One Simple Way to Increase Newsletter Signups and Book Sales

Image by Brian Dunlay, on FlickrA few years ago, I had just moved to a new city. It was a great little area, pretty suburb, plenty of grass and green tress. The complete opposite of the desert I had just come from. I didn’t have a lawn mower, or a leaf blower — I barely had a rake! It was early Fall and the leaves were everywhere. My yard was a mess.

So, there I was, in my front yard scooping up leaves with a broken old rake and my bare hands when, unexpectedly, a neighbor across the way came over with a leaf blower and cleaned everything up in the matter of a few minutes. When I voiced my thanks, he said “Well, I was feeling bad watching you suffer like that — next time, just ask to borrow mine, it’s no problem.”

Many people have a problem asking for help. We rarely ask for help in our lives, and we often don’t in our blogs, either. But, that’s what we need to do. We need to ask for people to join our services, sign up for our newsletters, and buy our books. Marketers call this a “Call To Action” and using it is vital to motivating people on the web.

And a blog post without a call to action is like a cookie without chocolate chips

When writing a blog post, placing a call to action takes a little bit of work. A simple newsletter prompt and listing of books, even with the powerful tools in ThirdScribe, can be a dozen lines of code and a couple of drop down selections. While that isn’t a tremendous amount of work, sometimes it’s just enough for us to not do it. And a blog post without a call to action is like a cookie without chocolate chips — kind of a waste.

So let’s make it easy — super easy! — by setting ourselves up for success and creating a “Call To Action Menu”.

How It Works

The idea here is simple — create a few pre-written calls to action and make them easily accessible for future use. That way you only have to write them once and for all future uses, you just select an action from your “menu” and insert them with the click of a button.

For this tutorial, we’re going to use the Gravity Forms plugin as our delivery method, as it can insert code into any page or post with just a click (Gravity Forms is a premium plugin that is bundled into all ThirdScribe sites).

First we will create the code for our calls to action, then build a simple form that we can use to insert it into any page or post in the future. We’ll go through one example today, but you can make several varieties for use in any occasion.

Let’s Generate the Code

A very common call to action for an author is to encourage a newsletter signup and/or to purchase a book. Yes, you should use something like a Slide-In or a Pop-Up to encourage a newsletter signup, but many don’t sign up from a pop-up alone. You need to give the another prompt or two, woo them a bit with repetition. So, with Enter Once and a color box, we’ll create a prompt that looks something like this:

Stay In Touch

Sign up for my newsletter to get the early word about new books, sales, signing events, meet-ups, and more!
Join My Newsletter!

Get My Books!

  • 1 star
    2 stars
    3 stars
    4 stars
    5 stars
    (based on 3 ratings)

To create this, take this code snippet and add your specific details:

This code pairs a newsletter signup prompt with a rolling random presentation of 3 books by a single author using Enter Once. If you aren’t on ThirdScribe, you could create a similar effect using affiliate links from Amazon or B&N. You can also use another Enter Once code to highlight a specific book, link to a book page, or any other action you care to promote. I recommend making several of these in order to easily handle a number of repetitive promotion efforts.

Now Let’s Build The Form

To build the form, go to your Author Site Dashboard and select Forms->New Form from your main menu.

New Form

This will take you to the Form Editor screen. Name the form (“Newsletter CTA”, for example) and select these two items to make your form – an HTML block and a Drop Down selection – by clicking on them. It will look like this:

CTA Form Editor

Now, click on the HTML block to open it, and copy/paste the code snippet above in the editing block, like this:


That polishes off the actual content part of this tutorial — but, we aren’t done quite yet! There is a reason we added that down selection, and that is to help place a condition to remove the “submit” button Gravity Forms places by default.

Make it Look Pretty

ThirdScribe sites have a fair amount of CSS coding built in to make forms look nice, but Gravity Forms is made to create forms, and so it has a “Submit” button built in. For our purposes, though, that button will just confuse things. So, we are going to use the Conditional property to make it go away.

First, we want to make sure that drop down never sees the light of day, so go ahead and click on it to open it up for editing. Toggle the “Advanced” tab and make sure the Visibility is set to “Admin Only”.

CTA Form Drop Down

Click on “Update Form” to save what you created and then head up to the top and click on “Form Settings” to bring up the Settings Panel. Once there, scroll down until you see “Form Button”. Click to “Enable Conditional Logic” and set the criteria to the “Second Choice”. Once that’s done, click on “Update Form Settings” and you’re done.

CTA Form Settings Logic

By creating an impossible condition — a selection from an invisible drop down — we trick Gravity Forms into never showing the “submit” button, thus maintaining a nice, clean, and clear call to action.

Putting It To Use

By creating these calls to action in Gravity Forms, you have built a Call To Action Menu that is instantly accessible anywhere you want it — page, post, even widgets! To order an action from your menu, toggle the “Add Form” button in your page/post editor.

CTA Add Form

Clicking the “Add Form” button activates the “Insert A Form” pop up. Select the action you want to use (make sure to unselect any display options) and click “Insert Form”. And that’s it.

CTA Form Select

Now You Are Super-Empowered!

It may take a few minutes at the beginning to set up, but once your “Call To Action Menu” is created, you can use it any time, as often as you like.

Make sure you make the most of your blog’s power by including a call to action with every post!

About Rob McClellan

Rob is the founder of ThirdScribe, a unique author services platform and social network. As a naval officer and diver, he spent a majority of his career doing a lot more than you would think with a lot less than you can imagine — a skill that has proven extremely valuable in the start-up world. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

7 Responses to One Simple Way to Increase Newsletter Signups and Book Sales

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    This is great info. Can it work on WordPress sites? There is no “Form” selection in the dashboard. There’s “add a link” but the above directions don’t work. Thanks again for the info.


  2. Profile Cover Art

    Gerald (@iconiclast),

    Thanks for asking!

    This exact method won’t work for sites, but will (to a limited degree) with self hosted wordpress sites. The problem with sites is that premium form plugins like Gravity Forms or Ninja Forms are not supported, so you would have to use another method (something like the “shortcoder” plugin should work). Also, you wouldn’t be able to user Enter Once codes with a non-ThirdScribe site, so the code snippet above wouldn’t work for non-TS sites.

    To create something like this for a non-TS site, I would install “Shortcoder” and build a custom shortcode that works with your theme. To insert books you would have to place some code linking images to sales links (most likely Amazon). You couldnt randomize like Enter Once can, but it would be an approximation. You could also take a look at premium book plugins like “MyBookTable” to insert books a little easier — but the annual license cost for that is nearly the same as a year of TS.

    Still, with a little ingenuity, you can get it close.

    The point here is to create a system that allows you to get the most out of your blog with the minimal amount of work/time. To truly make your website work for you. Instead of hand coding various calls to action every time you write a blog post, you can make a system that pretty much does it for you.

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      Thanks Rob! I decided it was time for an update and switched from WordPress to Wix which has sites that are set up already to do what you innumerate in the post. I appreciate the info!

  3. Got mine running. That wasn’t so hard. Thanks! I was a little intimidated by the “new forms” thing but I think I have a better handle on it now. Next step will be getting the newsletter popup and hoping it helps. My next question is if I should send a newsletter to the few on my list or just make a blog post to reveal my next cover and announce a sale.

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      Excellent, Tim (@timothycward)! I see you’ve even started using it on your site, awesome job!

      I would do both — newsletter and blog. Even better would be to write the newsletter with a prompt to go back and visit the blog to see all of the other goodness you’ve got going on.

      • The thing about that plan, aside from double the work, is what value do newsletter subscribers get if I show them a cover reveal a few days or a week before I blog about it? Same with if I tell them and then blog about it. I get that newsletters are helpful for building a tribe and all that, but I’m failing to find where one group gets exclusive info so early in my career. And if it isn’t exclusive, what is the point to them having signed up, except maybe getting twice the “spam”.

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          It all comes down to the delivery of content.

          Many large content driven sites send out a newsletter every day which is little more than a prompt to go read the full article — Copyblogger does this, as do many, many others. They do this to ensure that their readers, along with their very busy lives, are aware of new posts that may interest them.

          Don’t assume that your readers — even newsletter readers — check your site every day for new content. Especially if you don’t produce posts on a regular schedule. Because of that, if you have an important “announcement” (new book coming, new cover art, new development), I think it is a good idea to send a personal note to your email subscribers, as well as a blog post. We are adopting this approach with TS and, yes, it is a lot of work. But, I’ve found that when we send newsletters, our blog posts get much higher read and share responses, because our members a) got a nice note, and b) read and shared the post as a result.

          Email newsletters don’t have to be another type of information delivery “spam”, they can also be a way for you to develop a more personal relationship with your readers.

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