Email Marketing: Giving Away Free Books, Opt-in’s, and GDPR.
Why This Came Up
Yesterday I was reminded how the GDPR deadline was coming up. And Instafreebie was not going to recommend any giveaway or book on their web sight that was still “mandatory opt-in” in order to download a free book. Frankly, this was a no-brainer to me, as I explain below.
I then communicated this to my groups, telling them that I was probably going to have to remove any books that were still mandatory opt-in by the time the giveaway went live – so that Instafreebie would help us get subscribers with their promotions.
But a very small handful of people – less than 10 – out of the 9 giveaways I am currently organizing had any comment to add. Only two were at all negative. The rest just wanted their book(s) removed instead of making them optional opt-in. (And subsequently got over twice as many new authors submitting their books to those giveaways – go figure.)
One of my insider group really wanted to understand what was going on with this scene, so she could make up her own mind.
So I gave her an overlong email (typical firehose approach of mine) explaining the background I come from and an outline of steps we can take to make lemonade of these lemons.
(Of course, I also managed to work in a cattle-herding metaphor into it – more for color, I guess.)
Anyway, it’s a viewpoint you might want to consider in your own writing-publishing-marketing, whether you utilise Instafreebie or not…
How and Why I Think Differently About Giveaway Books
I come from a different view on a lot of this scene. One of testing everything first.
Sure, I’ve read a flood of the typical Internet Marketing material about swapping emails for freebies. But I also got tired of the “cr*p” that was piling into my inbox. Some months ago I did a massive campaign of just clearing these out and either unsubscribing or marking them as spam. Now I just keep up with the ones who routinely (or occasionally) give me really good value. Life is more peaceful, and email doesn’t take me hours to clean out. (And I do make a point of opening one from each of those I kept every now and then…)
So when Instafreebie came up to the top of my “testing” list, I dived in and followed their instructions.
Sure enough, I was soon getting a steady flood of readers into my email list. When I did a rough check, I found that I was getting somewhere around 4 subscribers to 10 claims. Often hundreds per week. And that probably sounds wimpy compared to 1:1 others have been getting. GDPR is making things interesting, but we only have our own Facebook and Google to blame, with their ripoff attitudes toward privacy.
But back to the point – how can we make lemonade out of the lemons we have to work with?
Personally, if I download an ebook and instantly get a typical garbage reply “Thanks for joining, now I’m going to start sending you offers for you to buy my stuff. Oh, BTW, did I tell you to Buy My Stuff yet?” At that point, I’m gone. Just like Instafreebie says. Lots more unsubscribes and complaints.
On the other hand, I now know that a free subscriber may only be a freebie-seeker. It’s my job to give great value so that person becomes a true fan. Rather than have a list of 10,000 where only 10 percent opens and 1 percent clicks, how about the “1,000 True Fan” theory where you are getting near 100% opens and 100% clicks? (Not to mention the book purchases…)
That will only happen as an author carefully grooms up their subscribers and pays attention to what they open and click on. Then give them more of what that survey says they really want.
The reverse is also true. I deleted over a hundred from my list this week because they haven’t ever opened a single email from me. For whatever reason. Sure, I send them a last “Still Interested?” email and got nearly 10% of those to come back into the fold. (And then they have another 90 days to open something again before it starts all over.)
Sure, I’m sad that they aren’t interested. But the lists I have left now average opens at around 40% a click-rate of 25%. And a couple of my smaller lists open then at 100% (still working on that 100% click-rate, though.) Those small lists are the ones who know every single one of my emails will help them out in some way.
The other catch is in the quality of the ebooks we are sending out.
If I got someone’s ebook, I want to know that I can then get onto that author’s list from inside that ebook if I want. So I can get more from them. (And the one’s that aren’t very well written or formatted, well…)
We need to make sure that our interiors are an excellent reading experience, and also give them plenty of reason and opportunity to join our avid reader’s club – become true fans.
That’s why I push books2read.com – because they create author and book pages that cross-link into your other books. If someone wants to buy, then they can choose not just Amazon, but several other major book outlets. If you make your book with Draft2Digital, you can have a wide choice of templates for interior design – and they enable updating a list of your other books in the back of each of your ebooks. Then they send those updated ebooks out to all their book outlets. (A person who is into KDP Select will be concentrating only on Amazon, so that’s really not for them. But they could use Draft2Digital to get their interior book designed for free, anyway.)
I’m thinking we need a “Thank You” page in the front and back of every ebook with an opt-in link, like:
“Thanks for selecting this book to read. I really appreciate you as a reader. If you want to share anything with me, just join my mailing list. I’d love to hear from you. [LINK]”
Right after that, we should have a list of our other books available and clickable link to each one. (Draft2Digital also enables a preview of another book in the back if you want to add it.)
The whole point is reader experience.
Another interesting point is that a really good book will be read over and over. And every time it is, your opt-in and other books are all available to that reader – or anyone they share it with. The download you ship today may give you subscribers and purchased books even years later…
Sorry, but this overlong email has become such a longer explanation of whether optional opt-in is worth it.
I consider that optional opt-in is doing us a favor by giving readers a first self-selecting hurdle. The second hurdle is to get them to open your emails at all. The third is to routinely open them. The fourth is to get them to routinely click on them. These three last hurdles are also ours – to help them get across to the finish line of becoming a true, die-hard fan.
If we’ve just spent months getting a book completed and then publishing it, only to give it away, we should take the same care with the people who download it. It’s all really about reader experience. From the first moment we decide to bring our book to life, the first keystroke.
To some degree, the Internet Marketing approach is a lot like herding cattle. But if you treat cattle too roughly, you’ll get them pissed off and turning around to come right back at you – or simply jumping the fences on either side and tearing them down in the process. Now you have a real mess. (And I work with cattle every day, so this is personal knowledge.) The highest ideal in working cattle is to “allow them decide to go where you want them to.”
But people aren’t cattle. And they shouldn’t be treated as such. Building a fan-base depends on a lot of book discovery. And that means giving a lot of value first. Open-handedly. Way before you ever ask for anything. It shouldn’t be a baited hook. “I’ll give you this and now you have to listen to me sell you stuff.” I think the recent changes in email have proved this. People are getting smarter as the scammers educate them. (Phone calls are so bad, I don’t answer them any more. I’ll call actually known contacts back or email them instead to set up a time we can talk. Just the way things are.) And there is no “short attention span” as some marketers complain about. Actually, a person can see through most of the garbage marketing they’ve been fed and know what’s just click-bait. They’ve been educated.
That’s what GDPR is all about. They got educated awhile back and spent four years developing this guideline to protect people from scammers (and Facebook/Google.)
So that’s my idea of what we should be doing.
- Let the readers self-select, which gets you out of encouraging freebie-seekers to join your list.
- Concentrate on reader experience and cultivating true fans out of those that do.
- Enable incredible value and build real relationships with them.
- So you wind up with a tight list of hard-core fans who open and click on everything.
All GDPR and Instafreebie have told us is to up our game, and make the reader more important and valuable to us. We do that be becoming more valuable to them.
It’s all in treating readers like we’d like to be treated.
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Also published on Medium.