Starting out as an indie author: Creating a welcome page for your newsletter with free tools

Starting out as an indie author

My goal for today originally had to do with redesigning my blog and adding progress bars, using the wonderful tips I’ve received in the comments here. But before tackling the whole adding-progress-bars / blog-redesign challenge, I wanted to make what I thought would be a simple change, from a tip gleaned on David Gaughran’s blog on building a killer email list.

As a result, I have to share some experiences regarding my own email list before they disappear out of my tired old brain. I thought I would “start” my marketing day off today by adding the incentive of a free ebook to my newsletter signup widget. As soon as I started writing down the steps I would need to complete in order to do so, it began to occur to me that it would take me a bit longer than I originally expected. But even then, I totally underestimated the time involved.

Um, like — hours???

I realize that I have not yet posted about setting up a newsletter in the first place, but this particular aspect of the whole business is a response to immediate experience and fresh in my mind. Which is why I decided to tackle the subject on my blog arse-backwards. 🙂 (Not that I’ve ever done that before …) I promise that when and if I put these posts together as an ebook, I will sort the chronology out to make it more logical.

Here’s my original to-do list for the simple task of adding a free ebook to my newsletter signup:

– Make PDF of Never Ever After

– Upload PDF

– Make welcome page for free download

– Set up automated response for Mailchimp

– Edit widget for newsletter signup

And this is how it went:

1) Make PDF of Never Ever After

This proved to be more complicated than anticipated. Scrivener has an option to compile a book as PDF, but when I tested the file, Acrobat wouldn’t open it. So I compiled the collection as a DOC file and made a PDF from that.

Which looked kinda cruddy, without page numbers or table of contents and with single-space tiny font. All things that do not matter in a mobi or epub file — TOC is generated automatically, page numbers are unnecessary, and font is adjustable. (This step would not have been necessary if I already had a PDF for the book for Print on Demand publishing, but I haven’t published any of my short story collections for print yet, except for the one I did with Jay Lake.)

Anyway, it was back to the DOC file to add a TOC and page numbers, and reformat the text. While I was at it, I updated the links in my back matter — which also ended up giving me a lot of grief, which I won’t go into here in detail. Let’s just say, it took me over an hour until I was happy enough with the PDF to upload.

Upload PDF

Make welcome page for free download

These two steps were simple enough. I originally intended to make a hidden page for the download, but since that option wasn’t available via WordPress, I decided to go with password protected. You can read here about how to do that.

Set up automated response for Mailchimp

Another roadblock encountered. I find Mailchimp extremely difficult to navigate, about as counter-intuitive to my way of thinking as things get. But it’s one of the few free options still out there, and I already started my list with them, so I’m committed for the time being. When I first tried to find a way to send automatic response emails, I ended up on the “Automation” page — which is only available to holders of pro accounts.

A comment on this blog post sent me in the right direction. From the “Lists” page, click on the dropdown menu under “Stats” (for some reason). There you will find the link to “Signup forms” — which also include automated response, opt-in, and welcome emails. You can learn more here.


Creating my Mailchimp “Thank you” response email.

Now I have an automated welcome email and a page for the freebie set up. 🙂

Edit widget for newsletter signup

The last step only involved editing the widget for my newsletter (which on my page is a WordPress link) to add the cover of the story collection and change the description to emphasize that something FREE is involved. Part of me still has a problem with all these incentives I have to keep adding here and there, but I am slowly accepting the fact that I am never going to be a bestseller on the basis of my personality and my blog alone, unfortunately (unlike John Locke — right).

Lesson here: Everything takes way longer than you expect.

I would be extremely grateful if anyone so inclined would click on the link, help me test the process, and report your results in the comments below. I promise I won’t be offended when you unsubscribe. 🙂 And even if you don’t, you’re pretty safe from spam from me. Although I set my Mailchimp “campaign” up as a new release newsletter, I haven’t even sent out an announcement of my last book yet, which was months ago. :/ As much as I enjoy being an indie writer after my experience in traditional publishing, I still have a lot of internal blocks regarding marketing that I need to work on. Wish me luck!

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

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2 thoughts on “Starting out as an indie author: Creating a welcome page for your newsletter with free tools”

  1. In the Mailchimp sign-up form designer, there is an option to define the welcoming emails, including the final welcome email after they have confirmed their subscription. Would placing the link in that email work for you, rather than having to manually send out a campaign for your new subscribers? (I’m about to rush out the door so I kinda skimmed, and I apologize if I missed something.)

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