Marketing 101: Strategies for Growing your Email List

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    First, I’d like to apologize that it’s taken so long to get this post out. I’ve had essentially three book releases separated by just a few weeks and that has taken up a great deal of my time. With the bulk of that activity now over I can turn my attention back to these posts.

    In my last post: Marketing 101: Email Lists Management Software I talked about the importance of a mailing list and some popular products. Today I’d like to focus on how you grow your mailing list.

    Opt-in and Opt-Out

    Sending emails without one’s permission is what is commonly know as spam and you don’t want to get a reputation for being a “spammy author.” Luckily your email service provider will help with this as they provide a mechanism for allowing people to opt-in or opt-out and once they are opted-out, you’ll not be able to email them in the future. Also…each email you send out will provide them with a link so they can remove themselves if they feel you are being a nuisance, so don’t be one 😉

    Signing up for a newsletter from your website

    Again the email software will provide you with tools to make this easy.  The steps usually are:

    • Create a list to hold the entries for those who sign up for the group
    • Create a form to gather information from the user
    • Add a link (usually along with a graphic) for people to click on to sign up.

     

    When you create a list, you are provided with some options for gathering the information from the user. I personally use a separate page that is created by Mail Chimp. The program provides a link that I can then add to my website.  While you can attach this link to text saying “Click here to join my newsletter.” I find that graphics give it more attention. My recommendation is to put the link high up in the sidebar of your site so that it shows prominently on every page. Below is the graphic I use on my site. Feel free to “steal it” by right clicking and using the “Save images as” from the pop-up menu. If you want to see the form I use, you can click on the image below.

    mailing_list_image

    Request permission when you get emails

    I get a lot of email from users. Part of that is because I’m very active online, but I also tell people to provide me feedback in the “Author’s Note” of each piece I put out. I actively solicit feedback, good, bad, or indifferent…as long as it is honest and many people take me up on this.  I respond to each email, and I also ask if I can include them on my mail list to be notified of future releases.  The % of people saying yes is VERY high.  I’ve gotten lazy, as we all do from time to time, and haven’t been requesting people to sign up as much as I should. But no problem, Once a year I go through my emails and for those I didn’t ask I send out a polite email asking if I could add them – again the response is usually quite high.  NOTE: Don’t add people to your mail list without permission. They may report you (an automatic link on every email sent through your provider) or opt-out. If you have a high % of people opting-out or reporting your mail provider may deem you as a “spammy” person and shut down your account.

    Create some bonus material

    When I finished my final novel in The Riyria Revelations, I wrote an afterward with some “behind the scenes” peeks into my mind and what I was trying to accomplish with the books. I looked at it like the little “bonus material” that is found on DVDs. Because this is littered with spoilers I don’t want to give it to anyone who hasn’t finished the series.  But when I see someone tweet (or post on a forum) that they just finished and loved the series, I ask them to email me and I’ll send them out the bonus material.  Again, I ask permission if i can add them to my mailing list for future notifications.

    Create a free short story

    Many people post short stories on their sites to act as a way of getting people to sample your wares. I’m all for that…but I think if you just post it on a page you are missing some opportunities. Why not, instead, have a link that sends you an email that you can reply to and attach the short story (in whatever format the person desires. Again, they have given me their email – but before I add them to my mail list I’m going to ask their permission. If you want to see this “in action” you can checkout my “Free Stuff” tab on my website.

    Hold a contest

    Whenever my publisher does a goodreads giveaway they limit it to the countries where they have offices in (US & UK).  I understand why they do that, overseas shipping is a pain to process and it can be expensive (about $18 at today’s current rates). So I always start a “parallel” contest and I promote both together.  The way it works is that anyone can enter my giveaway, but those outside the US & UK will get two chances to win whereas the US & UK people only have one as they can enter the other contest. To enter I use Polldaddy and collect two pieces of information from them.

    • The email address to notify them if they win.
    • Whether I should use the email only for the contest, or whether I can also add them to the mailing list.

     

    The number of people who will opt-in on this will be smaller than the above methods, but it will still be a good way to get some additional people on the list.  Here are some results from my recent giveaways:

    • The Rose and Thorn Giveaway: 310 entires 66% opted in (202 added to email list)
    • Reddit Crown Tower Giveaway: 234 entries 73% opted in (168 added to email list)

    Ask for feedback

    From time to time I poll my readers to find out what type of things do they want me to write.  More Royce and Hadrian stories? Additional Hollow World stories? Prequels? Sequels? New Stuff? Again I use Poll Daddy and for each one I ask them if they would like to provide an email for future release notifications.

    Do a pre-order campaign

    The Crown Tower recently released and Orbit and I did a pre-order campaign. Basically people sent in a copy of a receipt and we provided (a) signed bookmarks (b) signed bookplates (c) a free short story.  466 people signed up and 82% (378) signed up for the email list.

    Include in your signature

    I haven’t implemented this one yet…but I will.  (I just thought of it as I was composing this email.  I have a standard signature that is at the bottom of all my emails (and a similar one at the bottom of my messages in goodreads. There should be a link there where people can sign up for your email.

    Here is an example of my signature:

    Michael J. Sullivan
    michel_j_sullivan_signature
    Twitter | Website | Sign up for my newsletter here

    In Summary

    Your email list is your most valuable resource for reaching out to those people who have already shown an interest in your work. Cultivate it and grow it by keeping its importance foremost in your mind with every bit of marketing you do. Sending out emails is what’s known as “permission-based marketing, so make sure you always get permission before adding people to your list and always respect their opt-out decision.

     

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