What if that one thing required no tricks, no SEO, no fancy design skills and no algorithms to decipher?
And if building that same one thing over time lead to significantly increased sales of your books or services–
would it be worth doing?
Building a targeted and invested email list of subscribers is hands down one of THE most important things you can do to ensure the long term growth of your writing career.
If I could only take one thing with me on a deserted (platform building) island, it would be my email list.
Because no matter how important blogging, social media, publicity and other forms of outreach are for getting your work in front of the right eyeballs, your email list is the only thing–if nurtured–that will allow you to directly and personally communicate with your readers on an ongoing basis.
For those of you who are not convinced that it’s worth the trouble (or you’re just unsure where to start) I have created a series of posts that will address the why, the how and the what of list building for writers.
An earlier post, The Writer’s Guide to Building an Email List, provides a general overview, plus some tips and strategies to get your list building rolling. But with this five part series, we’ll go deeper to understand why developing a targeted subscriber list of interested readers is so essential.
Email vs. Social Media: A SmackDown
When social media splashed onto the scene, many people touted the “death” of email marketing. Why bother with an old fashioned way of reaching your audience, when technology was offering new platforms with flashier and more dynamic ways of reaching people?
But what we soon learned is that while social media has its merits, email still trumps social media.
When it comes to marketing your book and truly connecting and communicating with your fans, one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal is an email list of eager and targeted subscribers.
Compared to social media platforms where statuses can easily be missed or restricted, email open rates reflect the quality and relevance of your content–something you have full control over. The better and more relevant the content, the better the open rate, and therefore the more impact you can make on a growing number of individuals.
Outside of your own platform, you have no say on how your content is distributed. Facebook, Twitter and others determine the rules that you are required to play by.
If the social media platform du jour deems you (or your content) unworthy, your account can be suspended. Changes can be made in their terms of service that may significantly impact or limit your ability to connect with your audience. Even how you interact with your readers is dictated by the platform you choose to use (“140 character or less”).
But, your email list is your own; you determine the rules. How often you connect with your readers, and the way you choose to do so, is not at the direction or discretion of others.
Here are a few more points to consider:
- Email allows you to have a direct link to a specific person, not just a general update that is sent to the masses.
- It requires more commitment to hand over the address to your personal inbox, than to click a like or follow button. People might follow back due to etiquette, but they won’t share their email address out of courtesy. You have to work harder for it. So when a reader takes this step, it’s a clear statement that they are interested in your work and your message.
- In some cases, readers may have questions or responses to your work that they are unwilling to share publicly. Email provides an opportunity for a private discussion, where readers can open up, share feedback, or debate an idea.
“Instead of fighting for attention on a busy street, you’ve been invited to the kitchen table to share your heart over a cup of coffee.”
- Not all of your readers will be as technologically savvy as you are ( 😉 ), so for some readers, even adding a comment on your blog might prove a challenge and a barrier to communication. (Whereas most of us have managed to figured out email.)
- Reinforcing that your reader’s comments go straight to your inbox and are read and replied to by you–a note between two people–can nurture a deeper relationship with your readers.
- Not everyone uses social media (or the social platforms you’re on), but almost everyone has an email address.
- Email provides a place to discuss your reader’s biggest fears, dreams, hopes, needs, wants, challenges or frustrations. A place for you to understand your audience more intimately so that you can craft your content (your books, presentations, blog posts, social media updates, marketing materials, sales copy or services) to resonate with those readers.
Actually, pitting email against social media creates competition where there doesn’t need to be. Both are required for successful marketing: social media for piquing interest, developing connections, and creating awareness. Email for the follow-up, the conversation and for turning interested people into fans, and fans into customers.
What’s most important is the advantage email brings in the form of control, access and building a deeper connection with your ideal audience.
In this regard, email is the clear winner.
The Benefits of Building Your List, And Doing it Early
Understanding that email has a different role than social media in terms of connecting with your audience, is important. But fully understanding the perks of building your list, is also necessary.
And although writers are frequently being told to “start building your email list”, they are not being told exactly why it’s vital to start–and the advantage of starting early.
To solve that, here’s a list of some of the key benefits of building a list of subscribers (we’ll discuss how starting early gives you an edge, in a second):
- As noted previously, email is direct and–if done right–personal. This aspect alone affords a fantastic opportunity to start building the know, like and trust factor, and a meaningful relationship with each of your readers.
- Your list represents a self-selected grouping of like-minded individuals who are already interested in your topic or genre, as well as what you’ve shared with them to this point (whether on your blog, via social media or perhaps at a speaking event).
- No matter how busy or hectic their schedule, people inevitably take the time to check their email. We’ve been trained to check our inbox, even at the expense of productivity. The same cannot necessarily be said for social media (although this may depend on the market you are trying to reach).
- Email marketing software will often use a double opt-in process, which requires subscribers to not only sign up for your list, but also to confirm their intent to join your community by clicking a confirmation link. This not only “doubly” confirms their interest, but ensures you have their permission as well.
- Having a list multiplies your reach. It’s like having your own book promotion team because the people on your list are the most likely to recruit other readers and sing your praises through word of mouth. And if you’ve taken the time to build a reciprocal relationship (by first giving immense value before asking for something in return), your subscribers are also the most likely to buy your new release, write a review or provide a testimonial.
- Email is a timely and inexpensive way to reach your audience. The immediacy, and often exclusivity, of the information you share via email can be a compelling way to attract more readers into the fold.
- Two-way communication via email allows you to interact and engage with your readers, invite comments and ask questions. Essentially a free research tool, your list can provide insights into your audience’s needs and wants, help you determine support and interest levels for your new projects, let you gather feedback and opinion on issues in your topic area, or simply allow you to gauge your relevancy in your genre.
- People get to experience you in your emails. Your voice, your style, your personality. Readers want to connect with the person behind the writing.
- Creating an email list is one more way to add value to your readers and clarify your author brand.
- The more you engage with your readership, the more invested they become in your work and your success as a writer. You are a diamond in the rough, and those who help shape you and your writing, will often become your biggest advocates.
There are some significant advantages to creating an email list, no?
And here’s the kicker: the sooner you start, the sooner you can start reaping the rewards. It’s really never too early.
Many writers put off list building for a variety of reasons. Any of these sound familiar?
- “My author website isn’t “just right”.
- “I already have too much on my plate; how can I possibly get it all done?”
- “More email? No thanks! I’ve got enough to weed through as it is.”
- “I’m no techy. I wouldn’t even have a clue where to start!”
- “I think I already have a sign up form somewhere on my site. That should be good enough.”
- “I don’t want to have to pay for one of those email marketing services.”
- “When I have something new coming up, I just
spamsend an email to all my family and friends in my contacts list. That should do.”
- “Building an email list is for businesses. I’m a writer, so it doesn’t really apply to me.”
After reading how powerful building an email list can be for writers, these reasons should now sound more like excuses. (Tough love, people 🙂 ).
Whatever is getting in your way, remove the obstacle. It takes time to build trust and create the strong connections you want and need from your readers. Starting early gives you an edge, because most people fail to take action until it’s too late: when their book is published, their product is released or their service is available.
Usually, that’s right about the time that they realize they should have started sooner.
You can no longer afford to put off building your list. So get started.
How Your Email List Can Increase Book Sales (Even if You Don’t Use it to Sell)
The final point to tackle is this: if I take the time to form genuine, meaningful relationships with my readers, the LAST thing I want to do is become a smarmy salesman and insist they “buy my book!”
But, what’s the point of focusing so much time and energy on my email list, if I can’t/won’t/don’t use it to sell?
By consistently sharing useful, helpful, relevant and interesting messages, you deepen your influence with your reader.
And if you’ve already taken the time to develop a relationship, people will not only be more likely to buy from you, but more likely to promote your work as well.
All of this up front effort allows you to grow an invested audience and group of dedicated readers who are happy to support your next project.
If you focus on sharing valued content–not a commercial message–the purchase of your book, services, or whatever you have to offer, becomes a natural progression.
Having carefully reviewed why building an email list is so important, Part 2 in the Email List Building Series will focus on how to craft an email sign up incentive that makes the decision to join your list a no-brainer.
So stay tuned!
Any questions or feedback about the “why do I need to?” part of the series? Do any of the “reasons” for not getting started ring true?