For months now, this column has shared the ins and outs of leveraging the media to get your book in front of brand-new people. What we haven’t talked much about is your goal—the reason you want to be in front of that audience.
Think you already know? Is your #1 goal for the members of that audience to…
—Buy your book on Amazon?
—Buy your book at their local bookseller?
—Check out your book at their local library?
—Follow you on Facebook or some other social platform?
—Come to your website and join your email list?
While all of these are good outcomes, the best outcome is the fifth one! The best thing that can happen is for the members of that audience to learn about you, come to your website, and sign up for your email list.
You want to be able to talk to these people more than one time. And getting them on an email list is the only way that you have a fighting chance to stay in touch.
Think about it:
- Amazon won’t tell you who bought your book.
- Booksellers won’t tell you.
- Libraries won’t tell you.
And social platforms? HA! Even on a good day, you can only reach a sliver of your own followers with any one post.
Every Author Needs An Email List
It’s easy to take email for granted. But experts agree that building an email list is important for your career as an author. Building a list of email subscribers allows you to engage with your readers, drive new book sales, and protect your author platform against inevitable changes in search engines and social networks.
I’ve seen authors put all their energy into getting that quick burst of media attention, but fail to capitalize on it to grow a list. When you attract new readers to your website, the #1 goal should be to invite them onto your email list.
That way, you can reach out to them again in the future when you want them to…
- buy your next book
- introduce you to their friends
- support your next appearance in the media
- read that blog post
- take that reader survey
“How Do I Get Those Visitors On My Email List?”
Of course, folks won’t give you their email address without a good reason—especially if they just met you!
Hands down, the best way to grow your email list is to offer website visitors something in exchange for their name and email address. This “something,” often referred to as a “lead magnet,” can take many forms—including eBooks, PDF downloads, audio or video content, and more.
NOTE: Be sure that whatever you offer focuses squarely on your category or genre. The purpose of these lead magnets is to attract the kind of people who will buy your book!
Want some ideas for your lead magnet? Here are a few to get you started:
#1 - You Can Offer an Ebook
Example: Lindsay Buroker
Your first thought might be to offer an eBook. Many authors successfully use this method to grow their email lists. The main benefit is that this is a way to demonstrate your skills as a storyteller or writer.
Whether offered as a digital eBook file or a simple PDF, here are some forms your free eBook might take:
- Sample chapters
- Interviews with authors or experts in your field
- Information that supplements your book
- Guide to your series or your fictional world
- Prequel to your novel or side stories in your book’s universe
- Author interviews or a historical overview of your genre
In our example above, SF & fantasy author Lindsay Buroker offers an assortment of free fiction when you sign up for her author email list. This includes a virtual box set with four of her fantasy series starters, plus a novella exclusive to the collection.
But don’t think that offering an eBook is your only option! If you want to offer something else, keep reading for some other opt-in ideas…
#2 - You Can Offer Printable Documents
A printable sheet or PDF guide is perhaps the easiest kind of lead magnet you can offer. Experts will tell you they’re often the most successful, as well!
Your printable download might take the form of…
- List of resources or online tools
- Cheat sheet or instructions
- Glossary or calendar
- Checklist of important books or characters in your genre
- Maps or supporting documents for your stories
- Instructions to do activities or make stuff like the people in your stories
These simple documents are easy to make and can be great for attracting your ideal readers. Even if they aren’t familiar with you, they are likely familiar with key authors in your category and books that are similar to the kind you write.
In our example above, TrekkSoft is offering a checklist to improve your website.
#3 - You Can Offer an Email Series
An email series is a short group of emails bound by a common theme. They can be loosely connected by a topic, or they can be one eBook split up across multiple emails.
The way this works, you’d write out all the emails ahead of time (one reason you may want to make it a short series). The emails are loaded into your email service provider (like MailChimp or ConvertKit), and then automatically dripped out to new subscribers when they register for your list.
Here are some ideas you might try for an email series or course…
- 5-part course with one lesson emailed out each day
- Interviews with experts in your field
- Series that busts myths in your field
- Serialize a novel (not necessarily the one you want to sell)
- Send short-short stories in the same genre as your book
- Share interviews with authors or reviews of books in your genre
There are a few benefits to offering an email course: For one, the format nearly guarantees that you’ll have a strong open rate. (This is important to your deliverability.) Another benefit is that you do the work once, but your subscribers get value over an extended period of time. And by dripping the information out over days or weeks, you get a better chance of staying top of mind and building a stronger relationship.
Our above example, DailyLit, is a website that serializes books from the likes of Charles Dickens, Joan Didion, and Agatha Christie. Subscribers receive an excerpt in their inbox every day.
#4 - You Can Offer a Newsletter
Example: David Gaughran
Another way to stay in touch with subscribers is an author newsletter. This can be a weekly or monthly opportunity to reach out with information your subscribers will find useful or entertaining—or that will draw them closer to you.
The content of the newsletter can range from personal behind-the-scenes stories to updates from your field. Some ideas for your newsletter include…
- Upcoming events that are relevant to your audience
- Links to new content on your blog or related websites
- Motivational quotes or anecdotes
- What you’re reading
- News from your genre
- Behind-the-scenes info about your book or its world
A newsletter can provide a glimpse of the person behind the book. Or it can be a roundup of info that keeps your target reader interested. Either way, when you have some book news of your own, it becomes a very natural way to share previews or links to click through and buy your novels.
In the above example, digital publishing expert David Gaughran offers weekly marketing tips for authors. Note that he also offers a free eBook when you sign up for the newsletter!
#5 - You Can Offer a Survey or Quiz
Example: Game of Thrones (Interact Template)
Quizzes and surveys aren’t just popular, they can be used to collect new subscribers for your email list. Visitors take the quiz and then have to register to get their results. And unlike most opt-in offers, this is one they’re more likely to share online with their friends!
Quiz and survey ideas include…
- Uncover details about their personality (“Which kind of [profession or category] are you?”)
- Test their knowledge (“What do you know about [topic or activity]?”)
- Segment your audience (“What are your biggest struggles with [category]?”)
- A quiz about books or worlds related to your fiction (“Which is your favorite fictional holiday spot?”)
- Personality quiz about certain types of popular characters in your genre (“Which leading lady/man are you?”)
- Genre trivia quiz (“How well do you know these spy-fi movies?”)
Our example above comes from Interact, one of the tools you can use to create your own quizzes. In their template example, a fantasy author whose fiction would appeal to fans of Game of Thrones can leverage that show’s popularity to grow their own audience.
How To Set Up Your Opt-In Offer
Once you’ve determined the type of lead magnet you want to offer, here’s how you use it to grow your email list…
#1 - Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP)
When we talk about your “email list,” we aren’t talking about your Gmail address book. You need an email service provider. It’s the law!
Some popular options include:
- MailChimp (free up to 2000 subscribers)
- AWeber ($19/month for up to 500 subs—offers a 30-day trial)
- ConvertKit ($29/month for up to 1000 subs—offers a 14-day trial)
Whichever ESP you choose, they should have support materials to explain how you can set up the types of offers we’ve discussed in this article.
#2 - Set Up a Form
Make it easy to join your list with a subscription form on your author website. It shouldn’t be complicated—these services provide instructions on their website for embedding a sign-up box.
NOTE: Do NOT add anyone to your email list unless they registered or gave you express permission. It’s not just rude, it’s also illegal in many places.
Once you create your offer and set up your form, make sure that it’s easy to find! Try adding it to your website’s sidebar. It would also be wise to include a navigation button in your website’s header or footer. (Or both.) You can also post links or even dedicated forms on your social profiles. The more places you mention your offer, the better your results will be.
What Are You Going to Do Now?
When people visit your author website, do you currently have a way for them to sign up for your email list? If so, what have you found works best for you? If not, which of these suggestions do you plan to try out for yourself?
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