When new authors enter the realm of book marketing, one of the things that they don’t realise that they need is an author mailing list.
That’s because the idea of a mailing list might sound old-fashioned at first. Isn’t email old news now? But nothing could be further from the truth! A mailing list gives any author direct access to a reader’s inbox: the one thing in our modern world that you can rely on people to check daily. What’s more, a mailing list allows you to keep up relationships with readers, so that when you presumably write more books, you already have a built-in audience at the tip of your fingers.
How to go about setting up and growing a mailing list is a bit more complicated than a wave of the wand, though. We'll take you through five major steps that you should consider taking if you’d like your author mailing list to be a success.
It’s the first decision that you’ll have to make in order to set up a mailing list: choosing a mailing list service provider. Nearly all of the good ones will have your basic necessities: sign-up forms, an ability to import subscribers, A/B tests, and automation workflows. However, there are a few key differences between the popular mailing list service providers, as you’ll see now.
Mailchimp is one of the most popular mailing list service providers for a reason. It’s a pretty powerful platform that lets you do it all when it comes to designing (and sending) beautiful emails. It’s quite reliable and safe, but the service can get quite expensive, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your subscriber count (which is factored into the pricing plan).
Then there’s MailerLite, which is very similar to Mailchimp minus a few design capabilities. Another point in its favour is that it’s actually cheaper than Mailchimp for anyone who has a big list of subscribers. As you’re probably just setting up your mailing list, this won’t apply to you, but it’s good to keep it as an option for the future.
Finally, ConvertKit is a third well-liked option for many people. It’ll give you much more flexibility than either Mailchimp or MailerLite, as it has more powerful sign-up forms and better segmentation. However, this comes at the cost of design. You’ll probably have to forego the fancier templates for simpler emails.
Once you’ve chosen your mailing list service provider and gone through the instructions to set up your author mailing list, you’re facing a different problem: how do you grow it? Writing regular emails that gets sent out to only ten subscribers is not going to be an effective use of your time.
This is when readers magnets really come into handy. In case you’re not already familiar with them, reader magnets (or lead magnets) are exactly what they sound like: something of value that you offer for free in order to “attract” readers to sign up to your mailing list.
If you’re a fiction author, for instance, you might offer a free preview of your first five chapters, or bonus content that revolves around “deleted scenes” and digital artwork in exchange for a person’s email address. Another popular magnet is a giveaway, where you organise a drawing to give out one copy of your book for free. These are all valid incentives for a person to enter their email address into your sign-up form.
Now, in order for this to work, you should already have sign-up forms embedded on your author website. If you don’t, get on that soon. Your sign-up form is the most direct way to capture the people who land on your site — and a lead magnet is one of the most successful ways to lure them into doing so in the first place.
Even if you have subscribers, you might one day find that they’re not opening your emails. (You can check this by looking at your open rates on your chosen mailing list service provider.) The average newsletter open rate is around 20% in most industries, so if you’re seeing a percentage much lower than that, then you probably want to think about segmenting your mailing list.
This entails dividing your readership up into more precise subcategories. The easiest example is to take an author who writes in two genres: fantasy and romance. Now, the romance readers might not necessarily be interested in all of the fantasy-related emails that the author sends out (and vice-versa).
Once each audience is segmented into their proper groups, however, it gets much easier for the author to target each group with emails that are more relevant to their specific interests. This will help you retain your readers and keep them opening your emails.
This might be an obvious step, but you’d be surprised at how many authors neglect their mailing lists, even after they’ve gone to the trouble of setting one up. The truth is that it’s quite easy to forget about your mailing list, or prioritise it below some of your other responsibilities (like getting a headstart on that next book that’s on your mind).
That said, it’s important for you to keep in touch with your readers. You don’t need to send subscribers an email every day: that would even be considered overkill. However, you should email your list at regular intervals, so that they don’t forget about you. The frequency with which you do this depends on you, but it can generally range from once every week to once every two months.
As for the content of your emails? That’s also a personal decision. You might share anecdotes about the process of writing a book, short stories that you’ve written based on writing prompts, or writing tips that you’ve picked up in the past week. Perhaps you’re running a price promotion — that’s definitely something that should get exposure in your email. And, of course, you should definitely email your list to announce a book launch.
If you’d like to become a wizard at mailing lists, consider signing up for this free course. Growing and maintaining your mailing list isn’t going to happen in the blink of time. It’ll take time, but keep at it, and you’ll find that you’ll reap the rewards.
Reedsy was founded in the summer of 2014 by Emmanuel Nataf, Ricardo Fayet, Vincent Durand and Matt Cobb. Since then, they've built a network of world-class publishing professionals and helped produce over 3,000 books. Visit their website here.