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How a 30 Minute Reject Post Brings Me Hundreds of Subscribers a Week

This guest post is written by the Blog Tyrant.

Three weeks ago I wrote a guest post for a large blog that got rejected on the grounds that it contained ideas that had already been discussed at the blog. Now that same post is bringing me hundreds of email subscribers every week. Let me tell you what happened—and explain how you can replicate some of that success.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Julian Stallabrass

How I turned a failed post into a subscriber magnet

Ever since I first thought about selling a blog I knew that I had to grow my email subscriber list. I’ve talked about it in my post on how to blog and I’ve talked about here on my Problogger guest posts. It is your mailing list that allows you to grow a large online business that outlasts the ups and downs and brings in considerable income.

The rejected post

Seeing as I had spent a fair amount of time building sites and blogs, and experimenting with growing a mailing list I thought I would make it a regular theme on Blog Tyrant. People seemed interested. In order to grow my readership, though, I knew I had to write exciting and relevant guest posts about themes that are closely tied to my blog. So I wrote an article called How to Grow Your Email List by 120% Overnight that talked about some strategies I had used to massively boost my email subscribers.

It got rejected. Actually, it’s the only guest post I’ve ever had rejected.

The free ebook

After I had cooled down and patched up the hole I punched in my office wall I sat there staring at the post. For some reason I didn’t want to just use it on my own blog. Something was telling me not to. Then, on a whim, I thought I would just turn it into a free ebook and give it away on my site to anyone who subscribed by email (nothing new). I wrote the copy, added the email subscription form and went to bed. The next day my email subscribers had gone up by 200 addresses. The day after that, 120 addresses. Hundreds of people were subscribing to my blog to get this free ebook.

Why is this ebook so successful?

I started to wonder why this ebook was so successful. I have other blogs that give away free ebooks but none of them seem to pull in subscribers at the rate this one does. After a while, I realized that I’d carried out a strategy without even thinking about it. In an effort to promote my new site, I had inadvertently pre-promoted the launch of my ebook.

I went back and looked at all the guest posts I’d written in the past few weeks which were still bringing in traffic. In every single one, I had talked about growing a mailing list, the importance of community, or something to do with that rejected-post-turned-ebook.

In essence, I had built a whole lot of hype around the ebook without even realizing that I was doing it. If I was a marketing firm I would have charged a lot of money for that strategy!

How to replicate that success

Duesenberg SSJ Roadster replica
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ed Callow [ torquespeak ]

Now that I’ve admitted to the shameful fact that I did all this by accident, I want to talk about a few ways that you can replicate that success on your own blogs. These few steps are key to making sure the whole thing goes down well.

1. Research that ebook subject hard.

The subject of that ebook is of utmost importance. I go to so many sites where the free ebook is a bit wishy-washy and not really that exciting. You don’t want that. Look at your analytics and find out why people are coming to your site. Look at competitors’ blogs and see what posts have gone viral. Find bestsellers in your niche. Research hard and come up with a subject and title that’s really compelling to the people that you write for.

To be honest, the title and subject are almost more important than the content. Sure, my ebook has excellent tips that I really did use, but it’s not even 20 pages long, and it only took me about an hour to put together including the coding and the cover design. You want to make sure you get it right.

2. Create guest posts that target and promote your ebook.

Here is where the magic takes place. You want to write a good ten or 15 guest posts for blogs in your niche that target readers of your new ebook. Now, you don’t have to directly mention the ebook like I’ve done in this post. You just need to generate interest, as I managed to do in my other Problogger guest posts Why I Leave Your Blog, How to Make Your Blog Addictive, and Why Your Blog is Not Going to Make You Rich.

None of those posts directly mention any ebook, but they do spend a lot of time talking about mailing lists and growing a community as a way to make big dollars. If you landed on my blog after reading one of those posts and saw the ebook, you’d probably be more likely to download it than any other random visitor. In the affiliate marketing world, this is called pre-selling; Darren calls it a sneeze page.

3. Generate more interest in the comments.

Once your guest posts are published, it’s important to get over to the pushing site and interact with people in the comments. Share as much as you can about the topic, and try to dispel any objections that people might have. What you’re doing by taking this course of action is giving people a secondary gentle push in your blog’s direction. They might not love you after they read your guest post, but they certainly should be open to liking you after you talk to them in the comments.

4. Make sure your call to action is strong.

The last thing you need to do is make sure the signup area on your blog contains a good, clean, strong call to action. Put it in one of the blog hot areas. Make sure you use copy that gets people excited, and allows them to give you their email without worrying that you’re going to abuse it. Most internet marketers agree that you need to use a direct call to action that tells your visitors exactly what they need to do to subscribe. Don’t leave it up to chance.

Bonus: how to give away a free ebook with Feedburner

Not everyone out there can afford to use Aweber to give away free ebooks to email subscribers. Unless you’re making good revenue, it can be a little bit expensive. For that reason, I want to show you how to do it completely free with Feedburner. It’s not quite as efficient, but it works well for me and a lot of other bloggers.

1. Upload your ebook to your server.

Go to your FTP area and upload your ebook into the root folder. If it’s small enough you can just go into your WordPress Dashboard and upload the PDF as an image. Copy the address of the ebook.

2. Get your FeedFlare template.

While your FTP is open, download this file. Unzip it, open it up with Notepad or Wordpad (not Word) and edit the information that I’ve filled out for you. Once you are done, hit save and upload it to your root directory without changing the name at all. It should appear as an XML file if you’ve done it right.

3. Edit Feedburner

Now log in to your Feedburner account and activate FeedFlare (it’s under Optimize). Scroll down to the Personal FeedFlare heading and add the URL of the XML file that you just uploaded to your root directory. The URL should be http://youblog.com/feedflaretemplate.xml

4. You’re done!

Every time someone receives a Feedburner message from you, there will be a little ebook download link at the bottom of the post. I’d recommend making an instructions page for people so they don’t email you asking where it is. Just let them know that the free ebook will be at the bottom of the posts that arrive in their inbox.

Conclusion

This strategy of pre-promoting an ebook has worked extremely well for me in the past few weeks. I’m getting hundreds of new subscribers every week, and they are all turning out to be valuable members of my community who comment, interact, and share my posts. Try it out if you haven’t already.

I’d really like to know if you know any other ways to promote your blog or a product on your blog. Please drop a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant has sold several blogs for large sums of money and earns a living by relying solely on the internet. His blog is all about helping you dominate your blog and your blog’s niche and only includes strategies that he has tried on his own websites. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to his feed for all the juice.

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Comments

  1. Steven says:

    Interesting theory about tying in guest posts and blog posts with a similar theme. It makes a lot of sense. I think we tend to think of our different blog activities as “separate” when really they should be all integrated into a cohesive message.

    Also great bonus! I didn’t know we could use Feedburner to release e-books. Since I don’t have Aweber yet that sounds like a very reasonable alternative.

    • dotCOMreport says:

      @ Steven is right. The usual practice is to think that our online activities are separate when one google search of our brand name would probably result in a list of those activities; makes a lot of sense when they are giving the same or a similar message.

      Thanks for the tip on Feedburner.

    • Riaz Sidi says:

      I too wasn’t aware how to release an ebook through Feedburner although I figured it was probably possible.

      @ BT Thanks for showing us step-by-step how to distribute it.

  2. Greg Heil says:

    I was just looking into signing up for an Aweber account yesterday, but after realizing that it would cost me $20 a month I knew there was no way I could afford it. Your tips for releasing an e-book with Feedburner is new to me, and is information that I can definitely use! I’ll be sure to look into it!

    Also, I’d be interested to know which website rejected your blog post, haha!

    • Blog Tyrant says:

      I thought about mentioning the site but it might mess up my chances with future posts!

      Check out Campaign Monitor as well. It is free to build the list.

      Tyrant

    • Judi says:

      I thought the post was great. I saw it on #blogchat. Liked the Feedburner tip. ANd you can use Mail Chimp free for up to 1000 on a list and distribute your pdf there in the welcome confirm message. Thats what I do.

  3. contrarian says:

    Some of my best ideas came as a result of breaking something! Breaking a tradition, a rule, a bad habit, a psychological wall, or even physical wall! Throughout all of human history great breakthroughs have come because someone broke something. We should thank that “large blog” for rejecting you, because that lead to a hole in your office wall and free ebook for all of us!

  4. Ray Higdon says:

    Focusing on the comments has certainly helped me, I used to not really interact with my commenters but since I have, there are actually more people commenting. Good ideas in this blog

  5. I thought the free ebook issue was the reason I would have to switch to aweber sooner or later. Thanks so much for offering a feedburner solution!

    I’m still thinking of switching to aweber though, because having a link at the bottom of each post is not quite as nice as having an extra welcome message that delivers the ebook. On the other hand, the feedburner solution works on your blog, so maybe I should try that one out first :)

  6. I dig your run-down of your process for packaging the ebook and giving it away to subscribers. I use Aweber myself to do this though I could probably do a better job of promoting the book on my site. It’s not obvious that I’ve written one and that you can download it when you land on the home-page at the moment…

  7. Nice, I finally got on board the free pdf strategy and my list grows by 300 a day now!,

    Phew… ;]

  8. Karen says:

    Wow, what a great way to make lemonade out of lemons :-)

    I hope you were joking when you mentioned punching the wall after your post got rejected, otherwise may I suggest some anger management classes :-) Count yourself lucky that you’ve only had one article rejected because I’m sure that many people would be envious of that statistic.

    I agree that Aweber can be expensive, especially if you see all your money going out each month and nothing coming in, but I do think that it’s a sound investment when you are building your list.

    Also, I’m wondering why you would need a feedflare to offer your ebook. Why not just use RSS footer plug-in and mention it there? Anyone who subscribes through RSS or through Feedburner by email will get the same footer with a link to your ebook.

    Thanks for the reminder to look for the silver linings :-)

    Karen

  9. I have an e-book sitting and waiting to be given out for free with email subscription. I could not figure out how to make this automated with feedburner, and actually was banging my head against the desk yesterday trying to figure it out.

    I wish this could work for me, but I’m custom domain on blogger and I don’t think I have a FTP area. I did create a page with the link to download it (it’s just a simple google doc so anyone with the link can view it…this was done very purposefully since I want people to be able to easily print it), but I have no idea how to get people to land on the page automatically after subscribing!

    my idea would be:
    1. hit subscribe on my blog
    2. they verify
    3. land on specified page on my blog w/ link

    Do you know if this is possible?

  10. liz says:

    Hi BT
    As a regular reader of your blog [and commenter] I appreciate 2 things about you:
    1. you give good content
    2. you take the time to answer each comment thoughtfully

    That’s why I keep coming back.

    Liz

    had to wipe my whole hard drive and lost some stuff [a months worth ... yeh yeh ... back up] … one was your ebook and when I go to download it again it tells me I’m already subscribed … bummer.

  11. Terry Dunn says:

    I think it’s great that a mistake can bring such huge success. Especially when you consider most bloggers work their butt’s off for any tiny morsel of traffic or visitors. Accident or not, I think we are watching a master marketer at work here.

    Terry

  12. Melanie says:

    Some of my greatest successes come from mistakes. Odd how that works out sometimes.

  13. Every cloud has a silver lining. Without your post being rejected you would never have gone down the road of creating a ebook with it.What happened next I believe is called the snow ball effect.
    Interesting about feedburner, good for people with tight budgets.
    Social media can also be a great way of getting leads to your landing page, give value and you will prosper.
    The same as your guest posts, don’t directly sell, you will not make any friends that way.
    Pete

  14. Shaun says:

    Hey Tyrant,

    Great post, just what i was looking for to help me develop my own eBook. Now off for some further researching.

    Thanks again!

  15. Blog Towkay says:

    I like the idea abt pre selling with guest postings. But its a pain to come out with that much content :( do u actually write all the articles or u get ghost writers to do it?

  16. Great post, inspiring and motivating. Especially to make success out of a little failure is so refreshing. See you have gained subscribers, you have gained loyal readers, and you are talking about your success at Problogger which again will increase your authority. Sometimes little failures or obstacles are needed to make us think in a different creative direction.

    Thanks for being so open about how things worked for you. I very much appreciate the tip with Feedburner. Gonna do it right now.

    Jane.

  17. David Guion says:

    I have lately been musing about trying to build an email list and ebooks. You have given me a brilliant idea for how to put them together. I do have one pretty big concern, though. I don’t blog about blogging or how to be successful in any kind of business. I blog about classical music, the Bible, using libraries, stuff like that. None of my blogs or other writings have high traffic yet, and having appropriate ebooks available ought to make a good incentive to sign up for an email list. So back to my concern: would I have to find a fairly narrow topic for the ebook for each blog and then confine the subject of blog posts, other internet articles, and comments in various places to that topic for a while? Is that your lesson about email lists?

    • Darren Rowse says:

      just to clarify – do you have multiple blogs on different topics or one blog that covers these topics?

      If it’s multiple blogs – you’ll need ebooks that correspond with those topics. If it’s a multi topic blog its tough – I personally tend to focus a blog on each topic unless there’s some overarching theme/niche. You’ll probably need multiple ebooks for each topic unless the themes were related (which I’m suspecting they’re not).

      Not sure if that answered?

      • Blog Tyrant says:

        Perfect I reckon. Multi-topic blog sounds tough.

      • Riaz Sidi says:

        Blogs about blogging usually hook me in but I don’t find myself visiting other sites that are outside of this niche on a consistent basis. I run a communication skills blog which has provided me decent traffic but obviously I want to continue to grow.

        Now I know other niches are working since Darren has dPS and sure I read copyblogger since I am a copyeditor too, but I wonder how other niches, like classical music or communication skills are able to really create true concrete communities?

        Vaynerchuk always uses the Smurf example over and over but I just don’t see it happening. (note to self: Google ‘smurf blog’).

        My skepticism is less brash and more curiosity than it may seem – I’m not hating the players or the game just questioning the rules.

        Maybe I just need to dissect the areas that are yielding me the highest traffic on sociablog.net and evolve by writing more towards those visitors.

      • David Guion says:

        Darren,

        I started with one called All-Purpose Guru, which was about a little of everything. My domain name is allpurposeguru.com. Then I spun off one for my musical posts (Musicology for Everyone) and another for my Bible studies (Grace and Judgment). That left stuff about libraries and sustainability for All-Purpose Guru. I decided that whatever else I want to write about can go to content sites like HubPages. I suppose some time I’ll have to abandon All-Purpose Guru as a blog and split it into two separate ones. Meanwhile, in an attempt to keep all of this hodgepodge together, I made All-Purpose Guru (Home) mainly as a portal to the other blogs, all of my other online content, and about 25 years worth of print publications. I confine new posts for that home blog to writing tips and information on the book business (because all of my affiliate links are either for books or recorded music). I think (I hope) that’s a pretty coherent combination. The writing tips (which may eventually include some blogging tips) keep it from looking like just a sales site, or at least that’s the idea. That’s where the link in my signature goes.

        My original question was basically, once I write appropriate ebooks for each blog, does the idea of pre-selling it, the one Blog Tyrant stumbled on to, mean that I should confine a couple of week’s posts and other online writing to the specific topic of the ebook? Say I write an ebook on spiritual gifts: should I have lots of fairly recent content about spiritual gifts all over the Internet before I make it public?

        Blog Tyrant: the remaining blog that lacks one specific niche does seem to have a combination favorable for an ebook. I just thought of it, so I’m writing this as much for when I find my book mark to this post as for you, but librarians compile bibliographies. An ebook on how to find information on some green topic(s), with links to link-rich sites (and instructions on how to use the library to consult the ones that aren’t free) just might work nicely for All-Purpose Guru (the blog, not the home page) even if I don’t split it before then.

  18. Blog Tyrant says:

    Hi David.

    What is a “library”? Just kidding!

    Tricky question – do blogs about multiple topics need a general or specific ebook topic? Seeing as I’ve never run a “general” blog (mine are all very niche) maybe I’ll see if Darren can come and give some advice.

    Tyrant

  19. Vivek Parmar says:

    an impressive article for every freelancer. being rejected and turning this rejection into a big success is must for everyone. most of the times i’ve been rejected but every rejection makes me to work more hard.
    thanks for feedburner hack. didn’t have that information that you could give away your ebook without using aweber.

  20. Rison Simon says:

    Hi, wouldn’t the feedflare come on rss page? That means that anyone can download the book without signing up, right? Please correct me if I am wrong.

  21. This is a really important post for me. Thanks for thinking out of the box for us!

    I’m also on Blogger so will have to find a creative solution to apply this system, but I’ll look at MailChimp as you suggested above.

    Thanks again

    Read Aloud Dad

  22. BT solid idea here, thank you.

    I am about to get more into doing reports, so this blog post has come at a timely time for me.
    As a plan I am going to try your idea, measure the results then create another report about what I just did (successful or not).

    Chat soon
    Dwayne

  23. Great story and very nice tips on adding the ebook to a feed…thanks.

  24. Most mistakes lead us to success….we just have to be open to the possibilities.

  25. Great post. It all seems so obvious after the fact – research, presell, promote – but the obvious things are often the first things we overlook or take for granted.

  26. Caleb says:

    I didn’t know you could give away an ebook through feedburner :shock:

    You get a Digg and a Retweet for this one ;)

  27. Selena says:

    Hi, thanks for the valuable information.

    I am on Blogger too. I have also a stand-alone website with no RSS facility. If I download ebook file and the XML file to a stand-alone website root folder and integrate the link to my blog FeedBurner RSS will it work then?

  28. Don’t you just love happy mistakes? This one not only helped you, it’s helping all of us you shared this story with. I can’t wait to sit down and look at my e-book and generate the guest posts to correlate with it. Thanks!

  29. Rita says:

    I have an e-book I want to sell. I do lots of blogs with good content, which is what I give away free. My mailing list is made up of people who leave comments on my blog.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

  30. Jef Menguin says:

    Wow! Thank you for teaching us to profit from out mistakes. Surely, I will apply the lessons that you have just shared.

    Thank you. Please keep on writing.

  31. Anon says:

    Sigh. I subscribed to blog tyrant get the free ebook. I’m on the mailing list and receiving regular emails but I have NOT received the ebook. This is not leaving me full of warm fuzzies.

    • Blog Tyrant says:

      Hi Anon.

      The download link is at the bottom of every post that goes out.

      If you are having problems perhaps try emailing me?

      Cheers.

      Tyrant

  32. sidash says:

    Some of my best ideas came as a result of breaking something!

  33. I’m in, man. Great idear, and thanks for the practical stuff.

  34. Mark says:

    It’s really all about perpective. It’s like the guy who got beat up in a fight, but told his friends how his eye beat the crap out of the other guy’s fist :)

    Putting a positive spin on a negative situation can do wonders.

  35. frank says:

    Hey guys, I think there were at least 2 people who asked about Feedburner’s FeedFlare for Blogger (how to post a link to download a free ebook). I couldn’t get it to work with Blogger… but I did stumble upon an unexpected alternative, which may work even better: Under Optimize/Summary Burner, you can choose to put in a “teaser”. You can decide on how many characters maximum you want dislayed (you may have to play with this if you don’t want your post to be shortened… but anyways, the “teaser” goes directly at the end of the post. You can write whatever you want, plus pop in the download link. I find that in yahoo mail you can’t click on the direct link (but rather have to copy-paste)… but with Gmail you can click on a hyperlink of the download URL. You can capitalize it if you want… and you can write as much or little as you want. Interestingly enough, I discovered that I much prefer this than the inconspicuous link in the footer of the email. Another suggestion… something I’m going to do is use the Publicize/ communication preferences/ Confirmation Email Body option and include a small blurb explaining that the download link will be available in the first email update they receive after subscription.
    I’d love to hear from someone if they think this makes sense. I’m kind of a nitpicker and want things to be perfect… and this is one alternative to FeedFlare for Blogger.
    Thanks for the great post!!

  36. Mary says:

    Many thanks for this article, very helpful.

    I’ve got the Feedflare distribtution approach to work with Blogger, and have just written up a full description of how to do it here:

    http://blogger-hints-and-tips.blogspot.com/2010/12/giving-your-subscribers-free-file-eg.html

  37. Terrific information. I just implemented this :-) I have one question though. Is it possible to automatically send the ebook when someone subscribes (using feedflare api)

  38. Oh man this article is WAY cool. If I ever write an eBook, I’m definitely going to do this. Totally, totally cool. Thanks Blogging Tyrant.

  39. Hello BT,

    are you keeping track of your optin rates? I would be greatly interested if you can share some figures, as a bench mark. Ans see how much improvement one can expect from pre-selling like his.
    Thanks for the great post, and the others.
    Kai

Trackbacks

  1. [...] How a 30 minute reject post brings me hundreds of subscribers a week One of my guest posts on Problogger all about how I turned a rejected guest post in to the current offering and why it works so well. [...]

  2. [...] four email subscribers per day. It is a very small amount that any one can do with ideas like this and this.4 x 365 = 1460 subscribers per [...]