Help selling more books – Part 1 – The Mailing List

This is not going to be exciting. None of these posts in this series are going to be exciting. I’m not going to tell you how to jump up the bestseller lists and go from selling five books each month to 5,000 in the span of thirty days. I’m not going to tell you The Secret To Becoming An Amazon Bestseller. I’m not going to tell you how to Make A Million Dollars Selling Ebooks.

I’m not going to do any of that crap. Because those posts are bullshit. The only people getting rich off the words in a bunch of How To Sell Ebooks books are the people that wrote the book. And I’m giving this shit away, so I’m obviously an idiot.

But I’m an idiot who makes a living selling books. So that puts me ahead of most idiots out there.

I pay my bills and feed my family off my writing. Most writers can’t do that. We live modestly, and we try to manage our spending, but we are a single-income family, and that income grows out of my writing. These posts will try to give you some of the tools that I use to sell more books. I’m not looking to make anyone (except me) into the second coming of Stephen King. I just want to help you find more success in your writing.

So let’s start with the basics – a mailing list. You’ve heard you need one, but you don’t know shit about how to build one. You don’t know what a newsletter should look like. You don’t know how to get people to subscribe to it, and you don’t know how to create one that doesn’t look like it was drawn by a three-year-old epileptic chimpanzee. So let’s start there.

Yes, you need a mailing list. Your newsletter is the single most important piece of marketing material that you have, with the exception of writing amazing books. People who sign up for your newsletter, for the most part, are already interested in you and your work. So first you have to create a mailing list, and figure out how to send a newsletter. Then we’ll move on to how to get people to sign up for your mailing list.

Mailing List Services – there are plenty of companies out there that will manage your email list for you. Constant Contact is the one that most big companies use, and you probably get 2-3 emails using that service every day. I use Mailchimp, because it’s cheaper at the level that I’m at. I’m currently at around 2700 people on my email list. That’s not a huge number, but it’s decent. It’s all the better because most of those people are there organically, but we’ll get to that later.

Mailchimp is a subscription service. They charge you for their work. In exchange for your monthly fee, they will collect all the email addresses and give you tools to send out good-looking newsletters and autoresponders to people when they contact you. I currently pay $40/month for this service, because of the number of people I have. I’m not far from looking for another service, because once you get over about 3500 names on your list, Mailchimp isn’t quite as cost-effective. But that’s a discussion for later as well.

Once you sign up with MailChimp, you have to start building a list. First add yourself. That lets you see the emails you send out in their natural and complete form. Then go over to your Facebook Author Page and build a button. Facebook lets you make a Call to Action at the top of your page, and yours should almost certainly say “Join my Email List.” It’s very easy to build the button, Facebook walks you through every step.

Once you’ve built your button on your author page (if you don’t have an author page, that’s a hint – you better get one), then it’s time to post some notices on your personal timeline and on your author page, telling people to sign up for your email list. You have to do this a few times. Facebook doesn’t show everything by everybody, so to get through their signal-to-noise ratio, you have to repeat yourself a few times. Also, you will have better success if you put the link in comments, as FB hides posts with links built in.

Don’t post all the damn time, just once a day or so. Let’s not be complete dicks about this promo thing. Yes, I understand exactly how often I post promotional things myself. But I have a LOT of shit to promote. So I’m not posting the same thing more than once per day.

While you’re waiting for someone to sign up for your mailing list, it’s time to set up some automations. MailChimp lets you create stored newsletters and welcome letters that go out whenever someone signs up for your mailing list. This way, whenever someone signs up to hear from you, they get a nice welcome email from you. A lot of people recommend sending one note within a few hours of signup, then another in a couple of days, then a third a week or two later. I send out two, one an hour or so after signup, then another a few days later. I figure a couple of weeks after they’ve joined the email list, they’ll be getting a newsletter anyway.

That’s always another question – how often should I send out newsletters? I have been doing mine once each month, but I’m about to increase to twice a month. Some folks send stuff out weekly, but I think that’s a little much. You want people to remember you, but not get tired of hearing from you. If you only have a few releases each year, then once a month is probably fine. But it is important to stay on top of it and send stuff out. Even if you don’t have a new book coming out, you can solicit reviews for older work, pitch your upcoming audio releases, publicize events and appearances, or promote stuff by your friends. All of those make for good newsletter fodder.

But you must send out your newsletter regularly. That’s the only way it’s going to get traction and you’re going to be “sticky” in people’s heads.

I’ll be back next week with talk about ways to grow a newsletter, like newsletter swaps, and incentives. If there are questions about what I’ve written this week, leave them in the comments! Thanks!

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