Offering a free eBook or other digital download on your website is a great way to build your email mailing list which you can then use for any number of business building purposes. Here are a few ways you can do this using Wordpress.

Some of the things you will want to watch out for include preventing people from:

  • Using a fake email address; and
  • Sharing direct links to your freebee with the world.

IMPORTANT: If you are going to add people to a mailing list when they sign-up to download your book or free chapter, you must comply with the U.S. CAN-SPAM law. An even tougher CASL act will come into effect in Canada as of July 1, 2014. Which ever solution you choose, make sure that it meets the legal requirements for your country.

Option 1A -- Using Contact Form 7 plugin

The advantage is that you have everything you need already on the website. It's easy to setup and monitor. The disadvantage is that you will need to manually maintain your mailing list.

  1. Create your download page on your website which is not linked into any menus.
  2. Create a Contact Form 7 form with the following attributes:
    • Mail (1): Have this email be sent to you so that you can manually collect email addresses. Note that there is no guaranty that these email addresses will be valid.
    • Mail (2): This is the autoresponder email that will contain a link to your download page where they can download the PDF file. If it recorded your email address when you clicked the link, this would actually be considered a double-opt in system. Unsubscribing will also need to be maintained manually.

Option 1B -- Using MailChimp

You can achieve the same results but end up with a mailing system already setup and ready for your email campaigns using MailChimp. It will handle the double opt-in for you and provide your users with the required unsubscribe link required by law.

Because it's free, MailChimp is great when you are just starting out but make sure all of your email addresses are valid and for people who have opted in. If you have too many emails bounce or someone complains, they will disable your ability to send out email campaigns. Option 3 and 4 below both offer a premium option that integrates with MailChimp.

Option 2 -- Using the Email Before Download / Contact Form 7 / WordPress Download Monitor plugins

The advantage is this system protects your PDF file from direct downloading and will limit people from sharing links with others by making them expire. The disadvantage is that you will maintain your mailing list manually and it is a little more involved to setup since you need to make three WordPress plugins work together.

Option 3A: Using the Double Opt-In for Download plugin

Does everything you might need but does not include ecommerce like option #4. The premium version integrates with email campaign systems like MailChimp though it does allow you to export email addresses into mail sending services like MailChimp.

Option 3B: Using the Subscribe to Download plugin

This has got to be the easiest to setup system I've come across and it can come across to you for $15. However it does not include an ecommerce component and does not integrate with MailChimp.

Option 4: Using Easy Digital Downloads (if you plan on selling the book online)

Looks like this one has just about everything you'll need to make free and paid downloads available. I'm just not sure it will work with free downloads. The premium add-ons allow you to integrates it with email campaign systems like MailChimp.

Hope something in the above list helps.