Okay, let’s get this out-of-the-way first: I’m going to recommend aweber.com, if you sign up using my link I’ll get a commission. The main alternative is MailChimp – I don’t get a commission if you sign up with them. You could say what you will, bottom line: I’ve used AWeber for years, still use them, and this is why.
The Also Rans
There are lots and lots of other services out there, some expensive some “free”. However I’m sticking with the two biggest: AWeber and MailChimp. Reputation is everything in this game, if the service is not trusted by your subscribers email service or ISP your email won’t get through, end of story. You might as well have not bothered.
Swapping Mail List Providers Is Complex
Once you have subscribers in one service, switching to another service is not entirely straightforward. For example, if you try to import from MailChimp to AWeber you may have to get your subscribers to reconfrim their subscription. Obviously not all will. Oddly if you Google moving from MailChimp to AWeber you will find many blogs on the subject, but going the other way, not nearly as many.
Many people start with MailChimp, but later decide to switch. There is a cost to your business doing so. So consider if you can afford to start as you mean to go on from the start.
What Is Critical For An Email Delivery System
If you have subscribers signed up you want them to get your emails in their inbox, not their spam box, or worst not at all. That is the main reason you are using a email subscriber service in the first place.
Timing of Delivery
Both services offer scheduling of emails sent, by all accounts AWeber is better at actually delivering (sorry) on that promise.
Why I Think AWeber Is The Best Choice For Authors
To get more specific, most reviews of AWeber and MailChimp rave on about A/B split testing options, and the flexible API of AWeber. Yeah, whatever, I don’t care either. However these are the features I use and appreciate of AWeber, which you can’t get from MailChimp
Autoresponders and Broadcasts
There are two types of emails you can send:
- broadcast (campaigns in MailChimp, which go to all subscribers either when you hit “send” or a scheduled future time e.g. 8am Monday GMT.
- autoresponder one or more emails sent, usually relative to the previous email sent, or the sign-up date. AWeber insists on a follow-up email which is sent as soon as a subscriber confirms their sign up. This is option in MailChimp and only possible if you have a paid subscription.
To consider the differences, relate it to a magazine (broadcast), which is delivered to your door every first Monday of the month, compared to an online course you enrol in, where the first module is sent after you pay, but the second one won’t come until a month after the first. Regardless of when you join, the magazine will arrive on the Monday it’s due. If I started the course three months before you did though, we will get the course materials at quite different times. Neither model is better or worse, they are for very different purposes.
I use broadcasts for:
- regular newsletters including references to new material on my blog and elsewhere on the web;
- notifications of time-limited offers, usually sales, or freebies on my books;
- updates to events you may be attending either online or in real life;
- urgent notifications if, for example,there was a serious issue with my blog being offline, or if I was away for sometime.
I use autoresponders for:
- follow up thank you email for new subscribers, inviting them to reply to any of my emails with questions or comments.
- subscribers to a blog will get a “thank you” gift of a free book;
- subscribers to my Kindle eBook Formatting list get links to free example files, and updates to the course material, which haven’t made it to the book yet.
Other uses an author can use an autoresponder for include:
- send new subscribers a new short story – one a day for 4 days, or 4 weeks, or whatever time period you chose;
- send new subscribers a supplement to a book, such as the parent’s study guide, to a children’s fiction book about dinosaurs;
- send subscribers a discount code for future purchases.
The free version of MailChimp doesn’t give you any access to an autoresponder not even a single follow up email. Once you start paying the minimum $10/month then you are then comparing $10 to $19 for AWeber not free to $19 for AWeber, given the other advantages to me that is the tipping point.
If you have an older MailChimp account, you may have access to Autoresponders, I’m not sure when this changed, but new accounts do not get this feature.
Sending Already Subscribed Readers to a Custom Page
Who remembers every site they’ve subscribed to? Certainly not me. If you try to subscribe again with the same email address, MailChimp will give you an error page. With AWeber, if you try to subscribe again, I can send you to a custom page – try it now if you like!
It may not sound like much, but it’s important if for example you are using the subscription to send readers to extra resources, you can resend them to the page, if they try to re-subscribe again.
Ability To Send One Message To Many Lists
As I’ve explained elsewhere, I’m a fan of multiple lists, so I know whether someone has bought my book or not, is looking at my book, or is just checking out my website. With AWeber I can send a blanket email – say announcing a limited time discount to all my lists, excluding those who are already on my buyers list, and without sending duplicates to those who may have signed up for more than one list. MailChimp only allows you to the same message to each list at a time, which wastes your time, and more importantly annoys your subscribers with multiple emails.
How Do You Chose An Email Service As An Author?
Decide what you want to use your email subscription service for. How are you going to interact with your followers. It’s okay if you don’t have the details yet, but a plan, is a good start. I can suggest some scenarios to start:
$19/month Is Small Change To You
- draft your welcome email
- draft your first newsletter (broadcast) and/or a autoresponder series for sign ups
- sign up for AWeber and evaluate before the first month is complete. Consider their $49/quarter plan to save a little.
You Can’t Afford $19/month
- consider going with MailChimp, but consider the implications, particularly not being able to use autoresponders and not being able to send messages to multiple lists without sending duplicates
- consider how you are going to grow your business’s income by $20/month to pay for AWeber.
Both of these services do what they day on the packet. MailChimp provides some, not all, functionality on a free plan which gives you up to 2000 subscribers. AWeber allows you to sign up for a $1 for the first month to try. After that it’s $19/month (less if paid quarterly or yearly) until you hit 500 subscribers and then goes up from there. Over 2000 subscribers both services are about the same price.