You need an email list of potential customers to market your book(s) to.
Surprised? You probably assumed email lists were just for businesses.
But you are a business now!
(PS That’s true even if you’re planning to go the traditional publishing route – agents and publishers will be very interested in you if you already have a list to market your work to.)
Why do you need an email list if you’re on social media?
In the last post, we talked about building a social media presence. That’s a great place to start identifying and connecting with your audience. But there is a danger to relying solely on social media to sell your book(s).
What if the site goes out of business? Or changes the type of posts it allows? Or your account gets shut down? Or people just get tired of it and move on to the next platform (looking at you MySpace)? You’d have to start building your followers from scratch again.
A list of emails is yours no matter what. And you can also guarantee your messages get to the right people.
Tweeting a link to purchase your book is great, but what if someone doesn’t log in for a couple of days? By the time they do, the Tweet won’t show up in their feed anymore. An email will stay in their inbox until they have a chance to open it.
Benefits of an Email List
Imagine you could snap your fingers and a list of 10,000 potential customers appeared before you. You send an email announcing your book’s release. Within a day, 20% of your list (2,000 people!) open it. 10% of them (200 readers) click the link and buy your book for $20. You just made $4,000 from one email!
Unfortunately, it takes a little more work to build that list than just snapping your fingers.
Why don’t all authors build an email list?
Today, I listened to a presentation about how to build an email list. And I think I figured out why this is something authors in particular struggle with. It’s because the fastest way to build a list is to give your work away for free.
Did you just shudder? I did.
As authors, we’ve slaved over each and every word we’ve written and, dammit, we deserve to be paid for it!
You’re not wrong to feel that way or have a negative knee-jerk reaction to the suggestion. But let me explain how it’s supposed to work using theoretical “widgets” before you stop reading.
Widgets, Thingamabobs, and Whatchamacallits
First, you start with a web page that says, “Hey, would you like a free widget? Let me know what email address to send it to!” (Remember, the main goal is to get their email, which you’ve just successfully done in exchange for a free widget.)
Then, on the next page, you say, “Thanks! Your free widget is in your inbox. By the way, since you like widgets, would you like a special deal on this thingamabob? If you buy it now, it’s only $7!”
And then, if they buy the thingamabob, you can try to sell them a whatchamacallit for $20.
And so on…
In principle, this sounds great. Until you remember the widget, thingamabob, and whatchamacallit are books you painstakingly crafted!
But also, what if you only have one book? You can’t give it away! You’d have nothing left to sell.
I hear you.
But I think that’s where most authors give up on building their list. Instead, think outside the box.
Thinking Outside the Box
What kind of widget (other than a free book) would your potential audience want enough to give you their email address?
If you’re a fiction author, what about a short story that’s a prequel to your novel?
If you’re a non-fiction author, what about an article on the same topic as your book?
Or, here’s a scenario to consider. Imagine the third volume of your trilogy is almost ready to launch. You’re trying to build your list to make sure its debut is a success. Consider giving away the first book for free, then upselling the second volume for a reduced price. You get emails, everyone gets book 1, some also buy book 2, and when you launch book 3 people will want to know how it ends so they’ll line up to buy it.
I know, I know! It’s hard to think of your precious books as commodities to be used this way but sometimes it can really pay off.
Switching Your Mindset
In future posts, I’ll share some more concrete tips about how to build your list. Right now, this is just food for thought to help you shift your mindset from author to entrepreneur.
Also, there are slower ways to build your list, like having a newsletter signup on your website (speaking of which, if you haven’t signed up for Writing Academy’s newsletter, what are you waiting for? It’s in the sidebar!).