Marketing: increasing your mailing list–be careful!

When you start selling books online, one of the first things that marketing peeps will tell you is that you will need a mailing list.

Even way back in the mid-90s when I sold non-fiction hard-copy books, I knew the value of a mailing list. I would buy second hand libraries of specialised non-fiction, send an email to the list (in the low hundreds) and sell half of the stock. It was magic!

Way back then, the list was accrued in a way that would be considered illegal now (but there was no CAN-SPAM and no one knew any better): by finding email addresses in the specific interest communities. At that time, those people appreciated getting the emails because the internet was opening up and they were delighted that someone sold the type of books they wanted.

Fast forward twenty years, and you have to be really careful with mailing lists.

Just how do you increase your list safely?

Organic signups

First and foremost, you should try to get as many organic signups as you can.

Organic means that people sign up after having read your book and they choose to part with their email address so that you can notify them when the next book is out.

For this, you put a live link to the signup page in the front and back of your book.

Why the front? Well, there are quite a few (really anal LOL) peeps who don’t like their books showing as partially read. You know how the books always contain a few pages of backmatter, including a sample and in order for the books to show “read” you have to page through all that just so your device can stop reminding you that you’re reading this book (which you’ve finished, stupid ereader!) and aaargh I may just have outed myself as one of those peeps.

If they’re still thinking about the book two days later and want to sign up, they don’t have to page through the whole book.

There is another was in which the front matter link can be beneficial. Click this link. It goes to Ambassador 1 on Amazon. Click on the cover and in the window that opens (the “look Inside”), scroll down. See the image? See the offer? Put the mouse over it. Click it.

Ta daaaa! A live link to my signup page on Amazon.

But! Why would I direct people away from buying a book for $2.99 to signing up? Because an address on my list is worth more to me than $2 from a single sale.

(P.S.I’m running a sale on this book and astonished Amazon has already changed the price LOL)

Competitions, giveaways and cross-promotions

This is a very powerful way of building a list and increasing your readership.

This method uses a single website that advertises a bunch of books, usually with a giveaway attached, and the authors of the books get a list of the email addresses of the entrants.

But first, let’s put a few oft-repeated objections out of their misery:

  • People only want to win the prize. Yup, some people do, that’s why you need to clean the list of non-openers once you start sending to them.
  • People are not interested in your genre. Sure, that’s why you need to clean the list of non-openers once you start sending to them.
  • Your open rate goes down. Probably, that’s why you need to clean the list of non-openers once you start sending to them.

See a pattern?

You need to maintain the list and delete inactive peeps.

Which you should also do for your regular list, by the way.

This you must understand about lists: there are two types:

  • a back-end list
  • a front-end list

The back-end list is a service to people who are already your readers. Organic signups are a back-end service.

A front-end list advertises your books to people not already familiar with them. This is what you do with competitions.

There is overlap. It’s quite astonishing if you ever do a survey of your list, how many people have not read all your books, despite having volunteered to be on a new releases list. Who are better people to advertise your books to than those who have already shown this level of interest in you?

Competitions are a GREAT way for advertising your books personally to people who are interested in your genre and interested in readers.

BUT!

Big but.

You need to be really selective in which giveaways to take part in.

I will tell you hands down the best method:

Go to Instafreebie. Sign up for the lowest level paid account. It’s $20 per month, but the first month is free. But seriously, this is the BEST money you will ever spend on advertising.

Put your first-in-series books up on the site, set up a giveaway for each, and make opt-ins required. Join your Mailchimp account to Instafreebie, or if you don’t have Mailchimp, get a free account with them and then use Zapier to automatically transfer the email addresses to whichever service you do use.

Then join one of the many Instafreebie promotion groups on Facebook.

I’m a big fan of this one:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/instafreebiepromos/

In this group, and others like it, authors will ask for fellow author peeps to take part in genre-based cross-promos. You sign up, the organiser sends you the information, and on the allocated dates, everyone kills the internet with it. The beauty about Instafreebie is that it will also advertise these promotions to their readers.

The giant pluses of this method:

  • The people who end up on your list are avid readers
  • It’s 100% author-run, so there are no businesses trying to make money off running promotions.

There are some commercial competition sites. I have used a good number of them. You have to be extremely careful with them, mainly because of the issue I mentioned at the top of the post: these days, we have CAN-SPAM laws and too many complaints can lead to your account being banned from your provider.

In terms of spam complaints, these are not many complaints at all. I’ve never had any issues, but I know people whose Mailchimp accounts have been shut down due to ONE badly-chosen promotion.

In terms of commercial promotions, I’ve not heard any bad stories about (although they may send you a lot of promotional emails advertising their promotions):

  • AuthorXP
  • RyanZee
  • Author Platform Rocket

There are likely to be other reputable services. There are some services out there where I’ve heard (or experienced) LOTS of bad stories about fouled-up lists. Some services copy old lists to artificially inflate the paying authors’ results. Some harvest addresses from other sites.

Do your research!

Or simply stick to author-run non-profit cross-promotions.

6 thoughts on “Marketing: increasing your mailing list–be careful!

  1. I’ve been using the techniques you describe and my list is growing. IF is the best advertising money for mailing lists. However, with lots of authors flocking to IF to build their lists, I suspect the readers are beginning to suffer “list fatigue.” I’m noticing a decline in open and click rates. Also, some unsubscribes complain their inboxes are being flooded, which isn’t surprising if they’ve downloaded dozens or hundreds of free books and signed up for all those newsletters.

    • Patty says:

      This is true, and anything that works well never continues working forever. When Mark Dawson started with Facebook, it was all about Facebook ads for signups, but now it’s at Instafreebie. I suspect there will be an equilibrium reached soon, but some new method will come up.

  2. Andrei Cherascu says:

    Patty, I’m just researching methods to increase my mailing list now that I also have a free story to give away exclusively to subscribers. This post has been enormously helpful. Thank you so much!

    It made me realize that I need to also make the first-in-series free asap and advertise the heck out of it. The reason I didn’t do it sooner was that, just as I’d gone wide and was about to make it free, I caught a 0.99% BookBub and the book continued to sell for a while. Plus, I only had one other book out. Now I have a trilogy.

    Anyway, once again, thank you for this (and every other) helpful post. You are a treasure!

  3. Probably a dumb question, but I want to make sure I understand. Do you maintain two separate lists? One for the competitions and one for organic sign-ups from front and backmatter? If so, is there a difference between what you send to one list versus the other?

    • Patty says:

      Yup, there is a big difference. The competition list I send more competitions, sales, cross-promos, giveaways. My own list gets almost none of that stuff. I might mention the SFF promo in the “coming up” section at the very bottom. To them, I talk about my projects, snippets, photos. I ask them questions about their reading habits and ask them for suggestions about titles, etc. etc.

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