Thursday, October 27, 2016

Service Spotlight: Instafreebie as Lead Generator

By Angela Quarles, @AngelaQuarles

Part of the Indie Author Series

Earlier this year, I talked about using Instafreebie in my post Finding Your Audience Part Two - Think Long Term & Build Relationships and I thought I'd expand a little bit on this as I've started using it again. I also reached out to a couple of fellow authors so that I can share a broader experience than just mine.

What is Lead Generation?

But first, I want to make sure I define "lead generation." Wikipedia has a handy definition for us:
In marketing, lead generation is the initiation of consumer interest or inquiry into products or services of a business. Leads can be created for purposes such as list building, e-newsletter list acquisition or for sales leads.

For our purposes, the product is our book(s) (and some might even say our brand) and the purpose is for both list building and sales leads. And when you think about leads, you want to expand outside of your reach. That's why constantly blasting your friends list on social media doesn't help grow your audience. You want what's called warm leads--finding people outside your reach who would be amenable to what you're selling.

How Instafreebie Works

So with that in mind, we want to reach pockets of readers outside of our normal sphere of influence. And not just any reader, but ones who would have a greater potential for liking our work. One of the places I search for these readers is on Instafreebie.

It's a little confusing how this can be a lead generator, because when you set up your book, it's not obvious how a reader will find it other than you sharing it, and as we discussed above, sharing it to our social media pool isn't going to extend our reach much. This also leads people to getting this service and BookFunnel confused, because both allow us to post our books and get a link to give out to readers to download for free. But there's a big difference, and I use BookFunnel (BF) and Instafreebie (IF) differently. The way to look at it is that IF has its own built-in audience and BF doesn't. So we're using IF for lead generation and not as just a way to give our book link to a prize winner, or to our ARC team, etc.

NYT and USA Today bestselling Romance author Sidney Bristol shared with me: "I like how easy Instafreebie makes it to not only set up a book, but distribute it. So many of our publishing tools are not intuitive, but Instafreebie is. From beginning to end there's not a lot of guesswork in how to use it. Only how to use it to the best advantage!"

And regarding her last sentence, I'm going to try to tackle that with this post 😃 So how does that built-in audience I mentioned earlier find your book? There are several ways that are native to the platform itself.
  1. Every time a reader downloads a book on Instafreebie, they see an option to download three more and one of these could be yours.
  2. You can sign up to be featured on their home page (free)
  3. You get lucky enough to be picked up by them and sent in one of their email blasts to their huge list. Folks who have had this happen have seen thousands overnight.

I'm a little worried about signing up for their homepage option because they have a disclaimer that says I'm ok with Amazon discovering it via a search and price matching. I want to investigate the likelihood of this better before I risk it, since my book I have on IF is full price on Amazon and I don't want to lose that revenue stream.

They also did a great push during Book Expo America and I got loads of signups then. The rest is up to you and can be as effortless as just sending out an occasional tweet.

As Fantasy Romance author Jennifer Amriss shared with me:
"I love it most for the ability to grow my newsletter. The 30 day free trial was a godsend, and I highly recommend it. I was desperate for reviews and newsletter subscribers, and in a month I went from zero subscribers to over 600 after the few unsubs. With this, I've also been seeing reviews pop up on my titles, which is awesome. I'm also in love with the fact that even though they integrate with MailChimp, I was able to save the CSV file and import it into MailerLite, instead. Overall, it's been a wonderful experience and definitely worth the $20 per month for the Plus plan."

And Science Fiction and Fantasy Romance author Rinelle Grey loves that "...I can put up a book, then just collect the subscribers! Don't need to advertise or constantly monitor it. I also love the fact that the subscribers are as responsive, if not more so, than my organic subscribers."

Getting Started with List Building

Like Jennifer, I signed up for Instafreebie's Plus option, which is $20/month. With that, I can make it so that my book can only be downloaded if they join my mailing list. It also allows me to have my signups automatically funnel into my automation sequence on MailChimp created specifically for this Instafreebie list. I do this so I can not only convert these warm leads into fans, but also so that I can track their open and click rates and judge its effectiveness. As Jennifer noted, your first month is free, and I don't remember that you had to put your credit card in first so that it'll trick you into continuing when you forget to end your trial--it just shuts off I think.

I did one campaign back in the Spring but did very little if any promo about it myself. At that time joining my mailing list was set as an option only. When signups trickled off, I cancelled my subscription (Instafreebie is totally fine with folks turning it on and off as needed).

I decided to start it up again, so upgraded my subscription again to Plus on August 3rd but this time made it mandatory that they join my mailing list. I tweeted about it a couple of times to get the word out, making sure to use the hashtag #instafreebie. With only that little bit of promo I was averaging a little less than 21 a day. This works because readers search for books using that hashtag, so you're reaching outside of your sphere when you use that tag.

That is the only notification I did, the rest was from people sharing and readers who browsed Instafreebie for deals. And I haven't even been picked up by the staff for one of their emails or to be on their homepage, so you could get even more if that happens. It also depends on how hot your genre is. New Adult Romance author Olivia Devon uploaded her first in series at the start of a weekend, posted about it on social media, and it took off over the course of that weekend, including getting picked up in one of IF's emails. She shared her stats with me: "Instafreebie grew my mailing list from 400 subscribers to over 3,000 in about 3 days!"

This does taper off after a bit, which you can bump every once in a while with a tweet. I'm averaging about 5 signups a day right now with no effort on my part. So that's on average 150 leads a month on the low side for only $20/month, which is only about 13 cents a lead. This is on the low end. I'm probably an example of what you can at least expect by using it, because my genre is not as popular as others and I've been kinda just letting it run on auto-pilot.

Jennifer Amriss shared this tip with me:
"The best way I've found to get more eyeballs on it (without going absolutely insane), is to get Buffer ($10 per month). Add your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ accounts to it, and blast your book cover three times a week with the #instafreebie hashtag. When you use that hashtag, Instafreebie will often repost your posts for more visibility, and the more you use that hashtag, the more likely you are to be featured in one of InstaFreebie's spotlights to their own, dedicated subscriber list. With hashtags, I also use: #freeebook, #free, #ebook, #fantasy #romance, and #giveaway to get the visibility up. The main thing, though, is to make sure they fit in the message, and aren't in a clump at the end of your text. The more natural it looks in the message, I find, the more attention it seems to get. The only exception to that rule is for Instagram. On that platform, hashtags can go anywhere, and you can have dozens. That seems to be the norm."

What Book to Use

I've seen various options with authors here. I don't have a lot of backlist, so I put my first book up in my popular time travel romance series, which is full price on all vendors. I haven't wanted to put it free on all vendors, because I'm waiting until I have more in my series to make that lose of revenue worth it. So for now, it's free on Instafreebie as a way to grow my list and find new fans.

Other authors have put their free first in series up on IF, and I've also seen authors write exclusive shorts for IF (there's an option to mark if your content is exclusive to IF).

Supercharge with Cross Promo

I signed up for a September 1st cross promo with Rebecca Hamilton in her facebook group Marketing Tools For Authors - Including How To Grow Your Mailing List! I paid $50 to participate and by the 6th of that month I had over 1000 new subscribers. I believe she's gone up on the price since then, so you'll have to judge for yourself on the Return on Investment (ROI). There are other authors who will organize a push among themselves, costing little to no money. This is why it's so important to be an active member of forums on facebook and elsewhere so you can be on top of opportunities like this.

Since my cross promo, Instafreebie created a forum where you can find other authors in your subgenre. The reason you want to sign up for these author cross promos is that sometimes Instafreebie will pick them up and promo them in their newsletter, which goes out to their huge list (they used to be MidList, so getting to those readers is no small thing). Another place to find authors doing IF pushes is Instafreebie Push, another group on Facebook. People have also reported success using Vansant Creations, but I haven't yet used them. The opportunities are growing each day with others teaming up, so listing every one I can find right now wouldn't be productive and could potentially become outdated fast. Reach out to other authors, check out the places I've already listed, participate in forums for your genre, do a search for Instafreebie groups on Facebook to get yourself going.

Think of these different places to pool with other authors for a promo as new areas to find warm leads. One may work better for you and your subgenre than it did for a friend, so it's worth experimenting.

Sidney Bristol shared this with me:
"In the beginning it was pretty easy to get a lot of leads through Instafreebie. I did part one of my serial there (30,000 word cliffhanger) and got over 1,600 subscribers in a month. All I had to do was mention it a few times and it took off. As Instafreebie has become more popular you have to figure out strategically how to market the link so that others do it for you. I find that group promos focusing on pushing like-links and street team mentions are the best way to get new-to-me people to click on the links. This exposes me to not just the general Instafreebie audience, but those other author's readers, and my reader's sphere of influence."

Are these Quality Leads Though?

Now, the true test is whether these are qualified leads, because it does us no good to get junk leads. Well, these Instafreebie folks are hyper-engaged with me! And I've heard anecdotal evidence from other authors that it's the same with them. The open and click rates from these leads are waay better than even my organic list. Their open rates/click rates are 68%/14% for my automation sequence. When I did my launch back in July, I had a higher percentage of 5 star subscribers from this list (25%) compared to my organic list, which was 10%, and the percent of 5 star folks from my Outlander DVD giveaway list was 7%.

I've found that this trend continues once they're receiving my monthly email newsletters. I've also seen reviews from them and I've also found super fans this way, who have gone on to join my facebook fan group.

And since the other purpose of lead generation is sales, I'd be remiss not to report that I also see sell through to the next book in my series. In the last email of my automation sequence, I talk about my second book and I can track that some are buying this through my affiliate link on Amazon. I also recently featured another book in one of my monthly newsletters, and shared personal stories about its creation, and saw a big spike that day.

Jennifer Amriss has found the experience to be similar: "The subscribers seem to be genuine, too. They participate in my polls, email me with feedback when I ask it of them, and I have had folks join my eARC and First Reader teams with enthusiasm."

Here's what Sidney Bristol found: "I think the value with Instafreebie is that the leads are voluntary. They weren't gleaned from a contest, they didn't mass sign up for a nebulous genre thing. These people saw my book and wanted to know more.They're engaged readers looking for more content and when they find someone who delivers, they're an all-in-reader. The very best kind!"

How and Why I Use BookFunnel Too

I use BookFunnel for my ARC team and also for giving out the occasional free book to a contest winner, and to serve the free book that folks get via my FB ad when I'm running one of these (though I've stopped doing FB ads for leads). Some authors have also given a link to the same book on BookFunnel in the first email of their automation sequence because sometimes readers have better success downloading through BF than IF. I have that on my list to do!

Final Thoughts and a Note of Caution

My advice is to use this like any other tool that's out there that may or may not work for you. Right now, this works with anyone I've talked to who has at least tweeted about it. But as with everything else in the indie world, things can change and this tool might lose its effectiveness over time. As noted above, Instafreebie has no problem with you turning on and off your subscription, so keep that in mind.

My Instafreebie list is now over 2000 strong and that was mostly passive on my part (the rare tweet, one Instagram post, and the Rebecca Hamilton promo). Others have had much greater success either because they were more proactive, have done more cross promo, write in a more popular genre, or were lucky enough to get picked up in an IF email. You will get some unsubscribes, but nothing on the scale like when you do contests for subscribers.

One criticism I've seen is that subscribers will also be adding their email to IF's list as well as yours, but I'm not sure I think that's a bad thing--this is their list that they send their awesome newsletters to which generate thousands of subscribers overnight for those featured.

I've also found their customer support responsive the few times I've reached out to them with a question or feature request.

Jennifer Amriss also had this to share:
"The thing I like least about it, is that if you are on the free trial and get a ton of subscribers, you really need to get the CSV downloaded before your trial ends if you must wait until the next payday to set up your monthly subscription to the service. Once that trial ends, not only does the system change your giveaway automatically to shut off subscriber grabs, but it also takes away your ability to access the subscribers you have already generated. The first two plans (Basic which is free, and Plus for $20/month) are very much worth it, but I don't see the Pro plan for $50/month being worth it unless you have more than two pennames and have an obsessive desire to customize your giveaway page. For multiple pennames, it would be more cost effective to sign up with a publisher name instead of an author name, and put the author name in the book's description and make sure it's prominent on the cover."

I'll note that you will get access back to those subscribers when you do finally pay, but meanwhile they're inaccessible if you let your trial lapse without snagging them first.

Do you use Instafreebie? Have you found success with using it as a lead generation tool? Do you have any tips to share? And if you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer if I can.

Angela Quarles is a USA Today bestselling author of time travel and steampunk romance. Her debut novel Must Love Breeches swept many unpublished romance contests, including the Grand Prize winner of Windy City's Four Seasons contest in 2012. Her steampunk, Steam Me Up, Rawley, was named Best Self-Published Romance of 2015 by Library Journal. Angela loves history, folklore, and family history. She decided to take this love of history and her active imagination and write stories of romance and adventure for others to enjoy. When not writing, she's either working at the local indie bookstore or enjoying the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls, and creating the occasional knitted scarf.

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About Must Love Kilts: A Time Travel Romance

The Jacobite Rebellion--not the best time to get drunk, hook up with a guy, and lose your sister.

A drunken bet...

When computer game designer Traci Campbell gets too close and personal with a bottle of Glenfiddich while vacationing in Scotland, she whisks her kilt-obsessed sister back to 1689 to prove hot guys in kilts are a myth. Hello, hundred bucks! But all bets are off when she meets Iain, the charming playboy in a to-die-for kilt.

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong name...

Iain MacCowan regularly falls in love at the drop of his kilt. The mysterious red-haired lass with the odd accent is no different. But when his new love is discovered to be a Campbell, the most distrusted name in the Highlands, his dalliance endangers his clan's rebellion against King William.

It’s all hijinks in the Highlands until your sister disappears...

Traci thinks men are only good for one thing--thank you, Iain!--but when she awakens once again in Ye Olde Scotland and her sister is gone, she must depend on the last person she wants to spend more time with. He wants to win a heart, she wants to keep hers, but can these two realize they're meant for each other before the Jacobite rebellion pulls them apart?

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