E-mail Tips for Authors: Building and Using Your E-mail Lists

Photo credit: Skley via ChairsHunt / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: Skley via ChairsHunt / CC BY-ND

Some people think email is soooo 2000s. After all, isn’t everyone communicating via Facetime, Snapchat, Twitter and such… now?

Not necessarily! Email can still be extremely useful as an author marketing tool. Here are some basic e-mail tips for authors … from collecting email addresses to using your lists wisely.

Step by Step E-mail Tips for Authors

Step 1: Set up an email collection system
In order to start collecting emails on your author website, you need to have a place to store them. There are a few basic systems that you can choose to use.

The first is a simple WordPress plug-in (assuming your site is built on WordPress). One basic one is just called “Newsletter.” This is a free system that stores any email addresses that people enter on your site, and offers some bells and whistles, too, like newsletter creation, the ability for users to unsubscribe automatically (a legal requirement) and more.

Other people opt to go with something a bit more complicated, like MailChimp. This service is also free up to a certain point (once your email list gets to about 2,000, there can be a charge involved). It offers a bit more flexibility in terms of newsletter design, analytics and more.

Then there’s a more advanced service, like Constant Contact. There’s a monthly fee associated with this one, but it has more bells and whistles.

All of these types of services are incredibly easy to set up and give you a simple code to put on your site. Which one you choose should depend on how much time, energy and money you want to invest in this project. But the concept of all of them are relatively similar: Any email address entered through the site is automatically stored in the system, and that list can easily be accessed any time.

Step 2: Plan your communications with subscribers
Just collecting email addresses isn’t enough. You actually need to … you know …. use them. And this plan should be mapped out before you start collecting addresses, because (as you will see in step 3), you need to tell people what to expect before they sign up.

Start by planning how frequently you’re going to send to that list. Will it be a monthly newsletter? Will you just send everyone a quick notification every time you post a new blog entry? Or will it be a news-based notification — like if you’re doing a radio show tomorrow?

Once you’ve figured out the strategy you want to use, then make sure you have everything you need in place — like a newsletter template, a blog feed etc… — to make this actually doable.

Step 3: Start collecting emails!
So now that you CAN collect email addresses, how do you actually convince people to start giving you their email? It’s not as easy as you may think.

I’ve written extensively about this in the past, like in this post: 4 Ways to Improve and Increase Your Email Sign-Ups. So I’ll keep this one short.

But here’s the gist of it: People need a reason to sign up. They’re not going to give out their email for no reason. So offer an incentive, like a free download. And make sure you spell out what they should expect to receive and when if they give you their email address.

Finally, it’s important that you tell anyone and everyone that you will not sell or share their email. That assurance of security is essential.

Step 4: Think outside the box about utilizing your list
In this super-helpful recent article on PW by Jane Friedman, she outlines many of her recommendations for using email lists creatively. Here are some highlights.

  • Review your list and determine if anyone on it might benefit from an individualized email instead of a mass email. For example, if someone is an influencer (like a blogger who reviews books), this is someone that you might want to pull out of the larger list. You can then reach out individually to each of these influencers with a more customized message. This will increase the likelihood of making the most of that relationship.
  •  Your email list can be an essential tool in your book release strategy. For example, if you send out a newsletter pre-launch, you can include key details about where the book is available. You might also want to consider offering bonuses for people who buy the book on a particular day (like the day of launch). This can help you sell a lot of books at once, and might allow you to make it on one of Amazon’s top seller lists.
  • Consider collecting additional information from users, and then segmenting your email lists. Asking for more than just an email can be risky (the more you ask for, the more people will bail out). But if you want to be bold, consider collecting additional information, like where someone lives or how many of your books they’ve already read. This will allow you to segment your list and do what’s called “targeted newsletter sends” — dividing your list based on the specific message. In other words, you could notify only people in the midwest if you were doing a local book signing. Or allow you to send separate newsletters to people who are already your superfans vs. the newbies.

As Jane says at the end of her article, “That’s the point at which email marketing becomes among the most valuable and profitable marketing tools, where you can tie specific sales goals to each email you send out.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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