Setting Up and Maintaining Your Mailing List
As an indie author, your mailing list is one of your most important resources.
But if you don't know what it is and what it can do, you may not understand why. So here is a quick FAQ on what a mailing list is and how to use it.
What is a mailing list?
Should a reader of yours wish to keep up-to-date with your upcoming releases, a mailing list is the best way to do this. It is a platform with which you can email your fans directly.
How do you get one?
There are many options for mailing list providers that pretty much offer the same thing – but it is important that you choose one that is right for you.
Here are the main three options:
- Mailchimp – this is the provider I use. You pay more for this service depending on how many subscribers you have. That is great for when you get started, as you don’t pay anything until you have something like 2000 subscribers. The platform gives you great statistics, allowing you to look at accurate data that tracks the success of your emails – including seeing how many people opened it, who opened it, what location your email was opened, and how many people clicked on the links in your emails.
- Infusion Soft – I haven’t used this one, but I know it is also quite popular among authors and offers a lot of similar services.
- Create it yourself – store all email addresses of your subscribers in Excel. Every time you want to send an email copy and paste them into the BCC line of your email. Whilst this is the cheapest option, it creates a huge amount of admin. You have to manage the unsubscribes and subscribes all yourself and can’t track the success of your emails.
What is the point?
Especially when social media is the biggest marketing tool at the moment.
Well, social media is still a huge way of keeping in touch with your fanbase - it does, however, have its drawbacks. Both social media and a mailing list should be used in conjunction with each other for maximum effect.
In Facebook, you now have to pay to reach the bulk of people who have liked your page.
Twitter and Instagram are also great, but very few of your readers are likely to search for you on here.
However, if you offer an incentive to join your mailing list, then you are more likely to get people on it. Then you have a direct communication to their email inbox; something far more private than someone's Facebook feed.
You will spend a lot of money on advertising, especially during your launch – but your mailing list is by far your best and cheapest resource to advertise. You can send your fans your book and the link – meaning those that already like you and are more likely to buy your book get that information, and it has cost you nothing more than the monthly cost of your mailing list provider.
How do you get people to join?
You offer an incentive. Have a look at my mailing list signup page at www.rickwoodwriter.com/sign-up - if you join, you get three books. Each of these books are designed to appeal to my fans and drive further sales:
- I Have the Sight – this is the first in a series of five novels. Once a fan has read this, they will want to buy the next.
- Silence My Demons – this is a novella, around 18,000 words, about the origin story of one of the most popular characters in The Edward King Series and The Sensitives. You can only get this book by being part of my mailing list. As well as the appealing content, the exclusivity will also give me valuable subscribes (I will come onto ‘valuable subscribers’ in a moment.)
- The Demonologist Handbook – I do a lot of research on demons for my books. This book is simply a guide to the research I did for each. It offers a fascinating read for those who have read these books. And, what’s more, it discusses the demons I used in books they haven’t read yet, which may make them want to buy them.
You need to put this hook somewhere your reader can see it. Mine go in the back of my books – as soon as the final word is done, I leave a page, then offer 3 free books to join.
What’s more, I don’t call it a ‘mailing list’ as it sounds spammy – I offer my fans the opportunity to join my ‘Reader’s Group.’
What is a valuable subscriber?
The value of a subscriber is determined by how much they are worth to you, depending on:
- How much of a fan they are.
- The avenue with which they found you.
- How likely they are to buy another of your books.
I originally grew my mailing list through Facebook advertising. I offered a free book (I Have the Sight) in return for an email address. In months my mailing list went from 200 to 3,000. In my automation, the link to the sequel to I Have the Sight is sent.
However, I found that responses to my emails were really poor. When I sent an email to my mailing list, only around 4% of my mailing list opened it. And, on each of these emails, a mass exodus of around 20-30 people unsubscribed. Some even forgot they subscribed and reported the email as spam. If this happens, more email providers are likely to send your email to the spam folder, meaning your fans will never get a chance to read it.
So I’m paying £38 a month for a list of 3,000 and seeing little result.
I stopped doing this. And I went through my mailing list and removed anyone who had opened none of my last 10+ emails. Removing people off my mailing list may seem counterproductive – but they were not opening my emails, and I was paying money for them to be on my list, so it seemed pointless.
Now I get around 8-12 people subscribe a week, rather than the hundreds I was getting from advertising. These are all, I assume, purely from the call-to-action at the back of my book.
This means these people are joining my list, already as a fan. They have liked my work and want more.
Now my open rates are 12-18% - which may seem low but is far above industry average. And my last email saw only 4 unsubscribes. And I see far more sales from it.
I may have less subscribers, but they are more valuable.
I will leave it to you to choose how you want to build your list, but there are benefits to both approaches.
What do you post and how often?
Some authors only email when they have a new book, some email every week. Some allow their subscribers to opt into weekly emails or just new release emails (which can be done in Mailchimp.)
It is up to you to find your balance.
I email every week. This is based on a survey I did of my subscribers – I found that over 50% are interested in not just updates about my books, but also about my life. Bizarre to discover, but still, I had to respond!
I keep my emails brief – no more than 3 main points. And very little of the content is just trying to sell stuff to them. Normally my email will be about a cover reveal, update on progress, a new release, a new pre-order, confirmed release date, blog post, blurb reveal, or request for help.
Get interaction from your subscribers – have them vote on your cover, for example. For The Sensitives, I gave my subscribers information on three demons and allowed them to vote which one I used in my book. It’s great to get your fanbase invested.
At the bottom of each email, below my signature, is a list of all my books and the links to buy them. This means I am not spamming people with "buy my book" messages all the time, which puts people off - but I am still giving an opportunity for a purchase to be made in every email.
What is automation?
It is a sequence of emails that are automatically sent after someone subscribes.
I will discuss this in a future resource.