Writing Etc.: Building an email list? Don’t do this…

Hey Freelancer!

Oy. June was rough. I’ll keep the update short.

First: My cancerversary didn’t unfold without hitches. After getting scanned, prodded, probed, and scoped the oncologist found a suspicious mass on my left ovary. Two radiologists agreed it looked pretty suspicious.

I was tentatively scheduled for a trip to the Twin Cities (three hours away!) for a complete hysterectomy. All we had to do was await the final tumor marker number for ovarian cancer to come in to find out how bad it was.

I awaited all weekend for the big reveal. While waiting, little Rudie took a turn for the worse, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t eat, she became gravely ill. She passed away that Saturday.

On Monday morning, the number arrived. Expecting the worse, I was stunned when my family doc reported it was completely normal. I headed to a local gynecologist who, after a little more testing, proclaimed me cancer free.

Yikes. But what a month! I tell people it was the worst best cancerversary so far. In one year, if I maintain my NED (No Evidence of Disease) status, it’s possible I could graduate from the cancer center and land in the capable hands of my family physician for continued monitoring. Crossing my fingers…

So yeah. June was rough. July looks much better. In the mean time, I have so much to share with you… thanks for all your support!

Beth 🙂
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Building an email list? Don’t do this…

I still feel puzzled. It began with a friendly Facebook post:

Promo: Free Book Giveaway
Limit: 50 participants
Cost: $100
Result: 7,500 – 10,000 subscribers

I’ll paraphrase the rest.

Turns out, this person organized a contest. Each participant donated one book plus 100 bucks. The organizer (as well as each participant) would promote this fabulous, stupendous event.

Potential readers would hand over their email address for a chance to win all 50 books.

What this means is at the end, one person out of 7,500 – 10,000 (give or take) would win a copy of all fifty titles. The rest of the entrants would have their email addresses shared with 50 authors who would then manually add them to their subscriber list.

The duration of this promotion was three to six months depending on how fast sign ups came in.

In other words…

In one fell swoop, each person who entered this contest would be added to fifty email lists and presumably inundated with around 50 new messages from people they likely don’t know. To make matters worse, it’s possible they entered this contest three to six months ago.

Here’s where I get puzzled: Authors were scrambling to be a part of this… er… promotion.

I get it. If you’re a freelancer trying to grow your readership, it can be difficult to grow your subscriber list. But this promotion is so full of red flags, I can hardly comprehend why anyone would sign up.

Problem #1: How can you be sure your new “7,500 – 10,000” subscribers will remember signing up for this promotion?

Problem #2: How will you manage sp*m complaints when they invariably flow in? How will you avoid getting listed on writing advocate websites? How will potentially angering a bunch of people expand your reader base?

Problem #3: How will giving away one book to one reader help grow your readership?

Problem #4: Assuming you do this, will your email hosting company allow you to import that many new subscribers in one fell swoop?

Problem #5: How many of those email addresses are fake, bouncy, or trash addys people use for contests?

Problem #6: Dumping 7k subscribers into your email hosting account will likely bump you to the next pay level. Will these names merit the extra cost you’re about to trigger?

Problem #7: Readers looking for freebies or contests tend to behave very different than readers who respect your time, talent, and knowledge and subscribe to your newsletter of their own accord.

Problem #8: Are short cuts like this valuable enough to sully your reputation as not only a writer, but as a reputable source of information?

Growing your readership is a marathon, not a sprint. Short cuts may benefit you in the short run, but as a long term strategy for anyone trying to build a solid base of readers and/or customers, I’d suggest growing your list slow by attracting quality people who like what you have to say.

I’d argue that reader and/or customer lists compiled using this contest method may give you a warm fuzzy feeling when you brag about your subscriber numbers. However, growing your list too fast, using freebie seekers can hurt your bottom line.

My advice? Proceed with caution. Extreme caution.

But that’s just me… 😛

Next time: So…how do you grow an awesome email list filled with potential customers?

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