NoiseTrade: Build Audience While Boosting Your Mailing List

noisetradeWhat if I told you there was a cool new way to share your work with the world that could help you build audience, boost your mailing list, and make money at the same time?

Welcome to NoiseTrade.

The idea is simple. Authors can upload ebooks (and audiobooks) and NoiseTrade’s community of readers can download them for free – for as long as the author wants. There is a tip-jar, and you can suggest a figure, but it’s not compulsory.

So it’s pay what you want, but with a killer twist. In exchange for the download, the reader provides their email address to the author (in full knowledge they will be contacted in future).

In other words, it’s a smart way to boost your mailing list, with the possibility of making a little money on the side too.

NoiseTrade is quite well established in the indie music scene. Artists like Aimee Mann, Josh Ritter, Sufjan Stevens and The Civil War have all used it to give away bonus material, b-sides, samplers, live recordings, and full albums too. Fans have the option of spreading the word about the free music, and also to leave a tip from between $1 and $100. But tipping isn’t obligatory at all. Fans can choose to donate nothing.

The artists get the fans’ email addresses – you can download a spreadsheet at any time – and 80% of the tips. NoiseTrade doesn’t charge either readers or artists, so the 20% covers their end.

NoiseTrade moved into books a few months ago, and the site is starting to get a little traction. It’s still much smaller than its music site, but I think it has huge potential – one of those rare ideas that benefits everyone involved: the company, the artist, and the fan.

There doesn’t appear to be any restriction on what authors can upload – short stories, sample chapters, and full books all appear to be acceptable (I’m not sure about adult content, I couldn’t see a reference to that). I don’t think there are any guidelines surround excerpts and shorts, but I would strongly recommend flagging such content in the blurbs very clearly – perhaps even on the cover (all the excerpts/sample chapters seem to do that). You don’t want someone donating $5 and thinking they’re getting a whole book.

The upside should be obvious: it’s a great chance to build your mailing list with people that should be genuinely interested in your work. The tipping aspect is a cool bonus, but my focus is on the sign-ups.

(Obligatory aside: if you don’t have a mailing list, set one up right now because The Author With The Biggest Mailing List Wins.)

As for cons, I can think of only two. It could cannibalize sales somewhere like Amazon. And some might worry that making epub and mobi files freely available will increase piracy. I’ll see how the former goes and the piracy aspect isn’t a worry for me at all.

(Of course, there is also a chance that Amazon could price-match the NoiseTrade listing, but I’m betting they’ll view it much more like Wattpad than a competing retailer. I’m happy to roll the dice, but you may be more risk averse than me.)

So, as a fun experiment, I uploaded Let’s Get Visible to NoiseTrade last night. You can download it for free here – all you need to provide is your email address. Tipping is optional, but not compulsory.

Of course, you will be added to my New Release Mailing List. I will only email you when I have a new book out, your address won’t be shared with anyone, and you can unsubscribe any time you like.

This post could lead to a deluge of spam, so let me say something quickly: I get lots of email from publishing start-ups who want me to write about their new… thing. I can’t even check the sites out or respond at all – sorry, it’s a time issue.

NoiseTrade was a recommendation from a friend who was raving about the site as a user Evan Rail, an American author living here in Prague who has literally written the book on Czech beer.

Anyway, pretty cool idea, huh? I’d love to know what you think in the comments. I fully admit to doing this in the wee hours of the morning when I couldn’t sleep so I may have missed something hilariously obvious.

Either way, don’t forget to grab Let’s Get Visible for free. I don’t know how long I’ll leave it up, so don’t dilly dally!

And share! Share like the wind!

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, to comply with CAN-SPAM legislation and the requirements of mailing services like MailChimp you might want to keep the NoiseTrade email addresses separate from your mailing list until you send them a Welcome/Confirm Sign-Up message. This extra step might sound like a pain, but it will have the added benefit of weeding out anyone who doesn’t want to be on your list (which you really want to do anyway). I also strongly suggest reading the comments for a discussion on how that contact should be handled and further detail on this.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

68 Replies to “NoiseTrade: Build Audience While Boosting Your Mailing List”

  1. I really had trouble setting up mailchimp, getting the account was easy but having the widget connection took an entire weekend, and a tech guy from CreativeSmitten via Mojo helped me. I still don’t have the double opt-in confirm type of widget, just the single opt-in. So conforming with this rule is easier said than done. I finally gave up on having that, at least for now. I think I’ll upload the first books in my series to Noisetrade and hopefully I can just download the email addresses and keep my own list. I’ve tested the mailchimp three times, and it works and the email registers every time, so I don’t know how mailchimp enforces the double opt-in rule. Ya, this was a great idea, it’s an excellent site, very navigable using smooth Frisco-style software.

  2. Hi David, Long time follower, first time ‘commenter’. I was very excited when I initially read this post and was inspired to give it a go myself… but the risk manager within wanted to see how you progressed with this one. Any follow up posts/comments on how this worked for you? I think what’s key for many authors out there wanting to build their subscription list, is that you grab these opportunities early, before everyone else joins the band wagon (maybe I’m too late already!). Marti

    1. I talked about the results a little here:

      But note that, from what I can tell, writing/publishing books seem to be outperforming the rest by a good stretch (unless you are Koontz or Picoult). Definitely a no-brainer for a perma-free. And it didn’t seem to cannibalize my sales. But that’s a sample of one, and I wouldn’t necessarily go and throw everything up there permanently or anything like that. But it’s worth experimenting with (or watching other authors do it – I’ve seen a couple of posts lately about NoiseTrade) and/or watching how the site grows.

      1. Hi David, Just a courtesy update to thank you once again for the feedback and to let you know how I went. Pleased to report, my subscription list is finally off to a good start. I agree with your comments regarding writing/publishing books outperforming other categories (dung beetle picture books are obviously suited to a niche market). I haven’t had spamming problems (I use MailChimp too). I did add extra text to the book blurb, along the lines of ‘Download my book now and also receive my monthly newsletter’. Once again thanks. Marti

  3. Thanks for the article David. I uploaded one of my novels (the first in a series) to NoiseTrade a few weeks ago and have been happy with the results so far. It’s a great marketing tool and, as you mention, an ideal way to let readers get acquainted with the first book in a series. I also just downloaded your book and, as an indie writer from the 1990s who has some catching up to do on all the new platforms available to independent authors, I’m looking forward to reading it. One small quibble with your post: You mentioned that by uploading books to NoiseTrade one is putting them in the “public domain,” which is not at all the case. I’m sure you know that a work that falls under public domain is one that’s no longer under copyright protection, either because the copyright term has expired or it didn’t meet the requirements for copyright in the first place. Authors who upload their work to NoiseTrade retain their full copyright ownership in the work; the work is not being put in the public domain. Perhaps you meant to say something along the lines of making one’s book files “freely accessible” or “publicly available” can be a cause for concern among authors (and I share this concern but am willing to take the risk on NoiseTrade). Thanks again and best wishes to you.

    1. Hi Nan, yes you’re right. It was loose phrasing on my part, I meant to say something like “freely accessible/available.” I’ll correct to avoid confusion – thanks.

  4. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Meet New (to me) Authors Blog and commented:
    AUTHORS – This might be worth checking out – let me know if it works for you (or not) πŸ˜€

  5. Reblogged this on The Author Who Supports and commented:
    Hi guys, thought this was a cool idea for creatives trying to get downloads…could be worth a go to spark interest in your book and build your readership. Let me know if you give it a go, I’d love to hear your experience…thanks!

  6. Hi David:
    Thanks for this. Have uploaded & been offered a spot on their newsletter but the mail looks a bit generic. Did you do this and was it worth the money? I have a new release due & am hesitantly wondering if it might be worth a spot of investment in that. Any advice?


    1. Hey. I didn’t take a spot in the newsletter. Downloads were going well without it so it wasn’t a hard decision. It’s tough to say whether it’s worth it or not. I won’t be able to place a value on the email addresses collected for my mailing list until I first contact them and see what the response is. I will probably do some kind of follow up post, so it might be easier to figure out all that soon enough.

      I did see a few indie names in the mailer, so you could always try contacting them to see if they paid for a spot and if they felt it was worth it. Just make sure you are comparing like with like in terms of genre, and whether it’s the first book in a series that they are advertising (which has the potential of sell-through to the other installments etc.).

      For the prices I saw, you can get lots more downloads with other sites. But the twist here is the mailing list boost – and I can’t say what that’s worth just yet.

  7. Great post David. For someone thinking of starting out as an Indie, and looking of ways to build up a mailing list this comes as bang on target. Thanking for posting such relevant and timely information. Will try to follow your posts for more such great tips. One more piece of advice required. When starting out as an Indie, an author should focus on low cost and more customers or respectable costs but less readers?

  8. I love the Noisetrade idea and have a book on it myself. However, I hope they change their search criteria. Currently, it’s set up in a way that works better for the music industry–by like artists. For books, it should allow for more specific keywords. It’s hard to find exactly what you’re looking for there. ‘Like authors’ doesn’t cut it for me. Hope the upgrade!

  9. Oh wow… David, thank you so much for this.

    In case anyone is feeling squeamish about giving away a free book, it’s COMPLETELY worth it in this case. Building your email list = making money long term. Think of it as a great investment that just costs you time.

  10. I hopped on a few weeks ago after I saw a Hugh Howey link to his book on it. So far, I’ve been pleased at my visibility (I’m a teeny fish in this pond) and the number of downloads/email addresses. I also saw a nice bump in sales on other books in my series over at Amazon… (I need to put new links in the NoiseTrade version to better track if that caused the bump)

  11. This is great, David. I had some technical promblems downloading your book to my phone last night – I emailed support but haven’t heard back yet. Anyway, I managed to sort it this morning on my own by connecting my phone to my computer where I did manage to download the mobi file – all is good and I’m looking forward to reading it shortly. As for your question about follow-up emails asking for an opt-in conformation, I would find that more than polite given most people know plugging your email into a website in exchange for something free usually means you’ve been added to their list. Great work. I will try this myself when my first ebook is ready to go πŸ™‚

  12. Just tried to download a book, without much success. Could be my browser [Opera] or possibly time of day [early morning Australia, afternoon? in the US].

  13. Thanks for sharing David! I wasn’t aware of NoiseTrade. My only concern is Amazon not being happy about it, but I’ve uploaded my novel so I guess I’m rolling the dice alongside you.
    I bought Let’s Get Visible when it first came out. Definitely a must-read for any indie author πŸ™‚

  14. As a regular user of Noise Trade and after listening to the founder, Derek Webb discuss his intentions creating the site, (, the emails are meant to be free market research, not as a mailing list thing. I think I’ve received emails from artists, but it’s not a surprise. (If so, it’s a welcome one.) You basically give them the right to do that by typing your email in for your download. They have done this for years and Derek is pretty strict on artists’ rights. I trust him and NoiseTrade. I am going to try and add an excerpt from my book there- the same content as in the preview on CreateSpace. You can’t lose, I say!

    1. Thanks for that extra detail, and I’ll check out the podcast.

      A question: If you received an email which said something like “Thank you for downloading X, if you want to be added to the mailing list for future releases, click here”… how would you feel about that?

  15. This is great news all around! I’ve loved the indie music on NoiseTrade for ages, how cool that writers can take advantage of it now too! Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

    1. Oh hey Misha, maybe you can help with something if you’re a regular user of the site. Do downloaders generally expect to get contacted by the artists and/or added to their mailing lists?

      1. I haven’t interacted much with other downloaders, but for me, personally, I’d say yes. When I give my email address, I do expect to be added to an email list. And if I like the artist’s music, then I love receiving their updates. If I don’t like the music, it’s easy to unsubscribe.

    1. That’s weird. I just did it now myself as a test and didn’t get anything like that at all. I don’t know what’s the cause as I can’t replicate. I’m wondering if it is some spyware from elsewhere, or if it’s an issue native to the site. Can you give more info? At what step did the issue arise? I clicked on “Download Ebook” then a screen popped up asking for my email address and if I wanted to tip, then a second screen came up with a choice of file formats. And I downloaded the mobi with no issues.

  16. I love this idea and think it’s a great idea for sample chapters and the first book in a series!

    1. There are some big names with sample chapters up there (Dean Koontz), short stories (Jodie Picoult), and full novels (Hugh Howey), and I can see advantages to all of those. Probably pick of the bunch is a permafree first in the series. In that case you have nothing to lose in terms of any cannibalization of sales on Amazon (except some small visibility loss perhaps – more than offset by boosting your list IMO). I decided to put my biggest seller up there. That’s more of a risk, but Visible is in a slow patch right now anyway, so I figured what the hell. I’m doing little to promote it at the moment as I’m keeping my powder dry until the 2nd edition of Digital goes live. But this allows me to collect emails of people who might be interested in purchasing that when it’s out, so I’m willing to chance it.

  17. Wow. Thanks for the info. I do worry about the Amazon Price Matching thing, but the fact that you can do short stories, samples and other works is good to know.

  18. Yes, very clever. As long as you’re building YOUR email list. I’m assuming they let you integrate into your own service provider like Aweber/Mailchimp?

    1. Hey Jim – sorry that could have been written better. You can download a spreadsheet at any time with the email addresses of everyone that has downloaded your book. So it’s building your list, no worries on that front! I’ll change the above to make it clearer.

      1. So the only issue with that is it’s not can-spam compliant then. Adding someone to an email list that that they didn’t “click to confirm” or “double opt-in” for is against the rules of the FTC. The way around that then is to NOT take the spreadsheet and add them to Mailchimp/Aweber, and personally email every person one by one. That’s not spam, technically.

        But doing it the other way is. Tread lightly. I wouldn’t do it.

        I still think this is a smart idea, but it needs to have third-party email integration built-in for those reasons stated above. I’m very sensitive to can-spam and playing by the rules as I send out a lot of emails (only double opted in confirmed) for my businesses. If they add that in, I’d recommend it and use it.

        1. Hmmm, lemme see… So I was going to segregate this list anyway – to monitor performance against the list in general. I guess I could mail them a Hello Email, and get them to double opt-in at that point. Should be pretty easy, and maybe it will weed out anyone that doesn’t want to truly be on the list (which I really want to do).

          EDIT: And I’ll add a note to the post to read the comments for important CAN-SPAM info – thanks!

      2. The other option, David, is for them to double-opt in the person into a list on their mail platform and let you send to it. But then, you’re building their email list. They own it. Technically you’re also relying on them to be can-spam compliant. Again, not something I would do. The only way this really makes sense is to add a third-party email integration in.

        Or to your other point below, you “could” personally email every person and ask them to double opt in to a list. But that would take time, and frankly, it’s klunky, and borderline spammy. I’m just saying, many people, will take it as spam. Email is a tough thing. It has to be done right to avoid pitfalls.

        1. Sure. I get there’s a fine line here – but that goes for anytime we put communications into the world whether they fall under the ambit of spam legislation or not. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s all about how you do it. If you follow up the free download with a polite Welcome message (or whatever) asking if they want to be added to your list announcing future new releases (or whatever), then I think that’s going to be fine. And you wouldn’t have to do it individually, you could do it with one (bcc) email if you wanted.

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