I talk constantly about the importance of setting up an email list. It’s the single most important thing you can do to build your author platform.
I make this very clear in my book Your First 1000 Copies:
“Your #1 goal as an author should be to grow your email list as much as possible. Write that on a post-it. Recite it to yourself every morning. Tattoo it on your forehead. Do whatever it takes to make sure that developing your email list is the #1 goal of your platform strategy.”
So let’s say you’ve got that working for you.
You’ve set up an email list with a solid email service provider, and you’ve started getting subscribers.
Most writers let those subscriber names just sit there, gathering dust. They never actually email them.
Or they only email them right before their new book comes out.
Which begs the question …
How often should you email your subscribers?
The conventional wisdom is, “Don’t email them too often, because you don’t want to annoy them—they might unsubscribe!”
However: Take an even halfway logical look at that statement, and you’ll see it’s false reasoning.
I’m subscribed to the email newsletter NextDraft, which sends me an email every day. And every day, I read it.
I also get emails every day or two from an online clothing store I like.
I’ve kept my subscriptions to both of them. I’m not at all annoyed by the frequency of their emails.
Because here’s what I’ve learned:
People have a high tolerance for receiving useful, entertaining content.
It’s not about frequency. Your goal is to focus on sending content that is compelling.
My definition of marketing is:
- Creating long-lasting connections with people (getting people onto your email list)
- Being relentlessly helpful (sending them useful, entertaining content)
So what does that mean for your email list?
How often should you send? What should you send?
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s what I suggest:
1. Set a schedule
Remember, the schedule isn’t for your readers. It’s for you.
Most people are not going to be checking their in-box every day, waiting for another email from you.
You need to stay in touch, and setting a schedule ensures that you don’t go six months between emails.
If you don’t have a schedule you’re sticking to, it’ll be too easy to just stop sending emails.
Then suddenly, when your next book is about to come out, you’ll start spamming them with messages to buy your book, even though they haven’t heard from you in a year.
You don’t appreciate that sort of non-involvement from the people you subscribe to, and neither do your subscribers.
So pick a schedule, and stick to it.
If you don’t know what schedule to set, here’s what to do:
Send two emails a month.
Send the first email on the first Tuesday of the month, and the second email on the third Tuesday of the month.
2. Decide on the Content
It’s important that you decide early on what type of content you’re going to send your list.
Every week, Shawn Coyne publishes a new blog post at StoryGrid.com. And every Tuesday afternoon, he sends out a link to that new blog post to everyone on his email list.
He doesn’t have to decide every week what he’s going to send. He decided what content to send a long time ago.
He just has to send it.
If you are sending out two emails a month, here’s the content you should be sending:
- First email of the month (1st Tuesday): Send new content. Whether it’s a short story, a new blog post, a book review, or a new podcast episode. Make this email a “give” of newly created content.
- Second email of the month (3rd Tuesday): Send an author update. Remember that your subscribers signed up for your email list. Make sure you let them know what you’re working on. Include an update on your latest book, links to anywhere you’ve been interviewed, places you’re traveling to where they can meet you, upcoming interviews.Let them know what’s going on with you professionally.
That’s only twelve pieces of original content a year, and twelve author updates a year.
That is a very doable schedule, even if you’ve got a full-time day job.
It ensures that you invest in your relationship with your readers, and stay connected to them.
3. Stick with it for 6 months
Do not change your schedule for six months. You need to give it time to see how it’s working.
I’ve seen two types of mistakes that can occur when writers don’t adhere to this kind of set schedule.
First, you start scaling back on how many emails you send.
Maybe you got a bunch of unsubscribes, or got a mean reply from a reader. Or you just got lazy.
Either way, you start slipping and missing your deadlines. The problem with this, of course, is that it too quickly turns into you not emailing your email list for six months.
Second, you send a bunch of emails early on.
A lot of people get excited about the prospect of sending great content to their list. So they quickly write a lot of content, and decide to send three emails in a single week.
Sounds great. But at that pace, you’re going to get burnt out very easily.
You’ll send three this week. Then three next week. Then nothing for three months.
The excitement is good, but breaking the schedule is not.
If you’re inspired to write three pieces of content, go ahead and create them.
Now you’re ahead of schedule, and don’t have to worry about email content for three months. You can work on your next manuscript instead!
If you change your schedule too soon, you’ll not have given it enough time to see how well it’s working.
Wait six months, then step back and evaluate your schedule.
How does it feel? Are people enjoying the emails? Are you enjoying the content you’re sending? What could be tweaked and changed?
If you are easily creating enough content to start sending out once a week, make the change and stick to that schedule for three months.
If you’ve been struggling to get the emails out on time, maybe scale back to once a month, or once every three weeks.
Building your email list is important, but so is staying engaged with your new audience.
So pick a schedule, choose the content, and then stick to it. This will ensure that you’re investing in your audience.
You want them to be excited to buy your next book, and you help them do that when you use your blogs and updates, shared at a steady pace, to keep them engaged with your work.
Because people unsubscribing from your list is not the worst thing.
The real tragedy is not staying steadily involved with your readers in positive ways.
August 29, 2016