An author mailing list is vitally important if you are a self-publisher. Why?
Your author mailing list is yours, that why. While social media is all well and good for starting out on building an author platform, services such as Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads are out of your control. Sure, you can use them, but who owns the data? Who makes the rules? Most importantly, who can change the rules without notice?
Many users of Twitter have experienced hacked accounts or suspensions, which immediately results in the loss of all your hard won your contacts. Facebook and Goodreads limit your personal accounts to 5,000 friends or users, thus limiting your ability to expand your potential readership. Even with a Facebook Page, while there are no user limits, it is a very slow process to collect enough ‘Likes’ to make it worthwhile.
The huge advantage that an author mailing list has is that you own every piece of data in it and can use it in any manner you wish. There are no rules governing when, where and how you can use your database of email addresses and names. No one can take it away from you without notice, due to a sudden change of terms and conditions of use.
Then there is the marketing power of email. Even though it may seem ‘old hat‘, email is nearly 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined, as this article from McKinsey explains.
You totally own the data.
Unlike social media sites, you own outright and without limitation your author mailing list, and can use it yourself, or more commonly, transfer it to a choice of mailing services. Over time, building your author mailing list will give you a huge marketing advantage, as you can communicate directly with your potential readership about new titles, discounts, free ebook offers or changes to your retail distribution. You can also use it to notify subscribers of new blog posts or articles.
How do I build an author email list?
There are many options available. The most basic of course is to make sure you keep the email addresses of people you have contacted via social media, and from that, exchanged emails. Make a new group in your contact list and use this to separate your friends and personal contacts from your author contacts. A scan of your email program may give you a surprise and possibly locate fifty or more email addresses that can form the basis of your dedicated author mailing list.
Another easy means of starting to collect email subscribers is to use Google’s Feedburner to notify your blog readers of new articles. In fact, I added this blog to Feedburner only a couple of days ago, (I have been meaning to do it for ages, but I was lazy and forgot!) and in 36 hours it has 18 new subscribers.
Once you start collecting subscribers on Feedburner, you can easily download your subscriber list in a .csv file to use in Excel or transfer elsewhere. One tip though, the subscriber list is a little tricky to find. You need to go to your feed, click the Publicize tab, then click Email Subscriptions on the left, then scroll to the bottom of the page, where you’ll find a ‘View Subscriber Details’ link. Click this, and your list of subscribers list will appear in a drop-down list. Apart from this silly little quirk that reminds me immediately of Arthur Dent looking for town council plans, Feedburner is quick and easy to set up and will help greatly in building your email list.
But don’t get too excited yet.
While Feedburner is effective in collecting new subscribers, it has no functionality to send emails. Yes, you can download your .cvs file, then add these addresses to your contact list, and then send emails yourself. However, if you are sending emails to more than fifty or so people at a time, your mail account will more than likely be classified as sending spam by your email provider, and this is definitely NOT a good thing to happen. Sending bulk emails from your own account is not an option.
So, how can I send bulk emails?
Once you have a mailing list of more than say one hundred, it’s time to look for a bulk email provider. These companies specialise in maintaining your mailing list or lists, and in sending out your emails in bulk. There are a number of service providers, but Aweber Email Marketing and MailChimp are probably the most popular.
Now I pay, huh?
No, and yes. I use MailChimp, so I’ll use it here for my examples, but most services are similar. MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails per month, which is quite generous. For an author starting out on email marketing, 2,000 subscribers is a lot and will take a little while to surpass this limit.
After this limit is reached, there are fees to pay. Up to 5,000 subscribers, it is $50.00 per month for unlimited emails. There are, however, pay-as-you-go options, which are far more economical, and would suit an author, who may only send a bulk email once a month.
But with a service such as MailChimp, your author mailing list is fully maintained, cleaned of inactive accounts and handles your new subscriptions and unsubscribes. There are widgets and links to add to your blogs and websites to collect new subscriptions, but most important are the email designs available.
There are so many options available for designing beautiful looking HTML emails, but even the simplest design beats a text email hands down. This is where using a professional email provider excels, because your beautiful and professional looking emails stand a much better chance of being read, rather than ending up in peoples’ junk or spam folders.
As you can see, there is a lot of value in a free account of up to 2,000 subscribers. But later, if you do end up with a very substantial mailing list, the cost is well worthwhile, and economical, as you will have built a huge book marketing advantage for yourself.
Ready to re-evaluate your social media use now?
Do your research into email service providers, as I have only used MailChimp as an example in this post because I use it myself, so I am familiar with it. But most providers offer similar services.
Treat your mail subscribers well.
One last note about email marketing. Respect your subscribers, and don’t fall into the trap of mailing them too often, or trying to sell your books in every mail. Each email you send should be for a very good reason, be informative and perhaps even entertaining. I won’t give any lessons about this part because I’m still learning myself!
But remember that building your author mailing list will end up being 40 times more powerful than Facebook and Twitter. In today’s congested ebook and book market, that’s a very good reason to start work on your author mailing list right away. And, because you own your mailing list, you can move your mailing list data anytime, anywhere and in any manner you like. Because it’s YOUR list, and no one apart from you controls it. Now that is an author platform that is future (and Facebook and Twitter) proof.
Footnote: I have no affiliation with MailChimp.