In the modern age, you can’t publish a book and expect people to know about it. Gone are the days of advertising in newspapers and magazines (remember those?). The effectiveness of in-store events has diminished with the rise of online shopping and digital media consumption. Plus, fewer physical bookstores and fewer people visiting them means authors must step outside traditional means of reaching their audience. And television or radio advertising? Forget about it. With media fragmentation and the rise of streaming services, these channels don't guarantee the broad reach they once did.
You, and any author who wishes to eke out a measure of success, must embrace the modern age. It’s time to go digital with your marketing, even if your book is traditionally published. And that starts by building an email list.
You may still need to learn what an email list is, why you need it to market your books, or how to build one. That’s where this guide comes in. It’s a comprehensive but beginner-friendly guide to building an engaged email list from scratch, and it’s tailored specifically for authors looking to connect with their readers in the most direct and personal way possible. Let’s get started.
What is an Email List?
An email list is a collection of email addresses you gather from people interested in your content, products, or services. When people sign up to be on your email list, they permit you to send them updates, newsletters, promotional materials, or other emails directly to their inbox.
Here's a quick breakdown:
You collect email addresses through your website, social media, in-person events, or online platforms. People enter their email addresses and agree to receive emails from you.
You use this list to communicate with your audience. You can send information about your new book release, blog posts, exclusive offers, or any news you think they would be interested in.
It’s really that simple.
An email list is like having a direct line to your readers or customers, making your email list a powerful tool for building relationships and growing your platform or business.
Why Do You Need to Build an Email List?
Your email list helps you build a personal connection with your audience. Unlike social media, where your posts might get lost in a sea of content, emails land directly in a person's inbox, making it more likely they will see and engage with your message.
Here are some compelling reasons why every author should prioritize building an email list:
Direct and Personal Communication. Your email list allows for direct communication with your readers. Unlike social media algorithms that decide who sees your content, emails ensure your message reaches your subscribers' inboxes.
Control and Independence. You own your email list. You're at the mercy of changing policies and algorithms in other platforms. However, your email list is entirely under your control.
Increased Book Sales. When you launch a new book, your email list serves as a ready-made audience who are more likely to purchase your book. This vetted list can lead to higher initial sales and better rankings.
Audience Insights. Email interactions can provide valuable insights into your audience's preferences. You can use this insight to tailor your content, marketing strategies, and writing to meet their needs and interests.
Cost-Effective Marketing. Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies. It offers a high return on investment as you can reach several people at a relatively low cost.
Long-Term Relationships. Regular email communication helps in building long-term relationships with your readers. It keeps your audience engaged and invested in your journey as an author.
Boost Event Attendance. Whether hosting a Q&A, book reading, or a signing event, your email list is a great tool to boost attendance. Your subscribers are your most loyal fans and are more likely to participate in your events.
Drive Traffic to Your Blog or Website. Regular newsletters can drive subscribers back to your latest blog posts or website content, increasing your site's traffic and improving your search engine rankings.
Build Anticipation and Buzz. Use your email list to build anticipation for your upcoming book releases. Teasers, exclusive excerpts, or pre-order bonuses can create buzz and ensure a successful launch.
Crisis Management. In case of unforeseen issues, such as a canceled event or a publication delay, your email list is the fastest way to update your readers and manage the situation effectively.
Your email list is not just a marketing tool. It represents a community of individuals who have chosen to embark on your literary journey with you. It's an asset that grows over time, ensuring your target audience still hears your voice in the increasingly crowded digital space.
What If You Don’t Have Any Visitors on Your Website?
Building an email list is a fantastic goal for authors, even if your website still needs to garner your audience’s attention. It's like planting seeds for your future garden. As your website traffic grows, so will your list.
And things can change quickly. If one of your books or blog posts suddenly gets attention, having an email list means you're prepared to capitalize on this surge in interest.
Remember that your email list will provide a stable and direct way to communicate with your audience. So, set the foundation now and build on it in the future. But how? Let’s talk about that next.
3 Tips to Build Your Email List
Building an email list from scratch can be daunting, but you can effectively grow a valuable list with the right strategies.
1. Create a Strong Lead Magnet
One of the easiest ways to grow your email list is by providing a lead magnet.
A lead magnet is a free item or service you offer potential subscribers in exchange for their email addresses. You're giving something valuable to your audience, and in return, they trust you with their email.
As an author, your lead magnet should offer a taste of your unique style and content. Here are some fantastic ideas you can consider:
Exclusive eBook or Guide. Offer a portion of your book or an exclusive guide unavailable anywhere else. It's like a secret chapter just for your subscribers.
Free First Chapters. Share the first few chapters of your book. Hook your readers right from the start.
Writing Templates or Checklists. If you're into non-fiction, especially how-to guides or self-help, templates or checklists related to your book's content can be incredibly valuable.
Online Workshop. Offer a session where you share your insights on writing, storytelling, or even the publishing journey. It can be a live or recorded session.
Exclusive Short Stories or Poems. If you write fiction or poetry, a small, subscriber-only collection can make your readers feel special.
Now, let’s talk about how to create a lead magnet. Fortunately, setting up your lead magnet doesn't have to be a tech nightmare. Here's a simple way to get it rolling:
Create Your Content. Whatever you choose, whether it’s a PDF or video series, to offer as a lead magnet, keep it short and simple. Most word processors allow you to save your content as a PDF. And, for videos, you can create private playlists and share the link.
Choose an Email Marketing Service. Platforms like Mailchimp, ConvertKit, or AWeber offer user-friendly ways to automatically manage your email list and distribute your lead magnet.
Set Up an Opt-In Form. Use your chosen platform to create an opt-in form to embed on your website or blog. Each platform will have individual instructions on adding this form to your website. More on this below.
Deliver the Magnet. Once someone signs up, your email service should automatically send the lead magnet. Make sure this process is smooth. Your first interaction sets the tone for your relationship with your subscriber.
2. Optimize Your Website for Sign-ups
So, let’s talk about your opt-in form. Your email marketing tool might provide multiple types of opt-in forms that you can use on your website. But what are the best practices for displaying your email newsletter opt-in form? Let's break it down:
Make It Visible. Your sign-up form should be one of the first parts of your site that visitors see. Don't hide it away in a corner. Consider placing it prominently on your homepage, in the sidebar, or as a header or footer on every page. A floating sign-up bar is also a great option, as it stays visible when the user scrolls.
Keep It Simple. The sign-up process should be straightforward. Ask only for essential information, like an email address and a first name, to personalize emails. Long forms can be intimidating and may drive potential subscribers away.
Use Engaging Calls to Action (CTAs). Your CTA buttons and text should be compelling and clear. Use action-oriented, persuasive language like "Join the adventure," "Get your free guide now," or "Start your journey." Make the button stand out with a contrasting color.
Offer a Sneak Peek. Show a preview or teaser of what subscribers will receive. It could be a snippet from your newsletter, a sample eBook cover, or testimonials from current subscribers.
Leverage Pop-ups Wisely. While pop-ups can be effective, they can be intrusive if not used correctly. Time them to appear after the visitor has spent a certain amount of time on your site or is about to leave (exit-intent pop-ups). Always ensure they're easy to close and don't disrupt the overall user experience.
As for email marketing tools, there are several user-friendly and cost-effective options available that can help automate and streamline this process:
Mailchimp. Known for its user-friendly interface, Mailchimp offers a free plan, which is excellent for starters. It allows you to create forms, send out emails, and analyze the success of your campaigns.
ConvertKit. This platform is designed specifically for authors and bloggers and is very intuitive. The free tier offers basic features; you can upgrade as your list grows.
Sendinblue. This tool is also friendly for beginners and offers a free plan. It's fantastic for managing email campaigns, transactional emails, and SMS messages.
MailerLite. Known for its simplicity and beautiful design options, MailerLite offers a free plan for up to 1,000 subscribers and includes features like automation, landing pages, and pop-ups.
Remember, the key is to start simple and authentic. As you get more comfortable, you can experiment with different placements, wording, and tools to see what resonates most with your audience.
3. Use Social Media Platforms
So, earlier, I said that it’s easy for your message to get lost in social media because you’re at the mercy of constantly changing algorithms. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore social media altogether. Just remember that social media isn’t a place for direct sales. It's more like a cocktail party. It’s a place for mingling and sparking interest.
Use your social media platforms as a bridge to your email list. Share snippets of your content, teasers of your lead magnets, or insights into your writing process, and then gently guide your followers toward your email list for more in-depth, exclusive content.
This way, you turn the fleeting attention on social media into lasting connections through your email list without getting lost in the noise.
Leveraging these platforms can significantly amplify your reach and attract subscribers to your email list. Here's how you can make the most of social media to promote your lead magnet:
Choose the Right Platforms
Not all social media is created equal, especially for your target audience. For authors, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn can be particularly effective.
Instagram and Pinterest are your go-to spots if your content is more visual (think book covers, infographics, or short video teasers). For more professional or business-related content, LinkedIn can be incredibly effective.
Create Engaging Content
Different platforms require different levels of engagement. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Facebook. Share posts about your lead magnet with captivating images of your book cover or a sneak peek of the content. Facebook groups are also a goldmine. Join groups relevant to your genre or topic and actively participate before sharing your lead magnet.
Twitter/X. Craft attention-grabbing tweets with relevant hashtags. Twitter is great for short, snappy, and frequent updates. You can also engage with your followers through polls or by asking thought-provoking questions about your lead magnet.
Instagram. Use visually appealing images or short video clips (Reels or Stories) to promote your lead magnet. Use Instagram Stories' swipe-up feature (if you have access) or direct users to the link in your bio.
LinkedIn. Share articles or posts that provide value and introduce your lead magnet subtly. LinkedIn is ideal for more in-depth, professional, or educational content.
Pinterest. Create visually appealing pins that link directly to your sign-up landing page. Pinterest is fantastic for evergreen content and can drive traffic to your site for months or even years.
Regardless of the platform, highlight the value of your lead magnet. What will your readers gain from it? How will it entertain, educate, or inspire them? Make it irresistible.
Social media is a pay-for-play medium. If you want to get more eyeballs on your posts, you need to pay for it. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer sophisticated targeting options to reach your ideal readers.
Lastly, remember to engage with your audience. Social media is not a one-way street. Respond to comments and messages, and engage with your followers' content. Building relationships can lead to more sign-ups.
Other Ways Authors Build Their Email Lists
There are many creative and effective ways authors can build their email lists beyond the strategies already discussed. Here are additional methods to consider:
Speaking Engagements and Author Readings. Participate in literary events, book clubs, or writing workshops. Offer a sign-up sheet for your email list, or make your presentation interactive using a digital sign-up method accessible via smartphones.
Collaborate with Local Businesses. Seek out local bookstores, cafes, or libraries for partnership. They can display your books along with a sign-up sheet for your newsletter or even host a signing event where you can collect email addresses.
Book Launch Parties or Virtual Events. Host a launch party for your new book, in-person or virtually. Encourage attendees to sign up for your email list to receive exclusive content or a chance to win a signed copy.
QR Codes in Printed Materials. Include a QR code in your printed books, flyers, or business cards that direct the audience to your sign-up page. This convenience makes it easy for readers to join your list.
YouTube Channel or Podcast. If you're comfortable creating content, start a YouTube channel or podcast about writing, book reviews, or discussions about themes in your books. Include a call to action in each episode, encouraging listeners or viewers to sign up for your email list.
Utilize Amazon Author Central. If your book is on Amazon, use your Author Central page to direct readers to your website, where they can sign up for your email list.
Remember, the key to a successful email list is the number of subscribers and their engagement and interest in your work. Your email list aims to build a community around your writing, so whatever strategy you choose, ensure it aligns with your brand and provides genuine value to your readers. Happy writing, and here's to new subscribers!