Every time I talk to a writer I hear the same song—marketing is hard, annoying, wrinkle-inducing, and ulcer-causing. What worsens the situation is the fact that the publishing industry is so peculiar in its nature and practices. In order to follow their creative bend, most authors need seclusion, not the constant tsunami or updates, news, and fluffy kittens—though I admit, I’m partial to the latter.
As I embark myself in a marketing campaign, I decided to share my findings—in the quickest way possible, so you actually spend your precious free time, writing, applying whatever tidbits of knowledge you may find here, or browsing for the ubiquitous fluffy balls.
So, here is today’s topic:
11 Ways To Grow Your Author Mailing List
When I started promoting BLACK00, my first reaction to the universal “Get a mailing list!” was, “Why do I need one? People never read newsletters.” You’re welcome to laugh at me about how foolish I was. The more I delve into the marketing aspect of publishing, the more I realize that a mailing list is the most important tool in a writer’s marketing kit. I’d rate it even higher than good coffee and twenty-five hour days. You must collect those email addresses like they were the best candy of your first Halloween you remember.
- Make sure your website has a sign-up list on every page. Put it in the header or in the footer of the page, but not in both places. Your readers will find it if they are interested in reading more. If possible, create multiple email subscriptions, especially if your content is very diverse in nature and may not appeal to all your readers. But don’t sweat over this, if you can’t do it from the beginning. Take small steps.
- All WordPress themes have a built in mailing list signup widget. Learn how to use it ASAP.
- Since we are here, let me open a parenthesis and advise you to “design” your own website. That is, buy a professional WordPress theme and spend a weekend figuring out how to customize it. At this point, I would not recommend hiring someone to design your site from scratch, even if you aren’t familiar with WordPress templates. But free is equally noxious. I tried to get away with a free WordPress template and I ended up wasting weeks upon weeks trying to fix a poor piece of HTML. The theme I’m using now costed only about $40 and it was a breeze to set up. If you want to make your website look more polished, hire a graphic designer to create your homepage background/slide image—that’s as far as I’d go with the website investment at the beginning of your career.
- Pin to the top of your Twitter account a tweet with a link to a landing page that requires an email address to gain access. Include similar information in your Facebook profile.
- As a side note, do not use your Twitter account exclusively for promotions. I tend to unfollow people who don’t know how to have a little fun and I’m sure many other people feel the same.
- If you already have one or more published manuscripts, on the last page add a link to your website. How do you expect your readers to find you, if you don’t make it easier for them to do so? In the case of digital copies, make the link clickable. However, please keep in mind that Barnes & Noble seems to reject digital books that include links.
- Add a QR code to your printed book, which your readers can scan to opt in to your email database. You never know, how your readers like to consume information, so offer them options. When I ordered my first physical copy of BLACK00, I forgot to add a QR. So I stopped the printing process and created a new proof only so I could include one.
- You can market this strategy simply as “Join my mailing list” or go one step further and promise some special online content should the reader scan the QR. Once there, ask for their email addresses in order to access this content.
- Run a giveaway for one or more of your books and encourage your winners to subscribe to your mailing list. However, this strategy may or may not be possible depending on the giveaway platform. For instance the Amazon won’t allow you to see neither the winners’ usernames nor their email addresses. GoodReads forbids the author to contact the winners with any requests. However LibraryThing allows you to send one congratulatory email in which you can provide a link to a subscription page.
- Offer useful content, like free short stories, ebooks, or checklists, then require visitors to enter their email address in order to download these “goodies.” If your content is relevant, they will happily oblige. If you have to send your visitors to a third-party website in order to download the books, set up this link so they open into a new page. You don’t want your visitors leave your author page, then not be able to find it anymore.
- #6 strategy spin-off—create a password protected website area, which includes exclusive materials. Users would have to log in with their email address. However if you can’t do this from the very beginning, don’t fret. Just go back to #6. I yet have to apply this strategy, so I’ll let you know, how that goes.
- Ask your readers to share your content with friends, family, and in social media. Most people don’t share emails or articles, because they don’t think about it.
- If you can afford, run a lead-generation Facebook ad. It is the quickest way to garner relevant email addresses, but it requires an initial investment. However, think in terms of investing in yourself. Those leads gathered today are your fans of tomorrow. I’ve ran a couple of Facebook ads, and the experience alone was worth the money. In fact, I loved the entire process—marketing is a deeply creative endeavor.
- I have not tried Twitter ads yet so I cannot provide any feedback on this strategy. My initial reaction to this form of advertisement was positive. However recently, Twitter had decided to shove into my timeline the most ill-matched ads—pro-guns and anti-abortion tweets. I yet have to decide whether Twitter’s discovery algorithm went in early hibernation or the promoters wanted to squander their money.
- Last but not least, if possible, find a marketing partner who writes in the same genre as you. This is important because, down the road, you’ll want to join forces to promote both your writing together. If you haven’t found the right partner yet, don’t lose hope. Your writing soulmate is out there somewhere. I haven’t found mine yet.
I’d love to hear about any other strategies to attract subscribers you have tried, so feel free to share any personal experience related to this.
Next week, I’ll do a post related to the above strategies–how to build a quick landing page, with dos and don’ts.