After your website, your email list is the next most important tool to build for your book’s success and to develop your author platform. You may be active on social media and build up an amazing number of engaged followers, friends or connections. However, if your social media site changes overnight, you could lose access to your network. How would you get the word out about your book then?
Your email list is yours. So yes, you need to build your email list by building a list of interested readers. This list isn’t just for announcing that your book is for sale to a random group of people whose email you have. No! This list, that you will put time and effort into building now while you’re writing your book, is to connect with ideal readers by providing them content they want to read, so that, when your book is published, it’s a natural step to buy and read it.
If you don’t have an email list
WHAT will you send to your email list?
What content will your ideal reader want to read? What content do you want to write? Since you’re building your email list to support your book, your email content should tie in somehow. Look at your ideal reader. What would they like to read about? If you haven’t started developing your ideal reader, get to know them now.
Fiction writers have more leeway in what they write. After all, they’re out to entertain, so updates on their pet’s antics can work great for their audience. As a non-fiction author, your ideal reader is more likely to want topical information rather than random thoughts and recipes (unless you’re writing about cooking, of course).
What will you write and send? How can you be of service to your readers?
HOW OFTEN will you send your email?
This is not a collect and forget them type list. They should hear from you consistently.
What does consistently mean? For some writers it might mean weekly, others monthly, and yes others quarterly. Some might even offer shorter daily emails. It depends on what you can and will do consistently and what your readers want.
My first newsletter was monthly, which I was able to do for almost ten years. Another newsletter that I ran years ago, was weekly—different audience and different topic. For my current newsletter, I felt that weekly was too often for me to get the writing in, but monthly was not often enough to support writers. So… biweekly it was. 😊
How often do you want to commit to sending your newsletter?
WHAT email marketing platform will you use?
You have options. If you already have an email platform you’re happy with, keep using it. If you don’t have one or are not happy with yours, look into these:
Mailerlite I use this currently. I like it because I have the free version AND I have access to automations where I set up the onboarding email series. When I get to 1000 subscribers, I’ll be happy to pay. (And yes, I have “build email list” on my to-do list as well.)
MailChimp I’ve used MailChimp before and liked it. It too has a free version with 500 contacts allowed. But it doesn’t allow for A/B testing or automation on the free version.
Check out other options - The Top 10 Email Marketing Software for Small Businesses in 2023
Which email marketing platform has what you need and is easy to use?
WHAT’s your lead magnet, cookie, or enticement?
Give them a reason to sign up for your email list. Not just the promise of an email in their inbox every so often, but something they can use right now. Offer something they really want and are willing to exchange their email for.
It could be anything. You may already have something you could offer. Is there a worksheet you’re thinking of including in your book; could you offer that as a magnet? Can you create a checklist, cheat sheet, or a chapter from your book?
Some call this enticement a cookie, I’m assuming to distance it from the salesy term “lead magnet.” However, I want you to think of this enticement as one of those magnets you get with information you know you want to have handy, so you put the magnet on the refrigerator where you can access it when you need it. Make your magnet a “must keep” item for your reader.
What will you offer for their email?
Start learning your email platform.
Once your decisions are made, your next step is not a another decision to make, but action to take.
Create your email format. Look at the templates provided and make one work for you. A word of advice—don’t overcomplicate the email or add too many bells and whistles. Give your readers content to read and let them read it. Give your readers a call to action and let them take it. Images, unless they’re necessary for your message, will just slow down the reader. It might take longer to load. Most email clients now default to NOT displaying images, so the reader has to take a step to allow images from you. Save time — leave them out unless they’re necessary.
Set up your onboarding emails.
The first automated email should provide a link to your magnet.
The next email should be a welcome email that introduces them to your newsletter.
After that, your onboarding series depends on you and your newsletter. Decide what your readers need to know to get started. Then set the schedule for automatically sending those emails. One client introduced her readers to the three main concepts from her forthcoming book in separate emails set five days apart. Other writers send nothing beyond the welcome email. For my newsletter, The Organized Pen, I have onboarding emails that go out daily for the first week. The first is a Welcome email. Then, to get them started writing, I offer an email focusing on each topic: setting up their writing space, making time for writing, handling all the information and ideas they have, getting external support, and insuring internal support. The last email sums it all up and let’s them know they’ll now be receiving an email from me every two weeks.
Create a form for signups and put it on your website.
Your email platform should have signup forms you can create. You can create a form that you can link to or a form you can embed on your website. Your platform will have instructions, but sometimes I find it easier to search for a how-to video.
Keep the form as simple as you can. The more information you ask for, the less likely a reader will be to subscribe. There is lots of discussion on the pros and cons of what to collect. I keep mine simple. I ask for an email and they click the subscribe button. I don’t ask for a name nor do I require them to click and confirm through an email I just sent them (auto response, of course).
If you want to gain more information about your ideal readers, track where people are signing up for your newsletter. Create additional forms to track that. Consider putting different forms on your website. One on your contact page, one for your blogs, and one on the front page. You might choose to use different forms for different social media channels. Even different profiles and signature lines could have different signup forms. Ask for subscribers in your book, as well. For one client, I set up two webpages and sign-up forms. One for the front of the book and one for the back. It’s interesting to see whether her readers sign up before they’ve started the book or once they’ve finished the book. At this point it’s still pretty much 50/50. Start with one form and expand as you have time and desire to track where your readers are coming from. If you’re not interested in taking action based on what you see from tracking, then don’t bother. One form is good enough. If you’re not ready yet to take action, start with a couple of forms. You can evaluate the data later when you want to take the next step in building your subscribership. The goal for tracking where your readers are signing up is to improve your conversion rate (people seeing your sign-up offer and converting to subscribers). You can either put more resources into the forms that are working or tweak the forms that aren’t.
Write your next email to your subscribers
Decide where your idea list of possible topics is going to live and start adding to it. You don’t have to write on all the topics you come up with, but you are likely to need inspiration now and then.
Write! Write with your readers in mind. What questions are they asking? What problems can you help solve? What will help them? Write it.
And keep writing. 😉
If you have an email list
Already writing a newsletter?
Take a moment to determine if what you’re writing is aligned with your book’s ideal reader. If it is — keep going! If it’s not, can you tweak it? Do you want to tweak it for your ideal reader, or do you need to build a separate email list?
Ensure that your newsletter works perfectly on mobile. More and more people are using their phone for email, research, reading and everything else. Optimize for the mobile experience.
If you’ve been writing a newsletter for longer than a couple of months, you’ve probably had someday maybe ideas for expanding your email list. Now’s the time to look through those ideas and take action on one.
Download your email list as a backup.
Clean up your list. Look for the ones who haven’t opened your emails in awhile. Reach out to them and ask them if they still want to be on your list. Most email marketing platforms provide a way to segment, group or send an email to a subset of your list based on action taken or not taken.
Have you been thinking of changing email marketing platforms? Now may be the time to do it.
What’s your next step to build your current email list?
Other than email
Maybe for some of you, it’s not an email list but a list of people who want to hear from you by text. I am certainly NOT suggesting you start a texting campaign, but depending on your ideal reader, they might be interested in a text telling them that your latest blog or newsletter is published with a link to get there. You will have to pay for a text or SMS marketing service and there should be NO collecting phone numbers and texting without permission.
I just received an email notice from MailChimp about their new text message marketing service (SMS Marketing with MailChimp). SMS stands for Short Message/Messaging Service and is what your cell phone uses to send and receive text message.
If you focus on your ideal reader, think about what they need and ask them what they want. You might come up with some connection process that is outside of the routine.
~ Build your email list. ~
Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque*
Strangers to Superfans: A Marketing Guide to the Reader Journey by David Gaughran*
Build your email list
Send content your readers want to read — don't just sell
This isn't a collect and forget them type list — be consistent (whatever that means for you)
When you're ready... 2 ways to move forward on your book journey:
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*FYI: I do receive $ from Amazon when you click on product links and purchase items from Amazon. I don’t know what you look at or buy and so far I’ve been able to buy, on average,3 cups of coffee each year from the income.