If you’re an author and you want to make more than $500 per year, you need a website.
A website is important because it’s the place where your biggest fans can come to find out about your books.
More importantly, it’s the place where your biggest fans can send other people to see your work.
But a website isn’t enough.
You also need an email list so you can connect and engage with these readers.
I’ve gotten an overwhelmingly positive response to both articles with hundreds of shares and thousands of views (if you were one of the people who shared, thank you so much).
The positive reception to this idea also led to an equivalent number of questions asking about the how. Specifically:
“what tools / tech / software do you recommend for authors and self-publishers to build a lucrative platform?”
(which is only the second most commonly asked question I get after “why are you so really, really, ridiculously good looking?)
So today, I’m going to take you behind the scenes of Insurgent Publishing and show you how I use ConvertKit for myself (as both a publisher and author) and for the authors I work with through Insurgent Publishing.
If this sounds useful, please share!
If you’re not familiar with ConvertKit, it’s the new kid on the block when it comes to email marketing services.
And today I’m going to share with you 10 reasons you should be using it for your publishing projects.
But first, let’s start at the beginning…
What’s an Email Marketing Service?
Email marketing is directly marketing a commercial message to a group of people using email. – Wikipedia
So if email marketing is sending messages to a group of people using email, an Email Marketing Service (EMS) is software that allows you to do just that (versus, say, sending an email with 10,000 people cc’d).
Who Needs an Email Marketing Service?
You do, if you plan to sell products or services (sorry, social media is not a replacement).
For a more detailed answer why, check out my free, in-depth resource: The Author’s Guide to Building an Email List (and selling more books)
What are my options for Email Marketing Services?
There are a lot out there. Search Email Marketing Service and you’ll find dozens if not hundreds of competitors. I’ve been doing this stuff for the past few years and have had the chance to work with many EMS’s through consulting work with various clients. They all have their pros and cons. Below, I’ve listed just a few of the more well-known EMS’s for authors, bloggers, and product creators:
Aweber. A favorite of affiliate marketers (it has a great affiliate program), Aweber provides a simple platform to connect with people in mass (who have opted into your list, of course). I have dabbled with Aweber, but found it no better than Mailchimp, and Mailchimp is free to start, which made it the no-brainer solution a few years back when I was debating between the two.
Mailchimp. This is the EMS I used for over two years. It was great at first because it was free…then after a few months, I realized I needed more advanced features like the ability to create email autoresponders, which was NOT free with Mailchimp. So I upgraded and continued using the platform…unfortunately, it’s mind-boggling how unituitive it is for the most simple tasks, like sending out an email broadcast or creating online courses (more on this below). Bottom line: I really wouldn’t recommend Mailchimp to anyone who is serious about starting or growing a business online.
Infusionsoft. This is the big boy in town. A lot of the biggest names in blogging use Infusionsoft with good reason: it’s an all-in-one solution (email marketing, ecommerce tool, etc.). Infusionsoft has been around long enough that it integrates with just about every piece of relevant software and can do some pretty advanced stuff…but it also costs an arm and a leg (starting at $199/month for only 2,500 contacts). I’ve also been told that to do anything with the software, you need to hire a consultant. Bottom line: not worth the investment until you’re making $100k / year (and even then, may not be worth the investment unless you need an all-in-one solution).
ConvertKit. This is the new EMS in town, started by Nathan Barry, a professional designer and published author, to scratch his own itch as a blogger, author, and product creator. There are a lot of reasons to consider ConvertKit if you’re working online, 10 of which I’ll point out in today’s article.
10 Reasons You Should Use ConvertKit to Grow Your Email List
#1. ConverKit is Easy to Use
ConvertKit is intuitive.
Hands down, it’s one of the simplest, easiest to understand email marketing service out there.
With Mailchimp, I have to struggle with the simplest actions. Even sending a routine email (known as a campaign in MailChimp and a broadcast in ConvertKit), is painfully counter-intuitive. There are about 6 different pages I have to go through and 12 buttons I need to click before I can send an email. With ConvertKit, sending a Broadcast can be completed in 3 pages and 4 clicks.
Here’s the process you need to go through to send an email with Mailchimp:
- create a new campaign
- select what type of campaign
- choose which list you want to email
- note: you can’t send to multiple lists (what sense does that even make?)
- define your campaign info
- name your campaign?
- email subject
- from name
- email address
- select tracking and opens and a bunch of other stuff that should come automatically
- select a template
- note: this process is confusing, especially since it should already be chosen for you
- write the email in their editor
- note: there’s just way too much going on this screen when all you really need is a simple text editor
- confirm email
- schedule or send the email
Here’s the process to send an email with Convertkit:
- select a new broadcast
- choose who will receive it
- note: you can send to only people with a specific tag, segment, or who opted into a particular form or course, and you can also exclude anyone with a particular tag, segment, etc. – making this very powerful and robust
- write your content
- preview + send or schedule your email
This may sound minor. but when you’re sending emails weekly, and when the same complexity spills into everything else (see segmenting below), it quickly becomes a time suck (and therefore a drain on your wallet, because time is money – am I right or am I right?).
ConverKit also excels at auto responders (what MailChimp calls automation and what ConvertKit refers to as Courses). Once again, the process of building an auto responder in MailChimp is a huge pain that is needlessly convoluted. With Converkit it just makes sense:
“Drip email is so powerful, but for some reason it’s incredibly complicated in other software. The way ConvertKit allows bloggers to organize their drip emails is just logical.” – Andrew Warner
Here’s a brief video to walk you through the user interface and dashboard of ConvertKit:
#2. ConvertKit Has a Beautiful (and useful) Interface
What can I say, I’m a sucker for good design.
Not in the “hey, everyone look at my [place name of status-symbol device here]” kind of way, but in the functional kind of way. This is one of the reasons Apple can charge exorbitant prices for their products – because people will pay money for looks that improve function.
ConverKit’s interface is clean, clear, and tells me everything I need to know at a glance. Compared to competitors, it’s the Model X of Email Marketing Services. (if Nathan reads this, yes he can use this as a testimonial)
Because of ConvertKit’s design, it’s a tool I don’t need to spend much time with, but when I do, I don’t mind.
#3. ConvertKit Let’s You Deliver Digital Products as Optin Gifts
One of the fastest ways to build an email list is to offer an incentive for people to subscribe.
For more on how to build your email list with free gifts, check out: The Author’s Guide to Building an Email List
Say you’re an author and you want to get people to sign up for your email list. A simple way to do this is to offer a free chapter of your book.
With MailChimp (or Aweber), it’s impossible to do this out of the box (not if you want different optin gifts for different forms).
Alternatively, you can pay $40 / month for Leadpages and use their lead magnet delivery tool. I’ve used this solution for the past year or so and have had great success with it, growing my list several thousand people in the process. However, Leadpages is a bit pricey if you’re just getting started, and is more of an add-on than a core piece of software for most authors, self-publishers, and product creators.
With ConvertKit, on the other hand, you can create an unlimited number of form-specific optin incentives which can be automatically delivered when someone subscribes.
This is made even more powerful within ConvertKit because you can tag users based on what what form they opted into, what gift they downloaded, or dozens of other variables that can help with segmenting your list.
Now, with the help of ConvertKit, you can figure out what form is resulting in the most subscribers, which free gift is most enticing (and leads to the most downloads), and which type of form placement is the most effective.
#4. ConvertKit Lets You Measure Your Results Easily
Convertkit comes with powerful and easy to understand analytics baked into the software.
With Mailchimp I can see how many people receive my email, open my email, and click through a link in my email. This is a good start, but there is absolutely no way to measure exactly where these people signed up for my list, or which form is working the best (not without additional software, at least).
ConvertKit does all of the above, but does one even better – it tracks how many people see and sign up for my various forms or signup pages.
A few months ago, I spent the better part of 30 hours and hundreds of dollars on education to figure out how to track Mailchimp conversion rates on signup pages throughout my website via Google Analytics. While I’m not the most technically inclined person, I can usually figure out a hack with enough time and effort. I simply couldn’t do it with Mailchimp and Google Analytics.
Luckily, ConverKit tracks these conversion rates right out of the box.
Tracking conversion is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it lets me know what is working and what isn’t working on my website. For example, if one of my forms only converts at 5%, and a similar form but with different sales copy and a different image, converts at 55%, which do you think I should replace?
Without ConvertKit, I would still be in the dark about what is working or not, and therefore would have no idea how to fix it to improve my overall results.
#5. ConvertKit Has the Best Price for the Advanced Features Included
ConvertKit has similar pricing to Mailchimp, but with features that are closer to (and some that are on par with) Infusionsoft.
One of these features is subscriber tagging.
Tagging is the process of applying a specific description or keyword to a user / subscriber. Tagging is powerful because you can tag a single user with multiple tags, and then filter your list before sending an email (so you send the right emails to the right people). Tagging users is usually reserved for higher end EMS’s like Infusionsoft.
Another really cool feature is the “resend to unopens.” Basically, what this feature lets you do is resend an email to all of the people who did not open your last email (and automatically removes anyone who opened it, so you don’t hit someone with the same email twice).
I recently used this feature and went from a 35% open rate to a 45% open rate (a 28% increase!). That was an extra several hundred people I was able to share my recent blog post with, who would NOT have seen it had this feature not been available.
Very powerful stuff.
ConvertKit also comes with the ability to create unlimited autoresponders, unlimited forms, and digital product delivery. While not as robust as Infusionsoft (there is no built-in ecommerce solution, for example), ConvertKit strikes a great balance between cost and features (features that actually matter and that you will use).
#6. ConvertKit Lets You Create Unlimited Courses and Optin Forms
Believe it or not, some Email Marketing Services restrict how many autoresponders and forms you can create.
This means you could create an automated book sales funnel for every book you’ve written, or create a free course to teach people about a really cool, unconventional pricing technique that actually works.
In this video, I’ll show you how to set up and deliver free courses to build your email list:
#7. ConvertKit Lets You Easily Embed Responsive, Customizable Optin Forms Anywhere on Your Site
Believe it or not, adding a simple email signup to your website can be a nightmare depending on who you’re using for your EMS. With Mailchimp, the process for embedding a form into a simple wordpress page is overly complicated and doesn’t loos right unless you hire a designer (or have a background in design and CSS). Creating an optin page is just as tiresome and often still looks sloppy (maybe it was just me, but I could never get the optin form to look the way I wanted it to, unless I was using a 3rd party plugin, which slows down your site and adds another layer of complexity to your sales funnel).
With ConvertKit the process is painless and intuitive. Even better, there are multiple types of forms you can embed. For example, you can make any of your forms inline (they sit at the bottom of a page), modal (popup when you press a button), or slide-in (an automated popup where the form slides in from the side of the screen).
These forms are also dynamic if you choose, so once someone subscribers, they won’t see the same form optin incentive. Insted, you could replace it with a link to a new product (“buy my new book”), new blog post, or whatever else you want.
This is really powerful because if you send subscribers to your site why would you want to keep asking them to subscribe? That’s amateur hour.
Before ConvertKit, I would have had no idea how to do this. It would have been expensive and probably wouldn’t have very much longevity (as I’d probably have to keep updating the software over time).
With ConvertKit, you can make any form responsive, which is incredibly powerful.
In this video I’ll show you how to create and embed forms throughout your website:
#8. ConvertKit Turns Your Blog Posts into Email Broadcasts
I remember when I first started writing two years ago, all I wanted was a simple way to email my blog posts to subscribers. Instead of the process being automated or simple, I’d have to copy and paste my work into MailChimp and them reformat everything so it would look right. The process took at least an hour per email, on average. That’s several hundred hours I’ve wasted in the past few years just formatting emails. Absurd.
With ConvertKit, new blog posts can be turned into email broadcasts that are ready to send to your list automatically.
This means instead of spending hours of your life copying, pasting, and reformatting every blog post into your EMS, ConvertKit does the heavy lifting for you, so all you need to do is click send.
In this video, I’ll show you some of the more advanced features inside ConvertKit:
#9. ConvertKit was Built for Writers, Bloggers, and Online Entrepreneurs
Here are just a few of the things ConvertKit does out of the box:
- Build and deploy an unlimited number of email courses to grow your list
- Automate eBook delivery of your free books, chapters of books, or other digital gifts / optin incentives
- Tag and segment users to get a better picture of who is buying which books, and to make your email marketing more effective and targeted
- Rapidly create and deploy optin forms and optin splash pages with powerful analytics built in
ConvertKit also seamlessly integrate with software relevant for authors and product creators, including:
- Gumroad – so you can sell awesome books, guides, and courses
- LeadPages – so you can create sweet-looking double-optins, create new splash pages in a few minutes, and A/B split test everything
- Zapier – so you can connect ConvertKit to just about every piece of software online
- WordPress – so you don’t have to mess around with html code (the plugin lets you easily embed forms and pages anywhere on your site)
- And many more (with more added every month)…
Each integration only takes a few minutes to set up and then you can create some really powerful automation:
#10. ConvertKit was Built by People who Care
Nathan Barry is the creator of ConvertKit, and the author of several books including one of my personal favorites, Authority.
What’s important to note here is that Nathan built this software to solve his own problems as a blogger and author. He wanted a better solution to connect with and interact with his readers. He wanted a painless way to create automated emails sequences. He wanted a way to offer a gift (free book, free chapter, free course) in exchange for people signing up. He wanted software that just worked and didn’t require dozens of 3rd party apps or plugins to achieve the same endstate.
The result is a very simple, powerful piece of software that is great for authors, self-publishers, bloggers, and product creators (oh, and it’s constantly being improved with new features added every month).
As you can tell, I’m a big fan of ConvertKit.
It does everything I’ve wanted an EMS to do from the start, and it does it much cheaper than Infusionsoft.
Bottom line: if you’re a blogger, author, or product creator, you should look into ConvertKit – it could save you a lot of time, money, and frustration versus going with bigger, entrenched (but not necessarily as good) competitors.
Here’s to the underdogs 🙂
In the comments below, let me know what YOU are looking for in an Email Marketing Service.
Are you going to check out ConvertKit? Why or why not.