How to Build an Author Newsletter Mailing List the RIGHT Way

Do you wonder how to stay in touch with your readers? How you can let them know you have a second book out? How you can market to them in a non-slimey way?

How about a mailing list? In other words, an author newsletter.

Okay, okay, before you falling over moaning and groaning, keep reading.

Why Authors Need a Mailing List

Basically, a mailing list is an email newsletter. It doesn’t have to be fancy, in-depth, long, frequent, or anything majorly time consuming. But if you are serious about publishing and want to stay in touch with readers between books, a mailing list (also called permission marketing) is a great, inexpensive way to go.

I was listening to a podcast the other day and a major publisher had done a study to find out which led to more sales: marketing on Facebook, Goodreads or an author mailing list. The mailing list won hands down. So, if you want to stay in touch with your fans and sell more books, try a mailing list.

In essence, a mailing list is THE way to stay in touch with your readers so they don’t forget about you. Think of it this way. When was the last time you missed tweets on Twitter? When you ignored status updates on Facebook? Now think about your email. When was the last time you ignored mail in your inbox? When was the last time you didn’t even read the subject line and just blew it away?

And the best part about a mailing list? It’s yours. Facebook could vanish tomorrow and if that’s what you’ve been using to stay in touch with your readers, then guess what? You may have just lost them! And yes, there are flaws with a mailing list, but not to the same extent.

Mailing List Success Basics

I’m going to assume I’ve convinced you to try building a mailing list and I’m going to jump right into how to rock your mailing list:

1. Put your sign up link everywhere your readers hang out. Get a pretty URL if your mailing list program gives you a really long one (my pretty link is www.jeanoram.com/signup) and list it everywhere your readers might be like on Facebook, in your email signature, on your business cards (if appropriate), on your website, etc. But remember: you don’t want just anyone signing up. You want to build a list of fans. Of people you can rely upon. People who will open your emails and look forward to your content. You don’t want a cold list where people don’t read your emails and couldn’t care less about it. Especially if you are over the free first 2000 subscribers and are paying for the size of your list. (Don’t pay to reach people who don’t care!)

2. Get a reliable service like MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact. Those are three big ones I’ve heard about. Make sure you have one where you can back up your list and export it. This list is gold. You do not want to lose it. As well, list services will also help you stay within SPAM laws. If you don’t follow laws, your email address could be marked as SPAM and goodbye! As well, many of these programs have a free entry level list where you pay after you have 2000+ subscribers. They also usually have wonderful templates–including mobile templates that will help you look professional. (Templates break up your text and keep things pretty, making it sooooo much easier to read!) They can also track your open rates, etc. Well worth it!

3. Facebook app. Get your signup list on your fan page so those folks can stay in touch–leverage that platform! (P.S. Facebook is always changing things–if you’ve noticed the engagement on your page has declined lately–it’s because Facebook is actually hiding some of your content from your likers in hopes that you will pay to ‘boost’ your posts. Nothing is flawless–especially if you are using someone else’s free platform. It’s called digital sharecropping. You are the sharecropper, they are the land owner.)

4. Use compelling language. Some emails make you click to open them because you are curious about the subject line–that’s something you should be doing too! Experiment. Play. Learn.

5. Offer rewards. Why should the reader sign up? They want rewarding, compelling content in your newsletter. They don’t want five pages of you babbling every two weeks and you saying “BUY BUY BUY MY BOOK!” Make it an experience. Something to look forward to. (Chris Brogan does a fantastic job of this.)

6. Never make it about you. It’s always about the reader and what you can do for them.

7. Never spam. This should go without saying, but you would be shocked at how many people have added me to their mailing lists without permission from me. That is SPAM! And it makes people angry (and can get you in some hefty trouble). This is NOT smart marketing. Be smart. Allow people to opt in on their own!

8. Never share list. Ever. That is your list. You’ve made a promise to your readers to keep their email address safe.

9. Use different coloured font for your sign up link on your website, etc. Make that baby stand out and get noticed! Put it where people are going to look!

10. Tweet it. Started a list? Know you have readers following you? Let them know you started a newsletter that will ______. (Fill in the blank. Eg. Let them know when you next book is released. Let them know when you are having an exclusive giveaway. Share other free romance reads with them. Etc. What can you give to them that they will appreciate/want?)

11. Do as you say you will.

12. Make your sign up front and center on your website. Make it easy to find. Easy to subscribe. Easy to unsubscribe.
I’m on a mailing list right now where they nag me to do something EVERY other day. I kid you not. And there is no way to get off their list. You can guess that yes, they have lost my business. This has become harassment. Don’t be like that. Please.

14. Be patient. The first 20 subscribers may take time and you might itch to do something BIG that will up those numbers. But again, you want true fans. Not any old joe. It does matter. It’s your audience. Think of public speaking. You want to be in a room where everyone is hanging off your every word, not texting their boyfriend and ignoring you.

15. Talk to people. When they ask when your book is coming out direct them to your mailing list. Or ask! Ask if they would like an email when it is out when the topic comes up.

16. Put it in the back of your book!!!!!!! This one is HUGE! (It’s where I have gained the bulk of my subscribers.)

17. Keep it relevant. If people have signed up for your romance updates, don’t send them your opinion on the tar sands. Unless, of course, it is somehow related.

18. Give them exclusive insider bits. Sneak peeks, reader appreciation sales, etc. Make ’em feel special!! That is a huge reason why people sign up. They believe it will be something they can’t get elsewhere–like your website, etc.

19. Mention your sign up link on your Amazon author page.

20. Teasers. Tweet about your newsletter and put teasers for the upcoming newsletter on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Make sure you include the sign up link!

21. Readers like knowing something special and uncommon about an author. Such as the writing process. Something behind the scenes for a book that is out or coming out. It’s exclusive. Special! Make it so!

Some Mailing List Thoughts

Some mailing lists send out emails all the time–such as BookBub and Amazon. Others only send out an email when they have a new product (book) out. The big thing is to decide how much time you want to spend on this and what your payoff is. Would a monthly newsletter suck away your time and not increase your sales or connections with your readers? Or would it be a pick-me-up and really help you connect? It depends.

(P.S. For my Kid’s Play newsletter–it comes out every 6-8 weeks–my subscribers can access old newsletters when they sign up via MailChimp–so there is something they can access right away. And the freebie too–a free ebook of travel games.)

A Nerdy Note About Mailing List Companies

Most mailing lists will allow you to build or import your own template. (Note: if using images, they will make sure that your email doesn’t end up so big it can’t get through. Nice!) A template is a timesaver. You can use a nice, professional header, keep consistent colours (branding!) and also stay within SPAM laws. For example, they include a required footer with your mailing address automatically–to comply with SPAM laws. (I recommend a PO box for privacy reasons if you can swing it. If you have a literary agent or publisher they may allow you to use their business address.) As well, you can send to portions of your list instead of everyone. Check open rates, check click rates for whether people actually click on the stuff inside your emails, and other such helpful stuff. You can also batch send emails which is nice if you end up with a mega list–that way not everyone opens at once and then immediately clicks to your website and crashes your server. Little things we might not think about on our own!

Newsletter Content

I suggest you pick something you are passionate about and will be able to talk about a lot. Something that will be easy to write about frequently–or less frequently–for your newsletter’s theme. You also want it to be unique and stand out, if you can. Make it special like you! I.e. mythogical authors could talk about myths, erotica authors about spicing up your love life, etc. Some little theme that carries through not matter what each newsletter is about.

Some authors are very plain about their lists and tell subscribers they will only email when a new book is coming out. And that’s all they do. This works, too. Other authors share everything under the sun, but good ones will bring it back to what their readers want. I’m experimenting by sharing other romance type stuff–I guess that is my theme. I don’t have a regular schedule, but I want to send them out often enough that my newsletters aren’t hit and miss and people are forgetting they’ve subscribed, but I also don’t want it to be so frequent they stop opening them because I’m annoying and time consuming.

Open Rates and Subject Lines

You want readers to open your author newsletter, right? Well, juicy keywords used in the subject line help increase your open rate. Words that don’t sound selly-sell-sell help. But you have to watch SPAM filters. If you have ‘free’ a lot you might run into issues (same with if you have some hot romance keywords). And oddly enough titles with ‘&’ have better open rates. It’s like you are trying to stuff in so much goodness you have to shorten words. Weird I know.

Speaking of open rates, studies show that sending on weekends lead to higher open rates. Sending on Tuesdays and Wednesdays tends to lead to higher unsubscribe rates.

Closing Notes

But the big thing is for you to experiment. Watch and learn. Get to know your individual audience. As well, subscribe to lists and discover what you like and what you don’t.

Here’s an example of an experiment I did. Notice the very subtle difference in where I placed my social media links. By moving them I increased my Facebook likes, just like that. Seriously! There is value in playing around and experimenting. Get your geek on–it’s fun! (And the rewards help build your profile, too!)

My social media buttons before. (In my author newsletter.)

My social media buttons before. (In my author newsletter.)

Increase social media engagement through the location of your buttons in your author newsletter.

My social media buttons after. This small movement in their location increased my Facebook likes!

 

Okay. What did I miss? That was a biiiiig info dump. Any questions? Things to add?

Click to tweet this post and help another author!

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19 comments on “How to Build an Author Newsletter Mailing List the RIGHT Way
  1. kate curran says:

    Jean what perfect timing with this blog as I just sent out my first newsletter and wished i’d seen this first. I used mad mimi and it was fast and easy. I swear I had it done in 10 minutes and I went with it because it didn’t require my address that mail chimp did so if you don’t want to do that mad mimi is an option. The only thing I saw missing was the link to sign up for your newsletter.

    • jeanoram says:

      Hi Kate. (The link for my list is in the post but I didn’t want to flash it around too much as I’m not sure how many romance readers read this blog. 😉 )

      Mad Mini should ask for your mailing address as that is to conform to SPAM laws.

  2. farrelljulie says:

    Thank you for this very informative post, Jean! I learnt a lot of tips, and it’s just at the perfect time, because I’m in the process of building my list at the moment. I really enjoyed reading this! 🙂

  3. Jemi Fraser says:

    Great post! Bookmarking for when I’ll need it! 🙂

  4. jsiemers2014 says:

    In your experiment, which one got you more likes? Any explanation for why?

    • jeanoram says:

      Hi,

      The one with the social buttons under the explanation got more likes–I think because it separated the social media buttons from the banner and made them stand out more.

  5. Hello, I googled search for starting an author newsletter and yours was one of the first to come up. Thanks for the great tips!!

    • jeanoram says:

      Wow! The first one? That is really cool. Thanks. And I’m glad the tips are helpful. All the best, Claire!

  6. Larah Brook says:

    Thank you Jean, this is a very informative article. I have just signed up with mail chimp and I am learning anything I can on newsletters.

    • jeanoram says:

      You are most welcome, Larah! I’m using MailChimp and like it so far. Good luck with your newsletter.

  7. Such an important topic. Thank you.

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