A case of subscriber limits

Jeroen Steenbeeke  
Yesterday morning my mailing list had 83 subscribers. I've grown this list gradually over the past two years (I think? I'm not entirely sure when I started it and too lazy to look it up), with some of the largest increases coming from cross-promotions. I migrated it to MailChimp a while ago, finding it infinitely better than my custom built solution.

Let's focus on this last bit. I've participated in giveaways as a sponsor, where I paid part of the prize of a giveaway, and to be eligible to win, the entrants had to subscribe to my mailing list. This has given me at least half of my current subscribers.

A few months back, I decided I was overdue to run another promotion, and that I could use another boost in mailing list subscriptions, so I took a look at giveaways where I could join in as a sponsor. I ended up at Free Kindle Giveaway, where I signed up for an urban fantasy/paranormal giveaway. I would pay part of the prize, and in exchange the participants would have to sign up at my mailing list.

Some time went by, and I didn't hear back from them. I did have an unexpected spike in downloads, that I couldn't explain until the people from the giveaway contacted me with a huge spreadsheet of people who had subscribed to the giveaway, and agreed to get subscribed to my mailing list. After I was done importing, my mailing list had over 5000 subscribers.

That number blew me away. By sponsoring one giveaway I managed to get a 6000% increase in subscriber count? Even if 95% of these people unsubscribe after the first mail (which they should receive right around the time this post goes live, welcoming them and pointing at my books), I'll still have 5 times as many subscribers as before.

There was one rather unexpected problem with this sudden increase in subscribers, caused by MailChimp itself. The thing is, I was using MailChimp's free plan, which allows for mailing lists up to 2000 subscribers. Seeing as I now have 2 and a half times as many subscribers, MailChimp felt it was time I started paying for their service, at around 1 cent per subscriber, per month, making MailChimp my biggest writing expense out of the blue. I sincerely hope that this increased subscriber base will result in either an increase of book sales (to offset the cost), or a mass of unsubscribes to drop me below the subscriber limit, negating the cost.

Either way, these events have offered me some interesting opportunities. I'm curious to see where this will lead.


sabina edwards  sabina edwards
Posted 7/17/16 6:03 PM
I hope a few people decide to sign up (I decided to I always enjoy reading new authors and sometimes those authors only have ebooks on line and access to them is limited

Michelle Willms  Michelle Willms
Posted 7/17/16 6:31 PM
I appreciate your very ethical response. I find it amusing that I must manually subscribe to an author's newsletter that I was very interested in receiving, when I continue to receive hundreds of newsletters from authors whose books I'll never read (I rarely unsubscribe once I've made a commitment to an author).

When this contest ran, every single person who entered, assuming each of those people had functioning brain cells, and were minimally literate, knew the rules and what would happen. So anyone who entered such a contest should expect to be bombarded by newsletters. I can't believe people complained to Mailchimp about something they agreed to in the first place. The pettiness of people continues to amaze me. It only takes a second to unsubscribe.

Thank you for being an upright citizen. I have subscribed to your newsletter and look forward to finding out more about your work. I hope others follow suit. :)

Jeroen Steenbeeke  Jeroen Steenbeeke
Posted 7/17/16 8:24 PM
Just to be clear, most people who didn't like the mail simply unsubscribed, but even that was enough to trigger alarm bells over at MailChimp. I've corresponded with their compliance staff about this issue, and from what they told me: regardless of what was communicated during the contest, many people simply assume the subscription will only last for the duration of said contest.

Only about 1 person out of every 10 unsubscribers actually filed a complaint, and I'm fairly certain it wasn't a targeted action to discredit me, but simply a case of them selecting the "I never subscribed to this list" option MailChimp gives you.

Even so, I'm glad I went ahead with the apology. The responses have been very warming, and even without the massive increase I posted about I've still at least doubled the size of my list. This influx of subscribers has also mostly restored the reliability rating of my list.

In short: things seem to be working out all right