help me with my big badass banana (and why you might want one for yourself)




I was on the phone with online marketing genius (among other things) Marie Forleo and she told me that my site immediately needed two things: an opt-in box and a Big Banana.

(I like to think of this as one of the [many] blogging mistakes I made so that you don’t have to. I put off and I put off and I put off my opt-in box and my Big Banana. And now, how I shake my head ruefully at myself. Don’t let this happen to you, boys and girls.)

An opt-in box is that thing you see just below my photo in the sidebar. It urges you to ENTER YOUR NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS so that you can be on my List. Once you’re on my List, I can email you stuff that you will hopefully find cool, interesting and useful. Theoretically, this will be my Newsletter. I’m psyched to finally be starting a Newsletter, although I’m not entirely sure what I’ll put on it.

So any suggestions you might have are totally and eagerly welcomed.

A Newsletter is a chance for me to get a tad more personal, do updates and round-ups and also to go above and beyond the Tribal Writer blog: reflect on the blog posts and comments that happened that month and take a certain aspect of what we were talking about and go a little deeper. Since a Newsletter is, when you think on it, asking a lot of a person – to give up her email, space in her inbox, time and attention – I think it should deliver a little something extra. Another dimension, if you will, to your experience of the Tribal Writer conversation.

(And I totally want to do book giveaways. I love giving away books that I love, books I think are really cool, books that can work some magic in the world, or in your head. So if you’re on my List, you can potentially get me to send you a book. For free.)

My opt-in box is powered by Mailchimp and I hired Amanda Krill to set it up for me. I still need to write the text for it.

And I still need to come up with my Big Banana.

The Big Banana is the thing that you offer your visitor in exchange for her email address: a free video or guide or ebook or PDF document that contains such dazzling information that the aforementioned visitor leaps – leaps, I say – to put herself on your fabulous List.

It would be easy for me to repurpose one of my older blog posts, or a series of blog posts, into a Banana. But I’d rather come up with something new, so that even if you’ve been reading me from the dawn of time you would still want my succulent piece of fruit. (I should probably rephrase that, but whatever.)

That way I can get you exactly where I want you: on my List (….cue maniacal laughter….) for highly nefarious purposes!

(Kidding. My purposes are not that nefarious, I only kind of wish they were.)

So could you help me with this? Say you’re a dude (of either gender) who landed on this website. How can I help you? How can I tempt you? If you would be so kind as to comment below (or email me at , I – and my big, badass, so-far-nonexistent-yet-I-remain-hopeful Banana – thank you much.

Mar 4, 2011

23 comments · Add Yours

Justine – great question. I suppose I can only answer it with a question. What is the one thing people read you for? What posts get the most reaction? What kind of feedback do you get again and again? Is it inspiration, or tips, or your personality? Whatever that is – find a way to package it, and make that your fruit-metaphor-thing.

Maybe it’s your 10 writing mantras, or the ONE thing that you know now that you wish you knew when you wrote your first novel, or a special video of behind the scenes of your writing life. Regardless, make it something full of your personality. It doesn’t have to be huge. It does have to be personal.

Just my thoughts.


Thank you for the email info. I’ve been thinking I needed such a thing for my “on-the-brink” writer website. I liked what I saw on MailChimp. So, maybe I should have said a thousand thanks.

As for the “banana”? I liked what Dan said in the first paragraph.


Dan —

Thanks, and thanks for reminding me of ‘the personal’ — the first emails & Facebook notes I got in answer to this question underscored that — which was not what I was expecting.

And you — made? implied? — a really good point, about how the Banana should be representative of the site as a whole. Should crystallize in some sense what the site *is*…

I feel in my sweetspot when I write something that’s pragmatic yet has some inspirational, emotional heft to it…

(Going to mull over all your questions…)

and Kay —

Mailchimp came highly recommended to me by trusted sources, so I feel totally confident using it & recommending it to you….


What do I want? Because I’m primarily a reader, I’d like to hear about how you’re progressing (or not progressing) with THE DECADENTS. Which draft you’re up to, do you work on it every day, parts you find easiest to write, parts you find most difficult, etc.

Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable talking about a work in progress, that’s completely understandable.


Of course, I enjoy all your tips on writing, but maybe some pointers for writers on how to deal with all this social networking b.s. without losing your mind would be useful. I want to write and occasionally I like to blog about things unrelated to fiction writing, but most of all, I do not want to be caught up in social networking craziness for the purpose of just building a platform. I do not want to be a purveyor of babble. I want to be free to be creative, not frenzied about trying to achieve something that has no meaning for me. I want my cake and to be able to eat it too! Yeah, I want a big chocolate cake instead of a banana. Serve it up and I’ll sign up.


While I’ve never heard the offer called a banana, I’ve certainly been aware for a while that all the blog gurus insist upon some kind of give away in return for those email addresses. This is something I’ve wrestled with myself – feeling the pressure and not having the time to come up with something as bait.

Personally, I’m not much for grabbing stuff just because it’s free – that way lies a full garage (or hard-drive). If I like what I’m reading on a blog – as I do yours, Justine – getting the latest post delivered to my inbox instead of having to go to a reader is reward enough. And all the freebies in the world aren’t going to keep me engaged when I’m not interested.

Really cool freebies are always nice, but the service of instant delivery can’t be beat.


I love how you break down the writing process, Justine. How about this idea for you big banana? Suppose you offer chapters of your previous books, and then a commentary as to how you wrote them, your techniques and tools that engage the reader; like a behind-the-scenes documentary of the film making process. You would also be exposing your fans to your novels, if they haven’t bought them already. Going further, you could privately publish down-loadable PDF’s week by week, chapter by chapter, to your opt-in family. It’s a lot of work I know. But you’re a great teacher, and you’d be writing a textbook in the process.



I think your Banana is something not really for us (the readers who signed up without the banana) but for new readers. So, it should be really meaningful for someone who doesn’t know you. Over the past year I’ve signed up on quite a few websites to soak up knowledge of writing. The ones I wasn’t sure about but signed up anyway had a banana loaded with very practical tips – like I couldn’t believe they weren’t charging for the banana. Then I stayed or didn’t stay based on the rss feed that followed. With that being said, very practical tips such as: Top 50 or 100 Creatives from blogs or websites (like bananas, cool headers, the ‘sharing is sexy’ pointer) so that as a newbie I could look through the list and say “Hey, I want #1, #35, and #56 on my website!” I’m also in the same boat as Linda – how do I deal (practically) with the social networking craziness. Like a check off list, or step-by-step, or something to hold my hand through it.


I have mixed feeling about this personally. I’d be keener to ensure that people subscribe to your blog and make that the fulcrum around which everything else revolves because we all have enough to read (I have way too much) without asking us to read something more. I faithfully check your blog every time my feedreader tells me you have a new post, I scan your Facebook entries and now you’re telling me that you deserve another slice of my time? (I’m playing devil’s advocate here so don’t take this too personally.) I think there is a danger of overkill because you will end up replicating the same information to ensure that everyone gets to know everything assuming that some people only follow you on Facebook, some only read your blog and some only get your newsletter.


I agree with Jim. If we are reading your blog, do we really need a newsletter? I wouldn’t read it – nothing personal. You could offer a book (or whatever your big banana ends up being) for commenters on your blog or for your followers.

BTW, your blog is super good. I’m happy I found it and will pass it along.


Relatively new reader here, but I like how you’re willing to share your lessons learned. My sense is you have lessons about blogging or writing or… sprinkled throughout that you could combine into one piece. For instance, though I’ve been blogging for years, I’d love to hear about the other lessons you’ve learned about blogging/your site that I should consider myself.

Your passion for creativity also inspires me, though I don’t have a specific suggestion for how to turn that into a banana. My gut tells me that’s where your banana is.


Reading through the comments again, I have to say Jim has a point.

I don’t feel the need to receive something for joining a mailing list. I will join because I think the writer has more to offer me in their newsletter–not because of a freebie. Oftentimes I feel like people offer a freebie because their newsletter will suck or not be what I’m looking for.

There is a fine line when it comes to marketing. I truly believe that if you have great content you don’t need as much marketing as say someone else who is throwing up post after post about the “Top 5 Things You Must Do to be a Fabulous Blogger.” Those posts rarely have anything to teach me.

I started reading you because a friend of mine shared a post on FB that inspired her. That’s the best marketing you can ask for.


Supervaluable feedback. Thanks guys.

Jim & Tonja — god knows that nobody *needs* a newsletter! And I don’t want to replicate content, just explore different aspects of it. That’s part of the challenge. But the hidden underlying motive of the newsletter is for me to build my List and reach out to readers on that level — that is, the readers who *want* to be reached on that level.

Amie — you know, you’re right. maybe i won’t rush to put up a banana.


Linda —

“I do not want to be a purveyor of babble.” Just a note to say that I LOVE that, and I totally feel you on it.


I agree with Jim too… I tend to not read newsletters that come to my email box. I use a feedreader also. Here’s some general feedback: the posts of yours that I *love* (and have even re-posted, giving you credit, of course) are the personal ones about writing. For example, “why tapping into your emotional sweetspot = your most remarkable creative work” was great – and pushed me! “ego vs soul” is my all time favorite – it is perfect!

Good luck whatever you decide – I do enjoy following you!


Just keep sharing yourself, Justine. Your well will never run out of water.


I rarely read newsletters either. Okay, I don’t think I want to think of it as a newsletter. :)


I second Irving Podolsky.

I have found there are lists I like and lists I don’t. I don’t like Procrastinating Writers blog list. Why? It repurposes the same stuff on the blog. I don’t want a best of blog. That makes it an either/or. Read at the site or in my inbox. I usually prefer the site. I do like Holly Lisle’s. Why? It gives me new stuff, sneak peeks, and books that bring it all together for me, so I’m not schlepping through old material and years worth of blog posts when I’m finally getting around to USING the info.

So I like the idea Irving proposed. Kind of a backoffice pass into the working life of this writer/networker and how she gets it done on real material in real time instead of theory and on the blog. Sure, that’s more work than just the blog, but having a reason for the list IS.

I admit also, I’m a lurker almost everywhere. I rarely have much to add to the conversation, but I read like crazy. I’d read your newsletter. And yes, more personal stuff. In your blog, I meet your work. On your list, I’d like to meet you.



I like your mind. I like where it goes, particularly with creativity, particularly when it goes deep. You’re like a dinner party guest I’d want to sit next to and have a long conversation with, jumping from one connection, one inspiration to the next, in no particular order, setting off little firecrackers. I have Tribal Writer on my RSS feed, which I read in my iPad with Reeder. It’s one of my favorite blogs. I look forward to your posts. I follow you on Twitter. Every third tweet or so you point me to something interesting. It’s your mind again. It interests me what you’re interested in.

You seem to have a lot of irons in the fire. You’ve written some amazing posts. Where are they? Do you even have an archive? I can’t find it. This annoys me. I find the Tribal Writer site confusing, but worth putting up with.

How can you monetize my interest? Go have dinner with a lot of different creatives. Interview them. Record the conversations. I’d buy that book.


Wolf —

Thank you so much…And I want to say that I am FINALLY in the process of getting Tribal Writer professionally redesigned, so hopefully your frustrations with the site should end in the near future.

And I will put together a list of best posts that should go up in next few days.



“In your blog, I meet your work. In your list, I’d like to meet you.”

So incredibly helpful. Thank you!


Hi Justine,
I love your blog posts as they are insightful, edgy, honest and inspirational. In fact, its in my top three of blogs. I have entered my email address into your empty field a few times in the hope that i can get your blog posts emailed directly to me rather than having to manually visit your blog-site. I have even emailed you to ask why your posts are not arriving in my inbox, not realising that you don’t send them out that way. I don’t use a RSS feed (still havent figured that out) but i do subscribe to a lot of email lists of those whose writing I love and when their latest piece turns up in my inbox – its like a little gift has arrived just for me!! Sometimes I devour them straightaway and sometimes I save them for when i can absorb them slowly and deliciously. Yours would be one i would save to absorb slowly and deliciously.
I would be really happy if you just sent out your blog posts by email, then your writing turns up in my inbox regularly and reminds me of how much I enjoy reading it. For the others who have feeds, maybe they don’t need to subscribe to the email newsletter. I also don’t think you need a banana, but then I am an “established reader” and a banana may be a good thing to attract newbies.
I guess the most inspiration i get from your writing is your experience of being a published writer/blogger so perhaps the banana would share some of your pearls of wisdom around that. You could also offer the first chapter of one of your published works – everyone loves a sneak preview of a story – that way it may hook the reader in to buying the whole book too!
Anyhow, just remember that what you are already doing is useful, valuable, insightful and interesting – and if anyone thinks otherwise, they can always hit the unsubscribe button!
Thanks for your continued inspiration, Justine :)


Haha I just realised how old this post is!! Thats what happens when you don’t have a feeder and your blog posts are not emailed out – I have no idea of whats current! But still, are you not sending newsletters out?


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