Trying to get people to join your mailing list can be a little tiresome. However, with the teamwork of other authors and three cross promotion resources, authors can build their mailing lists quickly, efficiently and get quality subscribers.
Using these methods have netted me anywhere from 200-600 new subscribers in the first month. Continuing to uses these resources will ensure a steady flow of new subscribers to help you rapidly build your list, and I get 30-150 per month doing this.
This article will answer the following questions:
- How do I start a mailing list?
- What is a Lead Magnet?
- What free or low-cost resources can I use to continue to grow my list?
These three topics combined will help you build your list quickly, which will help you sell more books.
- Have a Lead Magnet
- Use a distribution platform (like BookFunnel or StoryOrigin) to deliver the free eBook (aka Lead Magnet)
- Collect those emails from the people who download your free eBook
- Communicate with them through your newsletter.
Who Should Read this Article
You should read this article if…
- You don't know what a lead magnet is
- You don't have a mailing list started
- You aren't signed up for a mailing list service
- You don't know what BookFunnel or StoryOrigin is
- You don't have a reliable method of getting newsletter swaps
For those who have all the above, are you doing any of the following?
- Joining BookFunnel promos
- Joining StoryOrigin promos
- Using BookClicker for newsletter swaps
If you don't know one or more topics above or you'd like to learn more, then keep reading.
You can scroll down to skim the headings and skip the ones you already know.
How Do I Start a Mailing List?
If you do not have a mailing list, then start here in this article.
Mailing lists have been around since the 1800s (in the form of mail-order catalogs), so don't believe anyone who tells you mailing lists are no longer effective. They are here to stay. We're just doing them electronically.
The main reason why it is so important to have a mailing list is these are people with whom you have direct contact. They have opted in to your newsletter because they have shown an interest in your books. The money AND time you spend on a mailing list is worth it's weight in gold compared to the time-suck that is known as social media.
Social media these days is better for interacting with people who are already your fans OR to push your lead magnet (more later on Lead Magnets). Buy my book posts on social media don't work.
There are HUNDREDS of mailing list services, but I'll mention only a few of them here that are not only popular with authors, but also provide easy integration with the resources I'll be mentioning later.
- Easy to use interface
- Flexible automations with If/Then branches
- Drag-and-drop newsletter editor
- Inexpensive & they have a free account option
- No live customer support for the free account. Only Help articles.
- Subscribers cannot change their email address. Must create a new account and you must delete the old one.
- Subscribers cannot change any other account information. You must do it manually.
- You cannot merge two subscriber accounts – in the event someone signed up with two email addresses.
CLICK HERE to see their pricing page. In short, you get 1000 subscribers and 12,000 newsletters you can send each month for FREE, so it's great for those just beginning. Meaning, if you have 1000 people, you would have to send 12 newsletters per month to reach your monthly limit. Most authors don't send that many. $10 for 1000 subscribers and unlimited emails and it goes up from there.
- Great customer service
- Comprehensive, easy-to-use knowledge base
- Easy-to-use automations, but a bit linear like MailChimp
- Very affordable!
- Subscribers can update their account information
- No free plan. See pricing below.
- Features and automations are a little wonky to figure out, but they have a good customer support structure to assist
- Not used by a lot of authors, so no support outside of Mad Mimi
- MadMimi doesn't seem to integrate with the services mentioned
CLICK HERE to view their pricing page. They do not have a free plan, but for $10/mo, you can manage 500 subscribers. For $42/month, you can have 10k! It's a great deal, so if you're tight on your budget and don't mind a few manual work-arounds, then MadMimi is a great choice.
Services I Do Not Recommended
I'm not going to give you pros and cons to MailChimp. I used them years ago because you could have up to 2000 subscribers for free and they had good customer service. Unfortunately, their automation sucks monkey balls. It's very linear and it takes a degree in physics to try to use it any other way.
They've made a lot of changes recently that have made them even more undesirable. David Gaughran covers the differences between MailerLite and MailChimp very well in his article about why he switched. I'll let you hear it from him. He recommends MailerLite.
They're expensive and their newsletter editor is horrible and clunky. For a service who claims to have been around the longest, they're behind the times.
ConvertKit – Don't Have an Opinion
I'm not recommending ConverKit only because I have zero experience using them. I know a handful of authors who use ConvertKit and they seem to be happy. Ask around.
The only reason I'm mentioning them is they do interface with some of the Resources I mention below and I've only heard they're a bit pricey.
Final Notes on Mailing List Management
Two points of recommendation I'll make:
- How often you should send newsletters
- USE automations to make your life easier
DO NOT collect email addresses and then just let them sit there and only contact your subscribers when you have a release. You'll get a ton of unsubscribes and your Mailing List Service will shut down your account. Subscribers will forget about you and then think you're contacting them out of the blue, or you bought a list with their email on it, and mark you as spam.
At a bare minimum, you should send out one message per month and be on time about it. Set a single date – the 1st of the month, the 15th, the last day, whatever. Set it and stick to it.
I personally recommend every week or every other week. If you don't have anything to talk about, you can cross promote other authors who have free or 99 cent books and new releases (BookClicker is great for that).
Do author spotlights, share recipes or pet pictures, funny articles or videos, and try to tie everything back to BOOKS.
I'll get into newsletter content in another article, but if you're sharing books, readers will be interested. Especially if you share books that are similar to what you write.
What is a Lead Magnet?
Put simply, it's a free sample of your writing. This is what's called a loss leader – something free to hopefully hook people into wanting more.
It's like that little cube of cheese on a toothpick you get at the store. You try it, then decide if you want to buy more.
Give your lead magnet away like candy! (Or cheese!) This is what you use as the value add to get people to join your mailing list.
“Sign up for my reader club/newsletter and get this eBook for FREE!” THIS is what you promote on social media. Create a landing page (more on that later) and pimp it out everywhere you can.
The best lead magnets for authors are…
- Short stories – either a single one or a collection
- First book in a series
Short stories are great for giving readers a sample, but be sure they have a good beginning, middle and end. If you're bad at writing short stories, then stay away from this format.
Novellas are my favorite because you have enough room to tell a decent story with a more complicated plot arc than a short story, but you're not giving away a huge novel you probably spent a lot of time on.
If you write a novella that is a spin-off of a series you've already written or even a prequel, this is excellent reading material that will get the readers hooked on the world you've created and want to dive into your series. (My free book pictured above does just that.)
The first book in a series hurts a little more, in my opinion. You've written a full novel for the beginning of a series…and then you're giving it away. Especially if you only have 3 books in a series, this loss leader cuts your profits down by a third in that situation. I still have the first book in my series at 99 cents, but at least I'm getting SOMETHING for the blood sweat and tears I put into it. My novella is shorter and I don't mind giving it out to every Jane, Mary or Sue.
As a whole, readers aren't fond of partials or samples. They don't like feeling like they got robbed on a freebie. Yeah, I know, it's free…but they still feel robbed.
Resources for List Building
So, you have a lead magnet and you have a mailing list service. Now you need a service that will automatically distribute your free eBook (aka Lead Magnet) to your new subscribers.
Basically, these services host your eBook on their servers and give you the ability to create landing pages, where readers will go to download your book. In order to download your eBook, they first need to cough up their email address and sometimes their name, depending on how you set it up.
One of these services is free and one costs an annual fee, but it's super affordable and worth it. TRUST ME when I say it is worth the cost to automatically integrate your mailing list with these distribution platforms.
Also, paying for them to distribute your eBook means YOU don't have to answer the endless questions about the technical side of downloading the eBook and getting it onto their eReader. The customer support of those services will do that with the readers.
Here are the services I recommend and with whom I've had great results in building my fan base:
- Website: https://bookfunnel.com/
- Price: Basic plan is $20/year – worth it!
- Sample Link: https://www.arialburnz.com/freebies
Click on the sample link above to go to the BookFunnel landing page I have for my lead magnet.
The Plan I Use: I was paying the monthly plan for the mid-list author ($15/month) and the add-on $5/month for the email integration. I am now on the annual plan, which is $100/year, and the add-on $50 which includes unlimited integrations.
You upload your book and book cover to their server. Then you create various landing pages, such as distributing a free eBook for your lead magnet, ARC distribution to a select group of readers, KU and retail buy pages, and you can even sell your books directly through BookFunnel! CLICK HERE to read all about their features.
When you integrate your mailing list service with BookFunnel, you then refer readers to your landing page for the free eBook. They enter their email address and it goes directly into your mailing list service. Easy peasy!
OR if you have a free book you want to give ONLY to your subscribers, BookFunnel has a way to check if the email address entered is on your list already and ONLY distribute the book when their email address checks out.
To grow your list quickly, join the dozens of BookFunnel promotions hosted by other authors. You can even host one yourself. Then all authors share those group promos with their mailing lists and social media, driving their readers and fans to the giveaway…and ultimately to your book(s).
I've gained anywhere from 200-600 subscribers in a single month, depending on the group promos I've joined. There are a lot of romance authors using BookFunnel, but they've definitely grown their author base to include other genres.
- Website: https://storyoriginapp.com/
- Price: FREE for now during beta
- Sample Link: https://www.arialburnz.com/fbhfree
Click on the sample link above to go to the StoryOrigin landing page I have for my lead magnet.
Click on StoryOrigin's website link above and you'll read about all the various features they have available. StoryOrigin is a cross-promotion service created by an author for authors. Right now it's free while he's building it and it's turning out to be a great free option.
It's similar to BookFunnel in that you can use it to distribute your lead magnet or your ARCs. You can post your eBooks to get reviews, create buy pages and universal links, and they have a bunch of promotions for authors to cross-promote giveaways to their readers to help you grow your list or drive sales.
This is a great service for authors with smaller mailing lists and a wider variety of genres. And if you can't afford the $20/year with BookFunnel, this is a great alternative. I use both services.
- Website: https://www.bookclicker.com/benefits
- Price: Free (has website purchases)
BookClicker is a NEWSLETTER SWAP service. You do not distribute free eBooks through them like you do BookFunnel or StoryOrigin. You basically agree with other authors that if they mention your book to their mailing list, you'll mention their book to yours. And some authors charge for including your book in their newsletter (but then you don't have to share their book since you paid).
This means YOU can make money using this service, too. Keep in mind, you probably won't make money until you have a large list, so don't expect to make money right away.
If you don't have a mailing list or have less than 300 people, you probably won't get anyone accepting any swaps, so you might have to pay at first OR wait until you get a few hundred and then try swapping. This is where StoryOrigin can help you grow and then you can join BookClicker and BookFunnel later.
Having others mention your books – either new releases or sales – is a very effective method of promotion for free or low cost, so all these services are worth exploring.
There are a couple of CONS in using this service…
- It's not very user friendly. I was lost until I had a couple of friends show me how to use it.
- They only integrate with four mailing list services and you can't create an account unless you use one of them:
- You will get a lot of rejections, so don't take it personally. It's just the nature of the platform. Some authors are too busy to respond in time (swaps get declined automatically after 72 hours) or they don't have the time on their schedule to bother setting up a newsletter with your graphics and information.
I have a MailerLite account specifically for BookClicker. If you're looking for a mailing list service, then MailerLite is definitely a plus to use just to sign up for BookClicker.
If you're just starting out as an author or haven't yet started building your mailing list, these are GREAT suggestions to build subscribers in a short period of time.
I hope this article helped. If you have questions about using BookClicker with MailerLite if you already have another mailing list service, leave a comment below and I'll answer your questions…or any questions about anything mentioned in this article.
That's my two pence…