By Dana Leipold/ Here’s an interesting question: should authors or writers have an email list? The answer is, absolutely.
But, why? Isn’t a website, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a GoodReads account, or a Google+ account enough? No. While it’s important to have accounts on social networking sites, you still need an email list.
Email is Not Dead
If you Google the term, “Email is not dead,” you will come up with tons of results containing statistics on why email marketing is still a trusted method for reaching customers. Customers? YES! The people on your email list are YOUR CUSTOMERS. The fact is, as an author, you are in the business of selling content. The content you sell happens to be in the form of novels. And you want people to buy your novels, right? The best way to keep in touch with your readers (aka, customers) is to keep an email list. These are people you know love and want your work.
What kind of things do you send to your email list?
Think about what you’d like to get from your favorite author: updates on current works, insights, funny things about the writing life, exclusive content. All of these are great things to share with your readers. I would also suggest sharing a weekly blog post (that’s what I do). I’ll write more about how and what to blog about in a future post.
Basically, you want to figure out a plan for engaging with your readers as much as possible because folks these days tend to forget about you if you don’t reach out to them. And don’t worry about bugging people. If they don’t like what you have to say they will unsubscribe. If a lot of people start unsubscribing from your list, then there’s a problem. I’ll talk more about this later in a future blog post.
Now, onto the How To part of this post!
Step 1: Gather Emails
You know more people than you think you do. Sit down and think of everyone you know who would possibly be interested in your book and your writing. Ask them for their email address. Some may give it to you and some might not. This is a start so don’t get too concerned over how many you’ve got at this point. Just get a list together.
Step 2: Sign up for MailChimp
I went with MailChimp for one reason: I liked the name. I know, right? But I found that it was super easy to use and very cheap. The basic level of MailChimp is free for less than 2,000 emails. At this point, your email list is likely less than 2,000 so it’s perfect for you. Some of the features won’t be available to you for free but for now that’s okay.
Once you activate your account, MailChimp will walk you through the process of setting up your profile.
Step 3: Add Email Addresses to a List
At your Dashboard, you can start setting up your email list. Click on “Create a List” and fill out the details about your list. The system is super easy to use and it walks you through the process.
Then you’ll want to add the email addresses to a list. You can do this one at a time, which is fine if you have only a handful of emails. If you have a hundred or more, I would suggest putting them into a spreadsheet then importing that to MailChimp. Again, the system walks you through the process.
Step 4: Put a Sign Up Form on Your Website/Blog
So, you have a list now but you want to make sure you give people who find you an easy way to subscribe to your list. You want to put a sign up form on your website or blog. And MailChimp makes that super easy for you.
Click on the list you created. There is an option called “Sign up forms.” Click on that.
For our purposes, you just want “General Forms.” Now you can design your form to look any way you want. This will be what someone sees when they click the button or link from your website or blog.
Depending on your website or the platform you use to blog, you can either paste the link into your site or MailChimp can integrate it. This can get a bit complicated but I did it and so can you. Here’s a simple guide that walks you through the whole process: Add a Sign Up Form to Your Website.
Step 5: Send a Campaign
From your dashboard, select “Create and Send a Campaign.” The system will ask you which list you want to send the campaign to. Likely, you’ve only got one list so choose that one. Follow the next step filling out the information about the campaign.
Now you are going to choose a template or design your own. If you aren’t confident about trying new things on a computer, just use a template.
The system will help you through the process. The next step will be designing how the email is going to look to your recipients. Again, what I love about MailChimp is the tutorials and support. Here’s a great guide with a video included for help with designing your email template: Create a Campaign with Campaign Builder
When you’re done with the design, the system will ask you to confirm everything. You can schedule your email to send at a future date and time or just send it. The system gives you all kinds of reports on how many people opened the email and which links they clicked on if you put links in your campaign. Once you’ve sent a bunch of campaigns, it shows you how your emails perform against industry averages.
You may think that because you’re an author you don’t need an email list, but you do.
Even if you are a traditionally published author. You still need a way to connect with your readers/customers directly. Email is a great way to do that. Mailchimp offers you an awesome, low-cost, easy system for setting up and managing your lists. Try it!
Dana Leipold is a freelance writer, author, and member of the Association of Independent Authors and Creativity Coaching Association. Her debut novel, Burnt Edges, depicts the unwavering resilience of a young woman in the face of family violence and abuse. She has self-published two other books: a collection of limericks in Dr. Seuss-style for adults entitled, Stupid Poetry: The Ultimate Collection of Sublime and Ridiculous Poems, and a non-fiction book entitled, The Power of Writing Well: Write Well. Change the World. In addition, she coaches other writers on story structure, messaging, and writing skills so they can achieve their dreams to become published authors. Leipold lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area.