Welcome to The Writer's Blueprint

Whether you're a complete newbie to self-publishing, or a grizzled old vet who remembers the "good old days" of 2011, The Writer's Blueprint will help you get the most out of your next book. Because your book is a work of fucking art, and you want the whole world to read it, right? Damn straight.

The Writer's Blueprint won't tell you how to write the perfect book (although you may find a tip here or there on how to do it). But it will help you put that book in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

1
Why I recommend MailerLite for your email lists
2
The Author’s Lifestyle
3
A quick, easy & cheap way to get your own email address for your mailing list and still use Gmail
4
Why you need your own mailing list
5
Using Facebook’s conversion pixel to track your mailing list signups

Why I recommend MailerLite for your email lists

When it comes to author mailing lists, there are two major programs that most authors seem to use: Mailchimp, and MailerLite. I have paid accounts with both.

Honestly, I’m a way bigger fan of MailerLite. It does have its drawbacks, but the bigger your list gets, the more it’s worth working around those limitations and sucking it up, because the pricing differences become massive.

 

Now, I’ll be totally honest here, Mailchimp looks like the more promising option when you’re just getting started. And to be honest, I think that’s how they get people.

With MailerLite you get your first 1000 subscribers for free.

With MailChimp, you get your first 2000 subscribers for free.

So at first glance, especially when you’re just getting started, I wouldn’t blame you for going “hey I’ll sign up with MailChimp. After all, it might take me a while to get to 2000 subscribers, that’s double the number of people I can have on my MailerLite list before I have to pay for it.”

But you pay a lot more in the long term. Have a look at MailerLite’s pricing:

Now compare that to MailChimp’s pricing:

5200 subscribers with MailChimp costs the same amount as 25000 subscribers with MailerLite.

You might not think 5000 subscribers is something you’ll ever get to, but believe me, it adds up faster than you might think, especially once you start actively building up your mailing list.

I also find the MailerLite interface to be cleaner, quicker loading, and easier to make email campaigns with.

Now, there are some major downsides to MailerLite though. For one thing, if you have multiple pen names, their list sorting options are very limited. You can split your subscribers into different groups, but honestly, their list sorting really leaves something to be desired. Until recently, myself and a lot of people I know would actually just start new accounts for each list since that was easiest, but MailerLite have decided they don’t allow that anymore. Huge bummer!

I personally still use them though. The list sorting is a bit of a pain, but it’s still manageable, and seeing as it saves me tons of money every month, I think it’s worth a little bit of hassle here and there.

So there’s my reasoning for going with MailerLite. It’s almost (but not entirely) price-based, but that makes such a major difference I think it’s worth it. Full disclosure: there aren’t any affiliate links in this post, I don’t get anything from MailerLite for recommending them. I honestly just find them to be the cheapest and easiest option for making my newsletters for my readers.

Until next time!

Liv

The Author’s Lifestyle

Now, while I’ve written a couple of posts in the last few days, they’re also the first posts I’ve written in a month. And I’m not gonna lie, I hadn’t planned on taking that much time off from here. But I also wanted to show you what I was doing, and give you an idea of just what kind of life is possible when you’re a professional author.

The view from my apartment in Dubrovnik.

The thing is, sometimes when you work full time as an author, you get caught up in the “grind”. I know I do. Write, release, rinse, repeat.

And sometimes, when you’re just starting out and you’re not making a living with your writing yet, it seems like an endless road.

Well, most of my posts are informational. That’s the goal. But this one, this one’s completely motivational. I want to show you what’s possible with writing. I want to show you the vacation I had, and the life it’s possible to lead.

To be honest, I have too much tying me to home to really go off and travel the world all the time. Family, of course, and my little doggie. I couldn’t bear to be separated from her full time.But I did just spend two weeks travelling around Florence, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. My husband and I would go out during the day, then we’d come back in the late afternoon and I’d do all my writing work at night. I didn’t have the time to write the posts for the blog that I wanted to, but I did have a fairly successful novel launch during that time that’s already paid for the whole trip.

This is all stuff that writing has paid for. I went on holidays and came back with more money than when I started. What other job can you have where you can say that? I can’t think of a lot of them off the top of my head, and I certainly can’t think of any that I’d be qualified for. Writing affords us the most amazing opportunities. When you’ve been doing it full time it’s easy to take it for granted, and when you’re new it’s easy to feel like it’s an impossible challenge, but I promise you – it is not. I was in your shoes once. Four years ago I pressed publish on my first ever story. I made something like $8 that month.

A year later I was pulling in a full time income.

Now, I can travel the world at will. I’m thinking of going back to Europe in October, we’ll see.

But here are a few photos that show how writing has changed my life. Just think of how it can change yours.

The view from my apartment in Florence

Ljubljana – the most underrated city in Europe in my opinion.

Also Ljubljana

Me enjoying the Slovenian countryside.

Predjama Castle in Slovenia

Enjoying Lake Bled, Slovenia

The view of the old bridge from the restaurant where we had lunch in Mostar, Bosnia.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Split, Croatia

Panorama of the view from our apartment in Dubrovnik, Croatia. This is where Game of Thrones films a whole lot of their stuff!

If this post inspires you to keep writing, well, I have done my job.

Until next time,

Liv

A quick, easy & cheap way to get your own email address for your mailing list and still use Gmail

So chances are you’ve probably seen by now that some changes to Gmail means it’s a bad idea to keep using them for your mailing lists. Basically, using your gmail emails is now going to get pretty much all your emails sent to the spam box.

Boooooooo.

But what do you do if you don’t really care about having your own website, but still want to have your own email that’s pretty easy to use?

Here’s a quick and easy tutorial. This method will cost you around $10 a year, but looks more professional than having a mail.com email address (which is also, as far as I’m aware, a totally valid method to getting around the whole gmail thing).

The way this method works is it will forward the emails from your new email address to your old gmail address. When you respond to people, they will get emails from your @gmail.com address, but that’s fine, because the only thing you really need the new email address for is your newsletter.

Now, without any further ado, since I know I sometimes tend to ramble, here are the instructions:

 

Step 1: register a domain with name.com.

First, go to name.com

Now, when you’re on the main site, you want to choose your author website name. The number one, 100% best name to get is authorname.com

Always buy a .com domain. Even if the .com is taken but .net is available, don’t. People are so used to typing .com now that they’re not going to remember that your website is a .net.

If johndoe.com is taken, try johndoeauthor.com. Or authorjohndoe.com

At least one of those three should be available. Click “Add to Cart” and then go to checkout.

Now, when you’re in your cart on name.com, you’ll notice that whois privacy has been added for $3.99. DO NOT TURN THIS OFF. You absolutely want whois privacy on all your domains, it hides the information of the person who registered the domain from the public. Basically, if you don’t have whois protection, anybody with an internet connection can look up your real name and address.

However there’s no reason to pay $3.99 for this. So click the button for Promo Code, and in the window that appears enter ‘PRIVACYPLEASE’ and name.com will give you the whois protection for free.

Then enter your payment info, and buy your domain.

When you’ve bought your domain, you should be taken to your dashboard, which should look something like this:

Click the domain name you just bought. On the right hand side, you should see a menu bar like this one:

Click the “email forwarding” button.

In the “email” section, type the email address you want to use. So, if your domain is johndoeauthor.com and you want your email address to be john@johndoeauthor.com, simply type “john” in the email box. Then, in the “forward to” box, type in your existing email address.

Click “add record” and you’re done! From now on, any time anyone emails this new email address you created, it will forward your emails to your existing email account. Easy, right?

And you’re done! Congratulations.

Note: Gmail does have a “send email as” function in the account settings that lets you choose which email account you use to send your emails from. DO NOT USE THIS WITH YOUR REAL NAME EMAIL. Some older versions of Outlook let people see all the email addresses associated with that account. For this reason, I haven’t included the instructions to use this method in this post at all.

Why you need your own mailing list

 

So I know I’ve already written a post or two about mailing lists, but I’ve never covered the real basics: why you need to have your own mailing list in the first place.

In my opinion, there are three main reasons why as an author you absolutely, 100% need to have a mailing list.

  1. It gives you direct access to your customers
  2. Gives you a great marketing base at launch
  3. Opens a ton of doors with other authors in your genre

Now, let’s look at these points, one by one.

1. It gives you direct access to your customers

Right now, without a mailing list, how do you get direct access to your customers, your fans, the people actually buying your books? Sure, you might have a Facebook page, or an author profile, but if you’ve got a page then every post you write is only getting shown to a fraction of your fans (because Facebook want you to pay to boost them) and with an author profile there’s a chance your posts are getting lost in people’s timelines, and you’ve got a very limited scope of what exactly you can send them.

On the other hand, with an email list, you can land directly in your readers’ inbox. You can split test to see what kind of headlines and content get you better responses. You can make it a lot prettier, and include a lot more content than your standard Facebook post.

And more importantly, it lets you contact your fans directly, no matter what happens. You don’t need to depend on Facebook to show your posts to your friends/fans. You don’t need to depend on Amazon to email people who bought your last book about your new ones. Your email list gives you – the author – the tools to contact your fans, the people buying your books, directly. And that’s just so, so important. In part because…

2. It gives you a great marketing base at launch

The first 30 days of a book’s life are the most important at Amazon. In some genres, like romance, this is more true than others, but it generally applies to all genres. What’s the most important thing to make sure your book gets good visibility on Amazon? Also-boughts. And what do you need to get them? Sales. No one knows the exact number, but it’s suspected that in order to get the also-boughts to populate, you need at least 50-100 sales. Borrows don’t count. The faster you get those sales, the faster you’ll end up in other books’ ALBOs. By having a mailing list, when it gets big enough, you can make sure that you’re getting those sales pretty much straight away, and making sure that you hit the also boughts faster than lightning.

And here’s another trick: when you write your launch email, send your readers to your book, but also include links to similar bestselling books. That way, you’re increasing your chances of ending up on the also boughts lists of current bestsellers, which can only increase your book’s visibility.

3. Opens a ton of doors with authors in your genre

See the bit I posted at the bottom about the trick to send readers to other good books in the genre? Well once you’ve built up a good sized mailing list, you can get together with other authors in your genre with similar sized lists, and do a newsletter exchange. Meaning, you link to their book in your newsletter, and they do the same for you. Do that with 3-4 authors per launch and you start multiplying your reach like crazy!

Mailing lists are absolutely invaluable for authors. Every author should have one. I’ll put up a step-by-step tutorial on how to set up a MailerLite account in the next week or so, so if you haven’t got an email list yet, watch for that, coming soon!

’till next time, peace out!

Liv

Using Facebook’s conversion pixel to track your mailing list signups

If you’re getting people to sign up for your mailing list by advertising on Facebook and you’re not using a conversion pixel, you are absolutely missing out on some absolutely fucking incredible data.

It’s all good and fine to know what ads of yours get the most clicks, and the cheapest clicks, and are the most cost-effective.

But what if I told you that could you get all that info about people who actually signed up for your newsletter?

That’s right – using conversion pixels you can separate the wheat – the people who click your ad and sign up for your newsletter – from the chaff – the people who click the link and cost you money, but then go “ehhh nah” and don’t sign up.

Sounds awesome, right? That’s because it is. So let’s get right into things.

First of all, what is a conversion pixel?

Basically it’s a piece of code that you put on a certain page of your website. When a person goes to that page, the pixel “fires”, and counts a conversion. So what we’re going to do is create a page that everyone who signs up for your newsletter is redirected to when they click “subscribe”. We’re going to put a pixel on that page.

That way, whenever someone subscribes to your newsletter, they will be directed to this thank you page, and the pixel on that page will “fire”, which will register a conversion. Facebook then knows that that ad registered a successful conversion.

This gives you access to so much data.

You can see exactly which ads are getting the conversions.

You can see what age groups are converting best.

You can see whether you’re getting more signups from people using their desktop, their cell phones or Instagram.

This means you can start eliminating both the ads and the groups of people who are seeing your ad but not signing up, making your overall cost to convert cheaper.

Look at this example below. This is from a brand new campaign and I don’t have a lot of data for it yet so it’s not quite statistically relevant, but it still can give you an idea of just how much of a difference a different picture can have on ad results:

Right now, one of the images is costing me over $3.50 per conversion, while the other is at $0.65. If this holds up over around 100 conversions, I’m going to be killing that bottom ad, and keeping the top one for sure!

Without the conversion pixel I would know which ad generated more clicks, but this way I know how many people are actually signing up, which is much more valuable information.

And you can get the same information for your demographics, too:

The 35-44 year old age group is signing up (the blue line) in a much higher proportion to the reach (the green line) than any other age group. You can’t see the number in this screenshot, but while the average cost per signup right now is $0.98, for women in the 35-44 age range it’s actually only $0.68.

Again, this is data that I only have because I’m using a pixel to track actual signups, and not just clicks to my page.

Now that I’ve shown you why you need to be using conversion tracking with your email campaigns on Facebook, let’s look at the how.

Step 1: Create a thank-you page on your website and add the pixel

If you don’t have a website set up already, click here for my handy guide on how to do it quickly, without breaking the bank.

Now the first thing you need to do is create your thank you page. In your WordPress admin dashboard, go to Pages -> Add New.

I usually title mine “Signup Confirmation” and add a simple sentence of text along the lines of “Thank you for signing up to [author name] newsletter! You are now subscribed.”

Great! Now we just need to add your pixel code.

Go to your Facebook Ads Manager. Now, under tools, select “pixels”, the third option down.

Now if you’ve never used a pixel before, you’ll get a window pop up that will have an option to create a pixel.

Click that. Now, choose a name for your pixel. It doesn’t really matter what you choose, I just used my author name. As far as I’m aware no one can see what your pixel name is, but I’m not 100% sure on this.

Click “Create Pixel”

Then, you’ll have the option to “Install Pixel Now”. Click that. A bunch of code will pop up, that looks something like this:

Copy all of this code. Paste it into an empty Notepad file.

Now, go back to your WordPress admin dashboard on your website. On the menu bar on the left, go to Appearance -> Editor. On the right hand side is a list of files. Click on the Theme Header (header.php) file.

SUPER IMPORTANT: COPY AND PASTE EVERYTHING IN THIS FILE INTO ANOTHER EMPTY NOTEPAD FILE. SAVE IT AS HEADERBACKUP.PHP (or whatever) ON YOUR COMPUTER BEFORE DOING ANYTHING ELSE. SERIOUSLY. DO THIS.

Now go back to your first Notepad file, the one with your Facebook pixel code. Highlight all the code and copy it once more.

In the header.php file, scroll down until you see <head>

IMMEDIATELY AFTER the <head> code, press enter to get to a new line, and paste the pixel code. Press enter again for another empty line after the code.

Then, click “update file”.

Go to your site’s homepage to make sure nothing looks screwed up. If it does, copy all of headerbackup.php (this is why you backed it up!!) and replace everything in the header.php screen on your dashboard with it. Update again and everything should be back to normal. Then, try the pixel code again.

Now, let’s make sure the pixel we installed is working.

Go to the thank you page you just created. Then, click here (or go back to Tools -> Pixels in your Facebook ads manager). Your pixel should show as active.

If it’s not working, there’s a Chrome extension you can install by clicking here.  When you’ve installed the extension you’ll see this picture show up in the top right corner of your browser, next to the URL bar: 

Go back to your thank you page, and click that little </> image in the top corner. You should see something like this pop up:

If the pixel failed to load, the box will give you hints as to why that might be.

You can also look at this page for help:

https://www.facebook.com/business/help/218844828315224

Once you have your pixel loaded and working, it’s time for step 2!

Step 2: Change your mailing list form thank you page

Now, these instructions are for anyone using MailerLite, because MailerLite is awesome and I will always recommend them to anyone.

Go to your account, and select “webforms” at the top of the page.

If you don’t already have a form for your site that you want to use, click on “Add New Webform” in the top right. If you do have a webform that you want to use already, then simply click on that form to open it.

If you’re creating a new form, fill out the next box, making sure it looks something like this:

Then click “Save and continue”

Select a subscriber group (or “list”) and click Save and Continue again.

If you already have your form and simply clicked on it, you can keep reading again from here.

The first thing you want to do is turn off double optins:

I never, ever run my campaigns with double optin turned on. It’s just not necessary these days, and makes you more likely to lose subscribers.

Now, design your form however you want. BUT you need to make sure that the thank you URL at the bottom of the “details” screen is changed to the thank you page you made in step one:

Once you’ve created your form and saved it, make sure to record the Form Landing Page URL given to you by MailChimp:

Copy/paste that URL into an empty Notepad file (my favorite temporary storage solution, have you noticed that yet?)

Step 3: Register a custom conversion with our thank you page

Now, we need to set it up so that Facebook knows that whenever someone hits the thank-you page specifically, to register a conversion.

In your Facebook ads manager, go to Tools -> Custom Conversion (fourth option down)

Click the “Create Custom Conversion” button.

Fill out the form.

In this example, my thank you page might be: http://www.thewritersblueprint.com/your-thank-you-page

So I’ve made sure that only the thank you page will generate a custom conversion.

Then click “next” and give your pixel a name, then click “create”.

You’ll get a little box that tells you the custom conversion was created sucessfully. When you close the box, the manager will refresh and your new pixel will appear. The box on the far right, that says “status” will be red, saying “no activity yet”.

Go back to your thank you page and refresh the page. Then go back to your pixel page, and refresh that. It should turn green and say “Active” now.

Step 4: Make your ads!

Finally, a normal step!

Go to create a new campaign. But instead of choosing “clicks to your website”, click on “increase conversions on your website”

Paste your landing page URL into the box that comes up, then the pixel you created will automatically pop up as well.

Your screen should look something like this.

Then, press continue, and make your ad sets and adverts as normal!

Note: sometimes the continue screen blanks out like it is in the photo above, sometimes it doesn’t. If it does blank out for you, press the ‘x’ on the right of the conversion pixel (the bottom option) and then click that box and re-select the pixel. That seems to fix the glitch.

A second note: I always make sure that Facebook charges me per clicks to my website:

The default is to be charged per conversion, but in my experience Facebook is AWFUL at telling who’s going to convert. I’ve found that you end up paying a lot less by changing the optimization to link clicks to your site. Obviously you should test this yourself, since you might find your results completely different from mine, but it’s something to keep in mind for sure.

And so now you’re done! Your results will now be listed as conversions, or sign ups to your mailing list, instead of clicks. You’re now able to track your actual mailing list signups instead of just clicks, giving you much, much more valuable data!

Now if only there was a way to place a conversion pixel on Amazon’s site…

Stay tuned as I plan on doing a whole series of posts on everything to do with mailing lists, from how to create one, to how to set up an email address without using Gmail, and more! But that’s it for now…

 

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