A few months ago, I started listening to the Smart Author Podcast from Smashwords, a popular ebook publisher and distributor. If you haven't listened to the show, or even if you have, I highly recommend it. The host, Mark Coker, focuses on what he calls "evergreen marketing practices"--in other words, practices that work regardless of which social-media platform is popular right now or however else the market changes. (If you'd rather read Mark's advice than listen to it, you can also get his free book here.)
One of Mark's recommendations is to build an email list. In this excerpt from his book, he explains why an email list is such a great tool:
"When you build your mailing list, you’re building a marketing platform you control. A mailing list enables you to reach your readers on your terms, rather than having your relationship with readers mediated by social media platforms and retailers . . . [who] can erect tolls and taxes that stand between you and the readers who love you."
Effectively, your email list is a free-of-charge (depending on the platform you use) marketing tool that you can use to reach readers and potential readers in whatever way feels comfortable to you. For example, I email every weekday, but you could email your readers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; once a week; monthly; or on whatever schedule you choose.
So what do you put in these emails? Mike Shreeve of the No Pants Project emphasizes that your emails must add value for your readers. This makes sense--if people don't feel that they're getting anything out of your emails, they'll unsubscribe and/or report you as spam. So make sure that in every email, you include something useful for your readers. You could provide writing tips, updates about your upcoming books, or anything else related to your work that you think will interest the recipients. (Coker gives some great ideas in his book and the podcast.)
But even if you know what you want to say, how do you get people onto your email list in the first place? Here are a couple of useful techniques I've learned:
When you reach out to someone for a business matter related to your writing (for example, when you're emailing back and forth with a potential editor, publisher, or reader), ask if that person would like to subscribe to your email list. I've found that even if people aren't interested in your book right now, they may be willing to subscribe to your email list.
Note: Never subscribe someone to your email list without their consent! At the very least, it's unethical and is a great way to get people mad at you. It may also violate the terms of service of your email platform.
In everyday conversations, your work may come up. After explaining what you do, you can add something like this: "You know, I send out a regular email with [explain the value you provide in your emails]. Would you like to be on the list?" I've had a surprising number of people say yes to this kind of proposal.
All of that may seem overwhelming. I've definitely been there. If an email list is something you'd like to do but just don't have time for, I offer that as a service for my clients. I can set up your email platform (it's a bit more complicated than using Gmail), help you find subscribers, and even write your emails for you. Click here to book a discovery call with me so we can start getting you your readers!