In 2018 my professional career followed two paths. On the creative side I continued my writing pursuits and published two novellas. On the traditional business side I started a consulting firm with my dad and brother.
Though I had two years more experience in writing, this felt like a year of growth for me — this felt more like the first year — more like I was truly getting my feet wet and building an audience.
On the consulting side I saw rapid growth and with that numerous avenues to explore and opportunities to expand the brand.
It left me asking why have customers resonated so much with a service driven business like consulting, one which requires an enormous amount of trust both ways and locks the individual in for a longer time commitment while my writing audience still hasn’t been defined.
It’s certainly cheaper to pick up a book, the relationship does not have to be as open and if one doesn’t like the writing they don’t even have to finish the using the product.
As I explored why my new business grew faster than my old business I realized I was sabotaging my growth in writing because I held myself to the standard of where I wanted to be — wanted to be Stephen King on page 1 and thought I had to follow the rules of how things have always been. I had to write a rough draft, edit it, send it to beta readers, get an editor, and this was all before sending it off to agents or publishers (if I wanted to go the traditional route).
My fastest growth in writing this year came from not over thinking and just doing it — realizing people want product. A book is a product like anything else. If it’s fiction it’s an emotional escape and the more I tried to be “perfect” the further from success I fell. A book doesn’t have to be perfect for someone to like the story and the less product I put out the less likely I was to find my fans.
When I put out my first novella this year, Third Life, I didn’t think it had much of a shot of going anywhere — it was 82 pages and a concept piece on consumerism and unsustainable advancement.
It didn’t become a best seller but it helped me find a few of my biggest fans who helped me launch Beds Are For Flowers which sold over 100 copies on its release day and reached #2 hottest new release in is category. Again, not a NYT best seller but it’s also a 139 page children’s book, which brought me new fans who now want product. Fans who never would’ve found me if I held back and let fear of not being perfect stop me from publishing.
Consulting on the other hand has been one leap after another. I have a background in economics, my brother and father have backgrounds in finance, but we didn’t see our business adapting as quickly as it has. We wanted to help startups — a couple months later we are in two cities, launched a podcast and youtube channel and have basically pushed all our fears and boundaries without a second thought. We’ve been excited to try new things and have been strong supporters of the “do it” and “learn on the go” mentality.
I’m very happy I learned this lesson in 2018. My friend Judi Fox says learning on the go means progress every day and she’s 100% right. As I face the end of 2018 and the start of 2019 I realize all those old sayings about being your own worst enemy are true. Don’t let fear of imperfection stop you because the minor bumps you feel are only felt on a road when you’re driving forward.
Today I want to tell you about how I grew my mailing list from zero to over 100 people for free and the steps I’m going to take down the line to continue its growth. One caveat to this advice is you must have a published book. Now, I say this all the time, everyone has a book in them. It doesn’t have to be fantasy or fiction. It could be nonfiction, it could be personal stories, it could be a collection of essays on your travels across the continental United States. Whatever you want as long as it’s published and available digitally. You also have to be willing to give it away for free. This book will be your anchor–it will be your funnel for those who have not heard your voice yet but are interested in what you have to say. You will draw new audience members and through the power of your newsletter you will hopefully convert them into diehard fans.
Let’s get into the good stuff. I started off with maybe three subscriber so it’s not quite zero to 100 but the three subscribers were something like a friend of mine and my parents. I identified the book I wanted to give away for free. It was Just Under the Sky, the first novella I ever published and I published with this small press down in Texas called Weasel Press.
It wasn’t Amazon exclusive, so I had flexibility. If a book is Amazon exclusive you can only run a giveaway on other platforms up to a certain percent of the book. I made a free account on a website called instafreebie, it’s now prolificworks but from what I’ve seen it operates the same way.
I uploaded an .epub copy of my manuscript but I believe any digital format works and individuals on the platform downloaded it for free. If you have a free account they do not have to opt into your newsletter to receive a free account. You will probably not receive many subs. HOWEVER you are still able to participate in the group giveaways. This was how I received all my subs with a free account. I signed up for as many group giveaways as I could–each giveaway has a theme so you have to make sure your book meets the criteria but there are plenty of options.
Not all group giveaways require email sign ups but you will gain a few more here and there. I managed to land mine in four group giveaways in the same month and after three weeks I collected around 350 subscribers! The first two emails were the most tumultuous. I received some subscribers who joined for the one free book and unsubscribed once they received their first email, but by the third email I had my true list set and a new audience interested in my content. I lost about 180 subs when Europe passed GDPR and I had to ask my subscribers to opt in to a new newsletter–I expected to take a loss–no one likes a hassle but I walked away with around 120.
Now, I mentioned before this was all with the free option. The paid option, which starts at $20 requires those who sign up for your book, even if it’s not in a group giveaway, to opt in to your newsletter. The site has a decent infrastructure in place, so even without promotion individuals still find your book and download it. I think my solo giveaway averaged about three downloads per day on its own before I took it down, with higher spikes on the days I shared across social media.
So if you want to get started, first tip is obviously have a book either in the process of being published or published already. Don’t stress about this, everyone has a book in them. It doesn’t have to be a 900 page monster, as long as it’s high quality you can giveaway a free 80 page book. Publish it through Draft 2 Digital so it’s available across all platforms (Amazon, B&N, Google, iBooks) and finally give your book away for free on prolific works.
I hope this helps!
If you have any questions on publishing a book never hesitate to reach out I’ll happily share all I know and be your accountability buddy.