I must admit that I was late to the mailing list game (more on why later in this post), but for indie authors looking to build a fan base then having a mailing list is something that you need to have. Why you might be asking? Well it’s simple.
Readers buy from their favourite author’s over and over again.
Now you could let them discover you the old fashioned way, by browsing the Amazon store and seeing your new book there. But what if you could let your fans know that you just released a new book as soon as it’s published? How powerful do you think it could be to have lots of readers buy your book all at once thus shooting your Amazon ranking sky-high so that even more potential fans can find you?
It’s much easier to sell your book to an established reader base than it is to find new readers. That’s a fact.
Both fiction and nonfiction indie author’s need a mailing list.
There are a few options that you can choose but personally I think the two best options are Aweber or Feedburner. Yes I know MailChimp and a few others are also wildly popular but I think these are your two main options and here is why.
If you’ve got the bucks to spend then I suggest going with Aweber. It’s got the best reputation and back when I was an internet marketer I used it exclusively. It is however $20 a month (or more depending on how many subscribers you’ve got). But the customization features, tracking and reporting are second to none.
You can set up autoresponders (pre-set up a sequence of emails that can be sent to new subscribers to help build a message or give them content in a set order – which could be perfect for fiction author’s building a story).
I’m a cheapskate however and I use Feedburner. Now feedburner isn’t a true mailing list provider in that it only let’s people subscribe to your blog feed (so you’ll need a blog not a static website to use it). But they can do so either traditionally through a feed reader or by email and get posts sent directly to their email box.
You also can’t set up special autoresponder messages or email your subscribers directly. (Plus I hate the stupid annoying captcha they use with email subscribers, grrr).
But it’s free.
And it’s actually pretty powerful if you know how to use it.
I chose to use Feedburner simply because I couldn’t really see how much extra information I’d give subscribers over my blog posts and if you use a feed footer (show you this in a sec) then you can customise messages to subscribers anyway.
Obviously you need to promote your subscription box. I think the top right hand corner is probably the best place to put it. As you can see I give readers the option to choose from either the RSS feed or by email. (If you use Aweber just promote your email signup rather than the rss feed option).
I’ve also decluttered my sidebar so readers ONLY have the option of either subscribing or reading the most popular posts. They are not distracted with anything else.
You can also promote your subscription options at the end of posts so that after they’ve read your amazing content they can’t wait to sign up to hear more from you.
It takes time to build up a fan base so be patient. But gradually you’ll start to see your traffic and subscribers increase over time.
Promoting To Your Subscribers
Now obviously you are getting subscribers so that you can eventually promote your books and other things to them, but here is where it gets tricky because you don’t want to be seen as a spammer. This is actually the reason that I resisted email marketing for so long, because I had been burned with some shady internet marketers in the past who just sent offer after offer to subscribers and it was too much. So I unsubscribed from nearly every list I was on and vowed never to sign up for another list. So it was hard for me to come to terms with starting my own email list.
However I think that if you provide good quality content (and I try my best to do so) then you should have a way that your subscribers can get that information regularly without having to come back to your website time and time again.
So how do you promote to them if you don’t want to be seen as a spammy marketer?
The way I have been doing it is via rss footers. Rss footers will add a message at the bottom of your feeds (both rss & email). So my subscribers get the blog post sent directly to them and at the bottom I’ll have something like “I’ve just released my new book, check it out at Amazon (link)”. That way they are still getting the quality information that they signed up for but still can go on and find your new books as well. I’ve added a rss footer to this feed to show you how it works.
If you are using Aweber then you can just email them directly with a link to your new book but still make sure you are subtle and don’t bombard your readers with sales pitches. Remember they want information first, not to be sold to.
How Often Should You Email Subscribers?
Since I’m with Feedburner my posts get sent out once per day (if I post anything). But since I only post weekly (usually) they only get one email/feed a week. Personally I don’t think you should send out any more than one or two per week. After that it gets a bit much. And don’t let it go too long either; they should hear from you at least once per month or else they might forget who you are!
So there you go. Why authors need a mailing list. Hope it inspired you to start your own and build your fanbase.
P.S. If you are a subscriber, make sure you check out how I’ve used the rss footer at the bottom of this post (blog readers won’t see it of course).