One of the most frequent pieces of advice I hear from successful indie and traditionally published authors is that setting up and growing a mailing list is an essential tool in your marketing armoury. The mailing list will provide you will direct access to people who are interested in your work and if handled with some care, i.e. not spamming the hell out of them and shouting to buy your books all the time, it should be a great way to get good follow-on sales, reviews and reader engagement.
However you do of course have to grow your list first. Below is my initial strategy for list growth:
- Providing free stuff only to those on my mailing list
- Running competitions to people on my mailing list
- Advertising on my other channels of the existence of my mailing list, including in the back of all my books
- Hand out colourful mailing list sign up business cards at my author signings
I have so far run a competition to give away copies of my audiobook but I think that was a little premature as going from a new and empty list to having enough subscribers to make the competition work well is a tough ask in such a short amount of time. However I am happily honouring my pledge and the giveaway continues!
My next phase will be to provide a free fiction / non-fiction cross-over novella which I have been working on for a few weeks now. The novella provides genre interest information, short genre related fiction from myself and the first ten chapters of my first novel. I will be busily promoting the book and its freeness in several genre related Facebook groups and with my first foray into Facebook advertising.
I know a few people who understand the virtues of having a mailing list but think it is very difficult. This post is a quick guide to the process I went through so I can dispel that myth and show you how easier it is. It’s also a shameless call for tips and tricks from those already in the know. Please comment if you see something I could do better!
Let’s Get Started
I’m using one of the most popular mailing list providers, mailchimp. It is free to use for up to 2,000 subscribers and a maximum of 12,000 emails per month and gives you access to key features. It should certainly suit most people as they grow their list.
Step One – Sign Up
When you sign up please make this as secure as possible. Remember you will be collecting people private information and it is your responsibility to keep it safe. I have a strong password and have enabled Two-Factor Authentication. This means I have to have my phone with me when I want to log in so I can use the code mailchimp sends me so they can be sure it is me signing in.
Step Two – Create a List
This is effectively where the user details will be stored. Follow the wizard to guide you through to creating the list. I intent to only collect email addresses. There are lots of options in the settings that you should check out as well but the interface guides you through the information required.
Step Three – Create a Campaign
Create a campaign and give it a name you don’t mind recipients seeing as it will be the default heading for many forms. Here you will be initially guided to create a landing page. This is the page your visitors will see when they click the link. The link will be provided to you in the process. You will have a certain amount of control of the link but unless you pay additional cost you will have to live with something like this.
You can use a link shortening service to reduce the length but I am yet to do this. Instead I have put the link on my contact page and point people there if I have to advertise in a way that people cannot just click the link or I need to type by hand.
Mailchimp will help you through the creation of a landing page with a web based editor. You can click the above link to see what I have put together.
Once people click the link they will get a new message to say they have either successfully subscribed or if you select the option to require users to verify their email address an appropriate message will be displayed. I recommend you set the option to verify the email address as this will help to ensure people don’t accidentally sign up or put an email address in that they are not responsible for.
The editor is very simple to use, choosing an initial template then dragging and dropping elements and editing the text and formatting.
Step Four – Get People to Sign Up
Share the link far and wide and give them your compelling reason to sign up to your list. I am going through this now and I will report on my success when I have some! From launch back in the middle of February to now, I have 11 subscribers!
I always recommend you add your own name / email address to the list so you can see the real email that is sent out.
Step Five – Send Out Your First Newsletter
I am on the cusp of doing this. My first email newsletter is heading out of the door in the coming days and it contains information I will not be posting on my blog or social media for at least a couple of weeks, if ever. It will contain the cover reveal for my magnet novella plus some other information I can’t tell you about, but you will be able to see it if you sign up!!!!!
Creation of the email newsletter was very straightforward. By clicking on the ‘Create’ link within your dashboard and then selecting the email option, you will have access to themes and an editor you will have grown familiar with when you created your landing page.
At any stage you can send a test version of the email to any email address to make sure it works. When you have finished with the design you can schedule the email to go out at an appropriate time. I would suggest researching the best times for sending out email as they differ depending on your audience and target territory.
Step Six – Monitor Success
Mailchimp contains a dashboard for you to view information about the mailing list including the number of visits, clicks and subscribes.
Privacy, Spam and GDPR
Mailchimp takes care of all of this for you as long as you enable the GDPR form settings. With the information you provide it adds all of the links, policy and unsubscribe, and your contact details to fulfil all of the requirements.
I originally did not have the settings correct and I was forced to send out another email which collected consent from everyone. Again mailchimp led me through the process so it was pretty straight forward. After sending it out I did however realise I could have used the segments to only send it out to all countries except the USA.
UPDATE – When I first signed up to mailchimp I used my home address as the anti-spam physical mailing address required by GDPR and international law. I am now changing this to a PO BOX so I can protect my own privacy. The PO BOX service I am using has a zero set up fee and you only pay when you get mail. I don’t plan to receive any mail so this is basically free.
Customise & Investigate
There are lots of areas where you can customise your emails and the forms your users will see. It is well worth diving into the information on the mailchimp site once you are familiar with the basics.
I also recommend you take a look at Segments. These are where you can split your list into different groups, such as country location. The country of the subscriber is known by mailchimp despite the user not having explicitly identified that during sign up.
That’s about it for now. I look forward to your thoughts and comments and I will keep you up to date with my success or otherwise in growing the list in my weekly publishing update!
This is excellent thank you for putting this together. I’m on the cusp of doing just this myself too. I’ve hear mailchimp to be reliable so this is very helpful.
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Thanks for the feedback!
This is perfect timing, as I’ve been planning on setting up a mailing list for the past few weeks and I’m currently working on a free story to use as an incentive. So thanks for a really helpful post. I do have one question: how do you disseminate the free stuff to your subscribers? Is there an automatic welcome email that goes out once the subscribers have verified their email address? And does it allow you to attach a PDF document or would people have to download your novella by following a link?
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A very good question and I’m working on that. You can send an automated welcome email once they have confirmed and / or the day after they subscribe and put a link to the doc in that email. Don’t think you can attach. I will probable host the file in WordPress (not sure how yet) but not make it public, just a shareable link, otherwise I may need to procure a small file space somewhere. Google docs / drive may also work too. Will let you know!
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Thanks, I really appreciate it. I’m still amazed, a year later, that I managed to put together website by myself. Hosting files in WordPress sounds like a leap too far. I may fall off the cliff. Though I guess Dropbox might work too. Any pointers you have would be welcome, as clearly I have no clue what I’m doing!
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Thanks for the tips. I hope you have some great feedback. I am Beta Reading a couple if books but you are next.
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