Most authors will have heard the gurus proclaiming that building an email list is essential for modern-day writing success, but very few start with the basics to explain why that is. Faced with the prospect of building a mailing list, most authors would run a mile. Screams of "I’m not very good with computers" and "I just want to write my books" will be heard, as they disappear into the distance. However, the simple truth is, if you’re not attempting to build a list of reader emails, you’re making life far more difficult than it needs to be, and you’re really missing a key book marketing tool.
Let’s deal with the objections first:
Q: I can’t afford it!
A: Yes, you can. Mailchimp and MailerLite are both free.
Q: I’m useless on computers!
A: We all were at one time. The good news is, there’s lots of free support available. If you can move a mouse, follow simple instructions, and type text into a PC, you can do this. Both Mailchimp and MailerLite offer training on their sites.
With the objections out of the way, we can start to dig in, and where better to start than explaining what email marketing involves.
Steps Involved in Basic Email Marketing
1. A Reader Signs Up
Readers sign up to receive author updates and more via a form on your website or a link at the back of your book. You might offer them some free content by means of encouragement, an extract of your book perhaps (in PDF/downloadable format) or even the first book in a series. They will have to enter their email (always) and their name (optional) to be able to receive your emails.
2. Email Verification
If you’re using a reputable service such as Mailchimp or MailerLite (many others are available, but not usually for free) your reader will receive an automated email asking them if they are sure that they want to receive emails from you. This is called the double opt-in process and it helps to keep you on the right side of spam regulations. Your reader will have to click a link to confirm that they wish to hear from you. Once they do that, you can send email marketing to them whenever you want.
3. Follow the Rules
Every marketing email that you send out should include an unsubscribe link and the good news is that Mailchimp and MailerLite take care of this for you. Once again, this keeps you on the right side of email marketing rules. People receiving your emails should be able to stop them whenever they want. Your email marketing service should handle all of this for you.
4. How Often to Send
All you need to do is send out emails updating existing and potential readers about what you’re up to. Many authors are reluctant to send out more than one email per month – don’t be; you can send one a week if you want, so long as what you’re saying is interesting and engaging for your readers. This is the key to any good book marketing.
What to Include in Your Emails
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Writing updates – what you’re writing/reading/researching
- Special offers – book bundles, free promos, price reductions
- Links to interesting articles which you have spotted online
- News about your everyday life – nothing too personal, but used well, this can help to strengthen your relationship with your readers
- Extracts from your books and short-stories
- Informal surveys – Who’s your favourite character? What books are you reading? What should the location of my next book be?
Some of you might still be asking what the point of all this is.
Imagine a shopkeeper who has people popping into her shop all day, browsing, but never buying. The shopkeeper lets them wander out of the store, never asking if she can help them and not bothering to chat. How would you feel if you were that customer?
Now, imagine if the shopkeeper greeted you, asked you how she could help, and then made an effort to get to know about you, your needs, your likes and dislikes. If the shop is your website, not having the ability to communicate with customers makes you as poor a shopkeeper as in my first example. Don't be remote from your prospects. Take time to engage with them and find out more about them.
With email marketing you can get closer to your readers and prospects, and when all is finely-tuned and you’ve got the hang of it, it’s like having customers on demand. Who wouldn’t want that in their business?