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Grow Your Author Mailing List with These 7 Essential Tools

You’ve heard over and over that the best way to promote your author career is a robust mailing list. This is true no matter the product, the business model, or the industry.

A mailing list is important, but have you ever considered whether you are using all the available tools to grow your mailing list?

I was recently inspired to audit the tools I use for my own mailing list, and I found my toolbox sadly deficient. I am doing most of the right things, but some of my tools have never left the toolbox.

The following post lists seven of the dozen or more essential tools you should have in your mailing list tool kit. (If you have a suggestion for a tool to add to this list, I’d love to hear about it.)

Email Marketing Service

While you could manage your mailing list out of your Gmail account, only a masochist would want to do that rather than use one of the companies that offer email marketing services.

MailChimp, Aweber, and their competitors will keep track of your subscribers, give you tools to write newsletters, and tell you how many subscribers have opened or clicked each newsletter, all for a low monthly fee. Some are even free to use if you have a small mailing list.

I recently published a list of companies that offer mailing list services; I’m sure you will find one that does what you need.


It is a truth universally acknowledged that an author in possession of a website must be in need of a pop-up plugin to promote the authors mailing list.

This is not strictly true – you can build sign-up forms on the email marketing service company’s website, and then embed the form in your site – but the simple fact is, having a mailing list plugin on your site does make it a whole lot easier to create new forms that blend well with the design of your site, update the forms, and generally manage the process of adding names to your mailing list.

Desirable Freebie Content

Thanks to the GDPR, you can no longer trade a free ebook for an email address and then add the address to your mailing list; now you have to actually get someone’s permission to send them emails.

But even though the new rules have put an end to that questionable marketing practice, you can still use free content to attract new subscribers. Think about who you want to subscribe to your mailing list, and then  create a short ebook that will appeal to them. It can be one of your short stories, or a short non-fiction work that ties in to your novels, or it might be an edited collection of the notes you made will doing background research.

Web Hosting Secrets Revealed has a good post on this topic.

Appealing Pitch

You’re probably thinking that you should pitch your mailing list on the landing page (or pop-up), and you’re right – but that isn’t the only place you will need to use a pitch. Before you can get someone to the sing-up page you will first need to get them to click a link. This is why you need to craft several different pitches ranging in length from a tweet to a Facebook update.

Your pitch needs to convey how the reader will benefit from subscribing, and I don’t mean just the free content. Tell them what they will gain from joining your mailing list, and how they can use the info you provide.

Marketing Sherpa can tell you more.

Killer Landing Page

Any indie author serious about growing their mailing list must invest in marketing campaigns with sales and lead generation goals. You have to get your name out there, and after someone clicks a link to learn more about you or your book it is the job of the landing page to clinch the deal.

Where a regular web page may have links to other parts of your site and lots of useful info, a landing page usually only tells visitors enough to get them interested in signing on the bottom line. All distracting info is removed, leaving just a pitch.

Jay Lemming has more detail on the Alli blog.

Attractive Welcome Email

If you thought your task was done once someone had signed up for your mailing list, think again. Your welcome email is your chance to establish a bond with your new subscriber.

You can tell the reader how to connect with you on social media, where you will be holding public events,  what books you are currently working on, and you can link to pages on your author site that share details about the books you write.

Vertical Response has useful tips on crafting a welcome email and examples you can study.

GDPR-Compliant Privacy Page

In mid-2016 Europe enacted new privacy rules that affected how marketers, websites, companies, and others can store a user’s information. Those rules took effect in late May 2018. For the most part the GDPR won’t apply to your author site, but there is one part you should follow if only because it is a good idea (it is also legally required).

Add a privacy policy on your website (or some other place that visitors can find it) that explains what information you collect, how it is gathered, etc. Be sure to tell visitors how they can request their info, and other rights they have under the GDPR.

What do you use to grow your mailing list?

I’d love to know what you’re using to grow your mailing list. Do you think they’re working? Also, what do you think of the tools and services I’ve mentioned in this post?

Nate’s Big List of Email Service Companies

Social media and crowd-funding may be getting all the hype, but frankly the most effective way to make a sale or build an audience is through mailing lists.

You can maintain a mailing list in your email account or with WordPress plugins, but there are also many companies that offer free or paid email marketing services.

There are many opinions about which one is best, and without too much difficulty you can find reviews which compare and contrast the various features and costs.

I used to be quite happy with Mailchimp, but recently I found their CS and features to be lacking. Now I user Mailerlite. It’s cheaper, with better automation. BTW, while I can’t recommend services I haven’t used myself, I have heard nice things about Aweber.

Which one do you prefer? Do you know a good one that isn’t on this list?

Edit: An earlier version of this list was published in April 2017. This updated version is more comprehensive and provides more detail.

Name Cost Review Details
MailChimp free, $10 to $199 per month Merchant Maverick One of the more heavily marketed services. Generally good quality, but also more expensive than many of its competitors.
Mailerlite free, $10 to $50 per month Email Tool Tester I have heard from a lot of authors who have moved from MailChimp to Mailerlite because of cost. So far no one has regretted it.
MailMunch free, $12 to $60 per month Tools Insight I’ve actually been using MM’s forms plugin because they look nicer than MailChimp’s form, but I don’t think I would ever use MM to send an email. It’s focused too much on sites rather than lists of subscribers.
Constant Contact $20 to $335 per month  G2 Crowd I’ve always gotten the impression this is more of a corporate tool than one for freelancers or solopreneurs. The emails I have gotten through CC have always looked dated and stuffy, like they were designed around 2005 for a govt agency.
Feedblitz $7 to $300+ per month n\a This company got its start as a paid alternative to Feedburner. It has also offered email list management, but it’s rather hard to find anyone who uses it. The latest reviews are from 2013.
Aweber $20 to $150 per month PC Magazine Judging by the cost per email address, this is one of the pricier companies, and yet I have several clients that use it. Clearly they are getting something for their money.
MailBlast $10 to $85 per month ToolOwl Another one that is hard to find reviews for.
HubSpot free, $50 to $2400 per month CRM Search HubSpot is less an email marketing service than a general purpose marketing platform. Email mailing lists is just one feature.
SurveyGizmo not stated Capterra See above.
ConvertKit $30 to $80+ per month Authority Hacker I have had a couple experiences with ConvertKit’s marketing team and found them to be smugly condescending nobs.
Pinpointe $50 to $900 per month G2 Crowd  n\a
Benchmark free, $14 to $255 per month Merchant Maverick It does not come highly praised; several reviewers described it as buggy with a poorly designed UI.
Zoho free, $5 to $350 per month n\a Like Hubspot and SurveyGizmo, Zoho is a general purpose marketing platform.
Campaigner free, $20 to $550 per month Next Advisor Little known but highly rated, and rather expensive.
Vertical Response free, $11 to $543 per month G2 Crowd With mediocre ratings, this company should not be first on your list.
Drip free, $41 to $84+ per month Capterra n\a
Emma $89 to $729 per month G2 Crowd Intended for universities, non-profits, and other large organizations. Not as expensive as it looks; the bottom tier supports 10,000 email addresses.
iContact $14 to $239 per month Merchant Maverick While missing some basic capabilities like autoresponders and address import, you can use iContact to send surveys and engage with customers.
Get Response $15 to $1200 per month G2 Crowd It offers many advanced features that you can try during a free trial, including Salesforce integration and flexible autoresponders.
Infusionsoft $50 to $200 per month PC Magazine You will find more affordable options that are also more highly rated.
Send in Blue free, $25 to $66 per month G2 Crowd Not easy to use, templates are underwhelming, and it lacks third-party integration.

Seven Drop Dead Simple Ways Authors Can Grow Their Audience in 20 Minutes or less

One of the first – and possibly the most important – things authors learn about developing their writing career is that marketing is not something you can just do once and then forget about. Instead, authors should plan on the need to promote their career on a weekly or monthly basis over the course of years.

This might sound like it will take too much time away from writing your next book, but let’s not forget that writing is a business. If you don’t spend  time promoting your work – or to put it another way, growing your audience – then there won’t be anyone around to buy your next book when it hits the Kindle Store.

All this time spent in self-promotion might sound like too much time wasted on the boring part of an author’s job, but when done right marketing doesn’t have to take more than 20 minutes. Furthermore, marketing is one of those activities that only pays off after consistent effort.

Here are seven ways you can promote your writing career, twenty minutes at a time.

1. Reach out to readers, and ask them to post a review.

If you have already published several books, and fans are emailing you or reaching out on social media, now is a good time to raise the topic of reviews. It is perfectly okay to ask them if they have posted a review; you might also drop a hint in the intro of your next newsletter. is always the best place for your fan to post a review because a review will be reposted to all of Amazon’s sites, but it might also be deleted for no good reason. Amazon also requires that reviewers spend at least $50 a year on the site, which not everyone does. That’s why you might want to ask fans to post their reviews on GoodReads.

2. Publish a blog post or newsletter.

Blog posts can’t drive sales like they did back before Google killed Google Reader, but they can still be a good way to gain the interest of visitors to your website. A kick-ass evergreen post – one that is insightful and well-argued – can attract visitors even years down the line.

Similarly, a newsletter – while not as useful in the long term – is your chance to get the attention of subscribers where they live: their inbox.

If you are coming up short on ideas, here’s a tip: Take one of the topics you looked into while doing background detail and write it up in a blog post. Explain it in detail, and provide links to additional background information.

Another way to write a great newsletter is to take something that happened to you and explain what can be learned from it. Be sure to focus on lessons that will interest your readers.

I will be honest with you, though; a great blog post will take you more than 20 minutes. For example, this post you are reading right now took me eight hours to plot, research, write, and edit. That is a huge investment in time, but I am hoping that the investment will pay off over the years as the post continues to be shared and read.

3. Update/Refresh your site (this includes the SEO as well as the content).

When was the last time you updated the bookshelf section of your site?If you have recently written new background detail, or just finished answering questions from readers, now would be a good time to add the extra info. An FAQ is a good way to share details about your books, their release dates, and their background.

Remember, the more _interesting_ details you share, the more your fans will like your work and buy your next book.

BTW, when was the last time you changed the free ebook you offer through your mailing list signup form?

4. Schedule a sale, and pre-announce it on social media.

Everyone loves a sale, and we even like to hear about one in advance. Several authors have told me that they will schedule a sale on a backlist title on a given day, and then announced the sale on their mailing list or social media days or weeks in advance. I am told this is an effective way to both engage with fans and to boost sales.

5. Update your book listings on GoodReads.

When was the last time you updated your author account on GoodReads? (Have you claimed it yet? Why not?) Are all the descriptions, covers, and release dates correct?

Most importantly, have you posted your new book yet? GoodReads will let authors list upcoming books as early as several years before publication day. Fans can add those books to their shelves, and anyone who has a book on their shelf can get updates every time you post an update about the book. This can be a good way to generate pre-launch buzz and boost sales on publication day.

6. Read the daily HARO emails.

HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is an online service that connects journalists with sources. It is free for journalists and costs the sources anywhere from nothing to $150 a month, depending on the service tier.

This can be a great way to get your name mentioned in a news publication, but since you can’t control how you are quoted there is the risk of being quoted out of context.

7. Schedule a book signing, or author reading.

Go in to your inbox and dig out those emails you were ignoring. You know the ones I mean – the emails where a bookstore, school, book fair, etc expressed interest in hearing you speak. Apologize for the delayed response, and tell them that you are interested.

Edit: While we’re at it, don’t forget the bloggers who want to interview you!

If you don’t have any emails like that then go into your outbox and find the emails you sent to event organizers that did not generate a response. Send a polite follow up email telling them you are still interested.

And if you don’t have either type of email then now would be a good time to find events you can attend. Search for writer conferences, book fairs, and author events, and you will find happenings where you can promote yourself.

Nate’s Big List of eBook Market Analytic Tools

Finding the right niche / genre / keywords to market your book, and then parsing the sales data once your ebook is on the market, can mean the difference between a best-seller book and one no one has ever heard of.

The following post details a couple lists of tools that authors can use to target their books through market research, and then track ebook sales once the books are for sale.

This list includes all the tools I could find in a thorough search, but if you know of a tool not listed please mention it in the comments.

Market Research

The first step in publishing a best-selling book is finding out what is selling, and the following tools can help you with that.  They can parse Kindle Store rankings and tell you which genres are selling how many copies, what the best-selling books have in their descriptions, and commonly used keywords.

Name Cost Review Details
KDP Analytics free to $30 per month n\a Analyzes books in the Kindle Store, and tells you what is selling and why. Can use current market data to predict your sales, royalties and profit.
Kindle Spy (KD Spy) $47 n\a See above, can also analyze your competitors.
K-lytics $37 per month to $497 per year The Creative Penn Less a tool than a source of market research reports, KD Spy sells reports and seminars that focus on specific niche genres (clean romance, vigilante justice, female detectives, etc). Individual reports cost $27 and up; the monthly cost is to access multiple reports.
KD Researcher $17 FreeStyle Author Desktop app that lets you compile reports using data from Kindle, print, or audiobook categories on Amazon. You can limit the reports by publication year, genre, and price range. Note: It doesn’t appear to do any analytics.
KDP Rocket $97 AMZ Prof Starting with a keyword, analyzes books in the Kindle Store, and tells you what is selling and why, and by how many sellers. It will also tell you how many times the keyword has been searched for in Google and Amazon.
Kindle Samurai $20  Kboards see KDP Rocket
Keyword Inspector $39 per month  n\a this is a more general Amazon keyword analytics tool. I could not find relevant info on how well it would work in the Kindle Store.

There are of course other tools that are designed to analyze Amazon generally rather than the book sections specifically. If you encounter one that is free to use, you should try it and let us know how well it worked.

Sales Reports

Once your ebooks start selling, you are going to want to start tracking your sales. A shift in sales is often your first clue that the market conditions have changed, and that you might want to change your prices or marketing strategy.

Here are four tools that you can use to track your sales across several retailers and distributors. Most will integrate sales data from Amazon and other retailers into a single interface, saving you the time of checking one retailer at a time. Some will even help you track book reviews left by customers.

NOTE: Several of these programs require that you give them your login credentials for KDP and elsewhere.

Name Cost Discussion Details
AKReport €8 to €16 per month  KBoards  Browser based, and only works with KDP. Offers a specialized view of KDP dashboard.
Book Report free to $19 per month  KBoards Similar in function to AKReport. Based on what I see online, Book Report is widely used.
BookTrakr varies, generally $1 to $19 per month  KBoards Collects your sales data from ebook retailers every night, and assembles them into one dashboard. Also tracks your reviews, rankings, and ratings.
Trackerbox $89  Kboards Takes all of the sales reports from Amazon, Apple, B&N, and a host of other distributors, and organizes them into a single, manageable set of reports.  Only available for Windows; a macOS app is expected by August 2018.
Readerlinks $19 per minth  Kboards This is an author services company, and one of the things it does is let you track sales per book, pages read, free downloads, etc.


Thirty Minutes a Day is All It Takes to Automate Your Social Media Activity, But I Don’t Recommend it

As I am sure you know, there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all your work done. This is why we are always looking for new ways to automate tasks.

Sometimes, however, the automation is counterproductive or just isn’t worth using. For example, a couple months ago I developed a way to automatically gather tweets from chosen Twitter accounts and load them into a Buffer queue so the tweets can be shared from one of my clients' social media accounts.

It’s a clever and relatively low-cost trick that ties together IFTTT and Buffer in a way that lets the two services handle the majority of the work automatically.

You’ll need to invest some time in finding sources, but aside from that the only costs are a Buffer subscription, some skull sweat invested in choosing sources, and the time spent curating the Buffer queue to remove unwanted updates.

I have been using it to share headline plus a link but you could optimize it for other uses (cute puppy photos, maybe?). I think it’s a really neat shortcut, and I was planning to sell it as a service or teach it as a class (I even wrote a whitepaper that explains how to replicate the process).

I won’t be using it, however, and I don’t think you should either.

I have come to the realization that I am not comfortable with the act of scraping people’s tweets. It feels too much like plagiarism, and I think using someone else’s work like this is going to backfire in the long run.

And even if this weren’t plagiarism, it’s a sub-optimal way to maintain a social media presence.

Ask any social media expert and they will tell you that the best way to get attention or build an audience is to say something original and clever. In this case that means you have to read (or at least skim) each story and find something to say. This process can’t really be automated, at least not without a lot more investment than I can afford.

So rather than completely automate my link sharing, I have gone back to my old methods of assembling Twitter lists based on topics, checking what active tweeters are sharing, and then sharing the interesting stories.

I am still using Buffer, yes, but behind the software there’s a person with their hand on the mouse.


While I don’t plan to use this trick, I am always looking for ways to get more done. What’s your preferred way to manage your social media presence? Do you know of any automation that could save us all time?

Please let us know in the comments!

P.S. I’d like to thank Kate Tilton for letting me bounce ideas off of her. Thanks, Kate!

Tech Tools for Authors #4: Social Media

Authors have to juggle a lot of balls in today’s book industry. Not only do they have to write that next book, they also have to market it, balance the ledgers, woo their fans on social media, do background research on their next project, and make dinner.

In the first couple tech tools for authors posts, I gathered multiple unrelated tools and explained how each one could be useful. Now I focus on just one niche, and covers tools that fill specific needs.

Today’s topic is social media. I touched on this a little last time when I mentioned tools like Zapier,, and IFTTT as useful automation tools. All three work with social networks, but I won’t rehash those tools in this post, which is why you should check out that older post.

Let’s start with Leonard.


When it comes to making sales and landing clients through social networks, most people think of Facebook and Twitter. And that is strange because LinkedIn is still the social network for business. While you may hang out with your colleagues on Twitter, LinkedIn is where you post your CV and where you build a network of business contacts.

Leonard can help you with the latter. This Chrome extension helps you automate your LinkedIn experience by helping you connect with second-degree connections. You can use it to visit profiles en masse, send connection requests, or send private messages.  Leonard even has a CRM that you can use to manage your relationship with customers you land through LinkedIn.


Having trouble coming up with things to say to your audience? Quuuu is a service that recommends updates you can share on social networks. It integrated with other services like Buffer, and can suggest  ideas based on the topics you specify. It can post updates based on the schedule you set, and best of all Quuu boasts that every update has been reviewed by a human being.


There are two types of people in the world: those who post gifs with text, and those who do not. Many in the first group use tools like Legend. This Android and iOS app lets you animate text in a gif or video clip and then share it online. It doesn’t appear to let you add text over someone else’s clip, just your own.

Legend is cool, but I am more of a static image type of person. That’s why I like Pablo over Legend.


No one can spend all their time on social media, but we still want to know what everyone is talking about. Nuzzel can help with that. Give Nuzzel access to your social media accounts and it will generate a daily email for you that summarizes the most widely-shared stories from the previous day. This is a great way to stay on top of the news without investing a huge amount of time.


This free tool was invented by Buffer and is designed to make it easier to make and share banner images on social networks. The featured image on this post is one example of what you can make with Pablo (although I actually made it with Canva).

Simply choose one of the many free background images, choose your orientation, and add your text. Once you are done you can either share the banner immediately or download it for later use.

Pablo is not as capable as Canva or Photoshop, but if all you need is a simple social media banner then it is perfect for the job.


OverVideo is a free iOS app that picks up where Legend leaves off. You can use it to add text subtitles and background music to clips before sharing them on Twitter and Facebook.

This looks like a great idea, but it’s hard to find any sign that people are using it. If you make a video with OverVideo, let me know so I can take a look.


Some social media tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite require you to refill them with fresh posts, all the time. They won’t even let you have the same message in a queue more than once at any given time, but Edgar is different.

This $49 a month service lets you fill a rotating queue of social media updates which Edgar will then post according to the schedule you set. It will cycle through the queue until you tell it otherwise, and it can shuffle updates to keep things from going stale. You can also set expiration dates on things like your promo offers.


Buzzsumo is basically a search engine that you can use to find out what content is popular right now. You can search by topic on social media or on any website. It can tell you what topics are popular, who is getting the most attention on social media, and Buzzsumo allows you to set up keyword alerts so you are updated when content is posted or updated.


Ever struggled with trying to share large quotes from articles on a social Network? Then try OneShot. This iOS app lets you easily take and share screensnaps of that fascinating article you just read.  You can use it to clip just the most important part and highlight parts of the text, and it will automatically attach the source link to any screensnap you share.

Six Lessons I Learned in Making My First Flyers (Updated)

Mailing lists, social media, and other online channels are the most commonly used marketing tools for selling books in 2017, but there will always be a place for in-person promotion.

Book fairs, trade shows, and book readings are great opportunities to meet fans, catch the attention of new readers, and generally advance your writing career.

There’s nothing better than the human connection, but if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck then you will also need to have flyers, bookmarks, or some other marketing material to hand out.

I just received the first flyers I have ever designed, and I waned to share four lessons I learned.

BTW, starting next week I am going to hold "Marketing Monday" events in my FB group. Why not post your flyer, and see what everyone thinks?

Start with 8.5 x 11 Stock Designs

Here’s something I didn’t learn until much later: Of all the stock designs on Canva, the ones that were the easiest to adapt were the page-sized designs. I had to heavily customize the designs of all of my smaller flyers, but I found several large flyers that I could use as is. All I had to do was replace the filler text with content that was more effective (it explained how the reader benefited from my services, and described them).

Revise, Revise, Revise

A flyer is just as important as a book cover, and that is why you should revise your first flyer multiple times before you print it.

Don’t print the first draft of your flyer, nor the twenty-first.

In my case, the first 6 drafts of my first flyer were so bad that they will never see the light of day. They were all Canva stock designs that turned out not to be very good at all.

The flyer that I ended up printing went through:

  • three background colors,
  • two different graphics,
  • four taglines,
  • two font changes, and
  • a dozen (I think) changes to the text on the back.

Just about the only detail I didn’t change multiple times was the font choice for my company’s name.

And at least four of the changes were made after I first ordered the flyers, which brings me to the second lesson I learned.


If you have the time to spare, put the design for the flyer away for a couple weeks or a month, and then take another look at it.

I guarantee that you will find ways to change the flyer to make it look better, give the text more oomph, and generally make it more effective at selling your book.

I didn’t wait long enough, which is why I found myself deciding only minutes after first placing the order that I wanted to make more changes.

Fortunately I was able to cancel the order before it was processed, but I came perilously close to ordering flyers that had a font that was difficult to read.

Get Feedback on FB

Here’s another lesson I learned only later. There are many groups on Facebook devoted to either graphics and/or marketing where you can post a flyer or other graphic and ask for feedback.

I created my first couple flyers just fine on my own, but with my later works I have really come to appreciate the feedback I’ve received on Facebook. Now I always make sure to post a final draft on FB and ask for critiques; this has saved me from wasting money printing ineffective flyers.

Start Small

While you can get a significant discount by placing a high-volume order, you shouldn’t do that with your first order. Instead, treat this order like proof copies. Order just a few copies, and then when you get them, go over each and every detail to make sure that everything is perfect.

  • Do you like the design?
  • Is the text appealing? Can you even read the text?
  • Are the images legible?
  • Do you like the font choices?
  • Are the colors attractive?
  • Did you catch all the typos?

While you can probably answer most of these questions by looking at a digital proof, there are some details you will only notice when you have a physical copy in your hands.

For example, when I got my first flyers I immediately wished I had used a lighter shade of blue for the background. It looks nice, yes, but next time around I will use a shade of blue that is about 4 or 5 shades lighter.

It’s hard to say why I want a lighter shade of blue; this is like one of those times where you don’t realize a certain house paint is less than perfect until you dab it on the wall. (Coincidentally, I used to work in the paint dept at Lowes, where I developed my great secret skill of choosing awesome paint colors from the reject bin.)

The next order will also use a heavier weight of paper.

Pay Attention to the Weight of the Paper

My only real mistake in ordering my first flyers was when I didn’t pay attention to the paper selection.

The "weight" of a sheet of paper is expressed in pounds, and it refers to how much 500 sheets would weigh. It’s another way of saying how thick and stiff it is, and when I choose the "standard" weight I didn’t read the description that said that it would be thin like paper rather than thicker like a birthday card.

As a result my flyers are almost as flimsy as the copier paper that is sitting in my printer. This is not a huge problem, but it is less than ideal and one I plan to correct next time around.


Have you had flyers printed? What did you have to learn the hard way?

Tech Tools for Authors #3: Automation

Authors have to juggle a lot of balls in today’s book industry. Not only do they have to write that next book, they also have to market it, balance the ledgers, woo their fans on social media, do background research on their next project, and make dinner.

In past tech tools for authors posts, I gathered multiple unrelated tools and explained how each one could be useful. This time around I am going to focus on just one niche, and covers tools that fill specific needs.

Today’s topic is automation.

There are only so many hours in the day, and there is always more work to do than we can fit into a single lifetime. Finding ways to automate simple and repetitive tasks will boost your productivity by letting you focus on important activities like writing and interacting with fans.

The following post details five tools I have used to automate my workday and get more stuff done.

If you know of an automation tool not mentioned here, please mention it in the comments.

Google Alerts

Before social media took over and everyone started living their lives on Facebook and Twitter, there were these things called websites. Everyone had one, and it was where they posted their status updates, book reviews, and links to sites they like.

It can be easy to forget in 2018 but there is still a world beyond social media where people post book reviews and discuss topics that matter to them. It is impossible for any single person to follow all of the conversations on the web, which is why you should use Google Alerts.

Just give it the search terms you want and whenever Google’s search engine finds new results, you will get an email  with links. You can create as many alerts as you like, and you can set the emails to arrive daily, hourly, as-it-happens, etc.

It’s almost as if Google is giving you your own virtual search assistant, for free.


If you use Buffer or another service to automate your social media presence, you will also want to start tracking responses and whether anyone mentions your name.

IFTTT can do that, and so much more. This is a general purpose web automation service that lets you connect just about anything. It has a simple, clean interface that takes only minutes to learn, and it can save you hours of work.


Zapier is basically IFTTT on steroids. It is ten times more capable and about a hundred times as complex.

Not only can you automate basic tasks in Zapier, you can also apply intermediate filters that add, remove, or change the input before it gets to the output.

I’ve used Zapier to create an automatic Twitter feed by inputting tweets from a Twitter list and then outputting the tweets to Buffer, and that is just the beginning of what it can do.

I don’t know that you will want to use Zapier, though; its interface is so unnecessarily complex that automating a single tasks can take several hours. But it is powerful, though.

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Automation is great, but sometimes you just need the human touch. For example, AIs still aren’t great at things like transcribing comment cards from a convention or reading figures off a receipt, which is why this is often outsourced to human workers.

Hiring a virtual assistant (even through Fiverr) for one task can get expensive if you need that task repeated 300 times, but luckily for us Amazon has a cheaper option.

The Mechanical Turk is Amazon’s solution to their need to automate simple tasks. You can use it for everything from deciphering handwriting to finding the contact details for people and businesses. It is designed so that you just have to submit the source data, write out the instructions for the workers, and then let them get to work. Each completed task has to be accepted individually, but once that’s done you can download the results as a spreadsheet containing neatly organized data.

This service got its start years ago as a simple automated tool that could accept your blog’s RSS feed and auto-post tweets and updates.

I never used it much because IFTTT came along and could match’s paid features for free, and frankly I thought that I was getting better performance by manually posting FB updates.

But I am mentioning today because it offers a lot more tools than when I had last used it (5 or so years ago). This service is now a social media manager on par with Buffer or Hootsuite.

In particular, has a feature where you can fill a queue with social media updates and it will automatically cycle through that queue on schedule until you tell it to stop. This is a feature not found in Hootsuite or Buffer, and it is almost enough to make me switch.

How to Delete Your Twitter Timeline (and Why You Should)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Twitter is a great place to share jokes and engage in debate, but it is also accepted that one’s Twitter timeline exists only to be weaponized by one’s enemies now that we live in an age where good will is dead and no one can conceive that the person they hate has a sense of humor.

As The Verge explains:

We live in an era when alt-right trolls and political operatives will spend hours scanning the online footprint of a smear campaign target, all with the purpose of dredging up past jokes and verbal faux pas to twist into context-less, career-costing hit jobs. Look at what happened to MSNBC contributor Sam Seder in December of last year, when prominent alt-right voices elevated a joke from 2009 into a fervor that cost him his broadcast gig. (MSNBC backpedaled shortly after.) This stuff happens all the time nowadays; the rulebook was codified during Gamergate and has since spread throughout the greater online culture war. Few people are professionally, financially, or mentally equipped to weather such a storm.

You might think no one will notice your jokes, or that they are so banal and obvious that no one could possibly misinterpret them, and you could be right.

But do you really want to take the chance?

The internet in 2018 is a capricious place, and mobs have formed for the most ridiculous reasons. Unless you want to set yourself up as a future target, you need to delete your Twitter timeline. (On the other hand, deleting your timeline might be held against you by someone who is bound and determined to twist your words and actions, so this could be a case of "damned if you do, damned if you don’t".)

At the very least it is a good way to erase your tweets about the stupid things your pets were doing a decade ago.

Here are the three steps you should follow to clear your Twitter timeline.

1. Pick a service

There are a number of services out there that can delete your tweets, including:

TweetDelete is easily the most popular tool. It works with almost everyone, and can easily remove all your past tweets in a single go. Another free service that works from a desktop app is Twitter Archive Eraser. This didn’t work for me, but it did clear out a friend’s timeline. TwitWipe is another free option, although it has obnoxious advertising and is harder to use.

When it comes to paid options,  TweetDeleter starts at $6 a month and lets you delete up to three thousand tweets per day. It will also let you auto-delete tweets after they reach a certain age. There’s also TweetEraser, which costs $7 for 30 days use. It supports importing Twitter archives, but it doesn’t support automatic deletion so if you want to delete tweets when they get too old then you’ll need to continue to pay for the service.

Any one of these options could work for you. Me, I went with TweetDelete. It scrubbed over 105 thousand tweets, but it didn’t remove all of the the photos and videos I tweeted which is great because I wanted to keep them anyway.

TweetDelete worked its magic in under an hour.  That is both good news and bad news in that I appreciate the promptness but also wish I had thought to download my Twitter archive first.

2. Archive your tweets

Before you go nuclear on your Twitter timeline, wiping it from the face of the internet, you might want to save a copy of your tweets. If you are a user like me then you may have sometimes been using tweets to document events, store cute pet photos, or what have you. All this ephemera will be lost if you don’t backup your archive.

Also, at least one of the services mentioned above (Twitter Archive Eraser) requires your archive before it can do anything, so if you want to use it you will need to download the archive.

To access your archive, visit the Twitter website and open the settings menu. Select the "Your Twitter data" on the left-hand column, enter your password, and scroll down to the bottom where it says "Twitter archive".

If you have the Twitter Android app, there’s an option several levels down under the privacy and settings menu where you can download your data, but I don’t recommend this method because it’s not clear whether this will give you a tweet archive or all the data on your account.

Click the "Request Archive" button to request the archive, and eventually you will get an email from Twitter informing you that you can download your archive in the form of a ZIP file. That ZIP file will contain an index.html file with the text, dates, and other details about your tweets.

Once you have that ZIP file, it’s time to break the cardinal rule of the internet, and make Twitter forger everything you said.

3. Delete your timeline

I would start with the three free services first, and if they don’t work for you then move on to the paid options.

TweetDelete worked great the second time I tried it, and it has worked for just about everyone I know who used it, so try it first. It can delete new tweets when they cross an age threshold, and it can also delete all existing tweets in your account. That second part might take a few minutes, but if you have a hundred thousand tweets like I used to have then TweetDelete might take an hour or more to make them all go to that great recycle bin in the sky.

Some people are reporting that TweetDelete can only delete 3,200 tweets at a time, which is strange because mine all vanished in the space of a few minutes.

Once you’ve deleted your timeline, be sure to set an auto-delete schedule so that your oldest tweets are erased as they age out. I set a threshold of one year, but you might want to set a threshold of 6 months, 90 days, or even 30 days.

It’s up to you.

images by Nico Paixfung.leo

Nate’s Big List of Free & Paid Book Promotion Websites

As everyone knows, an ebook is an author’s best marketing tool. You can trade a free ebook for a mailing list signup, or drop the price and rack up a lot of sales.

But in order to do that, you’ll need to get your ebook in front of potential readers, and that is where paid and free ebook sites come in.

The following lists are a compilation of promotion sites, both free and paid. I have not used them all, but I have filtered out the more disreputable companies (Inkitt, for example) as well as any site that couldn’t pass the smell test. I also skipped sites that offered no info on how you could join and promote your work (you would be surprised how often that happened).

Update: The list was updated on 10 December 2018, 29 February 2020, and on 9 May 2020.  Dead sites were removed at that time, and new links were added.

The sites vary from forums where you can mention an ebook deal to services you can use to trade an ebook for emails. Each site has their own requirements, and so to help you out I did a little digging on each site, wrote a quick description, and then sorted the site into the appropriate list(s).

I initially started with just two lists, much like what Kindlepreneur published several years ago, but once I started classifying the sites I found had at least four different categories:

  • sites for building a mailing list
  • sites for building/managing an audience, and
  • free & paid book promotion sites

I have 80 sites listed in this post, but I would love to add more – especially for the first two categories. So if you have a site you’d like me to add to this list, please fill out the form at the end of this post.

Let’s start with the services that can grow your mailing list. This is a short list, but these sites can be incredibly valuable in the long run because they give you a chance not to just give away an ebook but to connect with readers.

Mailing Lists, Ho!


Site Cost Erotica allowed? Details
author’s website free  yes An author’s website should be your first choice for giving away a free ebook in exchange for signing up for your mailing list.
Book Funnel $20 to $250 a year yes BookFunnel is a little pricy but on the upside it makes it incredibly easy for a reader to download your ebook.
InstaFreebie (aka Prolific Works) free to $50 a year yes InstaFreebie is a slightly cheaper alternative to BookFunnel. There’s an ongoing debate as to which is better.
StoryOrigin free unknown This site is explicitly designed to help authors grow their mailing list.

Those sites are great if you want to build your mailing list long-term, but what if you want to promote your career and build an audience?

Author Promotion Sites

Site Cost Erotica allowed? Details
eReader Girl $100 unknown "Author of the Week" featured post
Indie Author News unknown unknown Site promises author interviews and banner ads but does not give specifics.
Book Praiser free to $180 unknown Not a deals site so much as an author and book promotion service.

Do you just want to give away an ebook today?

There are hundreds of sites that can help in a wide variety of ways. Some just list your ebook deal on their site, while others have an email newsletter. Some are free, while others charge fees.

Let’s start with the free sites (in no particular order).

Free Book Promotion Sites

Site Cost Erotica allowed? Details
Free Books and More  free yes The ebooks can be either free or paid, but they must have at least 10 reviews, a minimum 3.5 star rating, and be at least 100 pages long.
MobileRead Forums free yes This is less a book promotion site than an online community that keeps a section just for ebook deals
Awesome Gang free or $10 yes AG promotes ebook deals to its 55,200 FB and its 14,500 Twitter followers. It also has a newsletter, and for $10 you can be featured for two days.
Reading Deals free or $29 no Content quality standards, and at least 5 reviews with a 4 star average.
The Book Circle free to $19 no At the free tier, you might get your ebook listed on their deals page and promoted on social media. The paid tiers guarantee promotion.
eBook Stage free to $50 unknown Must have a quality book cover, and a an average review of 0.0 stars or higher.
Ask David free to $10 unknown Newsletter promotion is free, but if you want Tweets that will cost $10.
Free Today on Kindle & Beyond free unknown Facebook group only
Book Hippo free unknown  UK-focused service, free account is required
Free Kindle Books free* unknown No restrictions on price or free book, but placement is only guaranteed with a donation.
Totally Free Stuff free unknown A site with links to lots of free stuff, including ebooks.
Zwoodle Books free no Hate, religious, and sexual books discouraged. 4+ star ratings preferred
I Crave Freebies free (paid?) unknown Free books only. There may be a paid tier but you will have to inquire.
eReaderIQ free to $40  yes  This site scrapes the Kindle Store, and will find your ebook when it goes on sale. You can also pay for extra promotion.
New Free Kindle Books free, $5 unknown Free and discounted ebooks. Placement is a crap shoot. The $5 guarantees the book will be listed.
Deal Seeking Mom free unknown A site with links to lots of free stuff and great deals, including ebooks.
eBook Korner Kafe free yes appears to be FB only
Book Angel free no Free or cheap books. Must be PG13. Appears to be UK-only.
Free Books free yes There’s a section for permafree.
Frugal Tips and Freebies free no free ebooks only
The eReader Cafe free, or $40 no Three review, 4+ star rating  minimum.
Armadillo eBooks free, or $20 unknown No restrictions stated
Indie Book of the Day free unknown eBooks reviews for quality and ratings.
One Hundred Free Books free unknown acceptance not guaranteed
Content Mo free to $30 yes* Initial listings are free. Paid tiers include social media shares, featured blog post.
It’s Write Now free to $20 no Must cost under $1.
Topless Cowboy free yes Focused on cowboy romance.
Lovely Books free to $10 yes Five day lead time required. $10 gets your ebook shared in 60 FB groups.
eBooks Habit free to $15 no Acceptance not guaranteed on free tier
Kindle Book Review free to $20 unknown see above
eReader Girl free to $20 unknown free listings only for free ebooks. Acceptance not guaranteed.
Kindle Book Promos free to $40 unknown No restrictions stated
Book Bongo free to $50 unknown Acceptance not guaranteed on free tier
Discount Book Man free to $15 yes No restrictions stated
Pretty Hot Books free,  $25 yes $25 guarantees social media promotion as well as a featured spot on the site’s  home page for 7 days. free to $20  no The ebooks at least 18 reviews and a minimum 4.0 star rating. Will list for up to 4 consecutive days if free that long.
AllAuthor Free to $59  yes AllAuthor provides various marketing tools and promotions to author on their website. Most popular tools provided by allauthor are a magic tool, review gif maker, instant mockup, tweet scheduler and many more. they also conduct cover of the month contest every month which helps the author in their book promotion and. allauthor provides both free and paid membership with memebrship author can list upto 4 books. Pro memebrs can utilize all the marketing tools provided by allauthors.
Indies Today $free to $9  no Free books are promoted for free. Discounted books are promoted for $9. Books are promoted on website, email newsletter blast, and social media.
your site here $??  ?? ???


Paid Book Promotion Sites

The following sites don’t offer a free tier.



Site Cost Erotica allowed? Details
Book Raid up to $10 yes  BR has quality standards ad charges per click to promote your book on its site and newsletter.
Planet eBooks $20 to $60 unknown eBooks will be promoted in the newsletter and on social media.
The Fussy Librarian $9 to $18 yes Ten reviews, 4-star rating. TFL tailors its newsletter to a reader’s preferences, and only recommends books in genres a reader expresses interest in.
BookBub varies yes Selective on what they will accept. Good track record.
eReader News Today $35 to $120 no Free or cheap ebooks accepted. Checks books for quality.
Free Kindle Books and Tips $25 to $60 no 4-star average, and 8 reviews minimum.
Hot Zippy $23 to $337 unknown Free, discounted, and regularly priced ebooks accepted.
Many Books $29 unknown Ten reviews required. eBook must be free or deeply discounted.
Good Kindles $25 to $45 yes No restrictions stated
Kindle Nation Daily $30 to $120 unknown Free or deeply discounted books recommended but not required
Book Goodies $7.50 tp $40 yes Only free ebooks accepted
FreeBooksy $40 to $150 yes Targeted genre mailing lists.  Only free ebooks accepted.
Book Gorilla $50 to $100 yes* eBooks must have 5 reviews  and a 4 stars average.  100 pages plus length required.
Book Lemur $25 to $35 unknown More expensive books will cost more to promote.
Book Barbarian $30 to $50 no SF&F only. Discounted or free books. Minimum 3.5 star rating. Cost varies by cover price.
Red Roses Romance $15 to $30 yes Erotica and Romance only. Discounted or free books. Minimum 3.5 star rating. Cost varies by cover price.
Book Adrenaline $10 to $20 no Thriller only. Discounted or free books. Minimum 3.5 star rating. Cost varies by cover price.
eBook Hounds $10 to $45 yes Cost varies by genre
Whizbuzz Books $49 no explicit cover images n\a
Bargain Booksy $25 and up yes Books priced $3.99 and below, no minimum review requirements,
Red Feather Romance $100 and up no Free and discounted steamy contemporary romance. Must be rated 3.5 or higher.
NewInBooks $299 and up no For new releases in Mystery, Romance, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Biography
Early Bird Books/Open Road Media $75 to $300 no Reach consumers looking for ebook deals via Early Bird Books, or genre readers via one of other sites: The Lineup for readers of true crime and horror; The Portalist for fans of science fiction and fantasy; Murder & Mayhem for lovers of crime fiction and thrillers; A Love So True covering romance and relationships; and The Archive for readers of history and non-fiction. $70 to $250  no Bookdealio is an ebook deals newsletter designed with authors in mind. Along with an ebook deal promotion, authors may add a link to their website or email newsletter sign-up form. The cost to run a 1-day ebook deal promotion is $70, weeklong promotion or full-price book promotion costs $250.
WordLikes $15 to $250  yes Book promotion through LinkedIn recommendations and Email marketing.
BooksShelf Free / Paid  yes Bookshelf is also a place where authors can promote their work for Free. We also have Paid options for extra promotion which start from $5.99. We offer a variety of services as well (design, marketing, etc.).
HumanMade Free to $4.99  no offers a variety of free and paid book promotion services. We offer: Regular Listing (Free), Powered Listing ($4.99), Free Books & Deals (for free and discounted books) ($3.99) in addition to Advertise with Us (open for authors) ($5 – $50). We accept most of fiction and non fiction genres. We don’t require reviews, ratings or proven sales record on Amazon or other vendors as a condition for accepting books. Services are available for published, self published and indie authors. All book formats are accepted.
BookDoggy $18  yes (some) We link free books to Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Barnes and Noble, or Bookfunnel, Story Origin and Prolific Works. For Amazon submissions, your book must be available on the Amazon US site. If your goal is to gain subscribers submit Bookfunnel, Story Origin, and/or Prolific Works links only. If you’re trying to improve your rankings submit Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Barnes and Noble links.
Social Reads $29.99 – 39.99  yes My website encourages organic sharing of discounted books by holding a weekly social media sharing contest. Authors benefit by having their books shared organically through social media. Readers benefit from access to a growing section and a chance to win prizes for sharing content.

Special note: As I’m still building content, all book submissions prior to 01 October 2020 will be absolutely free!

Unlimited Readers $9  yes Kindle Unlimited books only. Books are promoted specifically to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Pricing is $9 for one genre or $15 for two.


One problem with this type of post is that sites like the ones listed above are changing every day. New ones open every so often while (thanks to Amazon) existing sites sometimes go out of business or just disappear. The links listed above were valid when I published this post, but I can’t guarantee that the sites will still be there when you click on the link.

Please do let me know if any of these sites go dark (or if a new one launches), and I will be sure to update this list.

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Tech Tools for Authors #2

Authors have to juggle a lot of balls in today’s book industry. Not only do they have to write that next book, they also have to market it, balance the ledgers, woo their fans on social media, do background research on their next project, and make dinner.

With all this work piling up, everyone is always looking for ways to get more done in less time. The following post details a few tools authors can use on to stay ahead of the game.


This is the leading open-source Epub editor. It is free, and available on both Windows, Linux, and macOS. Authors can use it to produce an Epub ebook that meets the Epub2 standard (it only has limited Epub3 support, which is okay given that there’s only limited reasons to use Epub3). And yes, it does have a compliance checker.

It offers both a text-editing mode and a code editor, and authors can use either option to format their book. The code editor is also a great way to fix errors identified by the compliance checker.


Google has indexed virtually the entire web and made it possible to find most of the world’s websites through its search engine, but sometimes a more narrow focus is required.

Take definitions, for example. Google is great if you just need a simple definition for a common word, but if you want to search all the dictionaries and look for a specific nuanced meaning of an obscure 17th century word then you’re better off with a site like OneLook.

OneLook automatically searches over a thousand dictionary websites, including Websters, the Urban Dictionary, multiple Oxford dictionaries, and more. It has almost 19 million words in its index in a couple dozen languages.

KDP Rocket

Book sales are how authors put food on the table, and KDP Rocket is the secret weapon for increasing sales. It is a complete book marketing tool that authors can use when selling their books in the Kindle Store.

Authors can use it for everything from validating a concept, finding the best keywords and categories, identifying a title and subtitle that resonates with an audience, write better book descriptions that convert browsers into buyers, and more.


Best described as the Meetup for author and publisher events, BookGig is owned by HarperCollins. The site features a curated schedule of publishing and author events across the UK, including book signings, literary festivals, readings, and related events like the British Library’s upcoming Harry Potter themed exhibit on magic.

This is a service that is so obviously useful and desperately needed that it’s a tragedy that BookGig is currently limited to the UK.


If you take lots of notes in your Kindle ebooks then chances are you will need a tool for managing notes and highlights. Kintrospect is one such tool (here are a dozen others). Connect it with your Kindle account and you can use it to import your notes and then remix them into a study guide or a draft for a paper.

You can also export the notes to Evernote, or Markdown.

Kintrospect is currently free, and is available for macOS and Windows.


This is a free background noise generator that you can use to help boost your productivity. It runs in Chrome, on iOS or Android, and there’s also a website. Noisli offers over a dozen options ranging from the sound of a fan to tides, rainstorm, the buzz of a coffee shop, and the crackling of a fire. You can mix and match two or more of the noise makers, setting the volume of each part to create your perfect blend of noise.

I find the rain storm option very soothing; it’s playing right now, giving me just enough of a distraction that I can focus all my attention on this post.

* * *

There you have it; six great tools you can use to get stuff done.

So tell me, what are your favorite tools?

How to Give Away an eBook From an Author Website

There are a hundred and one different sites on the web where authors can give away an ebook. They can use services like InstaFreebie, forums like MobileRead, or blogging platforms like BookLikes.

I was just working on a list post on the topic (stay tuned) when I was reminded of one option that almost never makes this type of list.

An author’s website.

An author’s website is both the most common place for an author to give away an ebook and the most overlooked. While the site won’t get as much attention as, say, a free ebook link shared in Facebook, offering free content on your site is still a good way to build your fan base and mailing list.

I have helped a lot of authors set up their site so they could give away an ebook, and setting this up is really not all that difficult once you know the steps involved. Here’s the what, the why, the where, and the how of giving ebooks away on an author website.

What (are you giving away)

Let’s start with the point that is frequently overlooked: You don’t have to give away an excerpt, a story, or one of the books you are selling.

Instead, you can offer a freebie that is related to your books. I know of one author who writes Prohibition-era novels and gives away a PDF of drink recipes from that period. Or, an SF or fantasy author might give away a compendium ebook that explains the background details referenced in the author’s stories.

So, are you giving away an excerpt? A complete story? A non-fiction book? This question is important because the content decides the type of file you use as a freebie.

For example, you can give away a non-fiction book as a PDF – in fact, it might work better than giving away an Epub because an ebook with charts, diagrams, or other complex formatting often works better as a PDF than an Epub.

You can also use a PDF if you are giving away an excerpt from your novel. Most readers will only read enough to decide if they want to buy the ebook, and then they will replace the PDF with the complete book.

But if you are giving away a complete story, whether it is a novella, novel, or even longer, you should give away an ebook that a reader can add to their library. That means offering both Kindle and Epub.

Why (are you giving it away)

Before you give away that ebook, you’ll need to ask yourself why you’re giving away the ebook. Do you just want to give something to your fans? Do you want to build your mailing list?

A lot of authors use a freebie to encourage readers to sign up to their mailing list, but others give away some of their work just to build a fanbase. And for a while there, some authors gave away ebooks on their site to see if it would lead to donations (the experiment was not a success).

Your motivations are going to drive where you put the download link, or links.

Where (should you put the download link on your site)

In the words of engineers, it depends.

The ebook file (or files) can be uploaded to Dropbox or another cloud storage service in a publicly accessible folder. You will link to those files from your website, but where does that link go on your site?

That depends. If you want to promote your mailing list, the link will have to go on the “successful subscription” page (more on this later).

On the other hand, if the freebie is an excerpt from a book then it should go on the page for that book. If you are giving away background info on a series, put the link on the page for the series as well as for each book in the series.

When the freebie has nothing to do with any of your other books, you can put the link on your about page – or, if you have a bunch of free downloads, you can create a page just for the free downloads.

Just be sure that when you do insert the link, you also add a brief text description (including file format) and then use a few of the words as the anchor for the link.

Offering a no-strings-attached download is as easy as inserting the link; anyone with basic web skills can do it. The real trick is in knowing how to integrate a freebie with a mailing list form.

How (I trade a freebie for a mailing list sign-up)

There are many mailing list providers, and almost as many companies that make sign-up form apps and plugins. It would be impossible to explain how to set up all of them, so let me explain what I do. This will give the beginners a place to start, and the more advanced users will be able to adapt a few ideas.

When I build author websites, I use MailMunch to make sign-up forms.

The great thing about MailMunch is that it integrates with most mailing list services, including MailChimp. The other great thing about MailMunch is that it gives you two places where you can thank new subscribers with a link to your free content.

  • When setting up a form, you have the opportunity to create a “thank you” message. Mine usually read something like “Thank you for subscribing! Here’s that ebook you wanted”, with the underlined words as the link.
  • MailMunch also lets you send an auto-responder email to new subscribers. You can thank them for signing up, share info about your next book, and give the new subscriber a link to the free download.

As a rule, I like to give away the ebook in the auto-responder email rather than the thank you message because the email can sit in the subscriber’s inbox. If they ever misplace the ebook file, they can find the email and click the link to download the ebook again.

* * *

Giving away an ebook on your author website is a simple process – once you know how to start. I hope this post has helped you find ways that a freebie can help you in your marketing endeavors.

Any questions?

image by docoverachi via Flickr

8 Ways For Authors to Waste Their Money

Publishing a book can get quite expensive. A good cover designer can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and the editorial costs alone can set you back even more.

While there are many important expenses, there are also many ways to spend money and get nothing useful back. For example, take the Bowker SAN. This costs $150, and is basically a way for you to list your physical address in a Bowker database – something you can do with your website, or  dozen other services, at no cost to yourself.

I recently polled a number of experts, including David Gaughran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Joel Friedlander, Victoria Strauss,  Jane Friedman, and Hugh Howey. The following post lists a few of the things they thought were a waste of money.

The first items was suggested by Robin Sullivan, business manager and wife of author Michael Sullivan.

Promoting an Author’s First Book

Robin gives monthly seminars in book publishing, and a couple months back she revealed that authors should not start marketing their books until after they have published the third book.

She based this on the observation that readers don’t just buy a book by an author they like, they buy as many of that author’s books as they can afford. If an author only a single book out, they can only make one sale per reader, which is why they should wait until they have several books to sell.


Of all the suggestions made by the experts, publicists topped the list, with several experts saying that publicists just weren’t worth the cost. "They don’t do much you can’t do on your own, and what they do, they do poorly," I was told."They also cost tens of thousands of dollars."

It would cost less to learn how to do the work yourself (or at least get a virtual assistant to do it), and you’ll get better results.

Email & Social Media Blast Services

Another great way for an author to waste their money would be to pay a service to tweet about the author’s book to a service’s million robofollowers on Twitter and Facebook, or pay to have a press release sent to 10,000+ news  outlets.

Here’s the thing about spam. Whether you send it by email or social media, hardly any real people see it, and most don’t want to get the spam. It is immediately deleted (or worse, dumped in the spam folder before it is ever seen).

So there’s no value is spamming everyone.

The better way is to take the personal approach. Identify the sites and bloggers you want to work with, learn what they are interested in, and pitch them one at a time.

Buying Followers – Newsletter, Twitter, or Facebook

If there is one thing that is just as worthless as spamming people who don’t want to see your message, it’s paying to add followers to your social media accounts or newsletter.

It might look like a worthwhile shortcut, but in reality the followers are all going to either be (in the case of social media) bots or (if we’re talking about email addresses) random people whose emails were sold to mailing lists without their consent.

So if you do buy followers you will end up with followers who either don’t exist or have no real interest in hearing from you.

That’s why you should save your money, and accept the fact that followers have to be recruited one at a time.

Classes on the "Secrets" of Millions Sales

Like most professions, it takes a lot of learning to be a successful author, and you have to keep picking up new tricks all the time. And there are many experts out there who can teach you what you need to know, but there are also a lot of scammers who promise more than they can deliver.

Authors would be wise to avoid any course that promise to show you "the secret" to getting millions of sales. Before you sign up, you should check to see if the "guru" has actually written and sold a lot of books or just teaches marketing courses for a living.

Many of these million "sellers" have either given away most of their copies or sold the copies of their fiction books at a loss. Other have sold hardly any books at all, and are making money from their marketing tips, not from their writing.

Anti-Piracy Services

Piracy is a scourge, right? Not according to Neil Gaiman, who regards it as free marketing, or Baen Books, a publisher that gives ebooks away and sells the rest DRM-free, or The Authors Guild, whose data shows that piracy isn’t a serious problem.

There are many companies that promise to scour the web and remove pirated copies of your books, but before you hire one I will let you in on a secret. Most "pirate" sites are pretending to have a copy of  pirated book. They’re usually running some type of scam (it varies) but they are not committing piracy so it makes little sense to pay a service to go after them.

Any Service that Promises to Get Your Book on a Best-Seller List

A quick Google search will turn up a dozen services that will get you on the New York Times, Amazon, or other bestseller lists. In a lot of cases, they can get you on that list, but only at a cost.

When it comes to the NYTimes list, you’re going to end up buying thousands of copies of your own book – a five-digit expense. It has been done, but some have also been caught out as frauds for using this trick, permanently marring their reputations.

And even if you’re not publicly exposed, buying your way on to a lot can have negative consequences. If Amazon catches you gaming their best-seller list they will punish you. At a minimum they will remove the ebook from their list, and for particularly egregious or repeat offenders Amazon has been known to remove  the ebook in question or even ban suspected offenders – permanently.

Is it really worth the risks or costs?

* * *

There you have it; eight services and products that can cost you upwards of thousands of dollars and deliver nothing of value.

While these services are expensive and worthless, they are really just a few of the many ways that authors can waste money.

Have you found a worthless service not mentioned above?

If so, why don’t we crowd-source a more complete list in the comments.

featured image by LifeSupercharger, from Flickr

Can Anyone Recommend an Alternative to Hootsuite?

If you can take a moment from your Thanksgiving preparations, I have a favor to ask of you.

Can you recommend an alternative to Hootsuite?

For those not familiar with the service, Hootsuite lets you manage multiple social media accounts on several networks, all from a single dashboard. You can schedule posts, check the effectiveness of past messages, etc.

It’s quite popular, but I have had to stop using it because I am dissatisfied with its performance and with Hootsuite’s customer service (whose job is not so much help customers as mollify them).

So I need a replacement for Hootsuite.

What do you use? Which one do you think is the best?


Tech Tools for Authors #1

Authors have to juggle a lot of balls in today’s book industry. Not only do they have to write that next book, they also have to market it, balance the ledgers, woo their fans on social media, do background research on their next project, and make dinner.

With all this work piling up, everyone is always looking for ways to get more done in less time. The following post details a few online tools I use on a weekly basis to keep my head above water, plus one I really need to start using.


A good image can change a post from blah to boss, and making that image doesn’t have to cost you a lot of time or money.

Do you see the graphic at the top of this post? I made it with the free online design tool, Canva.

This tool isn’t as capable as Photoshop but it is also a lot easier to use. I make everything from blog graphics to book covers to Twitter graphics with Canva. It took a little bit of time to master, but once I did I found that I could turn out a good graphic in only minutes.


Instapaper was one of the first services that let you save the text of an article for later, and it’s still the best. You can use it to save an article for later reading or to push that article to your Kindle, but it also has a trick most people don’t know about.

Whenever I try to read an article on a site that blocks me because of my browser’s security plugins, or blocks me because I’ve reached the quota for free reads this month, I copy the URL, go to Instapaper’s site, and save the article to Instapaper.

I have found that Instapaper will usually be able to save the article to its servers, enabling me to read it in peace.


We’re all expected to be on social networks and talk to fans, but let’s be honest: no one has the time to both find new and fun things to tweet while also responding to comments and joining discussions. So I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Many of the more active social media accounts use a tool like Hootsuite to schedule their updates.

The free version is pretty limited, but the paid version of Hootsuite lets you schedule tweets, posts, and updates across multiple social networks.  I use it to manage a couple Twitter accounts, a FB page, and my other social media.

FYI: The Hootsuite website crashes a lot, so be sure to use one of its apps.


Do you have trouble following through on your to-do list?

Todoist can help. While this app wasn’t created specifically for authors, it is a great way to create an online to-do list or writing schedule. You can enter tasks into the site or apps, or with your voice via Alexa, or from Google Calendar or Slack.

This app won’t actually do any of your tasks for you, but it is a great way to keep from forgetting what needs to be done.

P.S. This is the first in a series of posts on tech tools for authors; if you know of a tool that I should include in a future post, please let me know in the comments.

P.P.S. Hat tip to The Write Conversation for the idea for this series of posts.