Is an Email List Really Necessary?
In the world of social media, there is always something new and exciting coming down the pipeline. I still remember when Instagram just started, and my middle-school-aged child begged my husband and I to allow her to open an account.
It was a way to connect with others, and she and her peers worked hard to build up their follower list. Then there was Snapchat, which changed the nature of communication between those under the age of 25. While the exchanges between friends are pretty low in substance, heaven forbid you should break your Snapchat streak!
Some people have used social media platforms to support and grow their fan base and their income along with it. But there is something ephemeral and impermanent about relationships built on social media.
When you rely solely on social media for your traffic, if the algorithm suddenly changes, your ability to connect with your followers can shift from the thousands one day to less than a hundred the next.
But none of this is true for email.
Old-Fashioned Email is Still the Best Tool
I admit it’s not exciting.
When someone gives you permission to email them, you have access to a channel of communication that you control. No outside forces are monitoring what you are sharing with your email list.
Plus, you have the ability to share deeper, more authentic, and meaningful messages through email. There are no restrictions on how long your message can be. And as writers, this plays to our strengths.
But why have one in the first place?
In a word: connection.
Do not think of your email list as a group of potential buyers. Instead, think of your subscribers as your potential fans. Or, as my daughter likes to say, squad.
If you can craft regular messages to your subscribers that builds a rapport with them, allows them to get to know you on a meaningful level, then your relationship becomes something much deeper.
Rather than a group of people who might buy your books, your subscribers become your friends and champions. The show up to your events, tell you what they want to read, or what they wish they could read to their children. They not only buy your books, they tell other people about them and urge them to buy them as well.
If you have a robust and engaged email list, every time you publish a new book, you have a ready base of fans who are eager to be part of your book’s launch into the world.
How to Get Started Building Your List
When you are just starting out, you may feel you can simply keep track of the handful of people on your list on a spreadsheet, saved in a group within your email account, or in your brain’s memory banks. (I mean, if it’s just your mom, sister, and best friend on your list, who needs a system?).
But let’s think bigger. Let’s imagine that eventually, you’ll have hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of names on your list. You’ll need a program to help you keep track.
Sign Up With an Email Service Provider
There are several options available to help you manage the emails of people on your subscriber list. These programs are referred to as email service providers, an email marketing service, or email management service.
They are all referring to the same thing: a program that helps you manage your email list. They help you collect and maintain your list, as well as send out emails to your subscribers.
You will probably be fine with a program that allows you to start collecting emails for free. As your list grows, you can always upgrade for access to more services. Or you can switch to a different provider.
This list includes providers that are known to work well for authors:
- MailerLite (free for up to 1,000 subscribers)
- MailChimp (free for up to 2,000 subscribers)
- ConvertKit (more expensive but good for larger lists)
- ActiveCampaign (also good for larger lists)
- FloDesk (newer platform that is highly recommended)
Create a sign-up form
Your email service provider should have templates you can use so people can sign up for your list. It doesn’t have to look like it was designed by a talented graphic artist. It does need to be clear about what it is asking.
Here’s an example of an email sign-up form:
Place this form on your website so people can easily sign up.
But don’t just put it in the sidebar. The best way to draw people’s attention to the sign-up form (also called an opt-in, as in people are opting in to your email list) is to put it within your website content.
That means including the form within blog posts, your home page, your book page, your about page…okay, you get the idea. And in case you are worried that it will annoy visitors to your site to run into this form so much—the truth is, most of the time they won’t even notice it.
Which is precisely why you need to scatter it throughout your website.
What’s the Next Step?
Once you are ready to start building your email list, the obvious next step is figuring out what to send to them.
Regular communication is important for building your community. You have to take care of them, let them know you are thinking about them.
In the next post, we’ll explore what you can send in your emails to your list.
(Spoiler alert—it’s not a newsletter!)