The real work of being a published author is not the writing, the abuse your ego will take during the editing process, or even the stress of the actual publication (which will be higher for self-publishing authors who do this themselves or pay someone else). For me, it’s been entirely in the marketing of my books. With two and a half books published, a short story collection on its way, my third novel being beaten up by editors, and drafting my fourth novel, I can tell you that I spend more time marketing my work than I do at any other phase. It’s not just marketing the 2.5 books that are already in the world, but building interest in the other 2.5 books that are in different phases of development. One of the most effective tools I have for marketing is my mailing list. Today, I’m going to explain why a mailing list is so important for every author.
Why connect with readers?
I’m really lucky that I’m surrounded by other authors. Each of them is a teacher, but they also have their weaknesses. Some of them have dismissed the community they could have from their readers. As a reader, I love being acknowledged by the authors I love. Other readers have told me the same thing about themselves. I decided to connect with my readers to get people to give me feedback, to get to know them and to share my books with more people. This seemed to be the way most authors found success through communication. I have a blog, but only a few people read it. When I started the newsletter, it was going to provide people with a way to keep up with all the social media in one place. This changed drastically once I published Modern Persuasion.
A Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Newsletter
I have all these ways to connect with my readers already. I have a Facebook page, this blog, a Twitter account, and I’m using Instagram. Do I need to add a mailing list and newsletter on top of that? When I asked other authors this question they all came back with a resounding YES and I’m going to echo what they’ve all told me. You do, and the newsletter should be your primary way of communicating with them. The primary reason is that social media comes and goes. Facebook skews older, and Instagram is just pictures. Once their popularity fades, you lose the people in that community. A mailing list is always yours. If you switch to a new service to manage it, you take the people with you.
There is also the issue of visibility on social media. Facebook, for example, give feed priority to images and videos over text links. Then you have to get through to people in a way that makes them stop and look while scrolling through their feed. I, personally, am very controlling over what is allowed to show up in my feed. I’ve set priorities to make sure I see everything from a group or page. I still miss things! Just imagine how much is missed by people who aren’t as controlling as I am.
Benefits so far
I love having this mailing list, and I’m learning the different ways to engage readers. I am getting higher than average opens and clicks within these emails, so I have members who want to be engaged, I need have to find the best and easiest ways to connect with them. I’ve used MailChimp as my system, and they’ve allowed me to set up a drip campaign so new list members can learn about my backlog of books. I can’t promote everything all the time and it just automatically sends prepared emails, triggered by date. It also allows me to set up multiple lists. This way the VIP list, primarily romance readers, get to feel engaged with everything and then I can break out separate readers who only want genre-specific content. I can sync it with BookFunnel (or Instafreebie or another similar service), so those who get my books for free do so in exchange for joining the mailing list. It has allowed me to grow the list so quickly.
Drawbacks… so far
For me it’s not the drawbacks of the newsletter, but the balancing the marketing and promotion better. The one newsletter specific struggle I’m having is generating content to give away for free. That seems to be the biggest reason people join an author’s mailing list. My most successful newsletters are when I give them something free to read. Even if they get an early preview or the audiobook, the cover reveals, or something nobody else can get, it’s the free writing that generates the highest opens and clicks. It means I must generate short stories or give the books away for free. Considering that I’m already luring people with free books and I want to use the short stories for published collections, I have to plan and have plenty of content ready to go.
I’m also struggling to find balance in my writing and promotional work. This includes finding a balance between this blog and the newsletter. Even doing the newsletter once a month and this blog once a week might be too much for me to do in addition to writing. So much has changed since I started blogging that I have to adjust how I spend my time. The newsletter is a priority, so the question becomes: what do I stop doing or do less often? I don’t know if I have the answer yet.