BookFunnel and StoryOriginApp 101
How I use these platforms to grow my email list
Note: Read “Everything You Need to Know About Reader Magnets” before learning about BookFunnel and StoryOriginApp. It will help you with the key piece you will need before getting started.
What are BookFunnel and StoryOriginApp?
Platforms that help you build your indie author business by using tools to grow your email list and make sales through your books (both digital and audio). These two are the most popular among indie authors of all kinds of genres, fiction and nonfiction alike. But it’s how you use them that will determine if you get the most out of them.
How much do they cost? Are they worth the expense?
I recommend signing up for the base month-to-month payment option for both platforms. Whether you choose to use them simultaneously or one over the other is up to you. As of the writing of this post, each base price is $10/m with roughly the same features. The one you’ll need is the ability to access the CSV file of subscribers. This way, regardless of what service you use to store and communicate to your email list, having the CSV file means you can import them easily.
Note: In setting up the reader magnet for both BookFunnel or StoryOriginApp you’ll want to make sure you have permission and the rights to share the story freely. This means that you’ve written it and that you don’t have it uploaded anywhere that will cause conflict if used as a reader magnet. I’m thinking of mainly having it available on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.
Setting Up a Reader Magnet page [BookFunnel]
Once you have an account with BookFunnel, the first thing you’ll want to do is set up your Pen Name. Once you have done this, then you’ll want to add a book to your profile that is attached to the pen name you created.
The book details are very important, so make sure you fill it out completely and use the helpful ‘?’ beside each label to better understand their purpose.
Once you click “Create Book” now is when you can create a reader magnet page that will be used to collect email addresses:
Click on the book title and scroll down to the bottom where you’ll see the following options for the type of page you want to create based on what it is you’re looking to do. In this case, collect email addresses. Therefore, you’ll want to select “I want to join group promos and find new readers.”
Select “Click here to create a new page” where you’ll be asked two questions: Which book do you want to create a new download page for? (In case you have more than one book you plan on using) and What kind of landing page do you want to create?
For the purposes of this how-to you’ll want to select the first option, “an email sign up page to collect new readers.” This means Bookfunnel will collect email addresses before they allow your book to be downloaded for free.
The second option, “a simple download page without download,” is a great way to give something to your list after the fact. For instance, if you want to share something with subscribers (as a thank you) then you can create a landing page whereby only those with the link provided can accept the download.
Once you choose the first option you will have one more question to answer before setting up the landing page, which refers to whether or not you want to require signing up to your email list as a condition for receiving your free digital download? You may want to give the book free and make the sign up optional? The choice is yours. But as we are looking to collect email addresses, the first option is the only one to choose in this instance. Scroll down and select “Create Landing Page.”
There is a lot going on with this page that you’ll want to pay close attention to and make sure you answer correctly or what you’re trying to do may not work as expected. I’ve added a few numbers to the image above and given further explanation to correspond with each number below that will hopefully make it clear what is important and what isn’t for each field:
Lastly, make sure you have at least the mid-list plan. This doesn’t come with integrations, but that’s okay as I’ll walk you through exporting and importing the CSV file. However, if you are using MailChimp or any of the other compatible sites listed below then you can pay an extra $5/month and sync your list so that the emails are automatically added without you having to lift a finger.
Setting Up a Reader Magnet page [StoryOriginApp]
Unlike BookFunnel where you have to create the “book” first, when setting up a reader magnet within StoryOriginApp, you can go directly to “Reader Magnet” found on the left and side.
Once you click there, it will take you to a page where previous (if created already) Reader Magnets are listed. In my case, I have three already. You can just click the large blue “Create Reader Magnet Landing Page” button in the center of the page:
Now the rest is pretty self-explanatory, but you will want to have the following files handy (or at least know where they are within your filing system): Book Cover (400px x 600px), epub file, and mobi file. You can also add a pdf file if that is an additional format you’ve created. One thing to keep in mind, however, adding these things are not optional, they are required. It’s unfortunate that epub and mobi are required as I’m sure there are many nonfiction writers who may want to create a reader magnet using a pdf document instead, but that’s the way it is. This requirement can change in the future.
Now that you have created your reader magnet under BookFunnel and StoryOriginApp, respectively, you’ll want to use them to grow your email list by participating in either Group Promos or Newsletter Swaps.
What are Group Promos and Newsletter Swaps? What are their differences?
Group Promos are a way to grow your mailing list (or make sales) by relying on a group of others who all have books to give away within the same genre. There’s one page that everyone shares within their email newsletter and this page lists all of the books from participants in the group. This increases your reach of getting new subscribers if your book cover and description are eye-catching enough. When a person from another newsletter clicks the group promo link and sees your book, in order to download it they are agreeing to be added to your email list. As an example, if you are in a group promo where there are 10 participants (including yourself) and each of you already has 100 people on your email list, that’s potentially 900 new subscribers you might end up adding to your own list. Of course, this can only be possible if there isn’t any cross-over from one list into another. This is why it’s important to realize your numbers in one area may not translate to true numbers until you import them. If you already have someone on your list that you got from another promo, for instance, they cannot and won’t be added twice.
Newsletter Swaps are a bit less complicated but may not yield as many results for growing your email list, especially depending on the size of the list with whom you are looking to swap. The basic idea is that you list the dates when you know you’ll be sending an email to your email list. You list those dates on either BF or SO, along with other relevant information, such as the kinds of books (genre) that your readers will be most interested in. If you write romance, you may not want to swap with someone who writes sci-fi horror. And visa versa. Once a swap has been confirmed you will mention their book (complete with clickable image of their cover) on the pre-requested day. And they will do the same in their newsletter for your book. A few things to keep in mind when participating in newsletter swaps, besides having similar genres, is their list compared to your own. This will give you a rough idea as to how many might click on your book. Also, their click through rate for links will also help you to determine how many. None of these numbers are 100% accurate as it all depends on your book cover, description of your book, and if your book is competing with others in that person’s newsletter. Unlike Group Promos where the more the merrier. When it comes to newsletter swaps it may be counter-intuitive to be included amongst several other books because that person is participating in multiple swaps on their own email.
I prefer to keep my newsletter swaps limited to one person per email. This makes my email seem more personal and less click-baity. It also guarantees that person will get the most amount of clicks and downloads I can possibly offer.
BookFunnel and StoryOriginApp [Pros and Cons]
BookFunnel allows you to sync your list (MailChimp, Mailerlite, etc) so that your click rate, open rate, and list number are verified with a green check mark. This can prove important to watch out for when participating in newsletter swaps.
Both services allow exporting your email list to a CSV file in order to import them (if you aren’t using the sync feature).
StoryOriginApp doesn’t provide any verified information if you choose to sync your account with your email marketing platform. BookFunnel allows users to manually enter their email list number, click rate, and open rate. So, if you don’t see the verified check mark, keep in mind those numbers may not be 100% accurate. Newsletter swaps are trial and error with total strangers. If you want to participate in them, I suggest doing it with friends you know and simply using your BF or SO direct link to your reader magnet. It will work the same way as if you went through their website. They will even keep a record of the emails and sync them if you have that set up.
Picking the right Group Promo
Some tips and tricks for participating in a Group Promo:
In BookFunnel, use the “Change my promo settings!” link at the top of the page to select the genres your reader magnet fits under. This will make it easier to see the ones most relevant to you.
In StoryOriginApp, click on Group Promos Joined —> Find Group Promotions and filter to the genre(s) you need. Also, select Giveaway for the Type. This will make sure you are in a group promo that is looking to grow email lists.
Clicking the “subscribe” button on StoryOrigin will make it so any new group promos created within the criteria you set will be emailed to you so you won’t miss anything.
When choosing the right promo, click into each one and check the following:
Rules. Each promo will have rules and if you don’t meet them, don’t bother joining. You’ll only be booted.
How many other books by different authors are in the promo?
Quality of the covers. Do they all seem like romance covers but you thought it was a sci-fi and fantasy promo? This can happen a lot. Your book might stick out like a sore thumb and not in a good way.
Dates the promo will be taking place. I prefer to be a part of a promo that extends the entirety of a month rather than a week or two. More time to share means more possibilities for list growth.
Be sure to join the promo you like and when stating the date you intend to share it, don’t miss that date! It’s important that you set yourself reminders. In my case, I will go ahead and create a draft of the email, dropping in the banner for the group promo, and including my unique link, so I make sure I don’t forget.
Try not to participate in more than two group promos per month. This will make it easier for you to keep track of your obligations to share the link, especially if you only send out one email a month. Also, if you pay close attention within your genre, you might see the same authors and books in the promos you want to participate in. This will only result in double emails and your numbers may not end up as high as you want. Limiting the number of promos you participate in each month will prevent this from happening.
Picking the right Newsletter Swap
Some tips and tricks for participating in a Newsletter Swap:
Do your due diligence on the author you plan on swapping with or if they request to swap with you. Just do a quick google search of their name. See what kinds of books they write? What is their social media presence? Pay attention to cover art. This will let you know right away if the swap is worth it.
Keep it limited to just one swap per email you send out. You don’t want your email to seem too one-sided promoting other people and not yourself.
Remember that swaps are meant to feel like vetted suggestions you are making to your list. Say a few words about the story or the author. Copy/paste some of their own words if they have a goodreads or amazon page for their swap. You are making a recommendation and you want your readers to know you wouldn’t recommend something to them that you wouldn’t read, purchase, or use yourself.
In the next (and final) installment on how I use BF and SO I’m going to answer:
Best way to showcase a Group Promo or Newsletter Swap in your newsletter
How often should you share the Group Promo/Newsletter Swap and where?
Keeping track of your growth
How long should you continue to use BF and SO?
Sync your email list to BF or SO
How to import your list to Substack? How often? And when?
What about cross-over emails?
Tap that heart if you like what you just read. Want to leave a comment? Click below the talking head. Or if you just want to share my work with your friends, click below the mailbox. Thanks!