How I Grew My Pre-Launch Email List to Nearly 2,000 Subscribers in 2 Weeks

February 28 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ The Stash Blog

“The money is in the list” they say.

“Grow your email list as big as you can” we’re told.

“Authors need an email list, start it today” says every blog post around.

But nobody ever really digs into how you do that — especially for fiction authors.

Sadly, I’m not here to tell you how to do that either. Because my author email list is still pretty small in comparison.

But I want to tell you what I did the past couple of weeks to grow another one of my email lists by over, well, A TON, and how what I did might help you when you’re trying to grow your email list.

You might be looking to launch something in the next few months or you might want to build your email list. Hopefully my experience can help you.

I really don’t want to come across as a know-it-all or even someone who knows THE ONLY WAY to do this. I’ve learned a few things that are working for me and I thought I would share them with anyone who might need it. Sometimes you just need a few ideas or a “how-to” to give you the push to find your own way.

Before I tell you how I did it, let me tell you what I’m doing and why it matters.

Quick Background:

You can check out the post I wrote last week to get some background details. The shortened version is this: I’m building a user-ranked resource directory for authors called Author Stash.

I have spent the last 4 months (give or take 6 years) combing through Reddit posts, forums, Facebook groups, author websites and other resource lists, going back as far as 4 years, to build a collection of more than 800 resources and tools for writers. Then I categorized and indexed them, dropping the tools that just plain sucked or were no longer pertinent today and added them to one site for easy discoverability.

I plan on launching it in the first week of April so that means I had just over one month of “pre-launch” activities designed to build Awareness and, I hate this word, Buzz, during March.

What was the plan?

The plan was to get a few people to go to the site, get signed up to an email drip campaign (aka autoresponder), have them give me feedback on the site, share it with others and in exchange they would help me make improvements to the tool and they would get a sneak peek of the site.

As we get closer to the official launch I will send a couple more emails asking for feedback and improvements and again ask for some shares.

I started to really work to get people to the landing page (see below for tactics on that) and get them added to the email list.

This list would then serve as the platform from which to send the “official launch” email and see if we could maintain momentum from there.

What I Did.

In mid-February I put up the landing page and started building the site behind the wall. I sent out a few messages and personal emails to have them test the page and the connections. The first few people who signed up had some great feedback (thanks family & close friends!) and I made some adjustments.

List count at this point was 8. Yep, going into the first week of March I had 8 people on the Author Stash email list. Honestly that wasn’t too bad since I’ve been working on my fiction author email list for four months and still only had about 20 on that one so I did see some promise.

A couple weeks ago I felt I was in a good enough spot to start actually promoting the site and telling people to go get on the list to check it out. It was time to turn it on get some REAL sign ups.

I enacted a five part plan to get attention and capture emails.

Here are the results of the first two weeks of pre-launch. Hopefully this trend continues (that blue number next to the name of the list is the total subscribers — we’re at 1897 as of this writing).

MailChimp_Nearly_2K_BlurredFrom 8 to 1897 in just under 2 weeks! Not bad.

How did I grow my email list by 24,900% in two weeks?

I did it in five ways (hint: it’s all about being a real person and providing some value):

1. Forums & Groups

I have been a member of some great forums and groups for writers (think Reddit, Facebook, KBoards, etc.). Normally I just lurk and read the advice that everyone else provides. But over the past three months I have made a concerted effort to share my knowledge with others — when/where I can.

I provide REAL value. I answer questions. I ask good questions. I stimulate discussion. I share some of the great resources I uncover. I give feedback when people ask and occasionally I pepper in what it is I’m doing or how I came across whatever it was that I shared.

Because of this I find many people say they are interested in hearing more about this “resource directory” I’m building so I drop the link. There are lots of lurkers out there and I’ll see several more signups from this than the number of people in the discussion.

Takeaway: Find your audience. Join their tribe. Provide some value first, then tell them what you’re doing.

2. Social Media

I think this goes without saying but I have posted stuff about the site on Twitter and Facebook. It’s difficult to really provide value on social media unless you have a lot of time. I don’t have time so my strategy with social media (for better or worse) is mostly push & share.

What that means is I follow and like a lot of the people who are part of my target audience. Then I share stuff that I see that I think they will like. Every so often I’ll drop a question or a link to the Author Stash site and tell people they can get more information if they join the list.

I’m looking to hit this a lot more in the coming weeks but the strategy won’t change much. I’ll still share great stuff and then schedule posts throughout the day. Not very novel but it seems to be working.

Takeaway: Social takes time but you can still reach your target audience. Sometimes you have to share other people’s content to get them to notice you then you can interact with them.

3. Team up with Influencers

It doesn’t take long to find some of the bigger “players” in the writing and self-publishing field. The good thing about my research is that I have uncovered some new influencers that have their own following that I didn’t even know existed (sometimes they’re the folks that create the awesome stuff I find).

Most of them are more than willing to help you out if you offer them something of value as well. Like it or not these people have the WIIFM mentality as well. If you can come to the table with something they want then they will be willing to reciprocate.

Want an example? I contacted several people who had mentioned they had a problem trying to get a handle on a resource list or submission process to control the amount of services and “spam” (their words) on their forums. I messaged them and let them know that I had a similar problem and that I had come up with a solution that might help them out — I said they could send all their resources to me and I would aggregate them for them.

This way it takes the burden from them, gives me more resources (or at least a contact) and solves the problem. A few of these influencers will be featuring Author Stash on their sites/forums once we go live and several of them have already started sending people to my landing page.

Takeaway: Even people “in power” have problems. If you can provide a win-win solution then they will almost always be willing to help out — and send people your way.

4. Reach out to the people/products I feature in the Stash

This was one that I almost overlooked before it smacked me in the face one day.

I know if you mention someone else’s blog or product in a post, you should reach out to them and let them know you like their stuff and you’re going to give them a link. Usually this results in a few shares or a mention on social media (and if you’re lucky you might get a link back). However my brain blocked this out until I realized that my entire site is basically one big backlink pool for these people. I should let them know they’re being featured.

I started reaching out and it’s had some great results. Here’s the best part: when I let some of them know that they’re being featured on Author Stash I’ve found a few of them have offered up some free stuff that I can give away in the coming weeks. So I’ll have some signed books, free courses, free software and other great stuff that I can use in my “contest” phase.

On top of that, since this is a user-ranked site I’ve found that many of them are more than willing to share with their followers & email lists in order to get them to vote-up their resource when we go live. It makes sense that this is going to help them out quite a bit in the future and it’s already helping me (and will continue).

Takeaway: Spread the love. If you mention someone don’t think they’ll find it on their own. Sometimes you have to let them know that you like their stuff before they’ll notice you.

5. Contests & Giveaways

If you haven’t yet seen the power of a giveaway yet, you might be in for a fantastic surprise. Some people have been using giveaways to grow their lists by 5K subscribers each week. You want more than that? It’s possible.

It’s all about what you’re willing to give away. If you want a bunch of folks on your list then you can try giving away an iPad. But I wouldn’t recommend that type of growth unless your site/product has mass appeal. You don’t just want people on your list, you want TARGETED people on your list — whatever that might mean for you.

My site appeals to writers, authors, indies and self-publishers. That means I need to pick prizes that appeals to only those types of people. To start I decided to give away 10 of the most recommended books on writing craft (my next contest kicks off tonight) and in the future I’ll give away some of the stuff I mentioned above as well as some great writing and book marketing courses.

There are quite a few apps, plugins and hosted services for hosting giveaways (I know, I have 7 of them in that category already) I chose to go with Gleamsince it was very nice looking, offered quite a few options and really was the easiest for me to use. You should check them out since you can build a free contest just to test it out.

Because of the power of this method, I’ve decided to do monthly giveaways after we go live — make sure you’re on the list so you’ll get a chance to win.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to give some stuff away in exchange for an email. Make sure whatever it is speaks to your audience. I’ve collected quite a few great articles on how to use giveaways to build your author email list as well. Wait to see what I’ve put together!

What I didn’t do (hint: I wasn’t a douchebag — I hope):

  • I didn’t add people without asking their permission
  • I didn’t spam forums and groups without providing some sort of value OR establishing myself first
  • I didn’t mass-email the people/products I featured. I sent over 250 individual emails in one week (I’m lucky I didn’t get flagged as spam myself). I have many more email/tweets/FB messages to send. I added personality and I added details that you can’t “automate” so they knew it was personal.
  • I didn’t sit back and HOPE — I went out and actively built my list.

You can do this too. It’s not hard but it takes time and you have to change the way you think. You give first and many will reciprocate.

Important takeaway: provide value and help people.

Need we say more?

Well, like I said, I don’t know it all but I know that this has been working for me so far. Hopefully you found some small nuggets of wisdom buried in my words.

I have quite a few emails to send over the next 2 weeks before launch so if you haven’t heard from me yet, you just might.

Also, if you have a great resource or tool for authors I would love to add it to the Stash! Please comment below or sign up at the landing page and shoot me an email.

Here’s to your success.