Newly published authors often ask how to get readers on their mailing list for email newsletters. This process should start before you get a publisher. Once your book is sold, you’ll have an incredible amount of marketing to do. It’ll be helpful if you have already started collecting names.
The approach is two-fold: online and in person.
I send my quarterly email newsletter to nearly 5000 readers, booksellers, and librarians. How did I gain these numbers? In the past month alone, I’ve added 36 names of people I’ve met in person. Each one personally signed up for my mailing list. These came from three separate speaking engagements. Once you begin making public appearances, bring along a sign-up sheet to each event. I print out mine from Excel. One column is for the person’s full name. The other column is for their email address.
In the early days, I collected street addresses as well, but since the cost of postage has escalated, I no longer send postcards. Now all my mailings are online. However, if you plan to send out snail mail, you’ll need those home addresses. Or if you want to send a targeted email to fans announcing a signing or speaking engagement in their area, you’ll need their city and state.
So how else do you collect names, especially if you are unpublished? When you attend conferences, be sure to exchange business cards with everyone you meet.
Ask if people would like to be added to your email newsletter list. In the old days, I didn’t have to get permission. Anyone I met at a conference got added to my list, but promo materials got sent by snail mail back then. Nowadays people are spam conscious, so you have to be careful.
Sit with strangers at sponsored lunches or dinners and meet the people at your table. Hang out at the bar and give a friendly greeting to anyone wearing a conference name tag. Introduce yourself to strangers while waiting in lines to go into a meal or to an event. Your mailing list will build this way and over time you may gain lifelong fans.
After your book is published, you’ll start to receive fan mail. Ask if you may add the reader to your mailing list or direct them to your online opt-in form.
I categorize my lists so they separate into Booksellers, Contests, Fans, Librarians, Reviewers, and more. For example, I might want to send a notice only to my readers when a new book comes out. Several months before, I might want to notify booksellers, librarians, and reviewers about an upcoming release. Friends and Family are on my lists too, although I rarely bother them with announcements.
Holding a contest is a great way to collect names for your lists. Rafflecopter is the easiest method. Go to http://www.rafflecopter.com/ and sign up for a free account. The program automatically does everything for you. You can add bonus entries and have people Like your Facebook author page or tweet your contest.
You can join with other authors to offer a bigger prize and share the mailing list. For an example, visit Booklover’s Bench at http://bookloversbench.com, where I’ve joined with seven other writers. We offer monthly contests and cross promote each other in our personal newsletters, offering giveaways from our colleagues and sharing the entrants’ information.
Another great site to hold a contest and get a mailing list of over 1000 entrants is Fresh Fiction at http://www.freshfiction.com/ . It costs $129 but if you do this once every few years, it adds substantially to your newsletter list. (How to get people to Open your newsletter email would be another topic to address here—any takers, fellow authors?)
When you accumulate too many names to send out individual emails, consider using a mass email newsletter program such as AWeber (http://www.aweber.com/), Vertical Response, (http://www.verticalresponse.com), Constant Contact (http://www.constantcontact.com), Mail Chimp (http://mailchimp.com/) or Your Mailing List Provider (http://www.ymlp.com/). I use Vertical Response and upload lists from my Excel program. I pay per email but you can pay a monthly fee if you’d rather do so, depending on your needs.
Put sign-up widgets on your website, blog, and Facebook Author Page. Periodically request your fans on Facebook and Twitter to sign up for your mailing list. In case one of these social networking sites goes defunct, you don’t want to lose your friends. Back up your email lists on your computer, your external drive, etc. They’re a valuable commodity, and you don’t want to lose them.
What other methods have you found helpful for adding names to your email campaign lists?
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