Hopefully you know that I have an email list.  I started that list because of John Anealio, who trades free music for email addresses.

In 2013, I’m going to do the same thing – sort of.  I’m trading free fiction for email addresses.  I think it’s a fair trade and apparently, so do many of you because subscriptions are up.  And that’s what I thought I’d talk about today.

I started my email list almost one year ago (Feb 2012) and promptly did very little with it.  Honestly, I knew it was a good idea, I just didn’t know what to do with it.  I mean, what do I offer people to get them to sign up and continue caring?  That’s the thing about email marketing, which this totally is – you need to give people something they will find useful, otherwise you’re just another spammer.  With that in mind, I sent very few blasts to the people who signed up, and those were mostly to promote the short stories I had out there in the wilds.  I toyed with ‘updates’ about the blog, or the podcasts, but really, people who read this blog or follow me on Twitter, already know about that stuff.  All I was doing was repackaging what had already been disseminated and discussed other places.

So I needed something else.  That’s where the idea to just give away some fiction each month came from.

List Growth

Even without giving stuff away, my list did grow.  You can see the trend here:

Screen shot 2013-01-24 at 1.10.42 PM

Click for a larger view

As you can see, my announcement in 2013 gained me some significant subscribers.  But this chart also shows a steady growth; people were signing up, even though I wasn’t doing much with the list.  My hope is that this trend will grow in 2013 since I’ll be giving away something tangible.  The challenge on my part is to make sure what I’m giving away, the fiction, is pro-quality and entertaining.  If it is, people will talk and my audience will grow.

Open Rate

Talk to any email marketer, and they will tell you that the #1 challenge is getting the message into the inbox.  #2 is getting that email opened.  A lot of thought goes into making these two things happen.  The way you format your email, the number of links you use, the service you use, the IP address of the server sending the email and the subject line can all impact whether or not an email hits the inbox rather than the spam folder.  There is a lot of complicated finagling going on, believe me.

I am quite happy with my average open rate:

Screen shot 2013-01-24 at 1.20.33 PM

That’s the average for all of my campaigns (not that there’s been a whole lot of them).  For the specific eBook giveaway (Consumption is the name of the story), the open rate is higher:

Screen shot 2013-01-24 at 1.31.50 PMNote that the click rate is lower than the open rate.  So, twice as many people opened the email as clicked the links.  But that’s okay because it’s double the previous email:

Screen shot 2013-01-24 at 1.36.27 PM

So, my open rate ticked up a few points, but my click rate doubled.  I’ll take that.  🙂  It’s a good sign, but one that can be explained away by something ‘new’ being offered – and for free.  What will be telling is how these two rates carry through in February when I release the second piece of free fiction.  My hope is that they will tick up once again.

See, having an email list like this one is really playing the long game.  It takes time and effort to build up and that’s what I’m planning to do, rewarding everyone who signs up in 2013 with a nice story each month.

FYI – I use MailChimp.com for my lists/email marketing.  They have a nice free offering with loads of features (like the reports I screen capped above) and I like the paid plan tiers should things grow enough to justify my needing to expand.



  • John Anealio Posted January 25, 2013 12:27 pm

    That’s a great open rate!

    According to Fanbridge, any open rate higher than 10% is considered good. Anything higher than 15% or 20% is considered amazing!

    My open rates vary, but they tend to be just around 30%, give or take a few points. I’m happy with that, considering I have 2400 people on my list. So that’s about 700-800 people reading it, which I’ll take.

  • Todd A. Walls Posted January 26, 2013 11:01 pm

    Patrick, I’ve read your stuff and most of it should be on the Bestseller’s list. Getting it for free? Priceless! Er, hold on, my logic isn’t holding up, there. No. I was was right. Priceless. What I really meant was–Awesome!

    • Patrick Hester Posted January 27, 2013 11:21 am

      Thank you, Todd 🙂


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