Author Mailing List: Instafreebie For Audience and List Building
Instafreebie is one of the most overlooked audience and list-builders for authors. Those who know about it and use is are building their subscriber base one of the fastest and least expensive ways known.
I first found out about this from one of Mark Dawson’s podcasts, where he revealed that it was cheaper than FB. What he didn’t say much about is that it’s much less labor intensive than running FB ads.
But it is so little known that I couldn’t even find a list of best practices for it, or even tips and tricks about how to get started. My first post on this area was more comprehensive than anything I’ve found out there, and it was simply a list of the Instafreebie articles available to anyone.
This time, I’ve dived deep into using it and am ready to spill what I’ve found out and tested so far.
First, Why Do You Need a Mailing List?
Because Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest are changing all the time. You can’t rely on them to allow you to contact your buyers or followers. Most, in fact, don’t want you to. Unless its through them. They all have restrictions against directly asking people for contact data.
Ask yourself this: What would you do if Amazon quit tomorrow? Is that your only income source for book sales? Could you contact your buyers to tell them about your next book coming out?
Facebook could shut down, and so could Twitter, and any or all of the other social media platforms.
Would you be screwed, or would you be prepared?
As you build your own subscriber list, you can cushion that blow when it (inevitably) happens.
The real side benefit is that by mailing to your own list, you don’t have to advertise to get people to buy your books (well, not as much.) Because you already have a fan base that you’ve built up who have bought your books and want more of them. You have built your own Book Bub, actually. Why pay for their services when you can simply send out an email that costs you only time?
If you have a subscriber list, you have a business. If you don’t, you are living on borrowed time.
Free, Paid, and Pro Plans to Get Subscribers
There are three plans:
Basic – Free. Where you can get your books up and join in on giveaways, but not integrate your mailing list.
Unlimited giveaways and distribution at no additional costInstafreebie acceleration to the right readersCustomer support for readers1 pen name and author page
Plus – For $20 per month, you get a single author pen-name and can integrate either MailerLite or MailChimp, so that your subscribers are immediately sent to your list and so you can set them up with a response. Contrast this with the free plan where you’d have to export from Instafreebie and then import into your mailing list.
Everything in Basic +Add subscribers to a mailing listOptional MailerLite or MailChimp integrationFully customizable giveawaysTrack giveaway success
Pro – For $50 per month, you get five author pen-names with author pages. Unstated here is that they pay more attention to your giveaways and you in general (or I’m led to believe that, anyway.)
Everything in Plus +Personalized giveaway brandingUp to 5 pen names and author pages
Author Pages and Pen Names
On these author pages, they list the books you’ve made available for those pen names and make them available for anyone to claim and potentially sign up to your mailing list.
One of the great things you can do with the author page at Instafreebie is plug it into the “follow this author” link at books2read.com (created and run by the brilliant people at Draft2Digital.com) and so someone interested in following you can claim a book to get on your mailing list. Otherwise, you can have them opt in directly to your mailing list – and tests are still out on which is better.
Your Instafreebie author page can be edited. One thing to suggest here is to not nail down a specific address for that pen name. Because 1) most authors who use pen names acquire far more than five, and 2) you’ll change pen names if you aren’t getting a result, because the reason for pen names is to get started at all, regardless of your skill. And so you don’t put your own name on all your writing until later when you are very, very good at writing. However, authors like O. Henry, and Louis L’Amour were famous and known by their pen name instead of their real one for almost their entire writing career.
Books2Read gives you author pages and book pages for each book you search for. And they are interlinked, so that author and book pages refer to each other. Obviously, having your Books2Read pages link to your Instafreebie pages should give you a lot of SEO link love and more subscribers.
Promotional Use of Instafreebie with Draft2Digital Links
A next point comes up is to keep your Instafreebie offers updated with your books on Draft2Digital. With each book through Draft2Digital, you have the option of having “Also by [pen name/author]” page at the back of every book. Later books are automatically added to your ebook.
So your book becomes a sales linked page for every book you have. They are taken to a books2read page where they can buy it directly through their preferred outlet.
All your giveaways, if run through Draft2Digital, are linked in promotions to the rest of your books. Meaning you are now enabling your backlist sales without having to send them to Amazon for your other works. (Also note that the book pages Draft2Digital creates for you automatically also lists the other books – linked to their B2R sales pages – for each book. Meaning you only have “also boughts” recommendations for your own books there.
Conversely, your author page on Instafreebie can also cross-link back to your Books2Read author page, where they can also find all the other books. And buy them. Which takes a lot of the problem of creating sales pages on your own blog for those books.
- Instafreebie author page: https://www.instafreebie.com/discover/author/23300/c_c_brower
- Books2Read author page: https://books2read.com/ap/xqOrdn/C-C-Brower
If you’re using redirect links, it would be sensible to send potential subscribers to your Instafreebie page, and subscribers to the books2read page. If this ever changes, then you just change the address on the redirect link.
https://www.instafreebie.com/groupgiveaway/createCreating Giveaways and Starting From Scratch
There are simple giveaways and group giveaways. The simple one is to post a book on the site and then tell them to share it. This populates it on your author page and all the giveaway pages. You don’t have to do this to get your books into the group giveaways, but my experience says that you are missing out if you don’t also give them away everywhere else. Now note that on the Plus and Pro plans, you’ve integrated your mailing list and so can choose which list (or group) your new subscriber will show up on. This just gives you another reason to simply assign this by creating a simple giveaway.
Once you have a giveaway, announce it on Twitter with #instafreebie hashtag so that the people at instafreebie will reshare this for you and promote it other ways for you. Theoretically, setting up your books to regularly be promoted individually on Twitter would then be a smart move.
I’ve found that I can post the linked page to Flipboard when it goes live, which then allows me to send out to Twitter, FB, G+, and LinkedIn all from the same interface. Nice. One and done.
This is probably the best way to start when you have no list. Because you are expected to promote anytime you are on a giveaway to make it happen. This is the magic of group giveaways, that all the people on them are sending the link and promo out to their lists. So you get people opting in for your book from other people’s work through their newsletters and social followers.
But you are supposed to reciprocate. This is embarrassing when you don’t have any list, or little to speak of.
The recommendation to organize giveaways to build your own list came first from Nick Stephenson, who credits his networking with other authors as a key way to build his own subscriber base.
Because you build the giveaway and put your own books into it, other authors come in and put their books into it and mail to their lists. So you are providing a fair exchange by doing the work of organizing it and creating the graphic and so on. It’s just minutes to create it and minutes weekly to maintain it. Far better than having to track your FB ads every single day to make sure they are running right and not losing you money.
Those minutes weekly can give you subscribers nearly immediately. I read one today where an author was over 2,000 subscribers within months of starting to get into giveaways regularly – and wishes she had gotten in some time back.
Building a Group Giveaway
Simple, actually. When you post your books into Instafreebie, you assign them genres. You can assign three per book, and they are very general.
Giveaways have two genres that can be assigned. And you can select the genres you want to hear about when someone has created another giveaway. Then you simply go to your books and select one which is appropriate for that giveaway.
To build a group giveaway, you navigate to https://www.instafreebie.com/groupgiveaway/create (there’s a button on the site for this) and you’ll see you have to pick a date, descriptions for both authors and viewers, plus you’ll have to upload a graphic for it. A few other minor details, but it is really simple and fast. Building your graphic or having it done is the longest part to it.
Then you find the links for you own books and enter them. Like priming the pump. The email gets sent out right after you schedule your group giveaway and you’ll have lots of requests coming back to you that day to join up.
Best Practices – Mostly Common Sense and Manners
I did contact support as I couldn’t find any “best practices” write ups or even how-to’s on working with Group Giveaways. I suspect because the platform is so new, and so underutilized.
Support at Instafreebie is recognized as being friendly, even enthusiastic. And that is exactly what I found. I sent them a long email and got a long one in return. Here’s key data I got:
- Giveaways can run for any time period (some as short as the Amazon 3 days), but the average time is about a month. (I mentioned that I saw one graph where the giveaways trended down over that month on a per day basis. I’ll verify this when my own first giveaway starts running.)
- It’s a best practice to send out only a regular weekly email to announce these to your own list. And obviously, that won’t be the only thing on them. The main idea is to enable them to find more books to read (especially for free) and where to find your backlist of other books. I discussed the recommended Twitter practice of sending out several times per day, but Twitter is coming down on that practice, saying they want original tweets each time.
- Along with the email, you should Tweet/Plus/etc. the current group giveaways you are part of every week. The main point of this is to pay it forward to promote Instafreebie, but also allow others to retweet/share your social postings through their own social networks. Social media isn’t known for getting book sales, unless people are very interactive with a select group of followers there. (For me, I’d rather be writing.)
- Instafreebie will feature recommended giveaways. This is done on the home page. And so it’s suggested that you start on a Sunday and end on a Tuesday. Because the features run Monday to Monday. They also send out a Friday newsletter with the active giveaways, but that isn’t so date-sensitive.
Instafreebie also has guidelines for selecting featured giveaways:
- At least 10 unique Authors participating
- Authors should have their own accounts to protect their content and protect readers
- Group Giveaway is free for authors to join
- Final image graphic to share must be book/genre/author focused, and 1500px by 500px (length by height)
- Final duration dates of promotion should be displayed on the graphic/page
- In accordance with our Community Guidelines, final image graphic may not include graphic nudity (the Instafreebie staff reserves the right to reject any image graphic at our discretion)
- Instafreebie Group Giveaway must be live for a minimum of 3 days after the date of the feature
- Instafreebie Group Giveaway Details Page link (link should begin with “instafreebie.com/
groupgiveaway/view“) and graphic must be sent a week minimum before your feature date
The common sense and manners comes in from what I’ve found so far:
- Leave a comment when you enter your book and when you approve others books. This keeps it real. There is little more frustrating when a person is an anonymous boob as giveaway administrator.
- I like weekly updates from the admin about how the giveaway is going. How many and so on. There is an internal comment box where you can send him data, and auto-send this (if you want) to the rest of the authors in the giveaway as well.
- Submit books that are only what is wanted. And be respectful of the boobs who don’t when you reject them. Clarify your requirements if you have to. Don’t submit a bodice-ripping romance to a Young Adult Fantasy giveaway. Make sure your book genre is appropriate.
Advantages to Verified Organizer Status
Above the general giveaway organizers is a “Verified Organizer.” Their descriptions from the FAQ page:
Verified Organizers are authentic Instafreebie users and creators of Group Giveaways. Instafreebie denotes a Verified Organizer by displaying a blue verified badge next to their name. A verified badge does not imply an endorsement by Instafreebie, but confirms the authenticity of the Organizer’s account.
Group Giveaways that are run by a Verified Organizer may have special requirements for participating authors. These Group Giveaways allow the Verified Organizer to specify how readers are opted in to the mailing lists of Author Team members. Verified Organizers can choose whether readers are required to opt in to Author Team mailing lists, or if all giveaways created for this Group Giveaway will be optional opt-in. They can also choose whether or not readers will be required to opt in to their own list of readers. You can learn more about the possible requirements here.
Verified Organizers have the option to enable organizer list opt-in on their Group Giveaways, which means they will collect the email addresses of readers who claim any book from that Group Giveaway. Verified Organizers have reader-focused brands and are dedicated to helping Instafreebie authors share their stories with engaged readers through Instafreebie Group Giveaways. Verified Organizers share their Group Giveaways with their own lists to make it even easier for Instafreebie authors to reach more new readers!
Verification as an author will confirm the authenticity of your Instafreebie author account to readers and other Instafreebie authors. We will be working on the process of author verification in the coming months. In the meantime, make sure you fill out your Instafreebie Author Page with your author information! You can also submit a request for a verified badge by filling out this form
On that form, it covers a general idea of what they are looking for:
- Author Page URL
- Author Website
- How many books you’ve published
- How many active Instafreebie Giveaways you have
- And a free form essay box to tell them why they should give that status to you.
You should be able to sort it out from their text. I’ll probably wait until the end of the year to address this, once I have far more practice at running giveaways.
How Many and How Often You Should Giveaway
As often as you can, like all the time. Seriously.
This is the advantage to having lots of books to choose from for each pen name. Try at least two if not four books for each author (remember, this advice is for short stories, but you could create previews out of novels as well.) That said, I also have seen people giving away boxed sets.
In general, the same authors don’t show up for every giveaway. And if some do, their lists are changing every week. Plus and minus. So you are better off being on as many giveaways as you can all the time as a participant. Just set up a system (like your weekly newsletter) where you can link to that week’s giveaways and tell them about it. I keep a page on my site that I’ll update every week that links to current giveaways.
The main point: you can’t get on too many of these. There are too many authors, each with different lists. And those lists aren’t static. Also, you are putting up several books by different pen names in different genres. Choices. If they don’t opt-in (and it’s suggested you give them a choice) then they have the promotion to your other books by that author/pen-name in every book.
As far as organizing giveaways, my current strategy is to have them running every month, about 10 per year. Right now, I have 5 in the works, and plan to set up some early giveaways as soon as I can, since the major booksellers do seasonal approaches, leaving off in January and August. That makes these prime time for Indie authors to push their books on to the big bestseller lists. And the best way to do this is to build a huge and devoted fan base that you can reach through email.
Otherwise, there is Halloween themed giveaways for October and Holiday/Christmas themed giveaway for November/December.
The other approach is to build giveaways for the genres which are under-represented. (Like anything non-romance.) Business and Non-fiction often have nothing running. But a lot of authors have some of these books around. I had over 30 authors sign up for my “How To…” giveaway in 24 hours. A few tests will show you supply and demand for these. Then I’ll know the “sweet spots”.
Again: keep your books in “discovery mode” at all times by joining all possible giveaways that are appropriate. And meanwhile organize and run at least one giveaway at all times. These won’t take but minutes per week to maintain, but should result in hundreds of opt-in’s weekly when they get going.
Where To, Now?
Mainly it is sitting back and checking the metrics on this. Get a month of these and see how many subscribers I get and what the cost per subscriber is. Some of these giveaways have a month in between them, and I pretty much have the rest of the year scheduled out. So it will show me data as they complete.
It took me just a couple of afternoons to get onto a dozen giveaways and set up 5 more. Tomorrow I’ll have my first results of these and will report then.
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Also published on Medium.