Let’s talk about author mailing lists.
Recently I’ve been doing some big maintenance on my mailing list. I hadn’t done this for a while and whenever I dive into my list, I’m struck by how if I didn’t have this list, I’d have no career either.
I have two lists that I maintain from the same account. There is my author mailing list that you can get onto by downloading the free starter library. I use it to talk about my books.
Then there is the Ebookaroo list, which is a deals list where I advertise author promotions and primarily books by other authors (and sometimes my own–this is why the list exists, so that I have a venue where I can promote free, discounted and new books whenever I want). Authors do not pay to be featured and I make no money from the list.
(For those who ask: Why don’t I use affiliate links? Because the rules around using these are too restrictive. Basically, I don’t want corporate logos on my site.)
First, let’s bury the idea the email is dead
It happens a lot that people will comment that email is dead and that certainly “young people” (whoever qualifies as such at the discretion of the speaker) don’t use email anymore.
But you know those notifications that your parcel is on its way, or about to be delivered?
Notifications of specials in your favourite online store?
Because many people don’t like it when their phone number that they use for family and friends get cluttered up with this stuff. When you receive a text from a family member, you’ll look at it, but when you receive a package notification at your gmail account, you’ll just glance at the preview and bin it. It’s still email, even if you also receive it on your phone.
The boundaries between the two are blurring, but a great many people still don’t like giving out their phone number to anyone not a friend or relative. Email addresses are disposable. Phone numbers are form of identification, and are much more closely guarded.
People still get a lot of email, even if it no longer looks like formally receiving it through an email client on a large screen computer.
So why are author mailing lists so important?
One reason: because you own them. Those people are on that list because they consented to be there. People who follow you on Amazon are there because they bought from Amazon. If Amazon decides to clean them out, they’re lost to you, and you never got their address anyway.
Couldn’t you do this on Facebook, or Substack?
You could, but the site owns the platform. Not only do they decide how the algorithm is not going to show your post to at least 90% of your followers, but they’ll also decide how much to charge you for showing the post to your followers or how much to charge you to access them, or the site could make some daft decisions about its design or operation that are not in your favour.
Every time we see a version of MySpace play out on social media, there are a bunch of experienced writers who will roll their eyes and mutter “I told you so”.
These companies are not our friends. Use them while you can, but make sure that YOU OWN the place where you steer your readers. Your website and your list.
Your list and website are where you can do whatever you like. You can jig the SEO to benefit you. Where you can sell whatever you like without having to pay the site or dance around their rules. Where you can export the addresses when you want to go somewhere else.
Time and time again, we see these companies build up a user base and then hollow out the benefits, and increase the cost to those it holds hostage on the platform. Yes, you can leave, but at a great cost to you, by losing 90% of your audience.
If you’re not paying for the product, you ARE the product.
Being independent of the main platforms is by no means the only benefit. The offerings of email list services are expanding all the time. You can integrate them with other services, even to offer direct sales without a shop website. If you have a list, you can do author cross-promotions. You can do Bookfunnel promotions.
And of course you have your community. Yes, you’ll have them too on social media platforms, but you might just have to pay for them to see your post.
While I don’t do courses or consulting, I wrote a set of books about selfpublishing for the main reason that I got sick of answering many versions of the same questions.
Mailing Lists Unboxed is full of tips borne from experience running mailing lists. It’s about mindset and learning the difference between a front end list and a back end list and how to maintain your list accordingly. Grab it from my website.