The million-dollar question is this: how do I get people to join my email list?

I recently interviewed Saundra Dalton-Smith who shared one extremely effective strategy. Saundra is a physician and author of Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, and Restore Your Sanity (affiliate link).

Saundra grew her email list from 2,000 to more than 25,000 subscribers.

How?

She created a quiz for people to take at RestQuiz.com.

In our interview, Dr. Saunda Dalton-Smith shared how she did it and how you can too.

The Story Behind RestQuiz.com

Dr. Saunda Dalton-Smith: I wanted a way for people to be able to determine which of the seven types of rest they were deficient in. I wanted them to do the same self-analysis I walk my patients through in my office. A quiz seemed to be the quickest way to do that. Plus, it was automated.

There are many different quiz platforms out there, but I happened upon a WordPress plugin called Quiz and Survey Master that worked with my blog. It was simple to use, so I jumped on it to figure it out and see what would happen.

Thomas Umstattd Jr.: Did the questions for the quiz come from questions you ask in your practice? Or from somewhere else?

Saundra: They came from actual questions I ask in my practice as an internal medicine physician. Typically, a patient comes in saying they’re tired. They suspect something’s wrong with their thyroid or adrenal glands, and they want me to help me figure out what’s wrong.

I was spending a lot of time trying to determine why people are so tired all the time. Some of them were getting more than adequate sleep, so I knew it wasn’t the number of hours they were sleeping.

In my research, I discovered there are seven types of rest. People might not be deficient in physical rest, but they may have a deficiency of rest in another area. After I explained this to my patients, the question became, “How do I know which one I’m deficient in?”

The quiz questions came from thinking about each of the types of rest and how someone would feel if they were deficient in that area. The quiz allows people to grade themselves on where they’re at. I don’t ask “Are you deficient in physical rest?” I ask questions related to someone’s physical symptoms. I’ll ask if they have experienced increased neck and back pain or whether they’ve had more headaches or infections than their coworkers.

Some patients will report a chronic sinus infection, but nobody else in the office or family seems to be getting it. I ask the questions and let people rate how well certain symptoms apply to them. The plugin scores their responses and reveals a deficiency in physical, mental, social, sensory, spiritual, emotional, or creative rest. At the end of the quiz, the person has a relatively accurate assessment of where they need more rest.

Thomas: I can verify the results. I took the quiz right before this interview, and I scored the lowest in physical rest. Since we have a newborn at home, that makes perfect sense. Your quiz did a good job teasing that out.

How To Create A Quiz Readers Want to Take

Thomas: The principle here is that you focused on the felt symptoms of your reader when you compiled the questions. Formulating questions based on their pain points forces you to boil things down to the core pain your reader’s experience.

Fiction writers probably aren’t writing about rest, but they are hopefully helping their readers address some pain in their life. Maybe it’s emotional pain. Maybe it’s work-related pain, or social pain. The clearer you can articulate the pain your book is treating, the easier it is to put together a quiz.

Saundra: When you think about it, you’ve already written fifty thousand plus words about the pain or problem. You’ve spent a lot of time researching the topic and getting it together for the book. For me, the quiz was written while I was writing the book.

Within the book, under each type of rest I addressed, I asked some of the same questions. They weren’t always worded the same way, though. For example, there’s a quick checklist under physical rest so people can ask themselves, “Does this describe me?”

In the book, before they start the entire discussion on the seven types of rest, I say, “Stop right there. Go take the quiz. Then come back, and let’s keep going.”

I want even the people who’ve already bought the book to do the quiz. I don’t want them just to be a reader of the book. I want them to be part of my community.

Thomas: That’s a great opportunity to get the e-mail addresses of people who read your book. This is a real challenge for a lot of authors. They don’t know who their readers are because they’re not the author’s customers. They’re Amazon’s customers.

Authors have no way of telling their readers about book number two in the series when they don’t have a way of communicating with them directly.

If you have a quiz integrated with the book, and the book is far more useful when you take the accompanying quiz, then you have a great way of building your email list.

The ultimate example of this is the Strengths Finder (affiliate link) books, which is a personality assessment. Books in that genre lead the way with this strategy. The book is almost useless without taking the quiz. It provides a huge collection of reader emails which is incredibly valuable.

I love how you have integrated your quiz with the book. It’s not merely a way of introducing yourself to strangers, but it’s also how you deepen your relationship with the readers who happened to see your book on a shelf at Barnes Noble.

They don’t know you well, but they’re reading the book and they take the quiz to join your email list. Suddenly you’re getting to know them a lot better.

How to Make Your Quiz Easy to Share

Saundra: Every time I do an interview, I give the URL RestQuiz.com. Once you come up with a quick way to direct them, they’ll find your quiz easily. The actual URL is humongous, and no one would ever get all those letters right. But RestQuiz.com was a simple way to redirect the page back to my website and not have to do a lot of legwork on my end.

Thomas: That’s a great solution. Someone might be wondering if it’s expensive to buy another domain. No. It’s not. It’s $12 a year, and it’s totally worth it.

I recommend doing this not just for a quiz but for any landing page you want to mention verbally in a conversation, radio or podcast interview. 

I recommend authors buy the domain for each of their book titles so they can say, “Go to MyBookTitle.com.” That URL redirects to a page on your website all about that book.

If you want to see this at work, just go to courtshipincrisis.com. It will magically take you to a page on ThomasUmstattd.com with all the information about my book Courtship in Crisis.

There are a lot of domain sites that will do the redirecting for you. NameCheap.com does it for about $12, but there are others like Hover.com.

I recommend avoiding GoDaddy because they’re the worst. They’re the most well-known because they buy Super Bowl commercials, but they’re not the best option for anything.

How to Connect Your Quiz With Your Email Strategy

Saundra: When I wrote my book proposal, I knew I was going to do the quiz. The book released in December, but I released the quiz aa few months before. I tested it with my launch team. They made sure I didn’t have spelling mistakes and that everything worked.

We wanted to make sure the results email came back to them in a timely fashion. After that, we put it on Facebook and gave the launch team permission to release it to their friends to build some interest in the book.

I have an email campaign attached to it, so once you take the quiz, you automatically get a couple of emails with additional teaching related to practicing rest.

Thomas: Excellent. Sometimes that’s called a drip sequence or an onboarding campaign. Who do you use as your email provider?

Saundra: I use Mail Chimp. I started with them because their service was free for up to 2,000 subscribers. At the time, I barely had that many, so it wasn’t costing me much.

Thomas: How did you go from that small initial launch to having over 75,000 people taking the quiz?

Saundra: It was the media. Every time I did any media interviews, they would ask how people could connect with me. I did not want to send them to my main website. There’s so much busyness going on there that people don’t know what to click. Therefore, they don’t click anything and end up leaving the page. I wanted to send them to one spot where they had only one decision to make: to take the quiz or not.

Whenever I did an interview, I would give the URL RestQuiz.com. I also started putting it in my bio. Whether I was speaking on a stage or on a screen, I would always say it. I included it at the end of every guest post I wrote. I put it everywhere I was given access.

I learned quickly that it was going to take forever for me to build my platform with just the people I knew. I needed to utilize the platforms of people who were inviting me into their space. I didn’t want to just tell them about the book. I wanted some of their people to become my people. The only way to do that was to offer them something they were willing to give their email for.

Thomas: That’s a great way of using a lead magnet (also called a reader magnet) to amplify your PR. A lot of people who do radio or TV and only get their name mentioned. If their name is something like, I don’t know, Thomas Umstattd Jr., no one will ever find that websites because no one can spell your name.

Beyond it being hard to spell, there’s also no strong reason for why they ought to visit the website.  “Go to my website and find out more about me,” is not a compelling reason for people to visit. They’re already listening to your interview and they may not want to find out more about you.

However, if you offer a free tip sheet or a free quiz about what we’re talking about, then suddenly people want to take the quiz and they head to your website.

Make the Quiz All About the Reader

Thomas: Your quiz is completely focused on the reader. It doesn’t even have your picture on it. You have a little flower and a “take the quiz” button. Then it’s a bunch of questions about the visitor.

Saundra: I debated about putting my face out there. I wondered if I should include all the sidebar stuff on my website. I decided not to because some people come into that space from radio. They’re only familiar with my voice. Others might be coming to the website from a TV show where they saw me. But I didn’t want people to get distracted by other things on the website and start wandering off. I wanted their single focus to be, “I want to know why I’m tired all the time.” I wanted the whole experience to be about getting to the bottom of their fatigue. It’s like a virtual doctor’s appointment with me.

Thomas: The quiz takes some commitment. This is no five-question quiz. There are around 70 questions, so people are invested by the time they’ve answered 20 of them.

Saundra: That’s why I start off with the instruction to allow five to ten minutes. I also tell them, they’re worth the investment of time. I want people to get deep into the process of slowing down. It’s almost psychological. We’re so busy. We want everything quick and microwaved. The whole topic of the book is centered on slowing this thing down. I wanted to convince the reader they’re worth it. You are worth these minutes of self-discovery.

Thomas: It’s integrated with your brand. A visually busy page would conflict with the idea of rest, simplicity, and taking a deep breath.

What results did you see from having a bigger e-mail list?

Saundra: When I started, I wasn’t thinking about how one book could turn into other things. I hadn’t thought about creating products or courses. As I’ve begun to think about those things, the list has opened those opportunities.

When I was wondering whether anybody would be interested in a 90-day course, I asked 25,000 people and immediately got feedback. I can send them a survey to find out what they need to go deeper into their rest walk. It’s also become a great way to generate extra income.

When I decide I want to do coaching, I’ll let them know I’ve got room for 10 people who’d like to do some one-on-one coaching for the next three months. I don’t have to go on Facebook or Instagram.

I don’t have to pay a bunch of money for ads to find a bunch of strangers who don’t know anything about me. These are people who have chosen to come to my online community, who have said rest is something they’re concerned about and interested in. It’s easy to market to them.

Thomas: As I’ve said before, it’s a lot easier to turn fame into fortune than it is to turn fortune into fame. Once you’re famous, there are a lot of ways you can make money. But you can’t buy your way into being famous.

I love how you’re building a business around this. It started as a book. Books can be lucrative if you sell a million copies. But ultimately few people make money, especially in traditional publishing, on their books.

For every author who makes all their income selling books with royalties, there are five or ten like you who have a more complex income stream with different ways people pay them money. People will pay for a book, but they’ll also pay for coaching or a course from you. Some would attend your live event to hear you speak in person. There are many ways you can make money from your knowledge.

How to Promote Your Survey Without Spending Money on Ads

Thomas: How do you spread the news about your quiz?

Saundra: It has spread by word of mouth. For the most part, I reference it when I’m doing interviews with the media.  I spend more of my time trying to secure media placement because I find that to be effective.

Thomas: I’ve been saying for years that social media is the least effective form of marketing. The time authors spend on social media could be spent on getting on podcasts and radio. Your results will be so much better, and I have a course that can help you with that.

There’s this concept in economics called opportunity cost. The opportunity cost of doing a thing is forgoing your next best alternative. For example, by choosing to watch one more episode on Netflix, I’m choosing not to sleep.

That’s the opportunity cost of staying up later. In the same way, when you choose to do social media, the opportunity cost is PR. Securing PR opportunities is scarier and harder, but it’s far more effective.

I don’t know anyone who has, in the last five or six years, used social media to grow their list from 2,000 to 25,000 emails without spending a ton of money. You could do it via social media if you’re willing to spend $10,000 to $15,000 dollars on Facebook ads. But, Saundra, you haven’t spent $10,000 on ads, have you?

Saundra: No. The most I’ve spent on this whole process was probably the money I spent trying to get a decent microphone and camera for podcasts and media placements.

That was the investment.

I used to think, “If I write a great book, everybody should want to read it. It will hit a bestseller list. I’ll get a great publisher, and they’ll get all my publicity and media lined up for me.”

Well, they may get a couple, but they’ve got so many authors behind you who are releasing books that the publisher is spread thin on who they pitch to where.

If you pitch yourself, you can pitch all day long if you want it to. You can contact as many outlets as you’d like. There’s no limit. I pitched myself to Daystar Television, and they said yes to three shows instead of one.  

You don’t have to be famous to pitch yourself to the big shows. You just have to be willing to hear “no” and not let it destroy you or make you feel like you’re not worthy. Sometimes you need to tweak the pitch because the topic you put out is not what they’re looking for at this time.

Thomas: The most common way authors need to tweak their pitch is by explaining how their topic is beneficial for the listener, and not how it’s beneficial for the author.

People want to hear about how their lives can be better, which I think is one of the reasons why you’ve been able to get so much PR. You’re not exactly pitching your story, you’re helping listeners have more energy, feel better about themselves, get rested, and be optimistic people right now.

You’re telling them they’ll have a better life if they get more rest. Who doesn’t want that?

Anyone can make their message more beneficial for their reader, regardless of their topic.

Saundra: Absolutely, and it works. One surprise that came from this process was that I started teaching classes on how to be your own publicist. Many of my friends were asking who my publicist was. And I said, “I don’t have a publicist. I’m my own publicist.”  

I ended up going to writers’ conferences and teaching an online course about how to be your own publicist.  People think you must lay down a $5,000 retainer in hopes of a publicist getting you on a show or two. That’s not the reality.

If you can answer someone’s questions, if you can help someone solve a problem, if you can help someone get closer to a dream or aspiration, if you can take something complicated and break it down so it’s simple for the rest of the world, you are a perfect guest for podcasts, radio, and TV.

Thomas: There are so many podcasts out there. We created The Podcast Host Directory where we’ve compiled a searchable database with the email addresses of over 100,000 podcast hosts on every topic you can imagine.

That’s the wonderful thing about podcasting. There are specific topics and broad topics. For a topic like rest, you could go on a bunch of different kinds of podcasts.

Right now, you’re on an author podcast. But you could be on a parenting podcast tomorrow. You could be on a business podcast. Some topics are more flexible than others. Not every author will be a good candidate for every podcast, but you may be surprised if you’re willing to think outside the box.

Saundra: Absolutely, think outside the box. Some of the podcasts I’ve been on have been podcasts that didn’t align with my spirituality in the least. My book is published by FaithWords, which is a Christian branch of Hachette. You wouldn’t think a Buddhist podcast would want to have me on. But they were open to a conversation, and I was open to sharing with them.

There are so many ways of sharing when you’re pitching. Sometimes it’s helpful in the pitch, and even in the subject line, to say you know who their audience is. If I’m pitching a podcast to small-business leaders I’ll say, “Let’s talk about rest for small-business owners,” or “Let’s talk about rest for moms.”

Whatever the topic or audience is, you can tweak it so the host knows you’re acquainted with the kind of audience they speak to. If they think you understand their audience, they’re going to be more willing to invite you to speak to their audience.

Thomas: Preach! I get so many pitches where people tell me they want to come on my podcast, but they’ve obviously never listened and have no concept of who we are. They’re blasting the same pitch to podcast after podcast. That is not the right approach. You must tailor your pitch for the podcast, your topic, and the interview.

Try to list tangible benefits that will improve people’s lives. You can tweak which benefits you present to different audiences.

If you have 20 benefits, only three or four will be applicable to any specific podcast. Pick the three or four that are applicable to the podcast and present only those three in your pitch.

Quiz Mistakes to Avoid

Thomas: What have been the best and worst aspects of having your own online quiz?

Saundra: I can tell you what the worst aspect was. When I did the live TV show with Daystar I obviously mentioned RestQuiz.com during the show. What I didn’t realize is that there was an update to the quiz plugin that had just processed.

The update caused the results to be sent to only half the people. It was an international show and a lot of people hit the site at once. Whenever someone’s results didn’t go through, the program sent me an email saying the results didn’t process. So, I got the results, but the person didn’t get them on their end.

We had to manually email 150 quiz results in one day. And I thought, “Oh my goodness. We can never have this happen again!” It was a lot of work to manually deliver each person’s results to their corresponding address. Plus, they were waiting on their results.

That was a nightmare.

Have your system set to update in the middle of the night, but not during regular hours when people are awake.

The Benefit of a Quiz

The biggest benefit of the quiz has been how people have used it to better themselves. I love it when someone takes the quiz and joins my list. They get the newsletter. They listen to the podcast. They get engaged with my community.

Then I get an email from them saying, “I heard you on someone’s podcast, and thought I’d check out this quiz. I can’t tell you how great I feel or how much better my marriage is because I’m using some of the techniques about relationships and social risks.”

Sometimes they’ll say, “I’m loving my job more because I’m not exhausted every day.” That has been the best part.  The quiz effects life change.

Thomas: Sometimes we have to see how sick we are before we’re willing to do something about it.

The quiz gives somebody a tangible score, which rationally shouldn’t matter. We should already know how tired we are. But somehow, seeing that you scored low prompts you to do something about it.

The quiz triggers action, which brings the life transformation and makes people hungry for your book.

How to Craft a Quiz to Promote a Novel

Many writers are working on novels. Maybe you can’t create a quiz around symptoms of a problem and how to get better. But there are quiz types you could explore.

I’ve seen novelists offer a personality quiz where readers find out which character they are most like. It’s a way of getting people who’ve read your first book onto your email lists so you can tell them about your second book. It’s less of a launch strategy with fiction.

With nonfiction, you can release the quiz ahead of time and get all the emails from the quiz to help with your book launch.

Do you have any final tips?

Saundra: Get the word out to as many places as you can. It’s only going to benefit you because if they don’t get to the quiz page, then they won’t end up on your list.

Put it in your bio, whether that be on the screen or stage. Have it read in your bio when you’re being introduced. Use it at every media event. You’ll get to the point where it rolls off your tongue organically, and it doesn’t sound like you’re trying to drive people to the site.

I’ve said it so many times that when I when it gets to that part of the interview I say, “If you’d like to know which of the seven types of rest you’re deficient in, you can visit RestQuiz.com.” I’ve said it so many times it’s embedded in my brain. You won’t have to fear sharing it because you’ll know it’s going to help someone.

Thomas: That is awesome. You can always tell someone who’s professionally trained in doing interviews by how well they incorporate their website into the interview.

You can take the quiz yourself at RestQuiz.com.

Learn about Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith and her book Sacred Rest at her website, ichoosemybestlife.com

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