Episode # 85 – Using KingSumo to Build Your Email List with J Thorn

In Uncategorized by Angela McConnell17 Comments

thorncovernewI first spoke with horror author J Thorn in Episode #71, where we discussed his ambitious 10-author collaborative novel The Black Fang Betrayal and being an author entrepreneur. This week, I talk to J Thorn about KingSumo, and how he’s using giveaways to build his email list with true fans.

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Reader Magnets: Build Your Author Platform and Sell More Books on Kindle (Book Marketing for Authors 1) by Nick Stephenson

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Show notes:


Always looking to experiment and try new things, J. Thorn recently adopted a strategy he attributes to Nick Stephenson of Reader Magnets: Build Your Author Platform and Sell More Books on Kindle (Book Marketing for Authors 1) for attracting the right subscribers to his email list by hosting giveaways through KingSumo. So far, he has conducted five giveaways back to back and has some lessons to share.

First of all, what is KingSumo?

KingSumo is a WordPress plug-in that allows a user to host online giveaways on their self-hosted WordPress sites in exchange for email addresses. Participants who enter the giveaway are given a custom link that allows them to share the giveaway via social media in order to earn more chances to win. This app integrates with email services such as AWeber and MailChimp.

How is KingSumo different from Rafflecopter?

The most important difference is the custom link that is given to participants who sign up for a KingSumo giveaway; participants are given credit for click-throughs that occur through their shared link creating a greater incentive to share across social media platforms. In Rafflecopter giveaways, since the share link is not customized, each time participants share a giveaway’s link, they essentially create greater competition for the very prize they’re trying to win; hence, participants might be less motivated to spread the word. Also, Rafflecopter giveaways show the number of entries — competition for the prize — whereas KingSumo giveaways do not.

How does a KingSumo giveaway work?

The plug-in allows you to set up a page for your giveaway featuring whatever prize you’ve selected. Participants are invited to enter the contest by clicking on the giveaway button and typing in their email address. At that point, they are given a “lucky URL” to share through social media. The more this link is shared, the more chances they get at winning the giveaway. An email is sent asking entrants to confirm their email. Participants must confirm their email in order to be eligible to win. At the end of giveaway, a winner is selected, and everyone on the giveaway list is notified and invited to opt in to the main subscriber list.

So, how has it worked out for J Thorn?

For his first giveaway, J Thorn offered a first edition hardcover edition of The Stand by Stephen King.

  • 945 people entered the giveaway resulting in a total of 1,701 entries (with bonus entries from social media shares).
  • Of those 945 people, 871 people were added to the temporary list collected by KingSumo.
  • Of those 871 people, 669 confirmed or opted-in to the giveaway (a requirement to win).
  • Out of the 669 who opted in to the giveaway, 74 joined Thorn’s main subscriber list, an 11% conversion rate.
  • His total subscriber acquisition cost for this giveaway was $.26 per subscriber.

During his third giveaway for a hardcover edition of Cujo by Stephen King, his efforts were confounded by a Twitter snafu that blocked any links to his website for a few weeks.

For his fourth giveaway, Thorn decided to give his campaign a boost through paid promotion on Facebook. That effort resulted in a subscriber acquisition cost of $21 a subscriber.

So far, Thorn is happy with the results of his efforts; however, because of the problems with Twitter and the disappointing return on the Facebook promotion, he writes on his blog, “I will continue to use social media to engage and interact with friends. However, I’m abandoning social media as a marketing strategy.”

Instead, he is focusing on low-cost advertising through sites like Sweepstakesadvantage.com and Giveawaypromote.com to spread the word about his giveaways and letting the giveaway process filter through entrants in order to find his true fans…and, of course, writing new books.

What’s next for J Thorn?

Another collaboration is on the horizon with fellow horror writer with Dan Padavona, scheduled to be released by the end of February. Thorn describes this new project as Game of Thrones meets The Blair Witch Project. This is Thorn’s first time co-writing with just one other person (his other collaboration involved nine other writers!), and he’s described the experience as “almost effortless.” Apparently so. Thorn and Padavona took their novel from concept to draft in just five weeks!

Also coming soon is Thorn’s mysterious Dark Arts Theater, details to be announced. So far we know it involves Simon reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” and band try-outs. For the curious, Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast readers can sign up to be the first in the know and get a free book here.

Action Steps:

  • When setting up giveaways, make sure you give away prizes that matter to your tribe specifically. Consider giving away something that people will have an emotional connection to. For example, J Thorn has given away nice hardcover books by his own favorite authors that have influenced and inspired him. Offering cash prizes or popular gizmos will attract a large number of people, but keep in mind you aren’t looking for everyone to sign up for your mailing list, just the people who really want to be in your tribe and connect with what you’re doing.
  • Be careful how you invest your advertising dollars. The return on cost for Thorn’s Facebook “boost” didn’t pan out, but free and low-cost listings did.
  • Follow up giveaways with a lead-in email to attract subscribers to your main list. J Thorn sends out two emails following a giveaway: one to announce the winner and offer a free book with an opt-in to his main mailing list; and then a second last-chance opt-in email within 24 hours.
  • Finally, have fun with it. As Thorn puts it, “It feels good to give!” In preparing for his giveaways, he took a “fistful of cash” and went shopping at local bookstores in his area for classic horror books he loves and he knows that his tribe will love too.

Simon Asks:

If you are finding success — or not — with giveaways, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear about your experience.


Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Angela McConnellEpisode # 85 – Using KingSumo to Build Your Email List with J Thorn
  • Thanks for the interview, Simon. I’d be happy to answer specific questions about my experience with KingSumo giveaways here. I can also be reached directly through my website at http://jthorn.net if folks want to send me questions.

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks J, that’s kind of you. And thanks for coming on the show again 🙂

  • mtr amg

    I watched Nick’s videos after seeing him on here and on Sterling & Stone’s podcast and thought he had great ideas.
    The other day I saw a discussion on Goodreads where someone ponderously insisted that ‘never give away your books’ was the first rule of publishing… uh, huh.
    I wanted to tell them they were dinosaurs… but didn’t.
    I agree with J – he’s earning good karma, right? And if he runs a give away each year, he might avoid the diminishing returns thing and catch new readers?
    I love J’s life philosophy of almost drown once, and then the next time is not so hard. 🙂

    • SimonRSP

      “First rule of publishing” hahaha. Wow.

      And yeah, I totally love J’s attitude. Screw it up, do it better.

      • Nobody screws up better than me 😉

  • What are the geographic restrictions to KingSumo giveaways? I can’t enter J’s current giveaway as only Canada and US residents are eligible. Will that restrict me using KingSumo for same strategy, or is it just J making sure he’s not posting a Kindle Fire to the far reaches of the globe?

    • SimonRSP

      One for J, I’ll pass this on to make sure he sees it.

    • Glad you mentioned my current giveaway which is a Kindle Fire (different than my previous prizes). That might sound odd given that I spoke with Simon about giving away prizes that have an emotional connection. I talked to an author a few days after this interview who did a Fire giveaway and I decided I wanted to try it myself. I know this will not reach my tribe like a Stephen King first edition would. I know I will draw many freebie seekers and I’m okay with that. I love to experiment so that’s what I’m doing. I thought it was important to clarify that first 😉

      To your question, there are no geographic restrictions with KingSumo. You are correct in that I did not want to incur the cost/difficulty of sending a Kindle to the far reaches.

      • SimonRSP

        Thanks for jumping in here J.

  • DB Daglish

    I’m in business and know that giveaways do not work. I have
    also given away some free books last year…but there is no increase in sales
    following. I also found I sold the same volume when ‘increasing’ the price of my books and when reducing it again later, the sales did not necessarily increase. In regard to obtaining emails, I
    agree that is essential. I like J’s ‘data driven’ attitude. But I find in my
    primary business that people hate giving their email address these days and
    that is understandable with the amount of emails they receive. But I will
    listen to this podcast again because I have to get my head around not gaining
    sales but emails…my question is do those emails then transfer to sales? If
    they don’t, is the effort worth it?

    • SimonRSP

      I think, if done right, that email list can be vital not just for attaining sales but for driving an interest in the book early on, and getting the attention of Amazon. Agreed that people are less willing to give up emails than they once were, but it can still be done. Nick Stephenson has a couple of excellent books on the matter, Supercharge Your Kindle Sales and Reader Magnets (yet to read the latter, but I hear good things).

      • You’re probably right DB Daglish. They don’t work if you’re expecting them to translate into immediate sales. I’m not, at least not initially. I’m taking a long arc approach. I’m searching for readers, not sales. I’m confident that readers who give me their email address, trust me with it, will continue to support me as I write 4-6 novels a year for the rest of my life. That’s my hope and I believe it to be true.

        There are authors (I’m not one of them yet) who can launch a book into the top 500 sales ranking on Amazon by sending it to their list.

        • DB Daglish

          Good Point. And then once there the sales continue…

  • Simon, you are quickly becoming the podcaster I cannot miss. This is another gem. I’m about a month away from my first launch and looking for ways to build my list. I’m all over this one!

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks Ron :). Glad this one was useful for you!

  • More and more authors are doing collaborations on a single book. Simon, you should totally do a podcast on author collaborations! I did read Bryan Cohen’s guest post about it, and I thought it was quite informative, but I feel this is a subject that is worth exploring deeper since so many are doing it. One main question I have is how do you handle payments/royalties for a book that you’ve co-authored? How long do you keep the book on sale? etc.

    I’ve used Rafflecopter, and wasn’t all impressed. I was definitely attracting random people who just wanted free stuff and not people who was genuinely interested in my books. I do agree with J Thorn about not giving away your book, but rather giveaway something related to the book, which would increase the chances of finding your ‘tribe.’ I’ve been rethinking my giveaway methods and unique prizes that my potential readers might find interesting. I’ll have to look into KingSumo. It looks like a great alternative.

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks RM. I’ll keep my eyes open for someone who has organised some successful collaborations, I know there can be some complexities regarding royalties… Would be a good thing to get some more information on 🙂