Why Authors Should Use An Email Marketing Service

There are exactly two things a self-published authors control on the Internet: your newsletter and your self-hosted blog. Any author who is serious about their business should have both – but today I want to talk newsletter because it’s the least understood.

By the way if you want to see a newsletter in action, and you haven’t already, you may wish to sign up for mine at the bottom of the post. (Note sure if you signed up already – try it the computer will tell you!)

I used to be totally anti email marketing , I had been on so many scammer marketers buy, buy, buy newsletters, I was totally turned off them. But I was wrong. Now I understand about the difference between good and bad marketing. Unfortunately, too many authors are doing email marketing wrong too, or failing to do it at all .

See The Figures Having A Converstion? It's Called Marketing

See The Figures Having A Converstion? It’s Called Marketing

Why People Don’t Start Email Marketing

People can subscribe to my blog by email – what more do they need?

Subscribing to your blog posts is one thing – and suits many people, when say the blog is only updated randomly, like this one. Coming in late to a blog though can be confusing – it’s like being the one late guest to the dinner party. Some of my blog readers have been with me for 5 years, some for 5 days, a regular newsletter is a way to communicate more directly, refer back to earlier blog posts, link to stuff that’s happening on the Internet now, and personal updates. In contrast, subscribing to a blog, only gets you the blog posts as posted, either via email or in a RSS feeder. 

A decent email service, will allow you to set-up a pre-programmed series of email messages, so that when a new subscriber signs up they will get your pre-programmed emails, in the correct sequence, with the intervals  you set up. Also you can send out regular newsletters referring back to both your blog and any other resource online which may be of interest to your readers. 

They Are Using WordPress.com

If you are using wordpress.com to have a free blog you can’t use an external email marketing service. Readers can subscribe to your wordpress.com blog to be notified of post updates but that is it. Blogspot the other popular free website provider will allow you to use external email marketing services.

Do I Need A Newsletter? I’m Already on Facebook/ G+ /Twitter /Pinterest /Youtube /Tumblr/etc etc

Yes you do. All those social media platforms are lovely. I’m on some of them myself. But they are outreach places, places to meet new people. They are not my home base.

They will never be my home business – because I can’t control them.

Each and everyone of those sites ban users everyday. Think it’s hard to get yourself banned? No not really, have enough of your competitors complain about you and you will get banned. It used to be a real problem, now sites like Facebook have got more subtle. You may follow me on this site’s Facebook page, but I’m about to close it down, why?

Because my pages followers hardly ever see up dates in their news feeds. Facebook will fix this problem, if I just pay $5 per an update. That’s fair enough, Facebook has shareholders that need to see a return for their money. It’s bloody expensive though compared to the amount I pay for an email marketing service. Plus more and more users seem to be moving on from Facebook, because of the annoying ads showing up in their news-feed.  Why spend a lot of time and effort to build a Facebook following, just to lose the audience when people become disenchanted with the platform, eve if they still ike your content.  That’s what I mean by no control. 

More subtly, readers need to already be active on a social media site before they follow you there. I’m not going to join Facebook to follow someone, unless I’m already on it. There is one piece of software that everyone uses, good old fashioned email. Particularly if your readers are not hard-core social media users, you will find them easier to reach via email than by social media.

Control on Social Media is all about smoke and mirrors, Wanaka, New Zealand

Control on Social Media is all about smoke and mirrors, Wanaka, New Zealand

Can’t I Just Send An Email From My Own Email Address?

Maybe you have a collection of a few hundred emails from people who have commented on your blog or have subscribed to your social media profiles or RSS feed. Can’t you just email them all?  And attach a Word doc file. 

No, it’s illegal. It’s called spamming.

Curiously, at this point some writers will get quite defensive and say, but I asked for their permission, people are okay with it. Maybe. But did you give them an option to subscribe on the email, did you remind them how they subscribed to you? Plus, many people will forget that they subscribed. They will forget who you are, or they are just having a foul day and they will hit the “spam” button in their email reader. If enough of them do that then your email address will be banned, first your email will go directly to the spam box, never to the inbox, next your email provider (gmail, yahoo, your ISP) will ban your email address. 

Plus the whole world doesn’t own Microsoft Word, nor will they open your update.doc file unless they know you very well, well they shouldn’t if they know anything about Internet security.  

I Don’t Have Anything To Say!

Really, I thought you were a writer? Or a blogger, or a business owner trying to get your message out! I do however know what you mean, and before you decide which email provider you’ll use, which pretty template, and load of other minutiae, you may need to sit down and think about a content strategy. You are trying to reach out to potential and real readers, what do they want to know? How can you help them?

What’s Better Than One Email List? Two Email List, Three Email List, More!

I have at, current count, eight email lists:

  • one for buyers of each of my three travel books;
  • one for buyers of Kindle Formatting book;
  • one for readers of this blog;
  • one for people signing up at my travel books website;
  • one for my travel blog website;
  • one for people signup up at my book formatting services site

I am probably short a few. Every book I publish has a signup at the BACK of the book – asking people to signup for updates and new releases. As that is the ONLY place those particular lists are advertised I know that the only way for someone to sign up is to have reached  the last page of my book, hopefully by having bought and read it.

To be honest I really should make a specific call in the front of books, where browsers can see it on Amazon, for interested readers to sign up for new releases under the Non-Boring Travel Guides brandname. That would be yet another new list, one for each book, so I can track where people signup from. They may be previewing the book now, and not buying, so if I have a 99c sale, maybe they would be a good person to tell?

I get far more signups for my Kindle Formatting book because I use the email list as a mechanism to send them the setup files for formatting their own books which will save them much typing.

When I update books (and the formatting book is nearly done), I can email those on the relevant buyer list, and say, here’s the new book. I don’t have to ask Amazon to do it for me, I have control of my buyers. Am I making sense yet?

Isn’t this an awful lot of work? Well no, the buyers lists only get occasional updates, when I have a new version, or a new very, relevant book. The other websites are monthly or longer between updates.

The time spend on updating people who have already expressed an interest by trusting me with their email address, is far higher on my priority list, than doing hourly updates on twitter.

How Do I Get People To Sign Up?

Ask. That’s all I’ve ever done, ask them to signup. You can do giveaways, and many people do. I’ve used a picture book to get signups on a travel blog, which worked well. I intend to put my best blog posts together, revised and edited, sometime in the future. But generally, if people like what they see either in your book or on your website, they will be perfectly happy to sign-up.

You need to make it easy. Ensure that there is a sign-up form on every page of a website, sometimes twice (mine pops up under the post as well as being in the side-bar).

The email service I use also allows me to link to updates on social media, I’ve started doing that and it seems to get a few click through, maybe even some more sign ups.

The important thing is, make sure that you deliver on your promise, if you promise weekly updates, going out to 10 days is fine, but do not email for three months – your subscribers will be wondering who they hell you are, which results in unsubscribes.

If you promise to only update subscribers when a new book comes out, don’t send updates of random cat photos every few days! If people subscribe to your email list for X-rated vampire fantasy, don’t start sending updates about your family, or your angst over the use of apostrophes. They don’t care, all they care about is the next zombie attack!

When Is The Best Time To Start A Newsletter

Yesterday. Seriously, even before you have finished the book, or got the website up and running. Start the email list. Well that may be extreme, but it’s pretty close. I waited years, and I regret that, because I’ve lost many of those people, never to make the connection again.

What Email Service Should I Use?

I suggest you pick carefully. You need something that will grow with you. You can swap email services, but every time you do you will lose some of your subscribers, because they will need to confirm their interest in your newsletter. Start with the one you intend to stay with long term. I use and recommend AWeber.com – and here’s why

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9 Responses to “Why Authors Should Use An Email Marketing Service”

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  1. Great post, Lis. Really helpful and informative.

  2. Another great post, Lis. I get a ton of email every single day because I’m on too many of those marketers’ lists (though I do try to weed them out: http://tinyurl.com/lvlmcqr ), but there are very few emails I actually read, and fewer still I read almost immediately, with pleasure. Yours is one.

    As you are no doubt aware, those email services you describe are called Autoresponders (a terrible term, and gramattically questionable tho I haven’t figured out quite what it is abouit). They’re called that because they DO give you the opportunity to upload pre-written emails that will go out in the sequence and at the timing you specify once someone has subscribed –automatically. Those messages are called Follow-Up emails. Then, you also have the ability, whenever you want, to send off-the-cuff, one-time emails that are referred to as Broadcast emails. These would be the ones where you announce a new blog post is up, or share some news with fans, or share someone else’s book or website or something you found interesting.

    Lis, do you use Aweber? I really don’t like them, but they tend to be “the default” for internet marketing, which is my bag (so to speak) with just a toe or two in Kindle and CreateSpace publishing, but even with other services, I feel certain you can set things up so that this:

    That would be yet another new list, one for each book, so I can track where people signup from.

    would not be necessary.

    One way to do it is to have readers go to one sign-up page from the front of the book and a different one for the back, thouogh each with the same autoresponder opt-in form code used. So, then with Google Analytics or some other tracker (I really like StatCounter — free and very complete, IMO — or Wassup which is a WP plug-in), you can see which is getting the most traffic and buy-in.

    Patricia

    • Lis Sowerbutts says:

      Hi Patricia

      Oh the jargon is an abuse on the language, even for software, it’s bad! In fact I think it adds to the confusion! If you follow the link at the end of this article you’ll see my pitch for AWeber and why, plus the explanation why I use it.

      I know of no way to know which book readers are coming from to sign-up to a list – hence the multiplicity of lists. It’s one of the irritations of eBooks – you don’t know which book/device/app a reader comes from.

      I also keep the landing pages for the book’s signups non-indexed, so the smart arses among my readers can’t find them and ruin my stats. Ilike AWstats too – but I don’t know of any stats program that can track traffic from a book.

      BTW given your last post I am honoured that you not only read me, but also commented :-)

      • Oh, that’s a very good article too. Sorry I didn’t click through to read it.

        I let myself be ridiculously unclear in quoting that one sentence. Sorry about that.

        You’d remarked that you might consider adding a call to action at the front of your books as well as having it at the back to see which gets more action, and then commented that that would mean yet another list. My reply was no, you could direct them at the front of the book to one landing page with your opt-in form and then a different page at the back of the book that holds the same code, for the same list.

        Basically — again, as you are probably aware — what you’re doing is testing two versions of your opt-in. This isn’t an area where I have a lot of experience, but there’s a lot of material out there on it and indeed I think AWeber probably has some good info.

        And yes, of COURSE you should feel honored by my praise. (cough, cough) ;-) You do good work, Lis.

        Patricia

  3. Marcia says:

    I’m in the process of starting a newsletter and have been going back and forth between MailChimp (free – to a point) and AWeber. Your point about a service that grows with you makes sense. Thanks!

    • Lis Sowerbutts says:

      Hope I helped! FYI AWeber has just (in the last 24 hours) updated their interface – it’s a lot, lot better than it used to be, very similar to MC now I think.

  4. Terry says:

    I want to know – I want to learn – I think I am in the right place
    Terry

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