All authors are marketers, but not all of us are good at it. However, if we want others to read our books, we must be more involved with getting the word out. This self-promotion is necessary whether you’re self-published or traditionally published.
When you’re self-published, it’s entirely up to you to spread the word about your book. But you’re not off the hook if you’re working with a traditional book publisher. Sure, your publisher may have a marketing team and be willing and able to invest in introductory marketing for your book. However, it’s best to prepare for the probability that your publisher won’t fully fund a nationwide book tour or secure a prime spot on the morning news shows so you can talk about your novel. Frankly, that treatment is for only the select few authors who already have a buzz around their name or story.
For most of us, despite our mode of publishing, the grim reality is that we’ll need to market our books if we want our target audience to even hear about our stories.
Self-promotion is where email marketing becomes particularly valuable. Building an email list is one of the most uncomplicated and affordable actions to market your book to your audience. This post explains the benefits of creating an author email list and gives you pointers on how to do it. Let’s get started.
What is an Author Email List?
Let’s begin by quickly defining the term “author email list.”
An author email list is a list of email addresses that belong to people who have subscribed to receive updates and other promotional emails from an author. An email list and a contact list are different. A contact list contains email addresses for people you likely know personally or professionally. These are people you may correspond with personally via email.
By contrast, your author email list will likely contain email addresses belonging to people who you may never know or write to personally. Instead, this list represents people who have signed up with the explicit purpose of receiving marketing-type emails from you. They want to know about the status of your book, when it will be available to purchase, and where they can buy it. Of course, this may not be the extent of your “marketing” emails to those on your author list. As we’ll discuss later in this post, your outgoing emails may offer different types of content to forge trust with your audience.
Your author email list may include people you know, but it’s far more likely to include the target audience for your book. In other words, those on your author email list are your fans or fans-in-the-making. They may have subscribed to your email list because they’ve just finished reading your latest book and want notification of your subsequent releases. Or they may have subscribed because they wanted to take advantage of a promo code you’ve offered to new readers to promote your book.
Whatever the case, your author email list usually reflects people who are deeply invested in your content and want to maintain a connection with you.
What are the Benefits of Creating an Author Email List?
Have you ever heard the phrase “The money’s in the list”? The list in question refers to the email list. There’s a reason why every business, from retailers to restaurants, asks you to sign up for their email list: It’s profitable.
You may be thinking that you’re not a business. You’re an author.
But, I will respectfully challenge that idea.
If you’re selling a product, you’re running a business. And, for you, dear author, that product is your book. If you want to push your product successfully, you’ll need to adopt the same strategy that all major retailers use: Engage your subscribers in their inboxes.
Why is the inbox so important?
Consider this. We may not all use social media. And, even if we do, we may use different types of social media. We may only sometimes frequent the same blogs, watch the same morning shows, or listen to the same podcasts.
But we all use email. If you can get permission to send regular emails to your fanbase, you’ll have a captive audience of people you may have missed if you marketed elsewhere.
People check emails multiple times a day. If you send emails regularly, they’ll notice. And, if your email subject line interests them, they’ll open it. If you can reel them in with your first couple of sentences, you may even get them to follow your call to action and increase the odds that they’ll open future emails from you.
Getting this type of engagement in our busy world isn’t easy. Everyone and every business is fighting for your audience’s attention. But it’s easier to do in the inbox than on social media or offline marketing.
Did I mention that email marketing is affordable, too?
Minus the cost of your email marketing service (more on this later), you can send emails for free. All it costs is the time it takes to compose the emails. That’s one of the reasons why so many businesses utilize email marketing: It’s cost-effective and has a crazy-high return on investment.
Not only is email marketing cheap, but it’s easy, too. If you’ve ever sent an email, and I’m willing to bet you have, you can create a marketing email. Email marketing services like MailChimp and ConvertKit make it ultra-simple to send out professionally-looking emails to hundreds or thousands of your email subscribers with the click of a button. There’s no excuse to put off email marketing another day.
How Do You Create an Email List?
An author will face two common obstacles when they think about starting their email list. First, how do you get started? And second, do you need to have a fanbase before you start an email list?
Let’s start with the second question first. Many authors mistakenly believe they must have an established fanbase before building an email list. Fortunately, that’s not necessary at all. It’s best to start before your name has even any recognition in your genre.
You want to find a way to capture early fans who show interest in connecting with you as soon as possible. If you don’t already have an email list, you’re relying on their memory to check back on you periodically, leaving too much to chance. Instead, create an email list to stay connected to everyone interested in learning about you and your books.
So now, let’s discuss how to get started with creating an email list.
Sign Up for an Email Marketing Service
The first step to building an email list is to sign up for an email marketing service. This service lets you collect email addresses and send marketing-related emails to your subscribers. An email marketing service allows subscribers to unsubscribe from your email list anytime. The “unsubscribe” option isn’t “nice to have”; it’s a legal requirement. If you don’t allow your subscribers to opt out of your emails, you can receive a fine of $10,000 or more per violation.
Fortunately, you can save yourself using an email marketing service like MailChimp and ConvertKit. There are many other services on the market, but these two offer free plans for those just starting with email marketing.
Set Up Your Author Website
The next step is to create a website for yourself. Check out our guide here on how to create an author website for under $100.
Can't you collect emails without building a website?
Technically, yes. Your email marketing service may also provide a landing page or a one-page website that allows you to collect email addresses. However, there are a lot of perks to building an author website.
First, you can use it to attract new readers and then properly introduce yourself to your audience.
Second, you can use your website to invite visitors to join your email list formally. Creating the exact message and experience you want on your website is much easier.
Your email marketing service will provide instructions on collecting email addresses through your website.
Create a Lead Magnet
The next step is to create a lead magnet. A lead magnet is a gift you can offer your website visitors in exchange for signing up for your email list. Your lead magnet makes signing up for your email list a no-brainer.
Your lead magnet can be anything that your fanbase finds valuable. Your fans may appreciate the first chapter of your book, a poster of your book cover, a map of your fictional world, a short story involving characters from your novel, or a discount code for your book.
Write a Welcome Email Series
Set up a list of welcome emails. Your email marketing service can automatically send out your welcome email series to new subscribers on a set schedule (i.e., once a day for a week).
Creating this series of emails will give your subscribers a chance to get up to date with who you are and what types of emails they can expect from you in the future. You can also create the email automations yourself, but it can become challenging if you’re not email-savvy.
Your welcome email series may include information about the book, how the reader can order, a unique discount code, or an exclusive freebie, like a deleted chapter/scene.
Your welcome email series aims to build a relationship with your fans and get them accustomed to interacting with your emails.
How Do You Use Your Email List to Sell More Books?
Here's the secret to selling more books with your email list: Be consistent.
Don’t start your email engagement with a series of welcome emails and then fall off the earth after sending those emails. You must send emails consistently to build relationships with current and prospective fans. This frequency helps you stay fresh in the minds of your audience, ultimately enabling you to sell more books to your fanbase.
Every author can benefit from building an email list. Think of email as your least expensive method to self-promote. Use email to help you develop and nurture your fanbase.