Email Marketing 101 for Authors

I’ve written at length about the power and importance of authors building an email list.

There is no better way to build long-lasting connections with readers, which is the definition of marketing.

It easily trumps social media, for building a long-term author platform and for sheer book-selling power.

It’s how first-time authors are launching New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers.

It’s the foundation of your author platform.

In fact, other than writing well and consistently, building your email list should be your Number One goal as an author.

That’s all well and good, you’re thinking — but how do I go about actually setting everything up?

We’re going to tackle that in this article, with these five steps:

  1. Choose an email provider
  2. Decide on your “Why?”
  3. Write your first email
  4. Create the two most important email signup forms
  5. Get your first 100 subscribers (this week)

1. Choose an Email Provider

There are dozens of email marketing providers out there. In fact, way too many to wrap your head around and test adequately.

So let me save you some time:

Sign up with ConvertKit.

(BTW – that link will get you 30 days free with them.)

Last year I switched to ConvertKit from MailChimp and have never looked back. Their platform is easy to use, especially for non-techies. They have great features. And their customer support is amazing.

Seriously, signup for ConvertKit then move on to step #2.

2. Decide on Your “Why?”

People already get too much email. Their inbox is crowded, and they’re not actively looking to add more to the pile.

So why will they sign up for your email list?

Because you’re going to give them a really good reason to!

Let’s start with what NOT to do: Do not have a bland, unappealing request such as “Sign up for my newsletter” or “Get my updates.”

Remember: WIIFM.

You have to answer their first and biggest question, which is: “What’s in it for me?”

What is a compelling reason for people to sign up for your email list?

The simplest and best method is to create a giveaway.

Create a compelling offer — free content that can only be accessed by subscribing to your email list.

Here are a few ideas:

  • One of Your Books – “Sign up now and I’ll immediately send you my bestselling book, The Truth About Why You Don’t Like Your Day Job — and What to Do About It
  • A PDF with Tips, Secrets or Insider Information – “Enter your email address below to download my free PDF 8 Secrets to a Healthier, Sexier You
  • A Course or Walkthrough – “Where can I send your free 30-day book marketing course?”
  • Interviews – “I’ve interviewed three of your favorite novelists. Where should I send the recordings?”

This part of the process can be a real sticking point for many people.

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to come up with the perfect giveaway, or to assume that the one you have isn’t good enough.

Based on my experience in building, assessing, and consulting on hundreds of author websites, here’s my advice:

  • Something is better than nothing. ANY free giveaway is going to work better than “Sign up for my newsletter!” (which is all about you, not them).
  • Let your friends decide. Come up with three ideas, then ask ten to twenty people which one they’d rather have. Go with the popular opinion.
  • Don’t give away the first chapter of your book. Well, you can — just don’t call it that. It’s not compelling enough. Name it something more compelling.
  • Try different things. You don’t have to stick with your first idea. You can always change it later.

Whatever you offer people, make sure it answers the WIIFM question.

The goal is to give people a compelling reason to sign up for your email list.

3. Write Your First Email

Once you’ve gotten set up with a solid email provider and decided on your giveaway, it’s time to write your first three emails.

Here’s how:

This email is the first step towards creating that long-term relationship with your readers.

4. Create the Two Most Important Signup Forms

Now that you have your list set up with an email provider, have your giveaway ready, and have your first emails written … it’s time to let people sign up!

There are two main online forms you want to create:

  1. Website form(s) – As mentioned above, your Number One goal is to get people to sign up for your email list. This means that your website’s Number One goal is to get people to sign up for your email list.
  2. Link form – When you share your signup link on social media or invite someone via email to sign up for your list, you’ll want to have a stand-alone form ready that they can link to directly.

Both of these forms are very easy to create with ConvertKit.

Here’s how:

Then you can create your Link Form directly in MailChimp:

At this point, you’ve come a long way.

You’ve set up your email list, created your compelling giveaway, written your first three emails, and created some forms so people can sign up easily. Great job!

Now we can begin the real work …

5. Get Your First 100 Subscribers (This Week)

How do you go from one subscriber (you) to 100?

And how can you pull this off in the next seven days?

The first thing to remember is this: you’re not inviting people to join your email list.

You’re inviting them to download your free giveaway.

Instead of saying “Sign up for my newsletter,” you’re saying “Download my latest book for free” or “Let me send you my free PDF.”

Starting from that crucial point, here’s five steps you can take to get your first 100 subscribers:

  1. Invite your social media following. Post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., and let people know about the giveaway you have available.
  2. Add it to your email signature. Automatically invite everyone you email to join your list. This is what mine looks like:New_Message
  3. Make it the Number One thing on your website. In Step 4, I showed you how to install SumoMe and add a pop-up or slide-in signup form to your website. If you haven’t yet, stop right now and do that!
  4. Put it in your book. Change the last page of your book to include an invitation to join the email list.
  5. Ask new subscribers to share. Individually email each of your first 100 subscribers, to thank them for signing up, ask for their feedback, and ask them to share your free giveaway invitation with their friends.

Your email list is the foundation of the author platform that is going to support your entire writing career.

Take the time to set it up right, and start getting your first group of subscribers now.

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