Newsletter Signups and International Readers

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraigmail chimp

I thought I’d share my efforts at better marketing and for thinking on more of an international scale with my work. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Newsletter: Sharing the Signup Link

I’ve mentioned before that I was very slow on the newsletter bandwagon.  I read…oh… dozens of posts on the importance of email (newsletters) as a marketing tool for writers.  Finally, about a year and a half ago, I started a newsletter for readers.

Now I’ve got over 500 subscribers, which is pretty darn amazing since I’ve never shared the signup link anywhere.  It just sits quietly on my website with no real call to action.

Since I’ve noticed a (very) healthy spike in rank on Amazon whenever I send out a newsletter, I decided I should see if I could boost the subscriber number by just linking to the newsletter from different places. Clearly I wouldn’t do it on my Google Plus page and I wouldn’t do it on Twitter—those are my writer-related bases.

I decided that it would make the most sense to share the link in my email signature/tagline, on Facebook (I dislike Facebook, but the readers are there), on Wattpad, and on Goodreads (I also dislike Goodreads, but…well, see above).

Now how to get the link to the newsletter signup form.  I use Mail Chimp, which is free when you have up to 2,000 newsletter subscribers. Maybe I’m just seriously burned out, but it took me the better part of an hour, intensive studying of the Mail Chimp site, and Googling to find the answer. The word I should apparently have been searching for is formHere is a link to Mail Chimp’s directions for generating a link to your signup form.  You scroll about a quarter of the way down the page.  Basically, you’re going through the ‘Lists’ tab on your account and then clicking ‘signup forms’.

I got Mail Chimp to generate a link for me for signups.  Then I posted the link as an email signature tagline, on my Wattpad profile, and on Goodreads.  Mail Chimp states: “You can share the link to this form on your website, across your various social media channels, or even with a QR code.”

For Facebook, I was able to add an entire tab for newsletter signups with help from Mail Chimp’s “integrate with Facebook” panel.  You need a page and not a profile to do this on Facebook. It also took forever to find this info on Mail Chimp.  Is it not intuitive, or is it just me?

While I was on Facebook, I clicked ‘manage tabs’ and rearranged the order of what was there. I also updated some of the material there.  Here’s help from Facebook on how to rearrange your tabs.  Mine had things like “photos” on prominent display and I thought the newsletter signup tab could better use that visible location on the page.

International Pricing

I was listening to an interesting podcast interview of Joanna Penn on the Self-Publishing Podcast  by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David W. Wright (just a heads-up that some parts are NSFW…not suitable for work…and not because of Joanna..) and in part of the talk Joanna was speaking about pricing our books for the international market.  For instance, in referencing India, she said : “…you shouldn’t be above 150 rupees. If you leave your US price it will probably be about 400. No one’s going to pay 400 rupees.”

So I immediately went to my KDP bookshelf and sure enough, I had all of my international market prices set to match the US prices. My prices for India were exorbitant, judging from the information I’d just received.  It never occurred to me what I might be doing to that price in smaller markets (Joanna also specifically mentioned Mexico and Brazil).  I adjusted my prices for various markets. If you don’t remember how to change prices on your KDP dashboard, here is the help page from Amazon.

There is a transcript of the interview here.


Speaking of international sales, I came across an interesting article by Catherine Shu in TechCrunch: “Fiberead Helps Foreign Authors Break Into China’s E-Book Market.” Fiberead is a start-up that’s based in Beijing and is working to help provide foreign authors’ ebooks to the Chinese market.  They have 300 translators working for them. This is basically a revenue-sharing gig, similar in some ways to ACX (audiobooks for self-publishers).  Authors who sign with Fiberead would receive 30% earnings on sales and translators and editors share 40% with Fiberead keeping the remainder.

I can’t endorse the company because there is little information on them right now…nothing from Writer Beware or Preditors and Editors  (these are vital watchdog resources for writers that we should know about) yet.  I did go ahead and submit my information to Fiberead, which apparently means I’m put on a waiting list to await an invitation.  I’m assuming that then I hear back if there is interest in translating my series into Chinese.

I’ll look forward to getting more information.   I’m not doing much with my foreign rights at this point and China would obviously be a huge market.  I don’t usually think of China as being as much of an open market when it comes to ideas/content, so I’m curious how this works.  But I’m looking forward to hearing more because it always pays to be one of the few in a market.  The reason I did so well with the self-pubbed series is because I was underpricing all the other cozy writers (who were slow to self-pub)…small field of low-priced competition.

In some ways, I’m even more interested in just outright selling the series to a Chinese publisher. I’ve thought about using PubMatch for that purpose.   After all, I have absolutely no ability to promote or bring visibility to the series in China.  Fiberead states that’s part of its service, of course.

Once I get all the info on my choices, I’ll decide between translation/royalty share and selling rights outright.  I’m planning on listing my books on PubMatch and also listening to the folks at Fiberead and seeing what works best…if anyone is even interested at all.

I have other things I’ve been working on, too but I’ll share those in another post since this one is already getting  wordy.  What have you been working on, marketing-wise or rights-wise?  Thought about foreign rights and pricing?  Do you have a newsletter?

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28 thoughts on “Newsletter Signups and International Readers

  1. I laughed out loud when I read this. I’ve been working on redesigning my website all day TODAY just to focus on the email signup & newsletter. Then your note arrived. But I have a lot of redesign ahead, I’m switching my format to be reader focused.

    Thanks for the info on Fiberead, that sounds like a good business model if it works. It will be interesting to see how quickly they adapt ereaders.

    Peace, Seeley

    1. Seeley–Great minds think alike, right? :) Please tell me that you had a hard time figuring out the signup link and Facebook tab, too! I felt like such an idiot for about an hour and then I decided it must be the fault of Mail Chimp that I couldn’t find the info on the site.

      From what I’m understanding (and I don’t know if this is true specifically to China…but it’s definitely true in Africa and other emerging digital markets) that they’re skipping the ereader phase *altogether* and going straight to reading on smart phones.

      1. I struggled with Mail Chimp for a while, then sat down and watched their tutorials for half an hour. To grasp a company like that, you need to hear their banter and feel their rhythm. (Like creating a new character.) After that, I screwed it up just fine. :)

        Right, everyone’s going phone-first. My web traffic went from 20/80 to 60/40 in the past 12 months.

        Peace, Seeley

  2. Hi Elizabeth – what an interesting post .. and many of the ideas will I’m sure be of huge value to other authors .. and how helpful to know about the different markets and pricing strategies – makes sense though. Good luck with your ongoing research re China … cheers Hilary

    1. Hilary–I think in my *head* I was thinking…”Okay, if I make the book cheap in the States, it translates to cheap everywhere.” With no thought to the exchange rate, because I simply don’t think that way. It’s good that I can find resources from people who *do* think that way..

  3. That’s a lot of different areas you’re looking at. You’ll have to keep us posted on the Chinese thing.
    I still don’t have a newsletter. Since I’m not sure I’ll write any more books, not sure it would be worth it now. But I would like to set one up for the IWSG.

    1. Alex–Maybe set one up for IWSG and then see how you like it? You could have one set up as an Alex J. Cavanaugh newsletter, too…full of music info, movie info…and yes, your books, too.

      1. Not having a newsletter is like posting a huge neon sign in your yard that says I do not want to sell books.

        A newsletter is how an indie author sells books. It’s the only reason to bother with marketing.

        Yes, I feel strongly about it.

  4. Elizabeth – Thanks as ever for your insights. I always learn when I’m here. I’ve been thinking about a newsletter for quite a long time now, and this may be just the push I need to start putting my ideas into some coherent shape.

  5. Nice post again, full of great and practical advice. The Mail Chimp FB integration was new to me – off to try it now. And one of these months, I swear, I’ll get that newsletter out. Oh wait – cart before the horse??? :-)

  6. MailChimp has great support, and you’ll be delighted to hear that this 20-year web veteran sends them emails with dumb-sounding questions all the time.

    Their support documents are marvelous, when you can find the right one. But the search tools are less than stellar; surprising for such a smart bunch of folks. And sometimes the documentation makes assumptions, like when they say copy and paste this code and I’m thinking paste it WHERE you !@&^#* help file?

    If you spend more than 5 minutes on a MailChimp task, send them an email and ask for help. They’re magnificent about it.

  7. Thanks for the great info. I hadn’t thought of having different pricing on Amazon for diff. countries. Looking into it further, Amazon has lower threasholds for the 70% royalties in some countries…I forget which…it was five minutes ago. But, I believe Canada, Brazil and India could all be lowered while still staying at 70%. I love suggestions that are easy enough to implement that they don’t even make it on my to-do list.

    I haven’t set up a newsletter yet but they are on my list of things to do. It sounds a little daunting like upgrading my website and domain name, but I’ll tackle it one of these days.

    1. Silas–I think I lowered India a *lot* and it was still 70%. :) Maybe I’ll actually get some sales now that the books aren’t priced like luxury cars!

      The website thing had been such a huge, looming item on my to-do list that I had someone do it for me. Sometimes there really just aren’t enough hours in the day.

  8. Wow, so much great info in one post! I’m definitely filing this one for reference. I’ve been putting off working on my author website (learning to work with WordPress) because I know a newsletter needs to come first, which means I need to figure out Mail Chimp (yikes, another learning curve!). But today I’m going to put in some brain-sweat equity and tackle the durn thing, with the help of your advice. Thanks also for the info on foreign markets — another thing on my list of “stuff I really need to start learning about.” I’ll definitely sign in to KDP and check my pricing for Amazon India.

    While I’m hoping to get my novel translated into various languages (if I ever get the time to finish it, after wading through all this marketing stuff), it occurs to me that India is a huge market with lots of English-readers — I can learn how to make the most of *that* foreign market before I start thinking about getting my titles translated, and gain valuable experience before I’m ready to work on marketing to foreign-language markets.

    Thanks for a really thought-provoking post!

    1. Lisa–I will say that the regular, everyday Mail Chimp stuff (creating the newsletter, using templates, etc.) is…to me, anyway…a lot easier than this other stuff! I was able to play around with creating a newsletter on the site and figured it out very quickly. So don’t worry too much about the learning curve with that.

      India is a *huge* market. I’ve heard though (and it may have been mentioned by Joanna on the referenced podcast) that Amazon hasn’t made as many inroads there yet. Hoping that will come!

  9. For signing up, I’m giving away a free e-book about 44 key questions to check your story. It’s essential you give something of real value to your reader for signing up.

    You can easily create a nice 3D image of your goodie’s cover here, to display above the sign up form:

    There are also little tricks like changing the words on your button, “Subscribe” sounds like a duty, like something that will be difficult to get rid of. I have “Let me see this.”

    I have Aweber, so can’t say anything about Mailchimp.

    1. Alex–Great tip! I’d imagine that would really help generate signups.

      I hadn’t seen this link…thanks for sharing. That would definitely make a signup form a lot more appealing.

      Aweber is also supposed to be a great newsletter service…I remember looking at that one, too.

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