Kickstarter Reflections – Mailing List Blues

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I’m in the process of final fulfillment of my Kickstarter for the Gilded Age, but I’ve got all these thoughts swirling around in my head about the process over the last year or so.

So I’ve taken rants from my emails to friends and put them on here so that you can see how dumb I am sometimes and how innocent mistakes can lead to bigger things…

Anyway, this is Part 1 of who knows how many posts about Getting Ready for a Kickstarter/How to have a Successful Kickstarter/ or maybe just:

How to Fund a Kickstarter and lose your mind at the same time!

Other Kickstarter Reflections Posts

Kickstarter Reflections – Mailing List Blues

Kickstarter Reflections – Starting at the Finish Line

Kickstarter Reflections – Shipping And Handling Not Included


Mailing List Blues


One of the things that I continually come up against is:

How to inform people of “Your Stuff”?

This Blog was kind of part 1 of this thing.

I have 2 books, 2 novellas, a couple of comics… not Jeremy Neil yet, but working on it. So how do you get people from going – “That’s a nice blog post, now what are these cats going to do in this video?” to “Oh that’s a nice blog post, now what books has John written?”

I still don’t know. I’m sure I’ve gotten a handful of sales from the blog (or at least I hope I have), but I certainly haven’t gotten any kind of numbers to talk about. It feels like Jeremy does ok with the blog, though he has (at least) 3 things going for him:

  • A new release like monthly.
  • A million books that could each sell 1-2 copies a week and get him some nice folding money.
  • A couple of posts which have gone viral – one which literally gets like 150/day and 75/day. Even if only a very small fraction of people ever buy one of his books, he’s getting in there just based on sheer volume.

So what’s the answer?

An Email List.

The original mailing list software!

That’s what all these podcasts and blogs and grandma’s who don’t actually know what an Email List actually is, but they are also sure you need to be doing this.

Again, if you wait for them to stumble upon you, then you are going to be clearly disappointed. So I turned to giving away Gilded Age #1 in order to get emails on I did the trial for a month and probably averaged 1-2 a day for the month. I went ahead and signed up for $20/month in order to get more. I’ve got 70ish people in roughly 2 months. So that’s a success for me.

All of this is looking toward the Gilded Age Kickstarter. I get the 1st issue into people’s hands and maybe I can actually fund this thing.

Since it had been a couple of months for the very first person who got the issue, I decided this would be the perfect time to send out the “Welcome to my email list” message. On part of a Thursday night and too much time on a Friday night, I got C working like I wanted it to, and crafted my initial message. I even got it set up where if you join the list from here on out, you’ll get an automated “Thanks for joining!” message (though I’m currently unsure this actually is working the way it should – something else to add to the list of things to do).

About 11:00 PM on Friday I kicked off the campaign.

MailChimp has all sorts of analytics going on. They know where the people are (what country) how many people have opened your email, who clicked on links within it (I actually had a link to both Tessera and the free copy of Gilded Age just in case). They tell you how many have unsubscribed…

And they tell you how many people have reported “Abuse”.

Hmmm. I didn’t see anything about that before. Why do I have 1 of those already and the campaign is like 10 minutes old.

A little research and I find that “Abuse” is whenever you click that little button in your Gmail/yahoo/whatever that says “Report as Spam”. That triggers an “Abuse report”.

No biggie. I’m sure that happens all the time.


Let me back up slightly. When I prepared to send out to my subscribers, I had to upload the Instafreebie’s contact list because I hadn’t automated the process yet (should have done that immediately, but I didn’t know if it was going to work all that well and…). I was surprised to see that I had about 900+ people on my MailChimp list already (by clicking on the submission form on my website). The name column was odd for a ton of them – like numbers and letters, but I thought, perhaps that either these were fake OR possibly C did that as a way to identify people. Either way, if they were fake, they’d bounce back or whatever, and if not, then yea! Shouldn’t be a problem, right?


So back to the reports… slowly over the next hour, I got about 2 more “Abuse”. I started worrying. Hmm, I wonder what that will end up meaning. Oh, and I really am wondering what the threshold might be?

Well, according to MailChimp, you should have only 1 in 1000…

I’d sent out 1047 and had 4 at this point… I passed the threshold. I went to bed and it was at 5.

When I woke up on Saturday, it was at 8 and MailChimp had issued me an email telling me that I had to use a “Double Opt-in” which they enacted on the website – Oh Good!

The funny thing was I had spent over an hour trying to do that very thing on Thursday night. I went through the various tutorials and videos and whatever and could NOT get it to work. Oh, and now I could not import any further contacts. On the plus side, they would allow me to send a “Reconfirmation Email” to everyone on the list (who hadn’t already unsubscribed or bounced emails) to ensure they really did want to be on the list.

So I take the time to set that up on Saturday night and sent it off, BUT I also sent support an email saying – What my initial email was about and gave a link to the Instafreebie site and that the reports were probably from a “Stale list”.


Here’s where my further frustrations come from. They replied:

“Downloading a free digital publication does not grant the expressed and verifiable permission for bulk emails as set by the standards of ISPs, SpamCops, and corporate filtering services.

In order for book downloads to be accepted an opt-in box would need to be added to the form allowing for contacts to make the clear choice to opt-in in.”


To which I responded:

If you follow the link to where the comic is exchanged for their email: you will see that it is about as explicit as it can be to let them know what it is they are signing up for. The title is “Sign up for John McGuire’s mailing list”. There is a “Claim” button and there is a notice at the bottom that says “By submitting your email address, you understand that you will receive email communications from John McGuire.”

It would seem to me that anyone signing up to claim my comic book would do so with full knowledge of what they were exchanging.

I’m just a little confused by the statement above.


And this was their response:

While the top of the free book download does mention that this is for your mailing list the overall expectation that is given from the form is of a book download. It can be very easy to miss those top three words.

Because permission is based on something being optional–and therefore, the contact makes the choice to sign up or not–it will need for the form to be changed so that the contact can get the book download without choosing to sign up for newsletters.


Whaa? So I can tell them that this is for my mailing list. I can provide them with a product in exchange for their email… which they have to enter in order to CLAIM the item. And that isn’t enough? I have to say – “Hey, sign up for my list or not. And oh, here’s something just because!”

Maybe I’m misreading. Maybe I’m misguided. Maybe I’m wrong. But come on! That doesn’t make any sense.


Either way, those 70 people are possibly gone! Any legitimate people who signed up through the website are gone! I’m basically back to my starting point. Sigh.

The one silver lining to this is that 15 people reconfirmed. Hopefully, some more will do so in the next couple of days. And it seems the automated bit from Instafreebie directly into MailChimp actually still works (I guess because they are doing it and not me, I don’t know and I’m not going to bring any attention to it). So, in theory, any further people who get Gilded Age #1 will automatically join the list.

Just another chapter in the saga of “Things I wish I had done correctly the first time”


This actually marked the proper start of my Mailing List. It now has around 200 people on it, many of which actually came from the Kickstarter itself (so kind of backward from what you might think). I knew that I should have started clean… I knew it and still, I clicked that button because the number was so big, and I wanted to get started. There is no time to wait to do it the “right way”. And that’s on me.

Still learning… every day.


John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at