The Busy Writer's Guide to Establishing Your Author Platform, Part 2: Build an Email List

Image by ra2studio/

Image by ra2studio/

Last month we shared our tips for getting started with your author platform. Today we want to continue with suggestions for building your email list. A lot of social media and marketing experts say that building an email list is the most important way to engage with your readers. But if you have a lot of Twitter followers or you’re rocking Facebook, why would you spend the time and energy?

In Write. Publish. Repeat, authors Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David Wright note that social media is a tactic that you use to accomplish the strategy of communicating with your loyal readers. It’s not the only way and not the best way, they argue.

Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies, agrees and explains, you don’t own social media platforms, and they can change or even fall out of favor at any time. MySpace once dominated the social media scene, and then others came along and took over. It’s hard not to notice the way Facebook changes what people see in their feeds. There are ways to game social media, but they keep moving the goalpost, and you can’t export your lists from those outfits. You don’t want the only way to reach your readers to be in someone else’s control. It takes time to build your email list, but it is well worth the effort.

How do you build an email list? The technical aspect of setting up the email list involves finding an email platform. We use Mailchimp, which we love. You can try it out for free, it’s easy to use, and has great tech support. You can add a sign-up form to your site or allow people to sign up through a link. There are other platforms available, but this is what we use and can recommend.

Where do you find your people? Our Social Media expert, Ashley Balstad recommends letting your friends and family know what you’re working on. Use your already existing social media set up to encourage people to sign up. You don’t want to overdo it because your personal friends didn’t agree to that, but it’s perfectly legitimate to let people know what you’re up to and invite them on your writing adventure. Some writers will offer a short story or other content in exchange for willingness to share email, and some don’t. Many writers include a call to action at the end of their e-books to encourage people to join their email list. This allows readers who love the work to find out when more books will be available.

When should you start building your email list? It’s never too early. It takes time to gather people, so even if you haven’t published your first book, start finding supporters. Bring them along for the ride of writing your first book.

Once you start building your list, what should you do with it? Provide useful or entertaining information by newsletter or blog. Let people know what you’re offering. A twice monthly newsletter, a weekly blog, or whatever you think you can consistently (and joyfully) do. Grahl recommends a series of autoresponders, emails that go out automatically over a series days, to let new comers know who you are, what you do, and what you’re offering. You won’t necessarily want to share the specifics of your project, but there is plenty of other content you can use. Here are a few things you can include:

·      What you’re learning and researching

·      Books you’re reading

·      Project updates

·      Challenges and successes

·      What is inspiring you

·      Short stories of events that happen in your fictional world

·      Spoiler-free excerpts of your work-in-progress

Have you started building your email list? Do you have other ideas for ways to build the list? We invite you to share your experience in the comments below. And hey, if you like this post and want more, join our email list. You can do so here.