5 Myths About Email Marketing for Authors

When it comes to email marketing for authors, it can get overwhelming very quickly.

In my book Your First 1000 Copies, I worked to redefine marketing.

I said that marketing is:

  1. The act of creating long lasting connections with people, and
  2. Being relentlessly helpful.

I then went on to talk about how the first thing every author should do is build an email list.

Over the last few years since I first published the book, I have had a lot of push back from authors who are resisting setting up an email list for themselves.

In this article I want to combat the five most prominent myths that authors have when it comes to building an email list.

5 Myths About Email Marketing for Authors

Let’s start here:

Myth #1: I’m annoying people

This is probably the most pervasive lie that people believe about email marketing for authors.

I want to come at this from two angles.

First of all, it is extremely patronizing for you to believe that you are annoying people with your emails.

The first thing that people have to do in order to join your list is to opt-in. They have to put their email address in a form somewhere or give you permission to add them to your list.

So they choose to be on your list.

Also, at the bottom of every email you send there is an unsubscribe link. So that means at any time they can click a button and unsubscribe from your email list.

People signup for your email list by their own choice and then, with each email you send, they have a new choice to unsubscribe with a single click.

I trust people to know what is best for them and to make good decisions for themselves. If they don’t want to be on my list, they can self select off.

Second, you are working to provide valuable, useful, and entertaining content.

Of course, not everyone will appreciate your content and may unsubscribe (see the above point). However the people that stay on my email list, I’m assuming, are getting value out of being on my email list because that is what I am working to provide.

You are not annoying people. And the minority of people that may get annoyed can easily self select off of your list and never hear from you again.

Trust people to make the best decisions for themselves.

Myth #2: I don’t have anything to say.

This is an interesting one because it highlights something on a deeper level.

You are a writer, yet you think you can’t come up with anything that people will want to read.

I was stuck in this position.

I had grown my email list to a few hundred people, but I was never sending them anything. I would sit down to write an email and then get stuck on what to write and quit.

It was really frustrating, especially since I was trying to tell authors that they should be doing this.

I kept worrying about what people would think and who would want to read this and was my stuff good enough and will people think I’m dumb and on and on.

And then one day I finally flipped a switch.

I had just gotten off the phone with Marilee.

She was an author of several books and was struggling with a few aspects of building her author platform. We talked for 45 minutes and I was able to help her move past her blocks and actually start working.

And it hit me.

I wasn’t writing for everybody on the internet. And I didn’t need to worry about if some people thought I was dumb or my writing was amateur.

I wasn’t writing for everybody.

I was writing for Marilee.

(And, of course, all the authors like Marilee).

So I went to Marilee’s website, printed off a picture of her, cut it out, and taped it to my monitor. Then, every time I sat down to write something new to my email list, I began it with “Dear Marilee,” and I would do my best to write something that she would find useful.

Then I would just switch out the name and send it to everyone on my list.

If you think you don’t have anything to say, it is not because you don’t have anything useful or entertaining to say. It’s because you don’t know who you are trying to say it to.

Are you writing for fantasy nerds looking for new books? Are you writing for the thirty-something stay-at-home-mom that needs to lose some weight?

Who are you writing for?

Picture them and then work hard to add value to their lives.

You have plenty to say!

Myth #3: I don’t need an email list.

This is usually where an author lists off some famous or semi-famous author and how successful they are and they don’t have an email list so why do I need one?

So let’s start with the famous authors.

If your name is Nora Roberts or Stephen King or John Grisham, you don’t need any email list. The publisher has paid you some enormous advance and they are going to put you in every book store and run every promotion and advertisement they can to get the book out into the world. Not to mention the millions of fans the author has already built up over decades of writing.

However, if you’re not one of those authors, you need some way to notify your potential and current fans that you have a new book coming out when it’s time to launch.

How do you plan on doing this without an email list?

You can buy advertising, but it’s expensive and unpredictable. Also, you’ll find that over time you have to pay more money for fewer and fewer results.

There is social media, but it is extremely unreliable and does not sell books well.

Right now, if you look out at the digital landscape, the tool that will sell your book the best is an email list.

Do you have to have one? Of course not.

I don’t have to have a lawn mower to cut my grass. I have a perfectly good pair of scissors that will cut the grass just fine. I would just be opting for an extremely inefficient way of going about the job.

You don’t have to use email marketing for authors.

You can go with buying advertising or building a Facebook page or getting more Twitter and Instagram followers. Just know you’re going about it in a less efficient way.

Myth #4: It’s just too overwhelming.

On the surface, it’s easy for me to say “start an email list!”, but the ramifications of email marketing for authors can be big.

What do I write? When do I write? When do I send? What do I send to my email list vs post on my blog vs put in my book vs put on my podcast vs put in guest blog posts? How does all of my content — book, blog, YouTube channel, emails — all fit and work together?

<shakily pours oneself another drink>

You are believing the lie that you have to have all of this figured out before you can start. Or the lie that everyone else has this all figured out. Or the lie that whatever decision I make today has to be the “right” decision. Or the lie that there is some perfect system and, once you find it, you’ll start.

Here’s the thing…

The only way you can figure this stuff out is to start. And to start small. And to experiment and try new stuff.

Do. Not. Overthink. It.

If you are stuck and don’t know where to start, here is my recommendation:

  1. Send two emails a month. Send them on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 3pm in your timezone.
  2. Send one author update. The first email of the month (sent on the first Tuesday of the month) should be an author update. Let everyone know what you are currently working on, when your next book is coming out, where you are signing books or speaking in the next month, what podcasts you’ve been on, and any new content you’ve published.
  3. Send one new piece of content. The second email of the month (sent on the third Tuesday of the month) should be some new piece of content you’ve created. You could write a blog post and send a link to your list. Or publish a new video and send it out. Or write a new review for a book you’ve recently read and loved. Or talk about the best six new novels released this year that everyone should read.

That’s it. Your subscribers will hear from you twice a month and you’ll only have to create twelve new original pieces of content a year.

Start there and see how it goes. If later you want to scale up or scale back or create something new, that’s great. The important thing is to get started and tweak your plan as you go.

Myth #5: The technology is too hard.

Ok, so I have to be honest here.

It’s not necessarily easy to get your email list setup. It involves an ESP (email service provider) and web forms and WYSIWYGs and other scary technological things.

However, you can do it.

It’s now easier than ever as more tools have hit the market, and I have a step-by-step walkthrough on how to go from no email list to an email list all setup with your first 100 subscribers.

Don’t be afraid. You can do it!

Jump in!

If you’ve never setup an email list or, you have but never actually tried to get subscribers, it’s time to jump in!

Now is always better than tomorrow! Don’t believe the myths. That’s just resistance holding you back.

Start building your email list and start being relentlessly helpful.

Tim Grahl
Tim Grahl
Tim Grahl is the author of Your First 1000 Copies and the founder of BookLaunch.com. He has worked with authors for a decade to help them build their platform, connect with readers, and sell more books. He has worked 1-on-1 with over a hundred authors including Daniel Pink, Hugh Howey, Barbara Corcoran, Chip and Dan Heath, Sally Hogshead and many others. He has also launched dozens of New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post bestsellers.