By Christine DillonIn June 2016 I set up my author website. I did this because I was paying attention to what the more experienced authors were saying about having a platform. Having been a missionary since 1999 I’m used to writing monthly prayer letters but I soon realised I needed a separate ‘author’s newsletter’ because those supporting Taiwan and the ministry happening here didn’t necessarily sign up for hearing all about my fiction writing. I thought I could manage a quarterly newsletter and now had to think about how to send it out.
I don’t recall checking out any option other than MailChimp because that was what everyone in my network suggested and I was familiar with receiving prayer letters via MailChimp. I wish now that I had researched a little more because of course what is required for an author’s newsletter is different to what a missionary prayer letter requires.
Although MailChimp was perfectly good for starting out it has some limitations on its free subscriptions. It is fine for gaining subscribers and gathering information …but it has two main limitations that became obvious to me.
I wanted to have both a sidebar sign up AND a pop up.
The problem was that on the free MailChimp the maximum pop-up delay asking people to sign up was only 5 seconds. It is tremendously annoying to have only spent 5 seconds on a website and then be asked to sign up. How many visitors might have subscribed if they’d had time to spend 10 minutes on the site first but were turned off by the aggressive demand to sign up now.
The second problem with the free MC was that there was no free automation when I signed up.
That option had to be paid for (update: MailChimp now allow free automation for up to 2,000 subscribers). I didn’t know enough to know this would be a problem. I’d written my first few newsletters as a continuous story of how I came to write (starting with non-fiction) and then how the fiction journey started, and I wanted new subscribers to know that information. The only way to do that was to send those first two newsletters manually.
But if I didn’t do it a day apart I was likely to forget. I quickly saw the need for an automated ‘welcome’ series of emails.
During early 2017 I was also listening to lots of podcasts about growing your email list and other marketing/platform sort of podcasts. They mentioned various names of email marketing platforms. 4 names came up consistently. MailChimp, Aweber, Convertkit and MailerLite. I started comparing them and MailerLite seemed to suit all my needs. BUT I dreaded having to change over. What a hassle to have to relearn another system and transfer all my subscribers across.
What I did was send my quarterly newsletter from MailChimp first so that I had 3 months before the next newsletter was due to make my changeover if I wanted to. Meanwhile I signed up for MailerLite and began playing around with designing the newsletter and the automated series. I was convinced fairly quickly because:
- MailerLite had a wonderful series of short videos to explain each step
- When I asked a question on live chat I was answered within five minutes and the issue was sorted out very quickly
- Their drag and drop newsletter designer was easy to use.
- Everything could be slowly set up before making it go live.
I still dreaded the changeover but a few more things prompted me to do it. Although they only allow 1,000 subscribers before you have to pay (MailChimp allows 2000) their monthly costs are only half the cost of MailChimp. My list is up to 220 but it has built slowly even though I have a start that most people don’t with 500 supporters who receive my prayer letters. I doubt I’m going to reach 1,000 before I have a book to sell. The pop-up feature on MailerLite was completely adaptable and you could delay it as long as you want.
As with many things you fear in life, the actual changeover was easy.
I didn’t even have to paste any programming into my wordpress.org blog. Once again MailerLite gave me step by step instructions and I didn’t even need their expert on live chat to help. The subscribers were moved across easily and MailerLite automatically deletes any duplicates.
The day after the changeover I’m delighted I made the move. The automated series is fully adaptable and I currently have five emails being sent out over six weeks.
MailChimp has now announced that they will free automation as well—I suspect because too many people were changing to MailerLite. However, I still prefer MailerLite because of their wonderful online (almost instant) customer service, better pop-ups and their free landing page feature. I still don't fully understand landing pages but plan to look into that soon.
About Christine Dillon
Christine was a physiotherapist but now she writes ‘storyteller’ on any airport forms. She can legitimately claim to be this as she has written a book on storytelling and spends much of her time either telling Bible stories or training others to do so from her base in southern Taiwan.
In her spare time Christine loves all things active – hiking, cycling, swimming, snorkeling. But she also likes reading and genealogical research, as that satisfies her desire to be an historical detective.
You can find Christine online at:
(for Bible storytelling)