So you know you need an email list, but you have no idea how to go about building an email list, right? You don’t think you have anything interesting to say, or anything that people will want to hear about. You don’t release a book every month like some crazy bastards you know (BTW, the new Quincy Harker book is out for pre-order, and you should totally do that), you don’t think you lead a terribly interesting life, but this Hartness asshole keeps telling you to build a mailing list. So how are you supposed to do that?
There are a lot of ways to build a mailing list, and we’re going to start with my preferred method. The two styles of mailing list construction are Organic Growth and Incentivized Growth. Organic Growth is slower, much more labor-intensive, and requires writers to do the one thing that many of them hate to do – interact with people.
It’s also the best way to build a mailing list. With organized growth, you are slowly cultivating people who actually want to hear from you. People who have either seen you on a panel, or at a con table, or met you in line at the restroom, or in the bar, or read one of your books, or whatever – they have had some interaction with you or your work and they WANT to know more. Maybe they’re just another writer friend and they want to know when you have something new coming out. Whatever. You don’t care why they want to hear from you, they have interacted with you in some way, and made the decision that they actually want to hear from you.
These are the best mailing list subscribers. They are already predisposed to want to hear from you. They like you, and people buy shit from people the like. They don’t like to be lectured at, they don’t like to be preached at, but they like to laugh, so make people laugh every chance you get. Or cry. People like to cry, too, They don’t, however, like to feel like they are trapped in an elevator with Aunt Marge from the family reunions who always smells a little like pee and wants to pinch you. So don’t be Aunt Marge.
That escalated quickly. Moving back to the point, the people who subscribe organically are more likely to click on a link in your newsletter, and more likely to open the newsletter in the first place.
On the other side of the coin are the Incentivized Subscribers. These are people who want a free ebook, or want to enter to get a free Kindle, or whatever they are getting out of signing up for you list. These folks will have a high number of join and drop folks, and you won’t be able to convert that many of them into real fans and readers. Sorry, it’s just true. You might have 8,000 people on your email list, but if you’re only getting a 10% open rate on your newsletter, then you’re not doing any better than someone with a 2,000-person list and a 50% open rate. So look for quality over quantity, or ideally a mixture of both. Because you do need to be visible, and giveaways and mailing list swaps are good ways to do that, and they are often good ways to increase your mailing list dramatically in a very short time. I’ve added 1,000 people to my mailing list since the beginning of this year, and a lot of that has been off of Incentivized Subscribers. I’ve also had a lot of people drop from my mailing list immediately after downloading their free ebook, so the long-term success of those programs is yet to be determined.
So how do you get the Organic Subscribers? Well, there are a few ways.
If you are self-published, you can put a signup link in the back of all of your ebooks. If you are traditionally published, you can put a link in your author bio and either hope your publisher doesn’t see it, or ask your publisher if it’s okay. If I publish you, it’s fine. I want you to have a million people on your email list, because then we both make more money. This is a passive method that will slowly net some signups.
Please note that all of these organic methods are slow dribbles of signups. They are like putting out dozens of little buckets in a rainstorm. You don’t get very much water in any one bucket, but when you collect everything out of all the buckets, you can fill a bathtub pretty quick. These are your buckets.
Your website is another bucket. You’ll notice there is a link one the right-hand side of the page here with a picture of the High Fashion Hell cover. That’s a signup link for my website. People click on the picture, cover by the lovely Natania Barron, and they are directed to a signup form for my email list. Oh, you don’t have a website? Well, welcome to the late 20th century, you need a website. I suggest it be your name, not any book or series name, because you will have your name longer than you will have any given book series, and you want to remain easy to find online. Same with email addresses – get one that’s just your name, because eventually you will no longer want to be known as Hot2Trot4Cumberbatch420@whateverthefuck.com.
My author page on Facebook has a call to action button, which is another email list signup. That allows people who find me on Facebook to sign up for my emails directly from there. You don’t have an author page yet? Well, better get on that shit. You are a professional, whether you do this for your entire living or not, and you need to be able to use all the tools at your disposal.
I also use Twitter to drive email signups. I’ll get into the scheduled Twitter and Facebook posts in a later article, but suffice to say that at least once per day a message goes out on Facebook and Twitter telling people that I have a mailing list, and that they can get a free ebook if they sign up for it. I don’t get a ton of email signups, I have about 2,500 people on the list, and I add 5-6 per day. So it’s pretty good, and it’s growing nicely, but it’s not yet a huge list by any stretch. And I’m good with that, because it remains the single most effective marketing tool I have (heh heh, I said tool).
So that’s a little bit on organic methods to grow an email list. Next time around, we’ll talk about Incentivized Subscribers, good and bad incentives to build a list, and how to streamline all this shit so you don’t have to babysit it all the time. Until then, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments, and if you love what I’m doing, feel free to subscribe to my email list by clicking the book cover to your right or you can subscribe to my Patreon by clicking the link below. Thanks!