The Most Important Plank in Your Author Platform: Your Email List

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The Most Important Plank in Your Author Platform Your Email List

There is nothing more valuable than people who have said, “Please email me when your next book comes out.” The sales conversion rate from a newsletter is higher than any other advertising method, and it can cost you, the author, as little as a few hours of time to get started. Let’s go over the five W’s of email lists.


Who needs an email list?

Every author who would like to stay in touch with his or her fans and sell more books. Most bestselling authors will tell you their email list is their number one tool, getting the best results of any marketing technique they’ve tried.


Why choose to start an email list now?

You may think you don’t need one because you’re not well known yet. Perhaps your first title is yet to be released. As soon as I told friends I’d signed my first contract with a publisher, they asked me to let them know when it came out. I said they couldn’t miss it! The news would be everywhere: on my blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, etc. Guess what? Not everyone goes to all those places regularly. They might miss the news there. But they all check their email.

You may think you don’t need an email list because you already have strong sales. Congratulations! That’s wonderful! Now start a list anyway. You’ll be amazed at the growth in sales you’ll see, for the small amount of time and money it takes to get set up.


1. What is an email list, anyway?

An author newsletter’s purpose is to communicate with your readers and fans on a regular basis. You’ll need to give them good reasons to join up, though, because who really needs more email?

It’s all about value for your readers. We’ll get into that below.

Ask your author friends who they use and why they like them. There are many reputable choices, some of which allow you to start for free while others charge from the beginning.

2. What should you consider?

How much does it cost? Mailchimp allows you to pay nothing until you reach 2,000 subscribers, but costs more than Get Response over 2,500. Think you won’t reach that number? I went from 200 to 1,700 in 9 months. You might, too.

What is the interface like? Is it easy to navigate the site? Can you easily find your entire subscriber list? The open rates? Click-through rates? Templates? How easy is it to personalize? Having worked extensively in both Mailchimp and Get Response, I find the GR navigation aligns better with the way I think.

Some choices: Get Response, Aweber, Mad Mimi, Vertical Response, Constant Contact, Mailchimp. There are others.

3. What do you include in a newsletter?

This will vary by genre and personality. Nonfiction is pretty easy. You just write about your nonfiction topic! But email lists are vital for fiction authors, too.

Consider several regular “columns” you can use or rotate between. A devotional, a recipe, an interview with another author in your genre, a book giveaway (yours or someone else’s), and, of course, news. Book cover reveals, invitations to Facebook launch parties, requests for input. The list goes on!

Find a few bestselling authors in your genre, and subscribe to their lists. Pay attention to the content, the frequency, etc. Do you see value in these emails? What could you do better for your readers? Feel free to unsubscribe once you’ve learned from them. No one will mind.

Do include book covers and purchase links. Your fans subscribed because they want to know about your books. Don’t make them hunt for this information.

Make it worthwhile to be on your list. Promise them exclusive content or sneak previews or giveaways or other opportunities, and then follow through.


Where do you find subscribers?

At first, your subscribers will come from people you know. Add a signup box to the top of your right sidebar on your blog/website. Add it to your Facebook author page if you have one. Tweet the link. Add it to your email signature. Ask people to join. Tell them you don’t want to harass them, so this is the only time you’ll ask them personally.

As you become known as an author, your new subscribers will come from organic fans. If you’re indie, add a newsletter signup link to the back matter of your books. Now you’ll begin to see real growth!


When do you send a letter to your list?

Not so often that it feels like spam, but not so rarely they forget who you are. Quarterly is good if you are traditionally published or don’t have a lot going on. I increased mine to monthly when I went indie, as suddenly I had a lot to talk about!


How do you get started?

1. Choose a service provider. Note that every single one of them requires an address that will show on each email. It’s law. Many authors choose to get a post office box for this.
2. Create an incentive for the subscriber.
3. Create a webform (signup code) at your service provider and install it on your website.
4. Set up an autoresponder through your service provider. They’ll show you the steps. This will automatically send an email to each new subscriber, in which you can thank them for signing up and offer them a link to your incentive.
5. Subscribe to your list and follow the steps, making sure everything works as you envisioned! If not, unsubscribe, fix the steps, and repeat.
6. Set up a dedicated page on your website to direct wannabe subscribers to. This is sometimes known as a squeeze page. You want only one button to click on this page. Either they click to join the list, or they exit the page.
7. Get the word out that you have a list (see “where” above).
8. If you add any email addresses yourself, keep documentation to prove that person specifically asked to join the list in case you get accused of spam.

The biggest question from fiction authors is usually, “What can I offer as an incentive to get people to join my list?”

If you write fiction, that’s what your fans want more of. Some indie authors offer a complete novel for free. I don’t. I wrote a short story, which was painful for me, as I simply don’t think short! This story is 2.5 in my main series, Farm Fresh Romance, the fifth of which will release in August. Peppermint Kisses gives a glimpse of the wedding of the couple in Book 2, Wild Mint Tea, while offering the romance of two minor characters from the same book.

Since I added Peppermint Kisses as my “lead magnet,” subscriptions have shot up. Not all the credit can go to the story, but it certainly helped.

It’s never too late to start a list. Each new book release will add new subscribers, and each new subscriber will buy more books. There’s no way to lose.

Valerie-Comer-500x500Valerie Comer is the fulltime indie author of the Farm Fresh Romance series as well as the Riverbend Romance novellas. She believes in teamwork for authors and is the mastermind behind the popular Inspy Romance blog as well as several multi-author box sets. Her books are often on Amazon’s bestseller lists and she has personally been ranked among the top fifty most popular authors on Amazon’s list for religion and spirituality through all of 2015. She now earns more income from her writing than she did from the day job she left three years ago. Visit Valerie Comer’s website.

Valerie will be teaching a workshop called Indie 500: Marketing from Zero to One-Eighty (How to Zip around the Track to Success) at the 2015 Montana Writers’ Retreat in August, where she will present many other techniques for sales success. You may join her email list here.

Image courtesy of Craftyjoe at

Published by Angela Breidenbach

Angela Breidenbach is an author, genealogist, screenwriter, speaker, and radio personality.