Book Marketing Rule #2: Grow Your List

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Whenever authors ask me what they should be doing to market themselves and their books, one of the first things I ask about is their email list.

And building up that list is what today’s tip is all about.

The importance of the power to reach out and touch readers can’t be underestimated — the ability to inform and energize prospective readers is immense. Companies like BookBub charge hundreds — even thousands — of dollars for a single mailing. It’s just an absolute necessity if you are interested in selling your books, and it’s incredibly easy (and free) to get started building.

The intent of “building your list” is to develop a known set of leads of people who are interested in you and your books. It’s the current iteration of old school marketing. You can’t go door to door marketing and selling person, so you use your website and social media to do it for you. And, instead of exchanging cards or writing down names on a clip board, you are asking potential readers to sign up to be notified about your next project from a form on your site.

What Kind of List?

The first step is to have a website up and running (more about author websites here). For authors, the website is the hub of their online activity — everything centers around that website, and newsletter registration is no different.

As soon as that site is up, it’s time to put it to work and part of that is to start generating sales leads in the form of an email list. There are two options for this, the eNewsletter subscriber or the blog post subscriber.

True, you can do both, but it’s a little hard to split your focus and you want to maintain a clear funnel and call to action for readers. What’s the difference, you ask?

Good question.

A blog subscriber is someone who signs up to have your blog posts delivered to them by email.

A newsletter subscriber is someone who signed up to get a targeted email from you separate from any blog posts (an example is an exclusive offer).

The Right List Option for YOU

The rage right now is to focus on newsletter subscribers, but in all honesty, the method you choose depends more on where you are as a writer and how you communicate with fans. It also has a lot to do with how your “marketing funnel” is set up.

Remember, the purpose of all of this is to engage your readers while keeping you, the author, writing. You want to pick an option that fits with your work flow and mentality.

For example, I’m not the best Marketing Email writer — it’s hard for me to do, and I generally end up just reporting some news and saying “Sale!” real loud. So, I put it off a lot and rarely send them – the difficulty of writing them makes me procrastinate in sending them, making them less effective. But, I am pretty good at writing nice, conversational, sometimes even insightful blog posts. I share little samples of my WIP, the history of my stories, and occasional tidbits of my life and experiences. I also make sure to blog any big announcements or changes. Because of this — my personality, habits, and work methodology — perhaps a blog subscription is the better choice.

If you aren’t a great blogger, and the idea of sending out a newsletter once or twice a month sounds good to you — go the eNewsletter route. If you are a blogger and prefer that kind of engagement, consider the blog subscription option. And, if you feel you want to switch, it’s not a huge deal – most systems let you export your subscribers and then import them elsewhere (the various subscription tools in ThirdScribe allow for this, as do many other systems).

Is one method better than the other? No, not really. It all comes down to how YOU operate.

Again, the most important thing here is that authors recognize that 1) they need a list, 2) they need to get started building it right now, and 3) growing it needs to be a priority.

How To Grow It

We actually put together a whole post specifically on list growth strategy, which you can read here.

To put it simply, you grow your list by 1) putting it in the reader’s way and 2) making it worth their while to join.

How do you “put it in the reader’s way”? There are several proven methods, and you can do one, some, or all.

  • Have a link at the front/back of every book you sell
  • Have a pop-out/slide-out on your website with a registration form
  • Have a dedicated area on your website that is easily seen
  • Have links to your sign up form/page in your blog posts

And how can an author make it worth a reader’s while to join? Here’s a couple of ideas:

  • Offer an incentive (free book, class, etc)
  • Have really compelling content they don’t want to miss
  • Use challenges, clues, games, and giveaways
  • Offer insider information, insights, or access

However You Do It, Just Get Cracking!

Every so often, I hear authors play down list building. “It doesn’t work for me”, they say. “I don’t like them.” “No one likes them.” Yes, I’ve heard all of that and more — but, they’re wrong.

The reality is, it all gets down to simple math. Social media has an average visibility rate of less than 3%. Email has a visibility rate of upwards of 40%. That is a huge difference. Whatever you may feel about the concept of email marketing, there is no denying its effectiveness. It works.

Don’t want to believe a marketing dude like me? I get that — so listen to the authors themselves. In every single author interview (like this compilation of seven of them, for example) out there about marketing, they all wish they had started building their email list from the get-go. Yes, even before their first book came out. Learn from their collected wisdom — start building your list today.

It’s easy, free, and never too late to get started.

About Rob McClellan

Rob is the founder of ThirdScribe, a unique author services platform and social network. As a naval officer and diver, he spent a majority of his career doing a lot more than you would think with a lot less than you can imagine — a skill that has proven extremely valuable in the start-up world. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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