How to Use StoryOrigin to Grow Your Email List


Perhaps you’ve heard of BookFunnel or StoryOrigin. These are two similar services that do a similar thing: handle direct distribution for your book giveaways and reader magnets (a book you give away in order to gain a reader/fan’s email address and add them to your newsletter.) I won’t delve into why you should be doing this and will assume you’ve already made decisions to do this as part of your marketing strategy.

Services like these have built-in, collaborative features that allow you to join bundled giveaways so that when a reader from John’s newsletter checks out the bundle (or Jills, or Jack and Jerry’s,) they will see the shiny covers from all of the offered books and have the option to join a list in exchange for the book(s) he or she likes.

I will focus my how-to-guide on using Story Origin.

Story Origin is free. Yes, totally free. Book Funnel has a small cost and some limited features without the full version. I hadn’t used either of them before getting involved after some folks referred me to an online group where people were discussing SO giveaways. I was in the process of getting my newsletter to grow and this sounded like an intriguing idea. Until that point I had been using some older methods that weren’t very effective and some paid ads (Facebook) that were both expensive and had a high unsubscribe rate. I had about 550 people on my list and about 225 of them were people I’d paid several hundred dollars in FB ads to acquire. The program was free, so what did I have to loose but some time?

My list grew hard and fast enough that I bypassed the mailchimp max list size for free services, making me switch to a provider I liked better and began culling lists for my newsletter to zero in on the more engaged readers. On average, when I’ve stayed engaged in newsletter shares with other authors I’ve grown my lists 100+ people per week (and trimmed out some/had unsubs). BTW, unsubs are fine—let folks give your stuff a test drive. If it’s not for them, don’t take it personal if they leave the list of their own accord. After enough growth, those people are doing you a favor by not eating up list space (money per sent email they won’t open) and not skewing your data on send/open/click rates so you can see how engaging your newsletter is.

So, if you’re like I was and have never used something like these services, here is a step-by step guide to getting setup and joining your first Group Promo (book exchange/giveaway bundle).

  1. Visit and register for an accountso1
  2. In your account page, enter your affiliate tags if you have an amazon affiliate account. Story Origin allows you to collect revenue on a percentage of your clicks and buys. It won’t buy you a vacation, but it can add up.
  3. The main dashboard will give you a mostly guided checklist. The next step is to integrate a mailing list provider. Link your Mailchimp, Mailerlite, etc.
  4. Create a Giveaway/landing page. This should feature your book’s files, description that will hook a reader (sell them on it), etc. Enable it to capture the email addresses of those downloading the book (if you don’t want that, create a Direct Download Page instead). The end result, for the reader, looks something like this:
  5. Next, create a Universal Book Link (UBL). You will need this for joining giveaway/promos.
  6. The final major part is to click on Group Promotions Joined. There won’t be any at first, but click the blue Find a Group Promotion button. You can filter between different keywords for genres to find the kinds of promos that interest you. There are Giveaway promos for newsletter building (our goal) but you can also try to find reviewers, net KU pagereads, or join timely sales promotions. The details for each promo will be within the link.
  7. Inside the promo application page you can find a link to email the organizer, preview the current state of the promotion itself, get info on the promo and discuss it with other writers in it, or click to apply.
  8. Once you have been accepted into a promotion it will show up in your Joined section. It’s important to remember to use this tracking link so that your promo organizer can see how effective your traffic has been. If you go through the entire promo without sending any clicks you might have to explain why… what you should NOT do is join promos and then not share them (also, don’t join too many. If your newsletter is nothing but a bunch of share links, you won’t get much traffic and your open rates will fall to nothing. Don’t commit email suicide… be patient with it. If you aren’t getting clicks and you’ve got a few hundred subscribers, try pitching it better, use better images and copy text, and make sure your newsletter offers a reason for its readers to follow it.) You will get an email from SO reminding you on your share date. Either set an alarm, or make sure that you whitelist it so you remember.

Things you will want to have a handle on BEFORE you take this step into mailing lists:

Make sure you have an account at an email marketing service (Mailchimp is free up to 2,000 signups)
Make sure you’ve set up your automation/onboarding email sequence
Have an included Call To Action (CTA) in your book(s) frontmatter and/or backmatter to generate organic registrations to your list(s)
It is smart to have a few hundred folks signed up already and be sending regular newsletters. Decide if you will send weekly or monthly. You can get a handful of registrations via FB ads or other ad services to get a foothold at first. I prefer to meet folks face to face and go to book signings, literary events, etc. to generate signups

I recommend reading Newsletter Ninja if you haven’t yet. It’s an easy read that will walk you through all of the finer details of how/what/why with author’s newsletters.


8 thoughts on “How to Use StoryOrigin to Grow Your Email List

  1. Very helpful, thank you. I am really only just starting to build a mailing list and haven’t known where to start. Having published my debut novel, I don’t have a readers magnet yet, but this has given me more to think about.


    1. I checked out your stuff; given your genre I’d recommend checking out Mark Dawson’s stuff from Self Publishing Formula… I’ve taken his courses (which are over a thousand bucks) but have also watched a lot of his interviews on youtube and read many of his guest blogs. Most of the stuff relevant for you is probably available for free at a variety of sources. He talks about what he created for a reader magnet (profiles, partly redacted dossiers, etc.) for his characters.

      Liked by 2 people

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