Question: How can I start collecting people’s email addresses for email marketing purposes?


Email marketing can be more powerful than social media and ads for connecting with readers.Answer:

Email marketing has the power to be more effective than social media and paid advertising, and can help you connect with your audience beyond just your book. When properly maintained, an email newsletter can lead to increased awareness of you, your work, and upcoming events, along with future opportunities and ultimately, more readers that are educated, entertained, or inspired by you.

It's never too early to start building your email distribution list, but it’s important to have a well thought-out strategy before you start requesting sign-ups. Here are three recommended steps to grow your contact list responsibly, and to connect with the people who care most about what you have to share:

1. Make it Really Easy for People to Sign Up

In order for people to sign up for your email newsletter, they have to know about it. Whether through an online presence or in-person events (or both!), you need to be talking about your newsletter and the benefits of subscribing, while making it as simple as possible for someone to be added to your list.

Online Sign-Ups

Website or Blog: Many website and blog platforms allow users to integrate sign-up form landing pages and pop-up boxes with sign-up forms. Email platforms like MailChimp offer assistance with creating landing pages and pop-up forms. If you aren’t comfortable with technology, you can hire help.

Include a pop-up box on your website that promotes your author newsletter.Social Media: The account profiles on popular social media platforms allow users to include website information and other links. You can include a link to your newsletter sign-up page and make your followers aware of your newsletter in an occasional post. In addition, MailChimp users can take advantage of the Facebook integration and add a sign-up form to their Facebook fan or business page.

Email Signature: The block of contact information at the bottom of an email is called an email signature. This is a great place to include mention of your newsletter with a link to the sign-up page.

Author Biography: You likely have many versions of your author bio in both short form and long form. You should have a version that includes mention of your newsletter with a link to sign up. Use this version when doing any speaking engagements, panels, or guest blog posts and articles.

Have a tablet at events so that readers can sign up for your author newsletter.In-Person Sign-Ups

Tablet: If you’re comfortable with technology, have an iPad or other tablet on hand with an electronic sign-up form or with your website’s sign-up form pulled up.

Clipboard: If technology overwhelms you, have a clipboard and pen on hand with a printed sign-up form for people to fill out. 

Collateral: When handing out bookmarks, business cards, or one-sheets, include a link or QR code to where people can sign up for your newsletter online.

Other tactics for growing your email distribution list include providing the information and link in your book’s front or back matter, and doing “newsletter swaps” with authors that have a similar target audience. With a newsletter swap, you provide a 2 to 3 line introduction of your newsletter to another author, along with a link to your sign-up page. The author adds this information to one of his or her upcoming newsletters, and you do the same in return with the information provided by that author. The idea is that readers who subscribe to the newsletter of other authors in your genre may also be interested in subscribing to yours.

2. Incentivize People to Sign Up

Most people are drowning in emails with loads of spam emails to weed through to find the important ones. No one is thinking, “I need more emails!” Therefore, you must give people an irresistible reason to sign up for your email newsletter. That is where a “reader magnet” or incentive comes in.

A reader magnet is what you use to entice someone to join your email list. Essentially, you’re offering something in return for providing their contact information. What will attract fiction readers will differ greatly from what will attract nonfiction readers, so it’s important to think about your target audience when determining your reader magnet.

Entice readers to sign up for your author newsletter by offer something for free.There are two primary ways to entice readers to subscribe:

Offering something of value: In exchange for providing an email address and signing up for your newsletter, many authors give a free download to new subscribers. This can be a short story, a character sketch, a deleted chapter or scene, or helpful guide. Nonfiction authors can offer lists, assessments, or worksheets related to their book’s topic. No matter the freebie, make sure it is easy to download and access.

Entry in a giveaway or raffle: People love the opportunity to win something! To build her mailing lists, author Nancy J. Cohen uses author giveaways through sites like BookSweeps, AuthorsXP, and BookFunnel. Your giveaway or prize can be a signed copy or special edition of your book, an advance review copy of your soon-to-be-released book, branded merchandise, or even one of your favorite books from another author. The possibilities are endless!

In addition to a reader magnet, you need to be upfront on how often subscribers will receive your newsletter and what they will gain. What can they look forward to receiving from you? It’s important to consistently provide value in your newsletters, whether in the form of education, entertainment, or inspiration.

3. Stay Compliant and Avoid Spamming People

Just because you have a list of emails in your contact or networking file, doesn’t mean you should automatically add these emails to your newsletter distribution. The proper process is to invite people to subscribe to your newsletter or “opt in”, meaning they are giving you permission to send your newsletters. You can certainly send personal invites to your contacts, family, and friends, and ask them to share the invite with their networks. Even if it's not of interest to them, they may know someone that will be interested.

U.S. consumers are protected by the “CAN-SPAM Act”, which sets regulations for commercial email messages. To stay CAN-SPAM compliant and avoid hefty fines, you must give people a way to unsubscribe from your mailing list. You must also include a physical postal mailing address, which can be a P.O. Box if you prefer. Most email marketing service providers have a simple way to include these requirements in the footer of your emails, so it’s important to use a reputable platform. Don’t use your Gmail or Yahoo email account for managing and sending email newsletters.

Give readers the opportunity to opt in to your author newsletter.

Lastly, to remain compliant, be honest in your messaging. Don't use deceptive sender information, subject lines, headlines, or email copy. You don’t want your emails to land in Spam or Junk folders, and you don’t want followers to immediately unsubscribe from your newsletter due to shady practices.

Commercial messaging regulations can differ by country, so be sure to research your country’s laws.

Should I Purchase Email Lists?

It’s not uncommon for companies to target authors with compiled lists of “reader leads” in exchange for a fee. While it might be tempting to take the easy way out and buy a list of emails, we don’t recommend this practice. These lists aren’t vetted and the emails may no longer even be in use. You could end up emailing a bunch of people that have zero interest in your genre or topic, or in reading altogether. Building an email list organically will always serve you better than buying a list.

Websites like BookFunnel and StoryOrigin offer features for building and managing email newsletters with a paid subscription, which might be a better option if you want to create a list more quickly or are looking for assistance with the process.

These days, there are an overwhelming amount of entities and companies competing for attention through email marketing, so make sure you have the time to sustain meaningful and consistent communications with your followers. If you approach the process thinking only about promotional purposes, you will likely fail. Consider your email newsletter an opportunity to provide value, hone your writing skills, and build long-term relationships.

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