Understanding Mailing Lists For Author Sites

author website

Whether you are an established author or still taking your first steps towards publication, you will quickly learn that you should have an author site. The purpose of the author site can be debated, but almost everyone agrees that one of your main focuses should be building a mailing list. 

A mailing list is valuable to anyone who wants to sell a product, but for an author, these lists are critical. Why?

  • Most authors don’t have constant contact with their fans. While you may keep your readers interested in your writing through social media or your website, most readers are really only interested in hearing when your next work comes out. A mailing list is the perfect way to let your readers know when your book is available if they don’t regularly check your site. It is basically free advertisement for your future work. 
  • A lush mailing list looks good to agents and publishers. While traditionally agents and publishers only cared about the platform of nonfiction writers, times are changing. More agents are asking about your platform before signing their writers (some before agreeing to read a full manuscript) and many publishers are swayed by a significant platform. A well-developed mailing list can help you get a better publishing deal. 

Building Your Mailing List

So now you know why your mailing list is important, but how do you get started building one? The steps are simple:

  1. Create a way for people to sign up on your website. If you are on WordPress, many themes offer mailing list widgets that you can activate on your site. Alternatively, you can install a plugin to start your list. Finally, you can add your own form to your site. Each of these methods have their benefits and drawbacks. 
  2. Decide how you will manage your list. Most people use an outside client such as MailChimp to manage their mailing lists. However, you can also create your own database, it’s up to you. 
  3. Make sure your sign-up and management is GDPR compliant. Even if you’re not located in the EU, your readers might be. Make sure you can legally sign them up for your list. Also, even if you are not required to be GDPR compliant, being so shows an added level of respect for those who might want to sign up to your list. 
  4. Create a call to action on your site. You should have an easy, clear way for people to sign up for your mailing list. 
  5. Give a benefit for signing up. Many authors include a free PDF of a short story or other bonus material to encourage readers to sign up. 
  6. Advertise your mailing list off your site. Remember to mention you have a mailing list that people can sign up for (and share the link to the sign-up page). 

Maintaining Your List

Great, now you’ve got people signing up for your mailing list. What do you do to keep them interested in hearing from you? 

  1. Don’t abuse your list. Keep emails relevant to your readers. If you regularly update a blog on your website, allow readers to choose whether they would like to be updated every time you post or only when you have a new book coming out. If you send out too many emails, some readers may become annoyed and unsubscribe from your list. 
  2. Give a clear way to unsubscribe. Some people make the mistake of thinking they can hold their subscribers hostage. However, making it easy for readers to unsubscribe from your mailing list can allow you to keep them as readers when your novels come out. 
  3. Send your readers useful information. The definition of useful varies based on who you ask. But you should send your readers information they want to read. Keep your tone similar to your branded tone (I’ll talk about brand tone in the future), and be sure to give your readers important information about upcoming projects. 
  4. Send out an email at least once a year. It can be easy to forget your email list if you’re between projects. However, it is appropriate to send out an email once a year, even if you do not have important updates, just to thank your readers for their loyalty. 

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