Nothing is more important to authors than our readers. Without them, we’re just kooks who sit around all day fantasizing about worlds and people that don’t exist.
But how do we keep the readers we have? And how do we make sure they’re always looking forward to our next book? (Apart from writing some pretty damn kick-ass books to begin with, of course).
The answer: Mailing lists.
So today, fellow author Ron Vitale is here to offer some advice on creating and sustaining author mailing lists.
Here you go, Ron:
Building a Relationship with Readers
We are all looking for that secret that will skyrocket our sales into the stratosphere, get us on the NY Times’ bestseller list, and help us get to easy street so that we can kick back and relax. The good news is that I have a secret to share with you, but the bad news is that it’ll take time and hard work.
The Author and Reader Bond
The most important thing to remember is that readers are people. I’m a reader, you’re a reader, and most likely, you became a writer because you were inspired by an author. For me, I fell in love with the world of Tolkien, then Asimov and eventually Atwood, Lewis, and Walker. I wanted to read books because they helped me escape from the world and use my imagination like no other medium.
I believe it’s essential that I remember my readers as a writer. I’m a reader too. I like knowing that my favorite authors are approachable and are people too—they’re not marketing machines who are cranking out the books to just make a buck.
A Quick Word about Social Media
I love Twitter and other social platforms, but they’re not the right medium to sell your books. I urge all authors to stop setting up the automatic tweets, announcing the next promotion or sale. Such tweets become old extremely fast and say one thing to me: The author is simply looking to sell books and is not looking to be social. Social media is about engagement and connection. Again, we’re looking to build relationships to people.
If time is limited, I recommend easing back on social and focusing on building a platform that will work for you, and eventually, increase your sales.
Building Your Sales Funnel
There is a simple way to build a funnel and get readers onto your email list. Let’s walk through a scenario: If I give away a book through my website, I can collect a reader’s email address, sign them up on my mailing list and then keep communicating with them through email updates.
To be more specific, here’s a specific example of creating a sales funnel:
- I create a landing page on my website such as http://www.ronvitale.com/lost-1
- A potential reader clicks on the “Send My Free Book!” and goes to the next page to put in their email address. Once they opt in to my email list, they receive the link to download the free ebook.
- To drive traffic to my website, I recommend using Facebook ads (you can spend as little as $5/day).
The example above is an extremely simplistic funnel: You create an ad, you target the Facebook ad to your reader demographic and let the ad do the work.
To build a funnel, you’ll need the following:
- Email list online account (I’d recommend Mailchimp [free up to 2,000 people] or Aweber)
- A Facebook page and an account to run a Facebook ad
- A website (I use Squarespace, but I know many people use a self-host WordPress site)
- A book (or books/novella) to give away in .mobi and .epub format
Promotions and the Value of Free
Some of you might be reading this and think: “But it took me a year to write a book. You want me to give it away?” I understand you, I do. I especially remember when I had only one book out and how it frustrated me that I couldn’t give my book away because then I had nothing else to sell.
Keep in mind that a sale of a few dollars for an ebook is a drop in the bucket in comparison to building your email list. If you build a relationship with your readers, then over time, these people might buy multiple books and series from you.
Remember when I mentioned that there was bad news? The secret to building an email list is that you’ll need to create a strategy and then execute it. People will not sign up for your email list and then you only email them once a year. They’ll forget who you are and will ignore your emails if all you’re trying to do is to sell your book to them.
Imagine if you’re at the beach and you see some people on a blanket. You go up to them and ask them to buy your book. They then look at you like you’re crazy and tell you to go away. Selling your books can be looked at the same way. Before you can ask people to buy your book, they need to trust you. To get readers to trust you, I recommend that you do three things:
- Give something of value to them (free ebook or novella)
- Be useful or helpful to them (share helpful tips, articles, etc.)
- Ask them to share with you: Their stories, thoughts about one of your books, etc.
Over time, you’ll have set up an email schedule in which you’re not simply sending a blast out to people, asking them to buy your next book. Instead, you’re building a relationship with them and can, over time, share your next book or product announcement with them.
Building that trust with your readers is critical. Without that trust, why would anyone want to buy your next book?
In today’s world, people are busy and do not have a lot of free time. If you work hard on building a relationship with your readers, then you will have a platform that not only will help you sell more books, but also be portable as you’ll control the email list no matter what Amazon or any of the other online ebook retailers decide to do.
Is building a list and maintaining it a lot of work, yes, it can be, but it’ll help you in the long run.
Ron Vitale was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Influenced by the likes of Tolkien and Margaret Atwood, he began writing at an early age, creating short fiction from his Dungeons & Dragons role-playing sessions.
His writing has appeared in various places from elephant journal, SFWA’s The Bulletin and SEARCH magazine. When not writing articles, he also is the author of the Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries series geared toward new adults. Currently, he is keeping himself busy by writing his blog, and on learning how to be a good father to his kids all while working on his next novel. Read more on his website, ronvitale.com
Awakenings (A Witch’s Coven Novel Book 1)
A witch of formidable illusions, Sabrina runs a coven and has settled down to teach initiates in the ways of magic. But when her initiate Alessia asks for her advice and brings back painful memories for her, wheels are put into motion that bring Sabrina’s past as a servant in one of the great houses in the magical world of The Realms into the forefront.
Bound when young in servitude to Thaddeus, one of the great house lords, Sabrina tries to outlive her past, but the choices she made then have always been a specter chasing after her. When an ancient evil haunts her and tries to destroy her and Alessia, Sabrina fights back until she realizes that there is no way for her to undo the mistakes of the past. Instead she needs to find another way to survive and save Alessia and the rest of her coven.
To right her wrongs and save her coven, Sabrina must face her greatest fear: the truth she’s hidden for nearly twenty years. But ancient evils do not care for truth and only want vengeance on her for what she has done.
Check out Awakenings on Amazon now!
Thank you, Ron!
And talking of mailing lists, if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to mine!
I will only email you about new releases, special deals, or to send you exclusive freebies. And you get a free flash fiction story featuring one the main characters in The Deep Link for free, as a little thank you gift!