Using Amazon Giveaway to Grow Your List and Thank Your Readers

The holiday season is upon us (in case you hadn’t noticed), and the spirit of gift-giving is in the air. How about giving a gift to your loyal readers? I recently learned about Amazon Giveaway. While not built specifically for authors, we’re in a great position to take advantage of it – and let our readers know how much we love them.

2015-12-09 How to Use Amazon Giveaway

What Is Amazon Giveaway?

2015-02-20 BenchAmazon Giveaway is a tool that lets you choose any physical item from the Amazon store – your book, somebody else’s book, a Kindle, whatever – and use it as a prize in a drawing. Any physical item works, so long as it’s eligible for Amazon Giveaway. How do you know if an item is eligible? Check the bottom of the item’s product page; scroll waaaaay down below the customer reviews. You’ll find a button that says, “Set up a giveaway.”

You can also choose how many prizes to give away, and how winners are selected. Amazon can select winners randomly, or via a lucky number (such as every third entrant), or first come, first served. (Great for those, “Be one of the first ten to reply!”)

Finally, you select what the entrants have to do to be eligible for the give-away. The options Amazon makes available are following you on Twitter, watching an Amazon Video Short, or watching a YouTube video. Also, you can make your giveaway no-strings-attached.

You pay. Your selected number of entrants win. Amazon ships.

It’s that simple.

“Grow Your Following”

2015-12-09 at symbol, twitter, follow, social media, green, growOn its home page, Amazon Giveaway advertises itself as a way to “create buzz” and “grow your followers and customers.” However, I’m not sure how exactly they expect that to work.

Amazon Giveaway doesn’t appear have any built-in  feature to help you grow your following. For example, there is no requirement for the participant to SHARE a social media message to be eligible. A feature like that, combined with, say, a Kindle tablet or a boxed set by a famous author, would be HUGE.

You might argue that people might share your tweets and Facebook posts that advertise the giveaway. Well, I wouldn’t count on that. When there’s a contest for a limited number of prizes, why would a participant reduce their own odds by inviting everyone in their circle to enter the competition, as well? The only way you could encourage sharing is if it were a requirement of participation, or if the participant could increase their own odds by sharing. (“Click share, and we’ll add your name twice.”)

As far as I can tell, the only way to get people engaged in your Amazon Giveaway is to tell them yourself (and through your network) that you have a giveaway going on. You’ll have to use your own means to get your giveaway to reach people beyond the following you already have.

Sure, you can require interested parties to follow you on Twitter. But chances are, you’re using Twitter to tell people about your giveaway. Hashtags will be your only salvation here to attract participants from outside your current following.

Okay, so this isn’t an Insta-Grow solution to your followship woes. What are some other ways to turn an Amazon Giveaway into a mode of growing your following? Maybe start a Thunderclap campaign. Maybe ask all your friends in your network to let their  followers know about your giveaway. Maybe go on a blog tour and tell everybody that you’re holding a drawing.

Grow Your Mailing List

2015-12-09 book plus love equals mail reading fans mailing list subscribersOne review I read about Amazon Giveaway lamented that there wasn’t much of a way to keep in touch or follow up with the participants after the giveaway is over.

Your most valuable asset as an author is your mailing list – your direct link to those people most interested in buying your books. If you have a small list, your top priority should be to grow it. (And write books.)

So here’s one idea for linking an Amazon Giveaway to growing your mailing list: Choose your product to give away – either your own book, or a book by a best-selling author whose work is much like your own, or even a Kindle. Then instead of directly advertising the Amazon Giveaway itself to your social media outlets and network, invite people to join your mailing list in exchange for a chance at winning the product you selected. Don’t share the Amazon Giveaway link on Twitter or Facebook; put it in an auto-responder and share it only to the people who sign up to your mailing list.

Can we make this even better? And can we curb the disappointment of your new subscribers who didn’t win? Sure! Try this: All subscribers to your mailing list will receive a free copy of one of your own books (that’s author mailing list 101, right?) PLUS they get a chance at winning a book (or boxed set) by a popular author whose writing is similar to yours. Pow! Everybody wins, because everybody gets your  book, but you’ve also got the power of a well-known title behind you, which should draw even more people in.

One way or the other, you’re going to have to advertise your Amazon Giveaway. Why not make all that work count, and get all your participants on your mailing list?

Combine with Facebook Ads

2015-12-09 Free book, leather, old bookI’ve just started experimenting with Facebook ads. (Promising results so far!) One way you can use Facebook ads is to (again) grow your mailing list. Advertise your free book in exchange for readers’ email addresses.

Oh, wait. What if you don’t have a free book?

Well … why not use Amazon Giveaway to give them somebody else’s book? Again, make it a book that’s both well-known and similar to your own writing. Amazon Giveaways only run for a limited time, though, so this would be a way to create a boost of new subscribers … such as just before you release your first book. (Clever, eh?)

Or Just Thank Your Followers

2015-02-20 Humor (1)The place where Amazon Giveaway promises to excel is in taking all the hassle out of running your own giveaway, packaging items, and dropping them off at the post office. You select the prize, Amazon handles the rest.

As you can see from my comments, I don’t see Amazon Giveaway as a simple way to magically grow your following. (Contrary to what they seem to imply on their homepage.) You have to get creative to advertise your Giveaway to people outside your current following.

So why did I get excited about Amazon Giveaway when I first saw it? Because I value the people who have already signed up to my email list. What a great way to let them know just how much they mean to me!

At some point in my career, I would absolutely love to make a Giveaway an annual, holiday thing, just to let my subscribers know how much I appreciate them. These are the devoted people who enjoy my writing so much, they want to be the first to know when my next book is coming out. They want to receive my blog posts and/or newsletter in their inbox every week and month. One of my subscribers even sent me a handwritten Thanksgiving card! My fans mean a lot to me, and Amazon Giveaway would make it really easy for me to show them just how much I appreciate them.

So, I’ve proposed several ways to make Amazon Giveaway work for you. Your turn! Have you ever run a giveaway? What did you like or dislike about it?

How to Make Your Subscription Form Look Cool

Welcome back to our MailChimp subscription service series. This is the last in the current five-part series. If you missed the previous posts or if you would like a review, you can find them here.

If there are other MailChimp topics you’d like us to present (or any other tech related topics), let us know. We’re always happy to consider new course clinic topics.

Recap

So far, we’ve talked about how to set up a signup form for potential subscribers, including why that’s important to your marketing program, your readers, and you. We created a subscriber list, made a signup form to put on your blog or website, and learned how to add fields to that signup form.

As I’ve mentioned along the way, it’s never too late to begin building your email list. And once you have the forms set up, you can change the appearance of all of them easily.

Why Bother With Appearance?

Making your forms look more like your blog or website gives the process a seamless appearance. It’s a good way to begin building your brand or to begin getting it out in front of readers if you’ve already established a brand.

It’s also a good way to set your website or blog and everything attached to it apart from the crowd. You can keep the default settings for your signup forms. They won’t be any less efficient if they’re plain rather than pretty. But why would you want to let them be plain when making them pretty is so easy?

Fair Warning

I could write another month’s worth of posts on changing the appearance of signup forms in MailChimp. There’s a lot of ways to make your signup form unique, engaging, and, well let’s just say it, pretty.

So what I’m going to do with this post is give you a brief rundown on the basic settings. If you have specific questions or would like to see something explained in more detail, leave a comment in the comment box below. I will answer your questions. Who knows, you may be responsible for the next tech clinic!

Design Options

When you sign into your MailChimp account and go to the signup form page, you’ll land on the same page you used to create your form. This is where you make any changes to the form you created.

About halfway down the page, you’ll see your form as it currently looks. Just above that are three tabs, Build it, Design it, Translate it. You used the Build it to create your form.

These are the three main categories for working with your form. Build it is the tab you choose to create your form. Design it is the tab to choose if you want to change the appearance of an existing form. If you need to change the language of a form, click the Translate it tab. To make your form pretty, you want to click the “Design it” tab, shown below.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 1

Two rows of options appear below the three main tabs. In the illustration above, the options apply to designing the page. The option list changes depending on the main tab you’ve selected. In the illustration above, the option list is for designing.

The first row under the Design It tab is a list showing the parts of the form. The page is the entire form. The body is the part of the form that contains the fields, your header, and the subscribe buttons. The forms are the fields themselves. Yes, you can make each one different if you want to.

The second row also contains tabs for various parts of the form. A different list shows if you click the “body setting” and again if you click the “forms setting” tab.

Notice the part of the form outlined in red? The outlined area is the part of the form affected by the tab selections. In this illustration, the Page tab is selected. The background part of the page has also been selected.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 1

In this illustration, the body part of the form has been selected.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 1b

And in this illustration, the Forms tab is selected. Clicking on a tab highlights the part of the form associated with that tab.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 5

Changing Color

Any time you see a small colored square paired with a box containing # and any combination of numbers or letters, you can change the color. The square box shows the existing color. The numbers and/or letters behind the hashtag is the html code for the existing color. If you know the html code for the color you want in that area, simply type it behind the hasttag and you’re done.

In this case, the Forms tab is clicked. The part of the signup form connected to that tab is the part shown in the previous illustration, the subscribe button.

That button has text in it, so you can also change the color of the text.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 4b

If you don’t know anything about html, don’t worry. Click on the box showing the html code and another box appears. It shows a range of colors from black to white and all the variations for whatever color you choose. The default is set at red, but you can change that by moving a slider bar along the height of the vertical “rainbow” to the left. The color in the color range box changes based on whatever color you select from the vertical slider.

To try different colors within the color range box, click on the box, right click and hold, and move the mouse around. A small white circle appears at the mouse point (green arrow) in the illustration below). Whatever color is inside that circle appears in the small color box and on the form. When you find something you like, unclick and the color is applied.

Changing color is the same wherever you are allowed to change color.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 4

TIP: When you find a color you like, jot down the html code. Type that code into other areas you want to be the same color.

Changing Text

Whenever you click on a tab and see the line marked with the red arrow in the illustration below or something like it, you can change the appearance of the text. In this illustration, you can change the line height, the font style, font size, text color, and padding (the amount of white space around the text).

The part of the form to which these changes will apply is outlined in red in Mailchimp.

For most of these items, your choices are limited by the options in the drop down menu (line height, font family, and font size). You can change the text color here in the same way I described above. You can also change the padding by simply typing a number in the appropriate box.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 3

In this illustration, the font size drop down menu is activated. The field to which any changes will be applied is also outlined in red.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 6

In this illustration, I’ve changed the font size to 48, the bottom margin to 48 and the top margin to 30.

These are very basic text settings you can make with any of the text on the form.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 7

One of the nicer things about the MailChimp form is that you can change some parts of text with a few simple changes. The field labels are the names of each field. Things like “First Name,” “Last Name,” and “Email” are field labels.

This illustration shows the options for field labels. What a lot of choices! If you have a very large form, that would be a lot of changes.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 8

Here’s the neat thing. All the fields are highlighted. That means if you make one change, it applies to all the fields.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 9

Here’s the form with changes to the field labels. I changed the line height from 1-1/2 space to double space; font family from Arial to Comic Sans MS,  and text color from black to blue.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 10

The same basic process applies to any place where you can change text.

One Place That’s Different

There always seems to be at least one exception to the rule, doesn’t there? When it comes to dressing up your forms, this little box (red arrow) is the exception.

The default setting is a blank box. If you don’t do anything with it, it doesn’t show up on your form. There’s nothing wrong with that and you may not want any more information on the form than is absolutely necessary.

But you can put a line of text here. You can insert links and even an image into this area. To make changes to this field, click on the field itself or on the “edit” button to the right of the field.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 11

An editing screen opens as a popup. Options are displayed along the top. Making changes here is a lot like making changes on most blog posts. Hover over a button to see what it does.

If, after you’ve made a bunch of changes, you decide you don’t like them, simply click on the “Clear Styles” button (second to last button) to revert to the previous settings.

MailChimp Design Options, Screen Shot 12

Conclusion

The mind boggling news is that you can change almost everything on your forms. Even the MailChimp logo at the bottom can be changed. Just click on Monkey Rewards and you can choose from six different badge styles and determine badge alignment.

The good news is that it’s easy to make most changes.

My recommendation? Start with the most basic first and work your way through them in small batches. See what works for you and what doesn’t. Personally, I like to make a few changes and save them, then look at the form by clicking on the subscribe button. If the first impression of the new changes works for me, I leave them. If they don’t, I change them. Yes, it takes longer, but it’s easier to remember what changes were made if you made just a couple rather than a couple dozen.

This concludes the series on MailChimp signup forms. If you have any questions, ask them in the comment box below. If you’d like clarification on something, let us know.

Do you have a topic you’d like to have me address? Let me know.

How to Add New Fields to Your MailChimp Signup Form

Welcome back to our MailChimp subscription service series. This is the fourth in the current five-part series. If you missed the previous posts or if you would like a review, you can find them here.

If there are other MailChimp topics you’d like us to present (or any other tech related topics), let us know. We’re always happy to consider new course clinic topics.

Now on to this week’s subject. Fine-tuning your signup form.

Recap

In the previous post, How to Make a Signup Form with MailChimp, we walked through the process to set up a basic signup form.  You may recall that I mentioned at the end of that post that the basic signup form is just that–basic. Very basic. It includes the subscriber’s first name, last name, and email address. There’s no question those are necessary details, but is that all you need?

Beyond the Basics

For many bloggers, a subscriber’s first and last names and their email address will be all that’s necessary. For many others, a more fine-tuned approach will be better. You might need to know what topics the subscriber is interested in or whether they want just blog content, just an email newsletter, or both.

What additional information might you want?

Here’s the Indie Plot Twist signup form.  The three basic fields are still present, but we’ve added two other categories and rearranged the layout.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 1

This signup form is from my writing blog, Carrie Lynn Lewis Writing Well. While it has also been fine-tuned, notice the differences.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 2

By the way, you’ll no doubt have noticed that the forms aren’t even the same color. They have been tailored to mirror the appearance of the blog to which they are attached. Not only can you do the same with your signup form; you can change it later if you change the look of your blog. How cool is that? We’ll talk about that in the next post.

So How Do I Get Beyond the Basics?

Step 1: Log into your MailChimp account.

Step 2: You will land on the dashboard page of your MailChimp account. Click in “Lists” in the menu bar across the top (red arrow).

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 3

Step 3: You will land the “Lists” page for your account. If you have more than one list, click on the list you want to work with.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 4

Step 4: You will land on the page for the list you selected. Several options will be available to you. Click on the Signup Forms option.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 5

Step 6: Select the General Forms option on this page.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 6

Step 7: You’ll land on the design page for your signup form. This is the same page you used to set up the form and you’ll use this page whenever you want to make changes to your signup form.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 7

When you make changes to an existing form, skip down to the section shown below.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 8

Build It: This tab allows you to add or remove fields, rearrange fields, and otherwise change the layout of your signup form.

Design It: This tab contains everything you need to change the color, type style, and other features.

Translate It: This tab allows you to change the language settings for your form.

Since we want to add fields to our signup form, click “Built It”.

Step 9: On this page, you can add fields, change existing fields, or rearrange the order of fields. The left facing arrow on the right side of the screen (red arrow) reveals the list of field options.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 9

NOTE: Your browser may show a list on the right side, instead of the left-facing arrow. If I reduce the size of the text in the window on my browser, the left-facing arrow goes away and the list appears. It may be easier for you if you reduce the viewing size of your browser for this process, since the list of fields will appear over the signup form otherwise, as shown below.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 10

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 11

The amount of the signup form covered by the list of fields depends on your browser and the size of the content.

To reduce the viewing size, click Control-Dash (over the “p” and “[” keys).

To increase the viewing size, click Control-+.

For the purpose of this clinic, I’ll be using a larger viewer size.

Step 10: Open the list of fields, if it isn’t already showing.

I know what you’re probably thinking if you’re new to this. What in the world are all those fields? How do I know which one to choose? That was my reaction the first time, at any rate.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 12

Text: Chose this field to add a message to your signup form. You can also include links in this field.

Number: This field is specifically for numbers. Use it if you ask subscribers a question that requires numbers, such as the number of books they’ve published.

Radio Buttons: This field allows you to give subscribers a choice. You can provide as many options as you wish, but the subscriber will only be able to choose one. On the forms at the beginning of this post, subscribers can choose to receive only notifications of blog content, only email newsletters, or both. You can also offer any other choices that apply specifically to your blog with this field.

Check Boxes: This field also allows you to give subscribers a choice, but with this option, subscribers can make as many selections as they wish.

Drop Down: Use this field if you want to arrange choices as a drop down menu.

Date, Birthday, Address, Zip Code, Phone, Website: Add these fields if you want this information from your subscribers. The more personal information you ask for, the more you risk turning subscribers away. 

Image: This field allows the subscriber to upload an image when they subscribe.

With the exception of the number field, the first four or five fields are the fields you are most likely to use. If you’re adventurous or curious, it’s worth your time to explore the other fields and see what they can do.

It would also be worthwhile to take time to think about what information you need about your subscribers and what choices you want to offer them. You can change the form any time you want to, but the time you save by giving thought to these questions now save you time in the long run.

For Indie Plot Twist, we determined two things from the start. We wanted to offer a way for subscribers to receive email notification of new content on the blog and we wanted to offer them a way to receive our email newsletters. That led to our decision to give subscribers the following three choices.

  • Blog content only
  • Email newsletters only
  • Both blog content and email newsletters

You might wonder why we didn’t offer the option of neither blog content nor email newsletters. We chose not to offer that option for the simple reason that someone who subscribed to Indie Plot Twist and chose that option would receive nothing.

We also used the radio button field for this option because it made it easier for subscribers to choose. Each option negates the other options.

So click on Radio Buttons in the list of fields.

Step 11a: A window will open that allows you to set up the information for this field. The only thing you need to do in the section shown below is to type in a field label. You have a limited number of characters for this field, so keep it brief. Also use a name that tells subscribers at a glance what the field is for. For this signup form, I used “Subscription Type”.

You’ll also want to check the “required field” box. This makes it necessary for the subscriber to make a choice before they can subscribe.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 13

The field tag is set by default. It doesn’t appear in the signup form, but tells MailChimp what to do with the information subscribers provide when they subscribe.

Convert to Groups is an option that allows MailChimp to sort subscribers into groups. You must have set up groups for this option to work.

Field visibility allows you to hide the field if you want to. Change the setting to “hidden” for any optional fields you might set up. The default setting is “visible”.

The help text box is where you can type a brief explanation of what you’re looking for.

Step 11b: The Bottom Half of the Field Settings

Default merge tag value allows you to add or change custom merge tags to capture any missing information. This is an advanced tool most of us won’t use.

Predefined choice lists includes options such as gender, days of the week, and countries of the world. Click on the arrow in the blue square and the lists appear in a drop down menu. Click the one you want to use and the fields are automatically generated.

If you choose to use any of these fields, make these selections first because they replace any custom fields you may have set up.

You can add additional options after setting up the predefined fields. Click on the plus sign (+) to the right of each box to add another after it. Click on the minus sign (-) to remove a field.

Because there are only three choices to this signup form, we used the custom boxes and named them as shown.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 14

These choices are fully customizable. You can have as few or as many choices as you like.

You can also use multiple radio buttons or check boxes to provide different types of choices. For example, my artist’s blog signup form includes the following choices for subscribers. Notice it uses the check box options because subscribers may be interested in more than one topic.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 15

Step 12: When you’re satisfied with the field, click the “save field” button at the bottom. The signup form will generate the field you’ve set up and you’ll be able to see immediately what it looks like.

If you don’t like it, make changes. If you change your mind and don’t want the field at all, click the “Delete” option. If you want a similar field with different information, click the “Replicate” option and go through the same steps to change the information.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 16

Finished!

This is what the new signup form looks like.

It automatically updates, so you don’t need to copy code into all your links again.

Beyond the Basics MailChimp Signup Form, Screenshot 17

Step 13: Moving things around. If you don’t like the order of the form you’ve created the new fields, you can re-order them by dragging and dropping the fields you want to change.

Conclusion

This demonstration walks you through only one of the field options for signup forms. You can add as many other forms as you need. All of the fields work in basically the same fashion as this one. Some of them are much easier, since they are pre-set. The date field, for example, has a minimum number of customizations.

It’s important to provide potential subscribers with the optimum choices without overburdening them. It’s also important that you gather the information you need to provide your subscribers with quality content and resources.

But it’s just as important to keep your signup form simple and easy to understand. That’s why I recommend taking a critical look at your blog or website first. Look at it as though you were new to it and design your signup form accordingly.

Next week, in the final post in this series, we’ll take a look at making your signup form look like your blog or website.

If you haven’t yet subscribed to Indie Plot Twist, I invite you to do so now by clicking here. You can also subscribe by clicking on the subscribe button at the top of the sidebar. Subscriptions are free and you can choose to receive notification of new blog content, our email newsletters, or both. It’s an easy process and will take five minutes or less.

How to Make a Signup Form with MailChimp

Welcome to the third in our series on preparing to build an email list with MailChimp. If you missed the first two posts in the series, you can read them here.

A Caveat

There are other subscription providers available. I’ve chosen to use MailChimp because it has the best combination of services and low cost (free!). It’s also very easy to set up and use, all of which is no doubt why it’s currently also the most popular.

Helping People Subscribe

So you’ve set up your free account and you’ve created a subscriber list. It’s time to create a signup form.

The signup form is the connection between new subscribers and you. Readers to your blog or web site will use this form to give you something better than gold: their names and email addresses.

Creating a signup form is a two-part process. First, we’ll create a form, then we’ll make a link from your blog or website to the signup form.

Creating the Signup Form

The signup form is the form new subscribers fill out when they want to subscribe to your blog or join your email newsletter mailing list. Click on the subscribe button below to see what our signup form looks like.

Coffee Sack Button 01 Subscribe

Signup forms are highly customizable. There are so many options available, I could do a month of posts describing all of them. For this demonstration, I’ll be showing you how to do a very basic signup form. It will include the subscriber’s name and email address. I’ll address some of the options and why you might want to consider them next week.

For now, lets get that basic form set up.

Step 1: Log into your MailChimp account.

Step 2: You will land on the dashboard page. If you don’t see the left sidebar, click on the group of three horizontal bars in the upper left corner (red arrow). That will reveal the sidebar.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 1

In the sidebar are several options. Click on “Lists” (green arrow, above).

Step 3: You’ll land on the Lists page, as shown below. If you have more than one list, click on the list for which you want to make a signup form.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 2

Step 4: You will land on the page for the mailing list you selected. It should look like this and should give you several options as shown below. Click on “Signup forms” (red arrow).

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 3

Step 5: You will land on a page like this, which gives you three major categories for forms. Each one has advantages and disadvantages and you can use any one of them in most situations.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 4

The category I use most often is the General Forms category (yellow circle on the left). It’s easiest to use and works quite well with blogs. Click on the yellow circle or on the gray “Select” box beneath it.

Step 6: A page opens with a blank form and what looks like an overwhelming number of options on it.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 5

Don’t panic! It’s not difficult to set up a basic form and that is what I recommend. You can always go back and fine tune your form later if you want to. But first, the basics.

At the top of the page, under the Create Forms heading, is a gray box called Forms and response emails. The default selection is Signup form. This is what you want, so don’t do anything with this.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 6

Below that is a box labeled Signup form URL. You don’t have to do anything with this, either. It’s filled in automatically by MailChimp software. You will need the code that appears there, but we’ll be back for that later.

Next is the blank form itself. The red arrow marks three categories of options. The first is Build it. This is the category you want right now.

The second category is Design it and this is where you make changes to colors, type styles, and other features that customize your form. I’ve customized each of my forms to look like the blog to which they’re attached, but you don’t have to do that. Sprucing things up appeals to my artistic nature.

Third and last is Translate it. This is handy if you’re likely to have people from multiple languages using your forms or blogs or if you want to customize a form to speak a specific language other than English.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 7

For the moment, though, we want to concentrate on building a signup form. That option is selected by default.

Blank forms have four fields to fill in. Here’s a look at them. The only one that isn’t self-explanatory is the first one. You do not have to put anything in this box. You can, if you wish, add a brief message to your potential new subscriber, but it’s best to keep it simple.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 8

The other three boxes are for subscribers to fill in. You don’t need to do anything with those.

Your form is now ready. Remember that box I told you to remember? The Signup form URL? It’s the second line in the illustration below. It actually appears near the top of the signup form page.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 6

The code in this box is the URL for your signup form.  This code will be copied to your blog or website wherever you want to provide a link to your signup form. For now, however, you can copy the code and paste it into word processing or text document for safe keeping.

Creating the Link

This is the link to our signup form. Danielle did the artwork. Cool, isn’t it? We’ve installed it in what’s called a widget. A widget is a handy little tool that allows you to do all sorts of cool things from add a calendar, your Twitter feed, and other neat things to your blog. Widgets are usually found in sidebars and footers.  Some templates also have options for left or right side bars and a few have the option of putting a widget or two in the header.

Coffee Sack Button 01 Subscribe

Every page on your blog or website should ask your reader to do something. This “something” is called the “call to action.” You might ask them to buy your book or tweet your post. Or subscribe to your blog.

I have the subscription link at the upper right hand corner of all my blogs. That’s prime real estate in cyber world.

Here’s how to get your subscription link into this prime real estate.

Step 1: Sign into your WordPress account and navigate to the dashboard.

Step 2: From the dashboard, selected “Appearance” and click on “Widgets” in the drop down menu (red arrow).

wordpress link illustration 9

Step 3: Select a Widget You will land on the “Widgets” page. The list of available widgets is on the left. The list of available widget areas is on the right. I’m using the Hemingway Rewritten template and it comes with four possible widget areas. The sidebar and three footer areas. Your template may look different.

wordpress link illustration 10

There is a widget for text. Scroll down the page until you find it (red arrow).

wordpress mailchimp link illustration 1

Click on the text widget and drag it to the widget area where you want it to appear. It will open automatically, giving you the opportunity to set it up however you want it to appear. The default is shown in this screen shot.

wordpress mailchimp link illustration 2

Title: You can opt to leave this blank if you wish. Since I want readers to know exactly what this link is for, however, I title the widget as follows: Free Subscriptions via MailChimp.

The larger box is where you put whatever text you wish. The beauty of a text widget is that it’s very versatile. You can link to images, pages or posts on your blog or pages or posts on other blogs. Or to your MailChimp signup form.

The text you need to make the link linkable is:

<a href=”Signup form URL goes here” target=”blank” />Sign up for our email newsletter, RSS feeds or both.</a>

Feel free to copy the code above and paste into the large box on your text widget.

Signup form URL goes here. When you set up your signup form, there was a box titled “Signup form URL.” It’s marked with the red arrow below.

wordpress mailchimp link illustration 3

If you copied that code into a word processing document, now is the time to open that document. Highlight and copy the code (control-c)

Make sure the code is contained by quote marks. The quote marks tell your browser where readers should be taken when they click on the link.

Sign up for our email newsletter, RSS feeds or both. This is the text that will appear in the widget on your blog. Type whatever message you wish here. You have my permission to copy and use this text, if you wish.

Make sure that the text is between the “>” and “<”. That is a must, no matter what you write. Everything that is between those two symbols will become a clickable link.

This is how the code should look in your text widget.

wordpress mailchimp link illustration 4

Click the blue “Save” button.

Check your blog to see how the widget appears. Here’s how the signup form link looks in its most basic presentation.

wordpress mailchimp link illustration 5

To make sure the link is functioning, click on it. If your MailChimp signup form appears, congratulations!

Whenever I set up or change widgets (which I do frequently), I have a page on my blog open in another tab or window. I do this so I can see the changes as I make them without having to close and re-open either page. After each change I make to the widget, I click on the window that shows the blog page and refresh it. That shows me how the changes look and I can decide at once whether or not I like it.

Conclusion

Once your link is live and active, you’re all set. Readers can now sign up for your email newsletters or they can sign up to receive each new blog post in their inbox. You don’t have to do anything more than this.

But there are ways to make your signup form more useful to you and your subscribers. Remember, I mentioned the signup form we just set up is very basic. Subscribers have no options. Every subscriber will get every post you publish and every newsletter you email. You can enhance the signup form to give new subscribers many different options.

You can also pretty up your subscription link if you prefer.

We’ll talk about adding fields in the next post and changing the appearance of your signup form in the final post. I hope you’ll join me.

In the meantime, I invite you to subscribe to Indie Plot Twist by clicking here or on the link at the top of the side bar. Subscribing is the best way to make sure you never miss a post.