For authors looking to expand their reach — to grow their “platform,” in marketing-speak — NoiseTrade is worth checking out.
NoiseTrade started as a site to connect musicians with fans. The premise is pretty simple: download our tracks for free in exchange for an email opt-in.
It’s the same tried-and-true list growth tactic that’s been going on on the interwebs for years.
But here’s where NoiseTrade gets interesting for self-published authors:
- In 2013 they added books to their platform.
- Even though you agree to give your book (or music) away for free, authors and artists can collect “tips” on their work.
- NoiseTrade has an email list of over 1.6 million subscribers.
- You can pay to have your work included in their weekly email.
How NoiseTrade Works
As a Customer
As a NoiseTrade user, you’re free to browse their selection of books and music at any time. I’ve downloaded books from Chris Guillebeau and Jonathan Fields, and music from Third Eye Blind.
Once you find a book you’d like to download, you’ll see this screen, asking for your email and postal code in exchange for the free content:
Then you’ll be asked how much you want to tip the author, which is NoiseTrade’s version of Pay What You Want pricing. You’re not obligated to leave any tip at all, and then you’re free to download the work.
As an Author
As an author, you can upload your work to NoiseTrade 100% free. By doing so, you agree to give it away in exchange for people joining your email list, just as with a lead magnet on your own site.
This is another channel to test out to grow you subscriber base.
Upload a Book to NoiseTrade
What content should you add to NoiseTrade?
Unless the lead magnet you have on your site is a full-length book, it probably makes sense to upload something else. Even though users are getting the content for free, there’s an expectation of quality based on the other works you see on the site.
For me, it was an easy decision to upload Volume 1 of The Side Hustle Path, since I already had the book permafree on Amazon. (And this is a FAR more direct way to get opt-ins.)
What you need:
- Your book, in PDF, MOBI, and EPUB formats. One format is fine, but the more you can include, the more downloads you’ll get.
- A high-resolution cover image (720 x 1080 minimum).
- A book description.
- An author bio.
If you already have a book on Amazon, you probably have all of these already.
- Similar authors.
- Suggested tip.
To help readers discover books they’ll like, NoiseTrade requires you to input at least 3 similar authors. I figured this was no time to be modest, so I put down Tim Ferriss, Chris Guillebeau, Pamela Slim, Jeff Goins, and James Altucher.
Go big or go home, right?
They’ll also ask you to name a suggested tip. I just put down $3 because the other books in The Side Hustle Path series sell for $2.99 on Amazon.
Volume 4 is out this week and is on sale for just $0.99. Grab a copy today:
Don’t stress the tip thing too much because the VAST majority of readers won’t leave a tip. And why would they? They have little incentive to and probably not much (if any) of a pre-existing relationship with you — which is the basis of most successful pay-what-you-want campaigns.
Case in point: I earned $13.20 in tips from more than 550 downloads. (Less than $0.03 per reader.)
If you’re curious, one way NoiseTrade earns money is by keeping 20% of the tips. The other way they earn money is by selling advertising placement in their email newsletter (more on that below).
Definitely look at it as an email growth opportunity and NOT a royalty-earning opportunity. But hey, I’m not complaining; every little bit is nice.
After your book is live, unless you’re in a very quiet category, don’t expect much to happen.
Like many of the other marketplaces we’ve profiled on Side Hustle Nation, they can work to your advantage but it’s probably going to be on you to provide that initial push.
If you can send some social media, blog, or other traffic sources over to your book on NoiseTrade, it may be enough to get the attention of their algorithm and begin to attract some organic downloads through natural discovery in search or within your category.
However, while the book side of the business is growing, the platform is still primarily known as a music site, so I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high just yet.
I uploaded my book in on October 5th, and as you can see, it didn’t get much attention those first few weeks:
But there is a shortcut, and all it takes is a little dinero to grease the wheels of commerce. And that’s what caused the big spike on the graph as well.
Advertising with NoiseTrade
Just like AdWords can let new companies get to the top of Google without worrying about their SEO rankings, NoiseTrade’s paid placement options can get you in front of a BIG audience quickly.
Remember that 1.6 million member email list I mentioned at the top of this post? I’m fairly certain a portion of those subscribers would be interested in your content — if they only knew it existed!
NoiseTrade (wisely) sells placement in their email newsletters, and I took them up on this opportunity in November.
It was actually the first paid advertising I’ve done for SHN, and it only cost $150.
At the time I signed the deal, these were their paid placement pricing options and their approximate estimated results:
- Primary; $300. Estimated 1300 clicks, 800 downloads
- Secondary; $150. Estimated 700 clicks, 460 downloads
- Bottom; $125. Estimated 600 clicks, 400 downloads
- New and Notable; $50. Estimated 100-250 downloads
As their list continues to grow, expect these rates to increase.
I opted for the Secondary placement because that seemed like a happy medium of price and estimated performance.
Here’s what it looked like on the day my email dropped:
My NoiseTrade Results
So what did my $150 get me?
Before my email was sent on November 5th, I’d seen fewer than 10 NoiseTrade downloads. Over the next 5 days, it was 455.
Email marketing works!
In total, in the month since the promotion, 578 people have downloaded the book.
Are the subscribers any good? Do they stick around?
Of the NoiseTrade subscribers, 570 were NEW to my email list, meaning the promotion cost roughly $0.26 per new subscriber.
A month after the promotion, 468 of them are still subscribed. I’m not sure if that retention rate is “good” or bad, but I fully expected some attrition. Adding 468 people for $150 ($0.32/each) still seems like an OK trade.
How about engagement? For a recent broadcast email, the new NoiseTrade additions actually showed an open rate 7 percentage points higher than the rest of my list.
While I didn’t get much traction on NoiseTrade (and didn’t attempt to) before the paid promo, it did seem to have some residual effect in the following weeks.
The book started showing up on the front page of the Business and Finance category, their Top Downloads section, and their New and Noteable section.
I believe that led to more organic discovery, but as you can see from the chart above we’re talking usually single-digit downloads per day, not anything super viral.
So The Side Hustle Path actually did slightly better than the estimated opt-in results, which I think can be attributed to the pretty broad appeal of the subject matter.
What’s an email subscriber worth?
That’s a great question!
(Or a dumb one — Side Hustle Nation subscribers are priceless!)
Established companies will likely already know this number, but when you’re starting out it can be tough to determine. Even though I’d never done any “lifetime value” calculations for my email list, I felt fairly confident that subscribers were worth more than $0.33 apiece — the estimated “price” based on my ad cost.
One rudimentary way to calculate this metric might be to take your projected annual earnings and divide by the number of people on your list. It won’t be a perfect number, but it will give an idea.
For example, if you have an email list of 1000 and project to earn $5,000 this year, each subscriber is worth roughly $5. In that case, it makes sense to “buy” as many $0.33 subscribers as humanly possible.
Downsides to NoiseTrade
The biggest downside to NoiseTrade is that they currently don’t offer any integration with your email marketing service. I imagine they’ll add this in the very near future because it is a glaring hole in their operation, and doesn’t seem like the most complicated thing to accomplish technology-wise.
That means I had to manually import every single NoiseTrade subscriber into my AWeber list. This is not a difficult task, but it is important to do it daily. If you let too much time go by between the book download and your first email, people are likely to forget who you are and why you’re emailing them.
That’s a recipe for unsubscribes and spam complaints.
The other beef I have with NoiseTrade is that their reader data doesn’t include names. That means if you use personalization in your emails, you’ll have to manually enter each person’s name as well (for the ones you’re able to find using tools like Rapportive).
Missed the Promo? Grab a Free Copy Today
The good news is you can still grab a free copy of The Side Hustle Path Volume 1 if you don’t already have it.
As with any paid promotion tactic or new list-building strategy, your mileage may vary.
Have you ever tried NoiseTrade? Think you’ll give it a shot?