I use StoryOrigin a lot. For a while, I used both SO and BookFunnel, but I found I preferred SO for a variety of reasons. It used to be free, and I was actually happy when it went to a paid service because even a very low cost of entry helps weed out the no talent hacks. Yes. I said it. (There are a great many folks who will load up newsletter swaps—as many as 70 of them per NL Swap—with really bad DIY covers and questionable content.)
Authors who use newsletter services like StoryOrigin, BookFunnel, Prolficworks, etc. are very familiar with “Freebie seekers.” They eventually get purged from our NewsLetter Lists… likewise with unscrupulous swappers who steal access to your list or repeatedly beg to swap their garbage books that they’ve invested $0 into in hopes that you’ll prominently feature that terrible cover to their audience even though your $600 pro cover (and $400 edit) will be at the bottom of a 30 book catalogue email on a NL list with a 2% open rate out of 212 subs (and one of those recorded opens was the author just testing the link).
You can see I have an ax to grind with NL swap partners who act like hacks. Even though SO is a paid service, it is still free, but with limited features, just like bookfunnel is. I could talk about why I think SO is superior, but I’ll leave that for another time.
However, I’ve run across a great many folks with great covers for books that have decent reviews and they still look like hacks. It’s not their fault (actually it is) but they might have never wrapped their head around how the process works—that ignorance leads them to miss out on swaps and inclusion with group promos so I thought I’d write a hand guide. Ignorance is easily cured so long as a person wishes it so. Sidenote: you may have gotten this link emailed directly to you if you tried to swap with me on SO or enter one of my group promos. Please pay attention to this article’s contents as the things discussed in it are the norm for both SO & BookFunnel. If I sent this to you, take it as an indication that potential swaps may happen further down the line so long as you start using the system correctly.
Without further ado, let’s discuss How not to look like a hack on StoryOrigin.
I get requests to swap pretty regularly from new users who see my swap opportunities. I have them regularly available through SO where they are scheduled to coincide with my Newsletters. Because I send on a preset schedule I can arrange a recurring opening and do some long-term planning that way.
Here’s a quick breakdown covering common reasons you are ignored:
- you are requesting a swap on that same day
(I have my emails written and scheduled to auto-send a few days in advance and they are sent at 6am on the release date… panic requests over the lunch hour for a swap on the same day are always ignored. The email was already sent hours ago)
- You have no data to show
- You have all the wrong data (months’ worth of send data that reveals you are stuffing your NL with multiple shares or not sending)
This article will help you get your NL numbers up.
Hopefully the above helps you. I cannot stress how important the above article is. If you pay attention to the rest of this article but ignore the stuff in the above link, you’re still going to look like a hack. Worse. You’ll like someone who is bad at this on purpose because you’ll do everything else correctly, but still wallow in what now looks like intentional jack-assery. (Sidenote, that is the name of the email folder where I keep past communications from folks on my internal black list so I don’t accidently swap with them in the future. All authors who take this seriously have a list of folks they’ll never work with again. Don’t make that list. Read the dang article.)
From here on out I’ll assume that you’ve read the above article. Hypothetically, you are an author with a couple books and a small Newsletter of 500 readers. You send a monthly email on the second Friday of each month but have just begun using SO and are not tech savvy. Everything about this confuses you, but you’d learn if someone showed you how.
Here I am. Teaching you how.
After creating your account, the first thing you need to do is create a landing page. This will be either a Universal Book Link (UBL) or a Reader Magnet. The Reader Magnet is a free book readers can download in exchange for signing up for your mailing list; this is often a sample, exclusive epi/pro logue, or a first in series. UBLs are links that sends someone to where the book is available for sale.
If you do not create a UBL or a Magnet you will not be able to find swap partners. I recommend adding every book in your backlist as a UBL and adding all your magnets before proceeding (Caution—you risk being kicked off amazon if you share a book for free as a magnet when the book is available in KU. It is a TOS violation to share more than 10% of the book, even in a free format, if it is enrolled in KU).
Secondly, once you have that made, you will want to add some dates to your calendar (go to Campaign Planner and click the blue Plan Upcoming Campaigns button). I’ll tell you why to do this now a little further in this guide, but you should absolutely do it now and not later or else you’ll hit road blocks. If you send your NL Monthly, set up 3 months’ worth. If it’s more frequently, you can set the frequency to whatever you like, but get at least 3 upcoming sends scheduled here. Be sure to add 5 tags so that swap partners can find you by searching for partners with similar genre books and add which books you are looking for swaps on if someone wants to partner with you for a swap (remember UBLs send to sale links and magnets are to give your book away in exchange for new subscribers).
You should now have some upcoming campaigns with dates attached under the upcoming campaigns tab. If you are intending to share a reader magnet to find new subscribers, then you ought to integrate your mailing list with your service provider if you haven’t done so yet. This is an additional paid feature for BookFunnel, even if you’ve paid for the regular package on BF (this is included with the paid plan at SO and is one of the primary 2 reasons I think it is superior—it automatically downloads new users onto your mailing list provider.) Be sure to click here for a tutorial on how to integrate if you haven’t done so yet. I’m sure you already know all about onboarding new users and using email automation to welcome new subscribers. But in case that’s new to you, then you need Newsletter Ninja. It’s probably the #1 resource I recommend to new authors I work with.
Third step: Click Group Promos Joined and then the big blue button to find a promotion. We’ll pretend we’re looking for a promo for a Christian title that is going to share the UBL, so select a tag in the filter box and also a type… to share a UBL, it would be “Sale.” (If you click subscribe you’ll get emailed updates when new promos meeting your filters are created.)
Clicking the Title of the Group Promo opens it in a different page. Here, you can either A. Preview the group promo which will show you what is currently accepted and what the title graphic looks like and/or B. sign up for the promotion. I always check the promo first. If the graphic is bad I usually pass because it will lead to lower clicks on behalf of all partners. If it’s got books with bad/DIY covers I will often decline to join as well since it indicates a lesser amount of quality control on behalf of the organizer. Not every applicant should get in. Good organizers know that quality is better than quantity. I won’t talk about organizing here, but I mention it in other articles.
When you apply, you will have to fill out all the boxes. It’s simple, so long as you followed the instructions up till now. The proper options will be listed in your drop down menus after you select your author profile. Associate With Campaign Planner will let you select the date of an upcoming newsletter send and will help you track your data properly. You should always use it (unless you want to have bad data and look like a hack to your swap partners.)
After you click to apply, you will need to wait. The organizer will be notified via email that a new applicant has asked to join. Be patient. It may be minutes; it could be days. You might also be ignored. That is the most likely case if you didn’t read that article I linked waaaaay in the beginning. It happens especially if your cover is subpar, you didn’t read the submission guidelines (called Instructions here,) or are in the wrong genre. The genre issue is big. I do SciFi promos and Fantasy promos and I get TONS of SFF romance with bare chests and exposed skin. That’s on point for erotica and romance. But not for SFF. It doesn’t matter for SF Romance. I don’t know how often I have to say it, but XYZ+Romance does not mean your book should be in the XYZ category. It only fits in XYZ Romance or in Romance, but not in XYZ. It happens often but that doesn’t make it right. The cross over simply is not there and it demonstrates that the applicant author has not done his or her homework concerning genre and simply wants all the exposure he or she can get. Target better and get better results.
A Group Promo is different from a Newsletter swap in that the group all lists their books together on one landing page which randomizes the order of the books. All participants share the main graphic and send links to the page so that all of the contributing authors’ readers see it. Ideally, they all click through and then are exposed to all other participants’ books. With a Swap, you and the other author swap mentions/promotion opportunities for a single book. It is more targeted and you can add a little more detail, such as a single line hook or a short blurb.
Doing a swap follows almost the exact same procedure as getting into a group promo. The only difference is that you don’t have a group promo Preview option. You will instead be given links to info and landing pages for potential book swaps. Admiral Ackbar Warning (it’s a trap!) Don’t just look for the biggest numbers to swap with. Yes they are important, but large lists aren’t everything.
It is important to click through and do 30 seconds worth of research before clicking to swap. On the graphic I’ll show you why. On Item #3 you see the info page after I click on a “Fantasy” tagged list that is 24,000 subs strong with a +26% open rate and an 18% click rate. That’s the golden ticket! But all is not as it seems. Numbers can be fudged/misreported. This author is a total hack, when you look at the numbers. (I’ve hidden their identity so this person’s mother won’t suffer eternal embarrassment).
The process from here is the same: wait until you’ve been accepted or ignored.
Back to the Campaign Planner. This will show you your next upcoming NL sends with all the data you’ll need to fulfill your side of a NL Swap. It will show you how many groups you are accepted into and how many swaps you have agreed to. The Home screen on your Author Dashboard will also show you most of this, but from the Campaign Planner menu you can see more than just the next campaign and can see all your upcoming campaigns which lets you plan ahead (for say a bigger push with an upcoming launch, etc.)
Click on the link indicating your Send Date on your upcoming campaigns to see more than generic details like how many swaps and groups you are committed to sharing in your upcoming newsletter to be sent on that date.
Under Links for me to Promote you can see my send obligations for an upcoming campaign. I am sending 4x book mentions (1 magnet and 3x UBLs—magnets don’t have affiliate link options) and 2x groups.
- This is the most important! This is your tracking link. When you share this swap, you MUST use this link and no other. Do not share the direct link. Do not share a different affiliate link. Don’t share anything else but this link—if you do, no clicks will be recorded! Your stats will read 0, zero, nothing, and you’ll look like a deadbeat hack.
- You MAY use this link more than once. You can share this link on social media, for example, and those clicks WILL count towards your share count. You can use this link in your NL, facebook, insta, twitter, parler, pornhub, wherever you share links and you’ll get credit if someone clicks on it.
- This is a quick link back to the book cover you are sharing. Always use a graphic rather than a text link.
- This is a quick, direct link to the banner image if this is a group promo. Your required graphics are in the same location despite the type.
- If you have an affiliate link for UBLs you may insert it with the blue buttons, but it is not necessary (I earn about ten-twenty bucks a month off affiliate commission, you can search out links on affiliates on my blog if you’re interested.)
if you scroll further down you will see Authors promoting you.
- This is your swap partner, click the envelope to email them directly for any reason
- Keep in mind the date. If you see 0 clicks, make sure their send date has passed… you may have agreed to a swap and the author isn’t sending for weeks or months yet… you have to pay attention to those details when you make the initial swaps.
- Archive links send you to a copy of the newsletter your swap partner sent. Sometimes this is helpful to see, but not all authors will have it automatically attach. Mine used to, but something changed with my provider and now it does not. When others ask to see it, I get an archive link manually from my menu in Mailerlite and send it directly upon request. You may find the same.
Because newsletter/email service providers are all different, I won’t go into creating/sending those. Just make sure you send the correct link, using that tracking link (#1 in the image above.) The same goes for using bookfunnel which operates in a similar manner. If you don’t use your correct tracking link, your stats will go down the tube and your swap opportunities will dry up.
You may have noticed that there are many ways to click into a swap partner’s campaign stats and view their send history. It really is that important to people who rely on quality swaps to build their marketing plans around. I repeat it again because it’s super important: If you don’t use the tracking link, it will not show that you’ve shared anything. When you go to request a swap with me or ask to be added to a group promo I’m running, this is what I see when I click on your NL’s stats.
See all of those zeros? That means the swap was not fulfilled. Likewise for numbers that are 1 or 2 since they can be explained by the swap partner clicking to check a link, read data, or grab or graphic. (You also see in this screenshot that the list owner is “stuffing” his list and had 19x swap partners promote him in June… even if he had fulfilled his end of the swap [and we have no proof of that] anything more than a couple is far too many.)
If your email list is in the low numbers and you’re looking to get more subscribers without breaking all the rules, check out my article on how to build a list rapidly and with integrity.