Tuesday 11 July 2017

How I (More Than) Doubled My Newsletter Subscribers on Instafreebie

I'd been hearing lots of things over the years about Instafreebie, as a tool for authors to use to boost their mailing list, but all I knew about it was that it came with a monthly fee. I didn't think I'd be able to afford it, and didn't really have the time.

In June 2017, however, I embarked on a drive to get more e-mail subscribers, so I thought "What the hell?" and signed up for Instafreebie's free plan.

Their free plan doesn't allow you to collect e-mail addresses, so I just put up my perma-free book (Billy's Zombie), to see what happens.

Within a week, with zero marketing on my part, that book had garnered 40 free downloads. What a shame I didn't have access to any of those e-mail addresses.

I signed up for the 30-day trial of their paid service (which normally costs $20 a month), set up Mailchimp integration, and offered a free copy of my first short story, A Petition to Magic. The rest is history.

Okay, so how many subscribers are we talking here?

A lot of the time, when authors talk about growing their mailing lists, these are authors who already had thousands (or tens of thousands) of subscribers, and their advice has limited application to the rest of us.

Well, I'm not one of those authors, so in the interest of full disclosure, I'm going to share my exact figures with you.

At the end of May 2017, before I started any of this, I sent out my monthly e-mail newsletter to 50 subscribers. Early in June, I signed up for Instafreebie, and didn't do any marketing of my giveaways for the whole month. I sent out my June newsletter to 67 subscribers. 17 subscribers from Instafreebie in just less than a month. With zero marketing.

When it all blew up

I started looking around for ways to promote my giveaway, and everybody said that to really start seeing benefit, I needed to participate in group giveaways with other authors.

Instafreebie has a "Forum" section, where authors post giveaways, and invite other authors to participate by sharing links to blog posts. In return, the host author includes the other authors' books.

That sounded like a good plan, but I couldn't find any group giveaways that were suitable for my target audience (readers of multi-genre short stories). So, like any enterprising author would do, I started my own.

On 7 June 2017, I posted on the Instafreebie Forum, asking if anyone was interested in doing short story giveaways, in any genre. The giveaway would "officially" run from 27 June 2017 (the day my June newsletter was scheduled to go out), and end on 7 July - the day my 30-day trial with Instafreebie was set to expire.

The deal was, that I would write a blog post, where I'd share the giveaway links to all the participating books. I'd e-mail a link to that post to all my subscribers, and share it on my social media channels. All the other participating authors would do the same.

The results

I got ten authors to participate in my giveaway, wrote the blog post (you can see it here), and sent it out. Then I posted the link to that post to the forum, and asked everyone to share it wherever they could.

Two days later, my list had swelled to 77 subscribers. But of course, I wanted more.

I e-mailed Instafreebie to ask if they'd be willing to promote my giveaway to their mailing list of several thousand subscribers. They said yes!

Instafreebie's e-mail went out on Friday, 30 June 2017, and during the course of that weekend, I got so many subscribers that I was actually afraid I'd exceed the 2 000 subscriber limit of my Mailchimp Forever Free plan!

As at 11 July 2017, I now have 141 subscribers on my e-mail list. That's more than double the number I had when I sent out my June newsletter, and almost three times the number I had at the end of May.

What's more, that blog post has now been viewed over 2 500 times, and I've earned around R25 (~$1.87) in Google Adsense income from people viewing and clicking on the third-party ads. That's nothing to sneeze at, for a little author like me.

Don't some people unsubscribe as soon as you mail them?

Well, I was warned that that might happen. I have a long automation process set up in Mailchimp, and I must admit I've seen a few Instafreebie subscribers unsubscribe as soon as they get their first mail. Not many, though: maybe 15% of them.

Instafreebie tells me that A Petition to Magic has been claimed 89 times, and my list has grown by 74 since starting the group giveaway. So I lost 15 subscribers. You do the maths.

I obviously still need to find out how many subscribers I lose when I send out my July newsletter at the end of the month, but it looks promising!

In conclusion, Instafreebie works. And works well. Even for those of us with tiny lists. But in order to take full advantage of it, you need a Mailchimp account, and you need things to send to your subscribers. If you're an author with a mailing list, and you're looking to grow it, give Instafreebie a try. You also need to participate in the community, though. Take part in group giveaways, like I did, and don't forget to pop Instafreebie a mail to ask them to help promote for you.

Get $30 in Mailchimp Credit

If you don't yet have a Mailchimp account, click here to sign-up. If you subsequently become a paying customer, you'll get $30 in credit, but only if you use that link.

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