The free e-book is dead.

That’s right.

Light a candle. Say a prayer. Say goodbye.

Let’s talk about the lifespan of the free e-book shall we?

You download it. You skip through a few pages and then it dies a HORRIBLE death on your hard drive. Womp. Womp.

You get an email from the freebie writer and it’s something you don’t need. You unsubscribe.


That free e-book? It is still on your computer. Ignored. Neglected. No love.


Here is the thing: a free e-book can get people on your list. Yep, it IS a good list-building tool. But once they get there, will they stay? Not necessarily.


Do you need a million people on your list? Not really.


It’s really time to restructure the conversation around “list building.”

Your list isn’t just a way to collect people. It’s a gathering place for future clients. It’s a place for you to form relationships with the people who NEED what you have. If your list isn’t serving that purpose, you might as well NOT have one.


It is important that as business owners we are always thinking about the TRUTH of what our business needs. Not what we SHOULD be doing. Not the things you SHOULD have.


I know SEVERAL people with huge lists and next to no money. Big lists do NOT equal more money. And do you know WHY they have big lists with no money? Because none of the people on their lists plan on buying from them anytime soon. They just wanted that free report, yo.


And free e-books are no longer a proper incentive for people to sign up for your list because EVERYONE has them. We don’t have the “OH FUN, free e-book” feeling. We have the “Oh, another free e-book. Guess I’ll download it.”

And that doesn’t help anyone.


it’s time to change our strategy.


How can we get high-quality prospects on our list who will ACTUALLY become clients some day?

The 5 dollar gift + the challenge


Instead of “sign up and get a free e-book”  how about:


sign up to get _____ for the price of an extra value meal (save the calories, feed yo’ biz)


In fact, my opt-in will be changing to say this:


Sign up to go from 0 to Brand Clarity in 5 Days AND

Get access to A Field Guide to Bangin’ Bios ( $35 value)

for the price of a cup of coffee


People who are interested will sign up, get the 5 day challenge and get a coupon code to get the book for a lower price.


Why? Because if people PAY for it, they feel like they more obligated to read it AND they have already made the investment in you and themselves. $5 is just the right enough money to feel like you are paying but not paying a lot. You can even up the price to $10. Easy buy and they will DEFINITELY read it.  We value what we pay good money to get. 


The use of a mini digital course  or “challenge” works really well because it’s interactive and it’s a built-in velvet rope policy. You’ll be all up in your potential customer’s inbox for 5 days.   If they don’t like hearing from you that much, guess what?


They shouldn’t be on your list. And they weren’t gonna buy from you anyway. Could you imagine if your favorite business coach emailed more than once a week? You would LOVE it, right?


And if your little challenge is REALLY good, they’ll take you up on that 5 dollar e-book offer and any other service offering you provide.


And the best thing about doing things this way? You can make MONEY right now. And you KNOW I LOVE that.


Your list WILL grow more slowly but everyone on it will want to be there  because they have already put in the work, they trust that you do great work and they will be excited to learn more. And that is a powerful thing.

So, in review:

  1. The free e-book will get people on your list but there is no guarantee that those people will subscribe OR buy from you again in the future.
  2. The $5 Gift is a GREAT way to get the right people on your list AND make sure that your work doesn’t end up on the hard drive graveyard.
  3. The Interactive Opt-In/ 5 day challenge  is the perfect velvet rope policy for your list
  4. The goal is to have a group of people on your list who WANT to learn more from you and eventually plan to buy your products and services.
With all the free cookie and “VALUE” conversations (and I am guilty of this too) we tend to forget that we are in business. We are here to make money and we HAVE to make sure people are used to paying us for what we do. This is a great way to start that conversation with your people if they aren’t used to paying you yet.

How can you utilize the $5 gift to create a high-quality list?  Do you think the e-book is dead? Post some of your ideas here!


If you want to learn how YOU can create a interactive opt-in that will attract your perfect people  AND learn how Yoda makes sure he is only keeping the right Jedis on his list, pick up my new book!


It’s my super actionable short and sweet guide for creating killer newsletters that act as playgrounds for your potential customers. Don’t talk at your people. Learn how to start having conversations. It even doubles as a drinking game. Learn more here  or


Author: admin

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19 thoughts on “the free e-book is DEAD — Here is a profitable alternative

  1. For my next list offering, I’d like to ask that they pay by donating to Charity: Water. Haven’t quite figured out the logistics yet, but hoping that I can do that. Great post, Shenee! People value what they pay for! 

    Posted on July 3, 2012 at 5:43 pm
    1.  @intuitivebridge OH. I LOVE this idea of donating to charity:water. I am gonna look into this. Erin Giles might know something about that too.

      Posted on July 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm
  2. Love this challenge to the FREE concept.  It’s always been something that didn’t sit well with me because I know how I am with free e-books (I’m that person that you described above that unsubscribes).  When I get my offerings start I’m going to give this method a try!

    Posted on July 3, 2012 at 5:50 pm
    1.  @wearetrotter YES! Let me know how it goes! 🙂

      Posted on July 3, 2012 at 6:02 pm
  3. Oh nice timing! I am thinking of having another opt-in thingy, I am getting tired of my own free e-book (even if it’s good, hey!). Will think about it when I do my next list offering, thanks!

    Posted on July 3, 2012 at 5:52 pm
    1.  @Emmainbxl HEY YOU! Thanks for stopping by! I think EVERYONE is tired of those free e-books! 🙂 And that is the thing about these. We put a LOT of work in them and they are always good. So we SHOULD get money for them, right? 

      Posted on July 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm
  4. I feel like you’re in my head! FREE = “I don’t value my time, effort and talents” in my humble opinion. The time I take to create something meaningful is worth something more than free. 

    Posted on July 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm
  5. Timely post Shenee! I’m working on the opt-ins right now and love the idea of an email series rather than one downloadable to start. Seems a bit more strategic in the relationship building department for sure! Then when I get the e-book written I can charge a small fee for it. And charging is a great challenge for me to make sure I’m offering the good stuff worth buying! Will take a bit more time to get that sucker put together but this all makes lots of sense – I’ve certainly got a few ebooks gathering dust on the proverbial shelf so I really see your brilliance here. Thanks so much!!

    Posted on July 3, 2012 at 6:14 pm
  6. Awesome post lady! And you’re speaking to the right girl. I’ve never been a “free e-book!” kinda gal. Just felt, well, let’s just say, not my style. You give some great tips. And I hope to see youuuuuuuuu this week!!!!!  

    Posted on July 3, 2012 at 6:57 pm
  7. Shenee, that was the best sales pitch I’ve ever gotten. I went and snagged that newsletter guide pronto, kicking myself for not grabbing it on your birthday! 
    and you’re right. I don’t mind giving out information, but the whole Free Cookie for a name on a list just bugged me.  I’m happy to sell a Cheap Cookie as a way to try me on, but I don’t want to waste my time or theirs.

    Posted on July 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm
  8. You’re one smart cookie Shenee!  Love your approach.  I’m attending the “Future of Free Gift Telesummit” this week, talking about so many different ways to approach the free gift offering. Haven’t heard this one yet & it’s brilliant!

    Posted on July 3, 2012 at 9:42 pm
  9. Shenee ILOVEIT! I am SO resonating with what you’ve shared. I have been resistant about list building because I didn’t want to offer a free anything, not because I don’t want to gift my peeps, but because of exactly what you said, they are there because they want something free, they are not engaged, they don’t want anything else, and they’ll end up unsubscribing or never opening my emails (know this because I do this all the time!) 
    thanks you so much for this. it makes me feel yummy inside that there’s another way to do it 🙂 
    YES! “The goal is to have a group of people on your list who WANT to learn more from you and eventually plan to buy your products and services”
    Also, I’ve very passively acquired a little list, no incentive, barely mention it, no fancy opt in box (in fact it’s dead ugly). I’m assuming that they are highly targeted already…I didn’t lure them in with anything. I wonder if there’s a way to get the folks that are not interested *truly* to unsubscribe? 

    Posted on July 3, 2012 at 9:54 pm
  10. Hmm. Thought-provoking post. I’m going to have to take some time to think about this. I’m not on board with you yet, but you make interesting and valid points. Thanks for sharing your perspective. 

    Posted on July 4, 2012 at 2:11 am
  11. Hmm. Thought-provoking post. I’m going to have to take some time to think about this. I’m not on board with you yet, but you make interesting and valid points. Thanks for sharing your perspective. 

    Posted on July 4, 2012 at 2:14 am
  12. Brilliant and you’re clearly doing it.

    Posted on July 4, 2012 at 9:07 pm
  13. Just had an AWESOME idea… I love you!

    Posted on July 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm
  14. Fascinating!  This is another one of the bleeding-edge innovations I’ve been seeing cropping up all over the place, and I dig it SO HARD.  Right now, I list-build by offer a free 30-minute coaching session, which seems to be working fairly well (the conversion isn’t anywhere near where I would like, but hey, whose is).  Thinking thinky thoughts about the discount for signup model!  I love it!

    Posted on July 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm
  15. this is bril!! I am actually at that stage of STARTING my list and figuring out what I should offer to list build.. the ‘free’ ebook is so overdone and i’m not exactly jumping up and down to do it. it’s a lot of work for no value and you make a good point.. no way to know if they will really be part of the ‘sales funnel’. i have heard a lot about how people make 6 figures with small lists and i think this is the way to go!! I feel fortunate to have read this so now I can start creating my product with a better strat. Thanks a MIL!!!! 🙂

    Posted on July 5, 2012 at 9:40 pm
  16. Thank you for saying what I’ve wanted to say for years. I just don’t give a crap about free downloads! I always felt like I was taking crazy pills for not wanting to have one. THANK YOU, SHENEE! Awesome ideas. Really got me thinking…

    Posted on July 23, 2012 at 3:39 pm