An author website and social media accounts are important aspects of your author platform. However, one tool that many authors wait to utilize, or do not utilize at all, is an email list, also called an author newsletter. Ignoring the email list as a tool is one of the biggest regrets veteran independent authors have later in their careers. Learn from their mistakes and set up your email list early.
What exactly is an email list?
An email list is a virtual address book filled with the email addresses of your readers. Once you set an email list up, your readers can sign themselves up for your list (in the same way that you subscribe to the mailing lists of your favorite retailers to receive news and coupons).
Why do I need an email list?
Your email list guarantees direct contact with your most interested readers. You can send out tweets and Facebook posts all you want, but there are no guarantees that your readers will see these updates. Likewise, your readers may not always check your website for news. Additionally, if you simply rely on your readers checking online retailers, like Amazon or Barnes and Noble, to find out about available books or sales, your readers are likely to miss the memo. With an email list, you avoid all this by going straight to your readers’ inboxes.
What should I email my readers about?
Like your author website and social media accounts, the content of your email list is up to your discretion. However, some common topics include:
- Notice when a new book is released
- Notice when a new service is available
- Notice of a book/service on sale
- Updates on your works-in-progress
- Sharing reviews of your books
- Book reviews and suggestions of books in your genre(s)
- Personal updates (traveling, new pet, etc.)
- Highlighting blog posts they may be interested in
- Giving out advance reader copies or beta reading copies of your work
Do I need an email list and a blog?
There is debate about this topic. My answer is yes. I have two reasons.
1A) If you are fiction author, your readers probably care more about reading your books and knowing information specifically related to your books. Think about how many author blogs you read as a fiction reader. Probably not a lot.
1B) If you are a nonfiction author, your readers may be more likely to read your blog (if you blog about the same topics). However, they may be more interested in reading the content in a condensed form (book) than reading a daily/weekly blog.
If readers don’t read your blog, they’ll miss your news. Emails are much more digestible and can give readers exactly what they want quickly and efficiently.
2) Your blog readership does not necessarily reflect your loyal readership. For instance, my blog has over 400 WordPress followers. However, only about 20-30 of these read my blog regularly (judging by likes and comments). Many of these people are the same as ones on my email list (and many on my email list do not read my blog). Therefore, when I really need a favor (like beta readers) or have important updates, I can direct them to the people who actually care and are likely to respond to me in some way.
How often should I email my list?
Again, this is highly debated. The three most popular options are once a month, twice a month, and once a week. Personally, I do twice a month. The exact frequency of your emails does not matter too greatly, as long as you follow these guidelines:
- Email frequently enough that your readers do not forget who you are and block you as spam or unsubscribe from your list.
- Do not email only when you have a book for sale. It feels impersonal and will likely violate the first guideline.
- Do not email just for the sake of emailing. If you have nothing to say, it’s better to skip a week than waste your readers’ time.
How do I set up an email list?
The two most popular email list services are MailChimp and Aweber. You can read their tutorials on their websites. Both are great and will get the job done. However, if you are just starting out as an author, or are on a low budget, I suggest MailChimp. They have a free plan that lets you send emails for free until you have over 2,000 subscribers. You can read about that plan here. It’s the one I use.
Quick tip: To comply with CAN-SPAM laws, all email services require you to provide a physical mailing address. If you are uncomfortable providing your home address (like I am), you can get a postal box instead.
How do I get readers to sign up for my email list?
- Offer free content (chapter, short story, novella, novel)
- Put links in the back of your e-book(s) (especially if your book has a sequel coming that is not out yet)
- List the benefits (let them know how useful it is!)
- Put links on all possible websites and social media accounts (if they don’t know it exists, they won’t sign up)
Your email list is the best way to reach your readers directly. Likewise, it puts readers in direct contact with you for any questions or comments. From the readers’ perspective, it is a convenient and quick way to stay up-to-date on their favorite author’s (you!) book releases, works-in-progress, sales, and personal life. Even if you have an author website, blog, and/or social media accounts, an email newsletter is the only way you can guarantee that your most loyal readers receive the information you want them to receive.
Don’t wait until you’ve written a dozen books to use this tool. Start an email list now, even if you do not have a book out yet. You will build relationships, reputation, and anticipation. And when you finally do publish your book, you’ll have a group of great people ready and waiting to buy it. Seriously, do yourself a favor and get started today!
For more on building your author platform, click here.
You can sign up for my email newsletter here.