Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Email Lists & Selling That Book You Wrote: 5 Tips

Give me your email address! All the email addresses! One address. Two address. Three address!

Yeah, I know sometimes it feels like you can't go anywhere on the web without someone demanding your email address, and you don't want to be one of those people. Yet, you kind of, sort of, awfully badly want to be one of those people whose books sell.

Here's the thing, second only to writing the next book, email lists are the best marketing tool. To make it sound less sales-oriented and more about connecting with the reader, the authorverse often refers to email lists as newsletter subscribers. In the world of marketing, there is a difference, but for the sake of this post, I'll use the terms interchangeably.

If you're feeling skeevy about email lists think of them this way: these are people who want you to tell them when you have a new book out. They want to buy your book. Why wouldn't you tell them?


As in, you don't want to be spammy. You hate being spammed by overenthusiastic authors who somehow got your email address and now they're like your crazy aunt who won't stop emailing you.

There are scads of How To Build Your Newsletter Subscribers classes out there, and too many of them advocate mailing campaigns that are better suited for retailers than authors. There absolutely is such a monster as Too Much Communication, especially when there is no value-add for the customer. Want to know how to tell when a Big Retailer has someone on-the-ball in heir marketing department? Their newsletter settings allow the customer to define how often the company contacts them: Daily. Weekly. Monthly. Quarterly. Only When There's Big News. Do I think you need to have that setting? No.

You're an author not a retailer.  

Anything you do that takes away from writing the next book, better have a high Return On Investment (ROI). That is why I am a proponent of less is more. I believe strongly in the unspoken agreement between reader and author. One part of that agreement is the author will never abuse information given to them by a reader. This includes their email address.

How often you should send a newsletter and the content of your newsletters are different posts for different days, but the short version is: send when you have a new book to sell. If you are a writer who drops a new book every month, then you have a reason to send a monthly newsletter. Same thing for quarterly. If you're releasing serialized works in addition to novels, those two lists should be separate.

5 Things To Do To Build Your Email List

  • Make it easy for people to subscribe. Put a link to your subscription page in the back matter of your ebooks. Put the subscribe box on the main page of your website. 
    • Note: Popovers (those windows that appear over the web page) do generate a lot of subscribers but they also turn away a lot of potential readers. The jury is split on their effectiveness. It's the latest way to combat "sidebar-blindness" in which the visitor ignores whatever is in the sidebar/header/footer, etc.
  • Cross-promote in author newsletters that are in the same genre as your book
    • Note: That promotion should go to a landing page that should include your subscription widget. Same applies to landing pages from ad campaigns: they should always include the option to subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Offer a free short story exclusive to subscribers
    • Note: Some authors offer other freebies with a "chance to win" to "new subscribers only." Some offer offline-tangible things (like swag). Do what's right for you. Keep in mind, you're an author, the product you're selling is your stories, so no need to go overboard with prizes. Don't make it complicated. 
  • Remind your social media followers to subscribe. Remind them there are things in the newsletter they won't see in 140 characters and a gif. 
    • Note: Be selective about when you do it, say a week before you drop a newsletter. Don't do it daily or weekly, it becomes noise that's easy to ignore.
  • Plug it. Pin it. Embed it. Everywhere your author bio appears should also include a reminder to subscribe. If it's digital, then include the link to the subscription page. Twitter and Facebook had "pinned" posts option, rotate in a subscription promo when you're in the lull after new release promo. Offline, verbally encourage subscriptions. Remind readers of the benefits. 

Remember it's quality over quantity. Valuable subscribers are the ones who actually open your emails, then go buy your books. Brace yourself. Open Rates are a small fraction of your total list. Click Thru Rates (CTR) are a fraction of the Open Rates. Buy Rates are an even smaller fraction of CTR.  

Never, ever, ever sign people up for your newsletter without their consent. 
In some states, that is how you run afoul of anti-spam laws. 

Keep your efforts focused on your primary goal: Sell Your Books.


  1. Replies
    1. thankyouveddymuch, some might even be useful! :D

  2. I need to study at the Newsletter/email list school of KAK. Also. Pop up windows? It's possible I consistently close them with an invective summarily suggesting they go procreate in a corner. In far less polite terms. So yeah. No pop ups for me.

    1. ~muuwah~ The popovers/ups they're something I'd suggest trying in conjunction with a launch campaign, then comparing the newsletter "opens" you gained during that trial period to the "opens" you have w/o the pop-up in place (note: "opens" not "new subscribers"). You might find that a 30-day pop-up is useful, and it's temporary nature less likely to make you feel skeevy.