An author mailing list is vitally important if you are a self-publisher. Why?
Because when you start building a mailing list, it is yours; that why.
As a marketing strategy, social media is good for starting on building an author platform. But services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads are out of your control.
You can use them, but who owns the data? Who makes the rules? Most importantly, who can change the rules without notice?
Take control of your contacts
For authors, a mailing list is like having insurance.
When all else fails, closes, changes, gets hacked, or disappears into the Internet ether, you will still have your mailing list.
An author’s social media contacts are all well and good. But these connections can be taken away in an instant by a hacked account, an account suspension, or a change of site policy.
There is no way to backup your social media contacts. If a problem arises with your Twitter or Facebook account, there goes all your hard work and your contacts.
With your mailing list, you have individual email addresses that you can use to make contact, either in bulk or individually. Think of it as your big one-to-one contact list.
Many Twitter users have experienced hacked accounts or suspensions. It immediately results in the loss of all your hard-won contacts.
Facebook and Goodreads limit your personal accounts to 5,000 friends or users, thus limiting your ability to expand your potential readership.
Even with a Facebook Page, while there are no user limits, it is a very slow process to collect enough Likes to make it worthwhile.
The enormous advantage that an author mailing list has is that you own every piece of data in it and can use it in any manner you wish.
No rules are governing when, where, and how you can use your database of email addresses and names.
No one can take it away from you without notice due to a sudden change of terms and conditions of use.
Then there is the marketing power of email.
Even though it may seem old hat, email is nearly 40 times more effective than Facebook, and Twitter combined, as this case study by McKinsey explains.
You own your data
Unlike social media sites, you own outright and without limitation your author mailing list. You can use it yourself or, more commonly, transfer it to a choice of mailing services.
Over time, growing your email list will give you a huge marketing advantage.
You can communicate directly with your potential readers about new titles, discounts, free ebook offers, or changes to your retail distribution.
You can also use it to notify subscribers of new blog posts or articles.
There are many options available to start an email list from scratch.
The most basic, of course, is to make sure you keep the email addresses of people you have contacted via social media, and from that, exchanged emails.
Make a new group in your contact list and use this to separate your friends and personal contacts from your author contacts.
A scan of your email program may give you a surprise and possibly locate fifty or more email addresses that can form the basis of your dedicated author mailing list.
Another easy means of starting to collect email subscribers is to use Google’s Feedburner to notify your blog readers of new articles. It is a terrific free content marketing tool.
All you need to do is add a signup form to your blog. Then add a link to your menu so your website visitors can subscribe.
I added this blog to Feedburner only a couple of months ago. I had meant to do it for ages, but I was lazy and forgot. In 36 hours, it attracted 18 new subscribers.
Once you start getting subscribers on Feedburner, the app will start collecting email addresses.
You can easily download your subscriber list in a .csv file to use in Excel or transfer elsewhere.
One tip, though, the subscriber list is a little tricky to find.
You need to go to your feed, click the Publicize tab, then click Email Subscriptions on the left. Then scroll to the bottom of the page, where you’ll find a View Subscriber Details link.
Click this, and your list of subscribers list will appear in a drop-down menu.
Feedburner is quick and easy to set up and will help build your email list.
Update: Feedburner is being closed down by Google. The best free alternative I can find is Follow It.
But don’t get too excited yet
Feedburner is effective in collecting new subscribers, but it has no functionality to send emails.
Yes, you can download your .cvs file, then add these addresses to your contact list, and then send emails yourself.
However, if you send emails to more than fifty or so people at a time, your mail account will more than likely be classified as sending spam by your email provider.
This is definitely not a good thing to happen.
Sending bulk emails from your own account is not an option.
You need to learn how to create a mailing list that you can use for bulk mailing.
How can I send bulk emails?
Once you have a mailing list of more than, say, one hundred, it’s time to look for a bulk email provider.
These companies specialize in maintaining your mailing list or lists and sending out your emails in bulk to your target audience.
Will I have to pay?
No, and yes. I use MailChimp, so I’ll use it here for my examples.
But most services are similar. MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails per month, which is quite generous.
For an author starting on email marketing, 2,000 subscribers is a lot and will take a little while to surpass this limit.
After you reach this limit, there are fees to pay. Up to 5,000 subscribers, it is $50.00 per month for unlimited emails.
There are, however, pay-as-you-go options, which are far more economical. It would suit an author who may only send a bulk email once a month.
But with a service such as MailChimp, your author mailing list is fully maintained, cleaned of inactive accounts, and handles your new subscriptions and unsubscribes.
There are widgets and links to add to your blogs and websites to encourage people to join your list. But most important are the professional email designs that are available.
There are so many options available for designing beautiful HTML emails. But even the simplest design beats text email hands down and will have a better conversion rate.
This is where using a professional email provider excels. Your beautiful and professional-looking emails stand a much better chance of being read rather than ending up in junk or spam folders.
You can easily add images, links, and call-to-action buttons. When you send a new mailing, it can be viewed in any mail app or opened as a browser landing page.
As you can see, there is a lot of value in a free account of up to 2,000 subscribers.
But later, if you do end up with a very substantial mailing list, the cost is well worthwhile and economical.
You will have built a considerable book marketing advantage for yourself.
Are you ready to re-evaluate your social media use now?
Do your research on email service providers.
I have only used MailChimp as an example in this post because I use it myself, so I am familiar with it. But most providers offer similar services.
Treat your mail subscribers well
One last note about email marketing.
Respect your subscribers, and don’t fall into the trap of mailing them too often or trying to sell your books in every mail.
Each email you send should be for a very good reason. When creating content, make it informative and perhaps even entertaining.
I won’t give any lessons about this part because I’m still learning myself.
But remember that building your author mailing list will end up being 40 times more powerful than Facebook and Twitter.
In today’s congested ebook and book market, that’s an excellent reason to start work on your author mailing list right away.
And, because you own your mailing list, you can move your mailing list data anytime, anywhere, and in any manner you like.
Because it’s your list, and no one apart from you controls it.
Now that is an author platform that is future and Facebook and Twitter proof.
Footnote: I have no affiliation with MailChimp.