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Build Your Mailing List! 5 Ideas That Really Work

This post originally appeared as our entry for IndieReCon, a free online conference just for indie authors. Be sure to check out the site for other great content from folks who know self-publishing best!

Photo: CarbonNYC | FlickrWith all of the hats you wear as an indie author, have you ever wondered how in the world you’ll fit promotion into your already jam-packed schedule?

At the very least, I bet you don’t have nearly the amount of time you’d to spend on marketing your work. After all, you have to start writing on that next book sometime, right?

Well, what if I told you about a super-secret marketing tool that was 24 TIMES better than what you’re doing now…that would be pretty exciting, huh?

Even better, this tool is likely one you already have, but you’re not sure how to make it work for you. Wanna know what it is?

The crazy-effective book marketing tool is your mailing list.

(I know, the post title gave it away, huh?)

Your mailing list, when grown and used effectively, can deliver 24x the results of the more traditional book marketing methods, such as social media marketing.

I know, I know, you have a love-hate relationship with your mailing list. You set it up awhile ago, sent out a few emails, but lately it’s just been…stagnant. You’re not really sure how to use it, and there’s only 10 people on there anyway. What’s the point?

I feel you.

But, hear this: mailing lists are amazingly effective (and FUN!) marketing tools. Popping up in a reader’s inbox is the perfect way to connect with them one-on-one.

Before you can reap the benefits of your mailing list, however,we need to encourage readers to join. Ready to get started?

5 Ideas to Skyrocket Your Mailing List Growth

First off, a note for the authors who don’t yet have a mailing list: Check out this awesome guide from Molly Greene’s website. It’ll take you, start-to-finish, through the process of setting up your very own (FREE) mailing list using MailChimp.

1. Share a Freebie

With all the email spam swirling around the internets, folks are (understandably) a bit guarded with their email addresses. As you’ve undoubtedly found in your personal life, sharing your email address with anyone signifies a good bit of trust.

Sharing a freebie with readers who sign up your mailing list rewards them for trusting you with their personal information. This “ethical bribe” is really a thank-you gift that sets a positive tone for your relationship, right from the start.

So, what should you give away? The most effective freebies are:

  1. Easily consumable. Something your reader can enjoy and complete in a day or two, max.
  2. Exclusive. Something your readers can’t easily find anywhere else.
  3. Exciting. Something of quality that rewards the reader, making her feel like she’s done the right thing by joining your list.

Already, the rules above exclude the more common freebies, such as current-work excerpts (readers should be able to easily find these elsewhere for free) or whole books (such lengthy work takes too long to consume). Much better ideas include:

  • An unreleased short story
  • An alternate chapter from another character’s POV
  • An excerpt from an upcoming work
  • Bonus content not found in your book

Once you’ve decided on your freebie, simply add a link to the content in the Final “Welcome” Email in Mailchimp.

2. Add a Signup Box to Your Website

To build your mailing list, readers have to know that it exists, right?

mlexample1If you have a self-hosted website (or otherwise have total control over your website), the best way to get readers to sign up for your list is by adding a form in your website’s sidebar. For more on how to do this, check out MailChimp’s video tutorial.

If you have a bit of extra room, also add a short paragraph of text before the signup box that lets the reader know how often to expect your emails and what kind of content they’ll contain.

3. Create a Signup Button

If have a website hosted externally — like on WordPress.com or Blogger — you won’t be able to easily embed a signup form in your website’s sidebar. Boo! Are you totally out of luck? Not at all!

The typical solution Mailchimp pushes in this situation is to add a text link to your sidebar, which links to your signup page. This simple link, however, likely won’t stand out enough to be seen by your readers.

Instead, let’s call attention to the link by using a fancypants button to link to your signup form!

I’ve created a few buttons below for you to choose from. To add one to your blog, simply copy and paste the code below the buttons, but BE SURE replace the part that says YOURLINKHERE with the link to your signup form and the part that says IMAGENAME with the name of the button image you’d like.

Code to add signup button to your site:

<a href="http://YOURLINKHERE">
<img src="http://selfpublishingteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/IMAGENAME.gif">
</a>

An example:

<a href="http://eepurl.com/1234">
<img src="http://selfpublishingteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/emailbutton-red.gif">
</a>

4. Add a Signup Prompt at the End of Your Book

mlsampThe moment your reader turn the final page is the perfect time to ask them to join your mailing list for more updates!

Make this as simple as possible by adding a page to the end of your book containing a link to your signup form and a bit about your mailing list.

Note: Be sure to mention that freebie as well!

5. Add a Signup Tab to Your Facebook Author Page

With Facebook’s recent changes, many of the readers who ‘like’ your page won’t see your updates. To make sure they don’t miss out, encourage folks to join your mailing list right from your Facebook page.

Use this tutorial from MailChimp to add a mailing list signup button to your Facebook page. Want a custom image to make your new tab stand out? Grab one of the images below (by right-clicking on the image and saving the image to your computer) and follow these instructions for adding a custom icon to your mailing list tab.

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  • Tracy_R_Atkins

    That is a really informative article. I find the “freebie” works best to get people to join up. Offering a short story or some other valuable content is a nice draw.

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      Absolutely, Tracy! We’re all about those “ethical bribes” :-)

  • http://twitter.com/danhodgins Dan Hodgins

    Fantastic ideas for growing a mailing list. I can see that you both practice what you preach – excellent job setting up your site to be an email capture machine!

    There’s so many ways to capture emails and grow a mailing list it boggles the mind. For a few dozen more ideas in addition to these check out this post:
    http://www.tinylever.com/email-list-growth-capture-emails