A wise man by the name of David Gaughran once said, "The author with the biggest email list wins." As someone who likes winning (probably more than I should), this concept intrigued me. We are told all the time to build our social media presence. "Join Tumblr, it's where the kids are." "Have you made your Vining video today?" "How about tweeting? Have you tweeted your breakfast cereal yet?"
I do tweet (not my breakfast cereal, but pictures of my kids and pets, equally as bad I know) and I am on Facebook, but joining another social media platform makes me want to put on concrete shoes and take a swim. I don't want to make a Vining video despite my fourteen-year-old niece's very nice tutorial. So a mailing list seems like the lesser of many evils. When I started looking into techniques for building an email list, I realized how simple and non-time consuming this technique can be. And it can have big results.
I am sure I don't have to be the one to tell you to get a mailing list going, right? You have heard this advice before. But seriously, if you don't have a mailing list set up and a way for people to join it on your website, stop reading this post and get yourself a mailing list. There is nothing more powerful than direct connections to your best fans. Twitter cannot do this. Facebook certainly can't now that they have changed their algorithms and made it much harder to reach your list. I use Aweber, which seems to be working well, but there are many other sites that are user friendly and easy to set up. Many of my friends use MailChimp. Aweber has tutorial videos, on-call customer service and the interface is easy to use. (And no, I am not getting a kick-back for promoting them. I just like the service.) You do have to pay a fee, but I think it is worth it, especially at release time. So go do it. We'll wait.
Once you have your list set up, you probably feel like the girl at the ball waiting for someone to ask you to dance. Just having a mailing list isn't going to get you anywhere. You have to figure out how to get people to sign up. I've found that offering free material for sign up is big. That way each reader has an incentive for clicking and filling out a little bit of material. I give away a pdf copy of my paranormal romance novel Eyes Ever to the Sky to each subscriber. It costs me nothing, and, frankly, people aren't buying it, so giving it away for free isn't costing me sales either. If you don't have a novel to give away, offer a short story. Offer a limerick, something. Offer to help their first born child move into college, I don't care, but free is powerful. Some big name authors offer one free book of the readers choosing, but most of us don't have that kind of back-list power. Still, you can figure something out. Free is the way to be.
Also you want to make it easy for people to find your newsletter sign up. I have a big call to action on the main page of my website. I also have a link at the top. I also include a link to sign up at the back of each book. This seems to be working since I will get a few sign ups each day. Three subscriptions a day will give you 1,000 new fans within a year. If half go on to buy your book at launch time, that would be huge.
Finally, don't spam your followers. Some say emailing every few weeks or once a month is a good idea. But, if you don't have new material, my opinion is this is spam. Your subscribers don't want you to stop by and say hi in a mass email. They don't want to know how your cat is doing. Sure, if you go longer than a few months without contacting them they might not know who you are when you finally do, but all it takes is a few carefully crafted lines and a good headline to draw them back in. My opinion is less is more when it comes to contacting your mailing list. Otherwise you'll probably get a long list of unsubscribers and waste all that potential.
Here's to hoping you have big success with your mailing list. What about you? Any tips about setting up and growing a great mailing list? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.