hand-1030570_1280There are a few pieces of the marketing puzzle that an author can control. Of course, your unique voice and style are a vital part of your books and since YOU are your brand, you in turn can control what message you send. You also control your website with or without a blog as a home base. The last piece that you own is your email list or subscribers.

Ask the business gurus and they will tell you that email marketing has consistently resulted in more successful conversions than any other form of marketing. That’s mostly because people are growing used to clicking links in email messages in order to go buy something. Instead of wondering if your fans actually saw your post on Facebook or were even online that day or worse if Facebook’s algorithm decided not to share your update with them at all, email gives you direct access to every inbox of your interested readers.

But before you can send those emails, you need a list.

MailChimp-logo-cartel-2013-260pxTool #1 – Pick a list management tool and sign up for an account. Emailing a long list of people is not only a time-consuming hassle, there are also spam rules that make it extremely difficult to do from a private email account. That’s where a list management tool helps you collect and store addresses and then instantly email the entire group with a single click. There are many out there, but I personally use and recommend Mail Chimp especially for those just starting out. What I love most is that it’s free to use up to a certain number of subscribers or emails per month plus it is very easy to use with plenty of  handy email templates. When your list grows, you can then upgrade to a paid account with auto-responder features or shop around for another list-management tool to meet your needs. But for now, the important thing is to start building that list.

Tool #2 – Glean email addresses with permission to send. If you have a paper list of people who have already given you permission to send them updates, you can manually enter them into your Mail Chimp list. To find new subscribers, add a Mail Chimp plug-in widget to your website to place a sign-up form near the top or use a pop-up from the AppSumo plugin instead. Also, Facebook Pages now allows you to add a “call to action” in the banner area so you can invite your page followers to sign up for your email list as well. In addition to asking readers to join and making it easy to do so, many authors (and other online business owners) offer an incentive of sorts in exchange for an email address. If you do this, make sure it’s relevant to your brand so you know they signed up for your updates and not simply for a chance at winning the iPad or gift card. Those folks aren’t likely to open or respond to your email anyway and if your numbers have increased, you’ll be paying to send an email to their trash. 

Tool #3 –  Create a newsletter or email. Once again, this is why I love Mail Chimp because they make it so easy to create a new campaign and design the email message. Deciding on a plain text version or a fancy graphics design depends on your personal style, but just know that fancy takes longer to load and some features won’t show in many email programs unless the reader clicks to download the images. Frequency is also important since you don’t want to flood inboxes to the point they unsubscribe nor do you want to email so infrequently they forget you exist. While the most important thing to you might be getting your subscribers to pre-order your next book, make sure to provide something of value for the recipient with something fun, inspirational, helpful, or even an exclusive sneak peak or coupon code. Raise their expectations so they will open your emails. You can also link away to various places (including Amazon, a YouTube video, or a helpful blog post) and then monitor the open rate and clicking statistics to see what was clicked on the most to help when designing your next email message. Last, there are all sorts of rules that exist to prevent spam so your email should always give recipients an easy way to unsubscribe. (Bonus? That’s automatically built into Mail Chimp.)

Once you have your website set up and can start collecting addresses in order to interact with interested readers, it’s time to get out there into the world and build relationships with future readers through social media channels.

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