If you’re an author you NEED an email subscription list

email marketingI read a lot of books and the list of authors I enjoy reading is constantly growing.  Let’s take that as background for this cautionary tale.

Amazon recommended a book, written by an indie author, to me last week that looked interesting.  I downloaded the free sample, read a few pages, and was convinced that I’d enjoy reading the book so I clicked the “Buy Now” button.   That night I read about a third of the book, enjoying the experience.

The next day I went back to Amazon to see if the author had written others, in what was clearly intended to be a series.   She had not.  Nor did she have an Amazon author’s page.  So, being the book hunter that I am I began a search for her website, which I found, with little trouble.  Her most recent update was in March, the month the book I’d purchased was released.

Ok, so she doesn’t update her site very often  That seems like bad practice, but what the heck.  I went in search of her email list sign up form.  That way she could let me, a fan who liked her work enough to purchase, and has tracked down her website, know via email when the next book in the series is coming out.   But there was no email sign up form.  There was however a link to her Twitter account, so I went there next.

I posted a message, naming the book and letting her (and everyone else) know how much I was enjoying it.  Nothing more would fit in in the 142 character limit.  She responded quickly, letting me know she was half-way through the next book in the series.  That was great news to me, so I asked her if she had an email list or some other way that I could find out when the new book is released.  Once again she responded quickly.  Essentailly her response was that there was no email list and that she posted new release information on Twitter.

Seriously?  I’m supposed to wade through the river of information that flows through my Twitter account to find out when she has a new release?

Ok – let’s recap.  I’m a fan of her work.  I’ve purchased her work.  She’s an indie writer who has seven reviews for her book and I’ve told her that I love it.  Her response to me as a fan, and patron of her work is to follow her twitter feed to be updated when the next book comes out.

She’s busy writing, I understand that.  She’s an indie writer which means she’s probably working full time as well.  She may also have a family that she’s caring for.  I understand all of that.  But it would take at most fifteen minutes to add an email subscription list to her website.  It may seem complicated, but it isn’t.

If you’re an author and your last name isn’t Patterson or Grisham you can’t rely on Amazon, or your publisher to find your readers.  You need to make every possible effort to get to know them, and to be able to contact them when new books come out.  Heck, even John Grisham has an email list.  I received something from him a few days ago about a new release.

Even if writing is just a hobby for you, make the effort to get contact information for the people who like your work.  Mail Chimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers to your email list.  It takes only a few minutes to set up an account with them and maybe an another fifteen minutes to add one of their forms to your website to collect email addresses.  Heck, if you need help, let me know – I’ll help you.  This stuff is important.

Finding readers is hard enough.   Don’t lose contact with the ones who already like you.

Creative Commons Image by Pascual López

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6 Responses to If you’re an author you NEED an email subscription list

  1. Netta October 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    This is excellent advice, and quite timely. Thanks!

    • srcnaples@gmail.com October 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

      My pleasure – thanks for reading.

  2. Alicia October 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    Thanks for this insightful piece! I hope that writer took your advice!
    Best wishes,
    Alicia, Newhousegirl.blogspot.com

    • srcnaples@gmail.com October 20, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Thanks Alicia – I hope she hasn’t yet, but I hope she does. She’s a good writer and he work deserves a wider audience.

  3. Lynne Spreen (@LynneSpreen) October 23, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Steve, thanks for this. I see the logic, but have a follow-up question if I’m understanding you correctly: If the fundamental reason for having an email list is to update potential book buyers of publication (imminent or distant), since publication is a once-a-year (or less) occurrence, I don’t see having an email list. If it’s ONLY for this purpose.

    I’m big into multitasking, so here’s what I do:

    As an alternative, writers who have blogs can create an occasional post announcing milestones along the way to publication. Thus, all your followers (who have, in essence, already signed up to hear from you) will be updated, as well as the locations your blog automatically publishes. My blog, for example, publishes on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads, etc.

    In my Gmail contacts list, I added a category tag called Book Friends, which I apply to contacts I think might want to hear from me when news occurs.

    These two strategies do the same thing as a dedicated email list, but without the extra clutter.

    Your thoughts?

    • Stephen Campbell October 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

      Hi Lynne, thanks for taking the time to comment. One reason is to have an email list is to notify readers of new releases, but there are of course others.

      I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said here, but you assume that ALL of your readers are active readers of either your blog, or of your social media outposts. Most people have no idea how to sign up RSS subscriptions to blogs, and if they sign up for email blog posts they may grow weary of hearing from you and unsubscribe. Many bloggers (you as well I see from your site) try to post at least once a week, and if that’s the case you’re hitting potential book buyers with 52 emails a year, and the release announcement could get lost in the shuffle.

      High volume readers may have dozens of authors whose new books they don’t want to miss. This week alone I got emails from lists I subscribed to for three different ‘now available’ books, with purchase links. I bought all three books. All three of these authors use their lists for new releases only. It’s the only time I hear from them, which works well for me. If I want to know about their lives, or their writing progress I can check their blogs, or find them on Facebook.

      Two important things about email lists: One, they are self maintaining creatures once you set them up. Two, they belong to you, unlike your contacts on Facebook and Goodreads. There’s very little downside in setting up an email list, beyond the time to set it up. The potential benefits are significant.

      Quick Question: I see you have a subscribe block on your site, where your readers can subscribe to receive all of your posts via email. Do you have access to those names and email addresses and can you reach out to them on your own? Would you still have them if you decided to move your site off the wordpress.org platform? If so, then you’re getting nearly all of the benefits of having an email list. If not, you’re risking an extremely valuable asset.

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