Building Your Mailing List

Building your mailing list can take more time, aggravation, tears, and patience than writing the actual book. Some people don't realize this, so it can come as an unexpected surprise.

People don’t like sharing their email. With the proliferation of spam and phishing accounts on the web, getting people to part with their emails is an uphill battle. Still, as we’ve learned so far, nothing is impossible with a little bit of tact and resourcefulness. So how do we do it?

Family and Friends
Ask your family and friends to join. This will give you a chance to practice sending newsletters, as well as to test the forms being used. Is your newsletter easy to sign up to? Are there too many steps? Did it go to the Spam folder? Are your emails boring, predictable, spammy? Take this time to get their thoughts on what you’re doing, and how you can make them better.

Fan Pages
By now, you should have a fan page at a social media site, if not a few of them. Post there for your fans, let them know you’re starting your newsletter, and you’d love it if they joined. Include a line that you’ll only send when you have something to say, so they won’t be deluged with emails.

Takeovers
Whenever you do author takeovers or guest posts somewhere, be sure to mention your newsletter sign-up link. If people were interested in what you posted and enjoyed your writing, they’re more likely to sign up to your newsletter during the event.

Giveaways
Run giveaways for your mailing list. Sometimes, people need to see something a few times before it catches their attention. So if you’ve done a takeover, a week or two later, offer a giveaway for sign-ups. A $5 Amazon coupon, autographed print book, Ebooks, some swag… whatever can garner interest, use it. Include extra “entries” if they share the post, on one or more social media pages. This keeps it circulating and in people’s feeds.

Newsletter Swap Events
No, we don’t mean share your newsletter. Never ever do this. It’s bad business practice and people will unsubscribe the moment they realize you sold or shared their information. There are companies that exist solely to help authors build their mailing lists. What they do is, they choose a genre to “host” for a month.

Authors sign up as interested authors, and pay the fee for hosting. Once enough authors sign up to a particular event, each author shares the giveaway link to their own newsletter. Interested readers sign up for the giveaway, acknowledging that they understand they’re giving all participating authors their email. If you happen to be in a popular genre, this can net anywhere from 30 to 5,000 newsletter sign-ups.

Social Blitzes
Met some great authors? Share their links. Tag them. Let them know you’ve done something to broaden their reach. When you post yours, these authors are likely to remember you’d done something nice for them, and be more willing to share out your links in return. Get a few authors together, and create a far reaching social blitz that helps the authors participating by sharing far beyond their normal fans. Run a newsletter contest together, where readers have to sign up to all newsletters to win a prize that all authors contributed to. This is a great way to reach more potential readers.

Event Forms
Print out a sheet for newsletter sign-ups if you plan on going to any author events. Interested people can add their email to the list, which you can then import into your mailing list provider once you’re home. Another option is to have a second laptop, if the location you’re at has WiFi for the authors to use. Set it to your online form, and let people sign up at your booth. Be sure to give them a business card or small swag item, that way when they get home and get your first email, they’ll remember you instead of clicking unsubscribe right away. Bonus, somewhere on your business card, put “Be sure to sign up for news, giveaways, and more!” or something of that nature. Remind them you’ve got one!

Free Books
This is a staple of newsletter marketing. However, if you don’t have a large backlist, putting up one for free can physically hurt. Consider offering up a few shorter stories instead. Write an epilogue, added scene, or a look at a secondary character. Give readers a reason to sign up to see more of your work, and they usually will.

Call To Action Buttons
Facebook allows you to add a “call to action” button to the top of your fan page. Use this to link to your sign-up form, and new visitors to your page will be prompted to sign up for your newsletter. It’s unobtrusive, but it does help with reminding readers to click if they’d like to keep in contact with you. As we said, it takes seeing things a few times to peak interest, so seeing a link and then a sign-up button can gain you more subscribers than a link alone.

Once you have subscribers, you need to keep them. Don’t spam. Send emails when you have new releases, when you’re pimping out a giveaway, when you’re working on something new. Don’t sweat the unsubscribes. They happen to everyone and there is no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes people forget they gave you their email. Or, more likely, they signed up for a giveaway and unsubscribed after. We can’t force people to remain on our mailing lists, but we can entice them with regular giveaways and interesting, insightful emails.

Once you’ve developed a healthy list, stop offering giveaways for your newsletter. Instead, start offering subscriber ONLY giveaways. That way, the people already on your list will stay, and more people will join and stay, knowing that you regularly offer subscribers a special contest or extra ‘goodie’ just for them.

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