Running a newsletter or email list is one of the best things you can do for your author business, yet it is also one of the hardest. This year I have been working to grow my list, yet most of the time it feels like I am shouting into the void.
Advantages of an email list
The main benefit is that you have the emails of people who are interested in your books. This sounds so simple, yet it is easily overlooked. Social media likes and follows are far easier to develop, but they are dependent on that platform. If Facebook goes down (as it did last week) then you have no way to contact them. In fact, Facebook won’t even give me a complete list of all the people who have liked my page.
Yet, if I have someone’s email address then I can use whichever service I choose to, and switch between them if I want to, all while continuing to be able to contact all those people who had signed up. In order to gain an email subscriber you need to offer that person something worth sharing their email address with.
So those people who have signed up are already a level above any social media interactions as they have given you something. You have the opportunity to hook them into your worlds, and to develop a deeper relationship with them.
Disadvantages of an email list
It is work to send out emails regularly, and most mailing list providers have a cost associated with them. Also, due to antispam laws, you need to include a mailing address in each email. Having a PO Box means you don’t need to share your home address, but that is another cost.
Mailing list providers
There are loads of different providers out there, so check what options they have and how their prices scale with more subscribers. Mailchimp and Mailerlite are both good options for starting out, as they have free levels. Though those do have some limited functionality compared to the paid for versions.
If you want a more robust solution then there are various different options available, and all have their own strengths and weaknesses. So you need to decide what features you want. Do you want to run complicated automations? Do you want fancy templates? Do you want one payment regardless of subscriber numbers? Then you can assess the different options and find the one that is right for you.
What you can send to an email list
To encourage people to sign up for your mailing list, it is common to give away something. This is often referred to as a reader magnet. It can be a sample of the start of your story, a related short story, an epilogue (for people who have read your book), anything else you feel your readers will be interested in. I currently have two reader magnets: Fae Bargains – a prequel story to my Lost Princess of Starlight series; and a collection of bonus scenes that take place between Dragon Shift and Dragon Heir.
Then, once you have people signed up, it is important to send emails regularly. Not so often that they are pissed off with you, but often enough that they remember who you are. This is a balance with how much time you want to spend writing emails, compared with all the other things you need to do as an author too. Most people recommend between once a week and once a month.
You can send updates on your process, teasers for books due to come out soon, tidbits that never made it into the book, deleted scenes, special discounts for subscribers only, details of your pets, other books they might like. It is common practise for authors to “swap” mentions of each other’s books to gain more exposure for their own, so by putting someone else’s books in your newsletter they then send your book to theirs. This means your book is being sent out to people who might not yet have heard about you.
One thing to keep in mind is that you want to be giving your readers more than you are asking from them. You don’t want all your communications to be buy my book, buy my book, buy my book. That gets old very fast and doesn’t encourage engagement. Ask them questions, get to know them, give them things that aren’t available anywhere else so they feel special for being part of your inner circle.
How to get email sign ups
The best way to get people to sign up to your mailing list is at the beginning or end of your book. These are organic fans who like your book and want to know more. The next best way to get sign-ups is from advertising your reader magnet through group promotions or paid adverts. Lastly is running group newsletter builders for fans of someone else. These are often associated with a giveaway of something not related to your work, and entering adds them to the mailing lists of all the authors involved. As such the sign ups you get through these are the least engaged with you as an individual. Though you can use these services to gain more
Analysing your newsletter
Mailing list providers seem to love to give you statistics on how well your newsletters are performing. Open rates, click rates, engagement of subscribers, etc etc. While this are helpful they are not the be all and end all of the picture. Especially now that Apple are rolling out their changes to the privacy options relating to emails, these statistics are going to be increasingly less accurate. Which makes it hard to know that all the emails you are sending are worth doing. And I really don’t have much advice on that. Obviously, if you get a bunch of sales after sending out an email then it was a success, but not all emails are directly asking for a sale.
Wherever you are in your publishing career it can be helpful to start a way to collect email addresses from those people who are interested in what you write. This can be the start of one of your greatest marketing tools. When your list is small, use that as a learning experience to get in the habit of writing something, and finding your voice. Then, as it grows, you will have a basis to build on.