Author platforms: we’re still talking about them because they’re such a crucial part of introducing new books and new authors to a wider readership. And, for indie authors, having a robust author platform can mean the difference between giving up your day job or staying put for a while.
Unfortunately, many authors seem to think that their author platform is located somewhere on social media sites, although those certainly play a part. But savvy authors realize that having direct access to their readers—and a larger universe of people interested in the types of things they write about—is the most valuable asset of all for anyone hoping to write and publish books for a living.
The way you get that direct access is by appearing in people’s email in-boxes. Still not convinced? Here are seven reasons why authors should build email lists.
1. Email is an intimate form of communication: When readers give you their email addresses, they are inviting you to talk to them. In today’s electronic world, there’s an intimacy to email communication that’s much more engaging than social media or blogs.
2. You own your email list and account; it’s a valuable asset: Though you may have lots of Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections, the social media outlets are not your property. Platforms come and go, terms of service change—where are all your MySpace followers now?—but your email list is a direct connection to your readers that doesn’t rely on any specific platform or software.
3. You can promote your book launches: Email communication plays a crucial role in letting readers know about a new book, especially before publication. Whether you’re trying to stoke anticipation for the new release, gain important testimonials, recruit a “street team” to help market the book, or drive preorders, email is the best way for your readers to stay in touch.
4. A regular email newsletter can create fans for life: Many authors use a weekly or monthly email newsletter to keep fans informed about works in progress, awards, and other exciting news about their books. Your newsletter is a place where you can talk in a personal way about things going on in your own life and work, and the chance to have this ongoing “conversation” with readers is invaluable for building long-term relationships.
5. You can track your emails: Email services can provide you with deep analytics on how your mailings have been received. Sending an email to followers is great, but wouldn’t you like to know who opened it, who clicked on a link you included, and which email subject lines performed better? These are all typical marketing metrics that authors can use in a simple, straight-forward way to improve communications.
6. “The money is in the list”: This is an old saw that happens to be as true today as it ever was. Even if you create a successful website or blog, you’ll find that it’s challenging to actually sell anything. But, when you use the blog to attract the people most interested in what you write, you create a community—and the associated email list—that will be responsive to content marketing and offers such as prelaunch specials, workshops, and just about anything else you can imagine.
7. Email makes you independent: Much ink has been spilled about the dominance of some companies in the book-retailing universe. Indie authors don’t have much choice about where they sell their books or how they negotiate with retailers. But, if you have your own email list of readers, you gain a measure of independence from the entire retail network. You can talk directly to your readers without intermediaries, and this is likely to become more important in the future.
Sound good? You bet it does. So how can you get started? Here are five steps to help you build your email list.
1. You’ll need a website or blog, or at least a page to collect email addresses. If you already have one, it will simply mean creating a page to host your opt-in box or, for WordPress users, putting it in a widget in your sidebar.
2. If you have a big Facebook presence, make sure you add an email opt-in form to your page.
3. Open an account with an email service. You can start with MailChimp (free up to 2,000 names), and I also recommend longtime email leader AWeber.
4. Offer something to readers who sign up for your email list.
5. Create articles or other content on your site that people
really want to read and let others know about it.
Don’t forget that there are lots of ways to collect email addresses: promotions, educational webinars, and book giveaways can all add names to email lists.
And remember to keep providing valuable, entertaining, or educational content. Readers will be glad to have a relationship with you—so be responsive and responsible and you’ll have a mutually beneficial relationship for a long time.