Time to restructure my blog.
A few days back I described plans to offer a sign-up option for those who wanted to register as one of my Author Associates. As an Associate, you’re entitled to:
- purchase my published ebooks at discounted prices
- get special offers for your friends or reading-groups
- make sure you never lose the copy you’ve purchased when you change your computer or reading device
- participate as a reader/reviewer as I release early chapters of my next novel.
All well and good. Except there’s nowhere really for you to sign up. Or that’s what one of my readers told me the other day. In fact, that’s not quite true: you can subscribe to an RSS feed of the blog by clicking on the folded newspaper at the top right of the screen. Huh? RSS? There’s the problem. Many readers aren’t familiar with RSS. And even if they are, maybe they won’t spot my subtle signal. And then, even if they do, will they actually read my posts?
Let me be honest. I’ve subscribed to several blogs via RSS – I request a download to my Google Reader … and then I hardly ever read them. It’s another example of ‘greading‘, acquiring more reading matter than I could ever hope to read in a lifetime, let alone a single day. It’s not that I mean not to read these blogs – I set out with the best of intentions. But there’s just never enough time.
What I do read every day is my email. Email’s important. It includes messages that I probably need to respond to, and which I can’t afford to miss. For that reason, I’m much more selective when I subscribe to a blog via email. Before I sign up, I ask myself these questions:
- Is it content that really matters to me – or could I afford to live without it?
- Is there any tangible benefit I get as an email subscriber?
- Is a digest offered, so that I can scan the main topics and see what I need to read?
- Do I have the option to receive new mails at the pace I choose? Is there a weekly as well as a daily option?
- Am I likely to be spammed with offers or content that I don’t want – and am I sure that my email details won’t be passed on to others who may send spam?
- Is there an easy option to stop subscribing if things don’t work out?
If I’m going to offer my readers the option to subscribe via email, I need to be sure I’m treating their inbox with the same respect that I expect others to show mine.
But now let’s turn things round and look at my requirements as the provider of the service. For a couple of years I’ve been using Google’s Feedburner to allow readers to subscribe to the blog. It’s been a useful basic tool for promoting the blog, but it only really shows me how many subscribers have looked at a post. There’s no kind of interaction with them.
I also need to distinguish between different types of subscriber. My blog serves three purposes. It’s a place where, most days (but not today), I indulge my love of fiction – I try to put on a live writing show. Second, the blog allows me to interact with supporters of my ‘permanent’ writing, the published work. And third, I intend it to be a resource center for those who like me, are hunting down emerging writers who excite and inspire. (More about this in the next post.) So this is what I need to ask:
- Can readers specify the type of content they want to see? For example, if they’re interested in emerging writers but not in signing up as an Associate, can they do so?
- Can I then group members by their interests, so that they only receive notifications about the content they’ve requested?
- Whenever new subscribers sign up, can I be sure that they’ll receive all the necessary instructions to make the best use of the blog, depending on the content they’ve requested? For example, if they sign up as Associate, will they receive posts describing how to apply for discounts or gift-vouchers on my ebooks?
- Does the subscription list allow me to maintain my own database, making it easy for me to contact individual members or for them to contact me, when, for example, they apply for special offers?
- Will all this integrate seamlessly with my WordPress blog – so that once the system is set up I never need to worry about email notifications again?
- Does my email marketing service give me statistical analysis, so that I can easily see the impact of a post on readers – whether it’s moved them to take action or not?
- Can I afford the email marketing service I choose?
The last question is critical. When you live by your writing, you very quickly learn the importance of running a tight ship. As I’ve researched, I’ve already found powerful email management systems – costing hundreds of dollars a month. A great idea – for insanity publishing! It may be necessary to sacrifice some of the bells and whistles I’d like for something that fits my budget right now.
As ever there’s lots of guidance on the web: I’ve started with the Email Marketing Services Review from TopTenReviews, and I’ll be checking out each of the providers there in the coming hours – I’d like to have the system up and running by tomorrow.
But perhaps you’ve already been through this process and can point me in the right direction. Or maybe I’ve missed something important. Either way, I’d like to hear from you.
Danielle McGaw, also running the Ultimate Blog Challenge marathon, has been showing us how to minimize expenses if you want to live without a salary. A recommended series for hungry writers.
Here’s the earlier post I refer to at the beginning of the article: Introducing the Author Associates Scheme
Or if you’re new to my blog, and you want something a little lighter for the weekend, try this: 14 ways to make friends with Americans (If you are an American, this post is for you too!)