin is now "unmaintained" but it is still working wonderfully on my site. The functionality is there, but there might not be future updates. What this plugin does is allow you to change your login page to another URL. ALL WP websites have the login page address as a default. Which means ALL SPAMMERS and spammer bots know that address even if you hide your login page and do not allow anyone to register on your site. If you change the login page URL to something else (like "registerhere.php" for example) spammer bots will have a much harder time finding your registration page. This will really help keep down the spam. Another one for eliminating spam is...
  • Akismet (by Automattic) - This does a GREAT  job as filtering out all those spammy comments. I cannot stress the importance of this plugin. I believe it is a default plugin installed when you create your WP site, but you will have to activate it. I think they ask for donations, but whatever money you spend on's worth it! Don't have a site without it!
  • WordPress SEO (by Team Yoast) - This is a great tool that allows you to increase the chances of your pages being "search engine optimized" or SEO. On the screen where you compose a post or page for your site, there is a section that will tell you what you need to do to optimize your page, such as whether or not you have enough external links on your page/post; if your pictures have your page's keyword, picking a keyword and using it in your post, if you have enough words on your post (recommended 300+), changing the title of your page and how it will show up in the search engines, etc.
IF you do not have a WordPress site OR if this is all too complicated for you, I would recommend keeping the freebie items limited to the autoresponders and perhaps you can create a closed FB group where you can list all the freebies for members only there. Some people lose their letters or miss them or are even impatient to receive all the freebies. So, on your registration form, be sure to include a field for them to give a link to their FB profile or page, then you can add them to your FB group once you have that info. That's one idea. I'd love to hear other ideas people might have!

Part 5: Implementing Your Program

Once you've created all your freebies, you'll want to create the autoresponders through your mailing list management service to distribute those freebies. The autoresponders are like creating a newsletter. So you can see a sample of what I do, here is a link to one of my autoresponders: Six-Month Freebie.

So the main part of the e-mail that goes out should have the freebie they get, then you can take advantage of providing other useful information to your members in the sidebar or at the bottom of the message, such as...
  • Affiliate Links to your books - I always include links to the current books in my series. This way, if they forward my e-mails to other people who are new to my novels, they'll have all the books in my series, just a click away! Additionally, I have an affiliate account with and they have a great way to include an image of your book cover with an affiliate link attached. Basically, if someone clicks on your book cover, it will go to Amazon and have your affiliate link attached to it. ANYTHING they buy on that visit will end up earning you a certain percentage of their purchase based on what they buy. I believe for eBooks, it's 4%. So even if they don't buy your book, you could still earn a few pennies on whatever they purchase! I've learned that 95-98% of my readers have a Kindle or use the Kindle app. RARELY do I get readers who ask for other retail vendor links or files. However, you may have different results, so join the affiliate that best suites your needs (e.g., iTunes, B&N, Kobo, etc.).
  • Reminders for Reviews - In one or two of your autoresponders, be sure to encourage readers to leave reviews on the books they've read and let them know how much they help you and other authors.
  • Reminder to Spread the Word - If you have some incentive program (like I do with my $50 gift card drawing every quarter), encourage people to forward your e-mails to friends who might like your books.
You'll want to be sure to include information that isn't necessarily dated OR provide content that won't need to change a whole lot. For example: Don't put sales of other books for friends because you'll have to go back in and change those if the pricing changes. You want "evergreen" information. Make sense?

That's it for this post. In the next post, we'll talk about how to grow your list! In the meantime, share what's worked for you so far. What other ideas can you suggest for free content you can distribute to your mailing list members in your autoresponders that I haven't mentioned?

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That's my two pence...

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