A few months ago, an author asked if it was worth the trouble to set up a newsletter, solicit subscribers, and add yet another marketing time-sink to a thinly stretched self-promotion schedule. She said that marketers seem to push the importance of email lists, but social media users say nobody reads emails anymore.
We’ll admit, we were a bit skeptical about mailing lists, too. But we’ve come around to them because we embrace whole-heartedly the mentality of independent publishing: take control of your destiny.
The Business of Self-Promotion
Even if authors go the traditional route, marketing and promotion often falls to them. Big publishers are not going to waste ad dollars on an unproven, first-time author. So, authors need a way to reach people. Social media allows readers to find the author. An author’s website does the same. And–if an author reaches a certain level of good reviews on Amazon–he or she might show up in the “people who buy this book also buy…” at the bottom of the page.
But there’s no way to broadcast the author’s message to readers, unless the author knows who they are.
That’s where a mailing list comes in. If an author encourages readers to sign up for a newsletter (via a link on Facebook or on a website), readers can opt-in to the author’s message. Then, the author has a way to reach them without any middleman.
Authors can email readers periodically or maybe only when they have big news. They can reward readers for their loyalty by giving something (breaking news, a cover reveal, a free short story) first. At a convention we went to recently, one author even talked about selling his books to his newsletter subscribers at a small discount.
So, how do you get people to sign up? As we mentioned, you can place links on your website and on your Facebook author page. That’s a start. But the best place to do it is through a link in your novel.
In Transmonstrified, we included a link to subscribe to R.L. Naquin’s newsletter in the Introduction as well as on the “About the Author” page in the back matter. This is a powerful way to get people who just read and loved your book to sign up for information so they don’t miss the next one. Even if you’re not writing a series, this is a great hook.
If grown slowly and organically, your mailing list becomes a powerful tool to reach your most loyal readers. Right now, our email lists are growing organically, without much in the way of promotion.
At Bottle Cap Publishing, we are using MailChimp to manage our newsletters and email subscriber lists. However, some authors balk at putting an address on the bottom of every email, a requirement for the US CAN-SPAM Act.
We hear what you’re saying about giving your address to subscribers. We had similar reservations and opted to get a PO Box for that very reason. A small PO box is a modest expense and one you can write off on your taxes as a business expense.
Can’t I Just Write Novels?
We know the business aspect of writing isn’t for everyone. Some authors want to write and leave all this to someone else. And that’s okay. If you can find a manager/consultant to handle this stuff for you (and they don’t cost you an arm and a leg) hand it off. But we believe that aside from a small learning curve, email marketing is something any author can do.
Questions? Comments? Feel free to leave a comment below. We’re always happy to hear how other authors handle self-promotion.
Our original title for this blog post was “Your Newsletter Subscribers Are Gold: Why Email LIsts Matter in Book Marketing and Author Self-Promotion.” But that sounded a bit like a dissertation, not a blog post.