One typical day, while researching a topic, I got sucked into the rabbit hole of the internet. I must have had about 20 tabs open, as I found one interesting article after another.
Many of them asked for my email address in exchange for something.
Some weeks, I may give my email to about half a dozen websites.
(And I wonder why my inbox is bursting at the seams?)
Several offered to send me their newsletter in exchange for my address. How many of those do you think I signed up for?
No One Wants to Read Your Newsletter
I’m not trying to be mean here. But let’s be real: how many times do you sign up for someone’s newsletter?
This isn’t 2012, when getting someone’s newsletter still seemed like a good way to receive fun and interesting missives on a regular basis.
But now that about 3 bazillion emails are being sent every day, with about 100,000 of them going straight to your personal inbox, we are not looking for more random sources of reading material.
The most common sign up form you will likely run across on author websites is an invitation to receive the author’s newsletter.
The author promises to send out missives to subscribers. They might do so on a regular basis (weekly or monthly), somewhat regularly (“Sign up for my monthly-ish newsletter”), or sporadically (“I’ll be in touch whenever I have something to share”).
I am sorry to break it to you, but most people are not going to be interested in your newsletter.
If this vague communication is all you have to offer in exchange for your email, you are unlikely to get more than a handful of sign-ups. (The exception is if your book has been hugely popular and readers are eager to connect with you. But if that were the case, you wouldn’t be reading this post, would you?).
How to Get Subscribers to Your Email List
Provide Something of Value
Have you ever been in search of answers to a problem, or sought information about a topic, and run across a helpful post on a website? Let’s say you decide you want to grow tomatoes in your garden this year. But every time you have tried to grow tomatoes, your harvest has been decimated by pests.
So you search the internet for information on how to prevent pests from derailing your plans for homegrown tomato salad this summer.
You find lots of helpful information. One website in particular has tons of useful information about natural pest control. At the bottom of the post (or inside the post, in the sidebar, at the top of the page) is a form inviting you to receive “The Free Beginning Gardener’s Guide to Natural Pest Control.”
You have already determined the owner of the website provides rich, factual, and well-written information about gardening. You have reason to believe their guide will help you achieve your goal of pest-free tomatoes. So you fill out the form with your email address.
This gardening blogger could have just suggested you sign up for their regular newsletter. But you don’t know specifically what will be coming to your in-box. Maybe the newsletter will discuss how to grow a wildflower garden, or discourage deer from eating your plants, or how to grow an enormous watermelon and win prizes at the county fair.
But all you want are tips on keeping pests away from your tomato plants.
The more specific you can be, the more likely someone will be compelled to give you their email address. Once they are a subscriber, you can send them your emails that contain gardening tips. Some subscribers may only open a couple of emails, while others may open them all. But everyone on your list is there because you gave them something that helped them with a specific issue.
But What Value Can a Children’s Author Provide?
The biggest challenge for children’s writers is having a target audience made up of kids. You could hardly try to entice them to sign up for regular emails. Some of your audience members can’t even read!
But while kids are the readers of the books, who is buying them? Adults! This includes parents, teachers, and librarians.
Depending on the types of stories you write, you can provide value to your buying audience. If you write nonfiction, you could focus on teachers. Valuable content for teachers could include classroom activities, lesson plans, other good sources of information—all related to your book in some way.
You could target parents by appealing to the challenges parents face and how books can help. Content that is helpful to parents include suggesting books kids love. But you could make your suggestions address different topics important to parents. Some topics to consider are:
You get the idea—think about what parents would find both entertaining for this kids as well as helpful.
Some authors include items on their website that speaks directly to their young audience. They may have games, printable coloring pages, or craft activities. You could put them all on a page labeled “Just for kids” or “kids club.”
But I Don’t Have Anything to Say!
The terms “solutions” and “problems” are used pretty loosely here.
But let’s say your audience are largely parents of young children. If they have signed up to receive your emails, they are probably interested in books, right?
Think about what might they find helpful about making a trip to the bookstore. Parents visit bookstores pretty often. What problem are they hoping to solve by a visit?
Here are some ideas:
- A list of the most recent picture book releases
- How to get your child to sit still during storytime
- Lists of books in popular categories (humor, puppies, horses, fantasy)
- How to prevent your toddler from destroying books at the bookstore
Is this making sense?
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Try to give them something you would find helpful if you were them.
An email list is one of the most powerful elements of an author platform. If you want more information about how to get started with a platform, check out my overview of the topic here.