Last week, I focused on learning to compile my short story in Scrivener, so I could use it as a giveaway to my VIP List subscribers (ie the newsletter.) In technical terms, a free item like that is called a reader magnet. Learning new vocabulary doesn’t stop just because you’re no longer in school.

This week, my attention was on how to set up the newsletter subscription on my web site. Since I am not a computer programmer, I wanted to use “plug-ins” for my web site to make the task easier. Plug-ins are inserted on your site, which contain the programming commands already written. You select which one to use based upon what task needs to be completed.

For instance, rather than cluttering up my web site or other electronic communication with long web site addresses that no one can remember, I signed up for a Smarturl account. This enables me to use the following easy-to-understand link where subscribers can register for my newsletter,

I also have a MailChimp account where the subscribers’ e-mails are gathered and my newsletter will eventually be created. I don’t have to keep a spreadsheet up-to-date. The account does all the work.

What work is that?

In addition to gathering the subscribers’ e-mails, MailChimp has plug-ins which my web site can use to create the sign-up and welcome e-mails. Many authors prefer to use a double opt-in approach for subscribers, so that people can really know what they are signing up for. No accidental registrations. Having a double system also helps prevent authors from running afoul of the CAN-SPAM Act. What are the steps of a double opt-in?

  1. The person clicks on the Join the VIP List link, thus making the first request to be a subscriber.
  2. Using MailChimp’s plug-in, I’ve designed a welcome to my list automatic e-mail response and a link, where my free giveaway story can be requested. This is the second opt-in request.
  3. If the subscriber wants the free story and clicks on the story link, another e-mail is generated with the download link and a welcome message.  She has her free story, and I have a new subscriber.

All of this is automated through MailChimp. When you log in, select the List tab at the top. The name you gave your newsletter will be right there. If it’s your first time using MailChimp, name your newsletter and follow the create prompts. Then click on Signup Forms, followed by selecting General Forms. The gray rectangular box has a drop-down list of what kind of forms you can create. Have fun with the wording, the colors, and the font to display your brand.

It’s tricky to set up, especially for a first time user, but take your time. It will get there. The nice thing about using plug-ins is, they are designed for the non-techno users among us. Hey, I write historical romances, maybe not with a quill, but the computer. I much prefer a word processor to a goose’s feather.

One of my personal big issues was where to put the PDF file of my free short story. The answer was in the Media Files section of my WordPress web site. Only I have access to this. In addition to my story, it’s where I’ve uploaded the photos I use on this site.

I have quite a sense of accomplishment upon completing this small task. If you want my free short story, don’t hesitate to register for my newsletter subscription list. I’d love to (automatically) welcome you!