I’ve previously written comparing StoryOrigins to other, related services like BookFunnel, Prolific Works, and BookSprout. In this post, I wanted to do a deeper dive talking about what StoryOrigins actually is and how writers can use it to help sell books.
Despite the man behind the site, Evan Gow, writing an extensive explanation of every feature on the site, it took me a surprisingly long time to finally understand what it is and what services it’s offering.
Writer Mailing Lists / Newsletters
A mailing list or newsletter is simply a mass email where a writer periodically writes out a message and sends it to their subscribers. It isn’t spam, as you aren’t randomly collecting email addresses, every person on a writer’s mailing list asked to be there and can easily remove themselves at any time.
There’s been a push into newsletters in recent years, partly as a way that writers can control their communication with their readers. Facebook, Twitter, or Google have complete control of their platform and can remove you or cut your traffic at any time for any reason. Email is a core internet technology that can’t be easily disrupted.
Services like Mailchimp, MailerLite, or Substack will manage your mailing list, letting you add and remove subscribers, but also providing functionality for subscribers to add or remove themselves. They provide statistics on your mailing, such as who opens it and whether or not they click on any of your links. They will help you comply with legal email requirements and avoid having your emails flagged as spam (which could ultimately lead to your email address being blacklisted and messages not delivered).
What Do You Write About In Your Newsletter?
This is the big question many people ask when they’re starting and, honestly, you can write about pretty much anything you want. You can provide updates on your personal life, post chapters that were cut from published work, talk about promotions on your existing works, politics, review things you’ve recently read, or pretty much anything else.
So What Does This All Have To Do With StoryOrigins?
Once you understand what a mailing list is and what it’s for, the next big question is how to get people to subscribe to it. Posting a link to the sign-up in your publications, Facebook page, and personal website is a good start and will get your subscribers who are already your readers. Ultimately, you’d love to get subscribers who aren’t yet your readers, but may become them. That’s what StoryOrigins helps with: getting people, who aren’t familiar with your work, to sign up to your mailing list.
It’s important to understand that StoryOrigins doesn’t deliver you an audience. They match you with other writers and between the two of you, you then exchange audiences (promote to one another’s existing subscribers). They’re a middleman, like eBay or Amazon, who connects two writers who then make an exchange between them.
Why Would Someone Want To Sign Up To A Mailing List From A Writer They Don’t Read?
One of the core functions of StoryOrigins is “Newsletter Swaps”. This matches two writers and, if both agree, let them exchange mentions of one another’s newsletters or books. Each links to the other in their next newsletter, StoryOrigins tracks the clicks from each, so you can ensure the other party actually linked to you and you can see how much benefit you received.
“Reader Magnets” are when writers offer something, like a free short story, to new subscribers. Sign up for my mailing list and you’ll get this thing. Other newsletter swaps will highlight a particular book that you’re trying to sell or find reviewers for.
“Group Promos” are a very similar idea, except instead of swapping between two people, a large group all highlight one another’s works.
Matching To The Right People
It wouldn’t make sense for a romance author to do a newsletter swap with someone who writes hard Sci-Fi, but it also wouldn’t make sense for someone with thousands of subscribers to swap with someone who doesn’t have anyone on their mailing list yet. StoryOrigins provides details about mailing lists and other writers in order to make an informed choice about the swap. StoryOrigins integrates with the major newsletter sites to validate that writers’ newsletters are what they say they are (number of subscribers and “open rate”, what percentage of subscribers open the messages, are the important features).
StoryOrigins has some productivity features, mostly helping you track your word count and writing goals. It helps control who you give review (and beta reader) copies to, providing statistics about reviewers who are on the site (mostly how many books they’ve received and whether or not they’ve followed through on writing reviews). It provides a single place to direct readers to for your work, which helps them find the best retailer. It also helps distribute audiobook codes and manage giveaways.
Currently, the site charges $10 per month or a year for $100 to use all the features. Some of the less useful features can be used with a free membership.
Is It Worth It?
StoryOrigins is a good way to build the size of your newsletter. Whether or not this is an important activity for establishing yourself as a writer is up for debate. It seems like some people have done an excellent job building up a huge newsletter audience, then struggled to translate that into sales.
$10 per month isn’t hugely expensive, but for early-stage writers who don’t earn much from their writing yet, I think their time and money would be better spent elsewhere. Putting this money into a cover would definitely be more important, and possibly into editing and proofreading.
Once a writer is more established and starts advertising (advisable after the third novel or so), this is probably the best $10 they could spend. Beyond the cash price, writers need to understand that managing swaps and using StoryOrigins will take time.