Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Who should be on your mailing list?

We've been talking about promotion and mailing lists these last few days. Used well, mailing lists can be very effective tools for promoting your book. Used un-wisely mailing lists can also be a fast way to oblivion.

We've talked about some particularly inept promotional emails before.

This blog post is more about how to stay out of hot water with your address book and mailing list (always a better plan than trying to get out of hot water!)

The big question is WHO do you send to?

Here are some guidelines for whether Felix Buttonweezer should be on your mailing list:

1. Can you begin with "Hi Felix, you signed up for my mailing list"
A. Yes-ON mailing list
B. NO-Go to 2

2. Can you begin with"Hi Felix, We met at EVENT and you mentioned you were interested in my book."
A. Yes-ON mailing list
B. NO-Go to 3

3. Can you begin with "Hi Felix, we met at EVENT and I think you might be interested in my book"
A. Yes-ON mailing list
B. NO-go to 4

4. Can you begin with "Hi Felix, we are both members of GROUP and my new book will be of interest to GROUP members"
A. Yes-ON mailing list
B. NO--go to 5

5. Can you begin with "Hi Felix, we are both friends of PERSON who was kind enough to say you might be interested in my book"
A. Yes-ON mailing list
B. NO-go to 6

6. Can you begin with "Hi Felix, I read your blog/your books/your newsletter and hope you will be interested in my book"
A. Yes-ON mailing list
B. NO-Felix Buttonweezer should not be on  your mailing list.

Obviously what you should glean from this is:

A. Mailing lists are most effective if you are leveraging a personal contact or connection.

B. Mailing lists can be effective if you can offer a connection to the recipient (we've both been on Carkoon, we both hate kale) even if recipient wasn't aware of the connection before.

Further points to remember:

C. Mailing lists are MOST effective when they are personalized. Dear Felix not Hi Y'all.

D. Send all is the least effective way to send a promotional email.

E.  Adding people with no connection to you is NOT effective, and has the very real risk your email address will be labelled as spam.

Any questions?


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hi Felix, this your wife, Bettywith2Ts Buttonweezer.
"If you end up on another damn mailing list I'm divorcing you because,"
A. You spend enough time at the computer as it is.
B. Your children have forgotten what you look like.
C. The Wolfe is at the door.
D. I'm pregnant again and for the life I don't know how THAT happened.
E. The Shark is at the door.
F. Don't they mail out cute little tri-folds anymore?

Tony Clavelli said...

Seeing these messages makes me think I've been hearing the words "mailing list" completely wrong. I had pictured the kind of thing that I accidentally subscribe to because I forgot to uncheck the box, rather than a list of people I'm going to write messages to when my book comes out. It's the latter, right?

It made me super queasy to think I had to make a mailing list like the former. I agreed to join a writer's from PitchWars and though they come super seldom, I still feel like I'm doing homework when I read them.

I feel silly that I didn't realize the difference before. Time to start one!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Wonderful list of questions. Bookmarked.

And, Off Topic:

Well, actually a topic from last week when the focus was websites and blogs.

A wonderful piece of serendipity. I'm deciding details for my first website (I'm such a P on the Myers-Briggs and generally incompetent the first time I do things).

Last night I opened an email from a woman who had read my non-fiction book. She found me via my day job/office email. And she has some vibrant artwork called Sketch Prayers (sketchprayers.com for anyone who's interested). So there's another get-moving-girl moment for me to get at 'er.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

So Colin, Lynn, and all my fellow recently returned from Carkoon folks are on my mailing list. Got it. We all have a healthy fear of kale that should result in similar enough literary taste. There's hope for me.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

And Caroly(nn) - hilarious. Always good to start day at work with a laugh:)

Colin Smith said...

This is something that hasn't been on my radar, and I don't know will be on my radar for a while since my WiP isn't even finished, let alone edited and adored by an agent and publisher.

I confess that I never even considered subscribing to author email lists. And yet, my recent questions about Gary Corby's upcoming novel and Donna's November 1st release make me wonder if perhaps I should see about signing up with some of my favorite authors. At the very least, it'll give me some experience with such things for when my time comes.

Brigid said...

Off-topic, on italics: https://www.facebook.com/academicssay/photos/a.1499246890297103.1073741829.1452615238293602/1737023413186115/?type=3&theater

Colin Smith said...

Brigid's link: https://www.facebook.com/academicssay/photos/a.1499246890297103.1073741829.1452615238293602/1737023413186115/?type=3&theater

Donnaeve said...

Sooo... I have an aversion to mailing lists.



Now that we have that out of the way, I am on a few - most of the time I've ended up there inadvertently - because of what Tony C mentions above. Even IF I do purposefully sign up for someone's updates, I usually don't read them or end up unsubscribing.

What's a soon to be published writer to do?

Well, even if the idea of a mailing list makes me feel a bit like a carnival barker no matter how subtle my approach, I did sign up for MailChimp a few weeks ago, in the hopes of beginning to wrangle this particular beast for promotion. MailChimp is not very intuitive for a beginner user, I'll say that. Maybe it's me, but it would seem MailChimp is great if you already have a nice big mailing list - or even a small one, in which to import existing addresses, then manage your "campaigns" as you want.

You see, I have somehow stumbled my way into claiming my domain name via GoDaddy, built a website on WordPress, added HTML snippets to provide various social media links, etc., all on my lonesome, yet when I logon to MailChimp - to try yet again - to DO SOMETHING with it, I poke around for an hour or two and eventually LOGOUT.

Having said all that - what's lovely about QOTKU's advice is it's such a logical approach. I have cc'ed/pasted the questions into a as tool for my own promo will be needed, and it's clear this is the most effective/correct approach to it.

Donnaeve said...

That would be...into a document.

Coffee. Needed.

Janet Reid said...

yikes, let's try Brigid's link with something easier: italic wars!

nightsmusic said...

I'm sitting at my desk at my day job, heater on, blanket covering my legs, trying to not be sick (failing miserably) and looking at one of my favorite newsletters from a group of authors I both know personally and love. I used to sign up for newsletters by the handful until I realized, I rarely read more than two or three so, Unsubscribe! Made me feel much better and less anxious that I didn't feel as if I HAD to read them all.

Currently, I have no newsletter. I have no news. But I would hate to eventually be one of those that instills the wrath of anxious by sending to people who don't want to read it so this is bookmarked in my Authors Notes file. Thank you!

Theresa said...

I'm with Carolynn. Doesn't anyone use those cute tri-folds anymore?

And like Donna, I have an aversion to mailing lists and newsletters. I also took a look at MailChimp after last week's conversations. Even a quick glance told me I'd have to block out quite a bit of time to try and figure it out (no, it's not intuitive--none of these programs are). Plus, I don't have that many email contacts.

LynnRodz said...

Yea! My mailing list consists of only #1 and #2. But I'll now keep my eyes open for #3-6. Thanks for the heads up.

E.M., as with Donna, all of us would love to know when you're book comes out even if the title is, Kale's Kiss And Tell On Karkoon.

Deep River said...

Mailing lists can be started with many different software tools, such as Outlook or Excel (for Microsoft platforms), and be exported later to a dedicated mailing program when you're ready.

A cardinal rule of building databases is simplicity. Use whatever program or tool that is most convenient for you, so that entering and updating contacts takes minimal time and effort.

You might also want to consider tracking the source of the contact, so you can compose an appropriate message.

Brigid said...

Thank you, Colin and Janet! How do I do that? Is there a handy-dandy webpage with a tutorial? I can manage bold and the dreaded italics, but I don't know about strikethrough, links, etc.

Janice Grinyer said...

Excellent topic - flow charts are our friends!

Are there any specific titles out there that are well written (and correct!) concerning writer's platform? I took a gander, and was immediately overwhelmed...there's quite a few!

Colin Smith said...

Brigid: You're welcome! Normally, I won't link to my own blog in other people's comments, but here's the exception to that rule:


As for strike-throughs--I'm not sure commenters can do those in Blogger. I'm not a Blogger expert, so does anyone know for sure on that?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Did somebody say, Go-daddy?

I bought a domain from them, easy-peazy.

It was cheap, (notice I did not say inexpensive).

When the auto-renewal approached I decided to cancel.
Ya know those three rings they have in the circus and the other ones folks have to jump through to achieve something? I had to perform in, and jump through, those three rings plus high dive into a wet sponge, to cancel.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

The Extroverted Writer by Amanda Luedeke is a good source for building an author's platform. She's a good agent too for anyone in the agent search phase of their career. Am I allowed to mention other agents on this blog? I really don't want to go back to Carkoon or to whatever the new writer's Hell or purgatory is in 2016.

David Bridger said...

I found MailChimp a bit head scratchy too, so started using its little sister TinyLetter. Zero bells and whistles, but I don't need things like autoresponders. For now, at any rate. It's intuitive and nicely minimalist. And free. I recommend it.

Anonymous said...

I heartily recommend MailChimp. When I was working on the newsletter for the game company, that's the system they used. It's pretty easy to learn. I learned it, anyone can. The ease of designing a newsletter is remarkable. It's easily adaptable to changing needs. It will probably be around for a while. (Don't you hate it when you learn something and love it, then they rudely go out of business?)

Having said that, I just refuse to think about newsletters right now. I'm still adjusting to the "blog responsibly" exhortation.

I do subscribe to a few newsletters. Kristen Nelson is awesome and has a great newsletter. I also subscribe to Military.com to keep up with what's going on with the military and legislation that affects our vets. Soldier's Angels, an organization that supports troops, families, and vets. America's Horse by AQHA. National Cowgirls Hall of Fame. Surrey International Writer's Conference, though I don't know why. I belong to Books and Writers and that's where the organizers hang out so all news is posted there. A few others that shall remain nameless lest heads spin about exorcist fashion.

I recently subscribed to some historical sites and ordered a lot of pamphlets and brochures. My name must have gotten passed to others as I'm sure I didn't order stuff from NC, but I'm glad they did. I'm getting some fascinating mail and offers of help.

Anonymous said...

Well, I started the previous response before people confessed they found MailChimp confusing. I watched a few videos and had it pretty much down. I'll probably have to do so again, since I haven't used it in a while.

I tend to do better when I can see something done and follow it up with text.

Anonymous said...


I don't think commenters can strike through on blogger.


Colin Smith said...

Thanks, Julie. And good tip about video tutorials. You can learn to do just about anything on YouTube! Some people learn better by watching.

BJ Muntain said...

Caroly__, I've heard that about GoDaddy. There are other domain sites and hosting sites that are much easier to deal with. I use easyDNS for my domain management and DreamHost for my web hosting. I've found them very professional to deal with. When I decided to let one of my domains go, I just clicked a box that said I didn't want to renew it. I got an e-mail saying that I did this, and that I could change it if I wanted... but that was it. No further hoops.

BJ Muntain said...

Regarding my last message: easyDNS sent me the e-mail that I'd clicked the box not to renew. They're my domain server. I didn't have the domain set up for a website - it just pointed to an existing website - so I didn't have to do anything with my hosting service.

Sian said...

Canada recently introduced an anti-spam law that adds some complicating factors to mailing lists here. The short version is, you can't add someone you don't have a personal relationship with if you just THINK they would be interested, they have to explicitly give you permission (although the list of exemptions is large). So, since I don't actually KNOW her, I can't add Janet to my newsletter mailing list, even if it's title is "Sharkly Agenting for Fun and Profit".


MailChimp has a pretty good rundown of the law and their software makes it easy to comply.


Colin Smith said...

Sian's links:


Anonymous said...


My ex used to say I could probably learn brain surgery if I had the right instructions to read. I've taught myself to knit, paint ceramics, braid leather, tool leather, decorate cakes (though I did learn the basics of cake decorating in bed). Even so, watching someone fixes things in my brain. I had to see a video before I could figure out how to make bull flanks.

I usually have to watch videos with techie stuff.


Colin Smith said...


"though I did learn the basics of cake decorating in bed"

Trying to figure out how to read this:

"though I did learn the basics of cake decorating in bed"


"though I did learn the basics of cake decorating in bed"

Either way, you certainly know how to make life interesting. :) Of all the things to do between the sheets... let's just leave it at that. Further comment could get me into trouble. ;)

Anonymous said...

Of all the writers I know and whose books I love, I've only subscribed to newsletters of FOUR of them. There are a couple more I've clicked on the link over at Amazon to receive email notice when they publish new work. Amazon is (usually) remarkably good at that. And a couple more I've followed on twitter so I hear about new releases. All in all, a very small number.

I'm in agreement with items 1 and 2 on this list.

Items 3-6 make me feel stabby. I'm not prepared to say this is bad advice, exactly. It makes sense and I have a good deal of respect for Janet's experience on this topic. But so help me, if every writer I ever met at a conference or with whom I have a personal connection or who belongs to the same groups I do or who reads my blog starts sending me email every time they publish a new book . . . I'm gonna need bail money.

I'll just reiterate the advice to think like a reader and give a good deal of consideration to how you'd react to being on the receiving end. If you do decide to send email to people referenced in 3-6, tailor that email so it's short and sweet and doesn't go on for a thousand words of chatty "news," and I might consider aiming for something other than your jugular.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Just read through all of these comments about mailchimp. I'm ready to unclutter something else in my house. Deep breath. It's ok to take baby steps.

Donna: I didn't get on again later yesterday to say, yay November. I shall be adding your book to my TBR pile.

And E.M. too? I mmissed something somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Warning! Warning! Warning!

Mini rant.

I know we all want to think positive. I'm a firm believer in the power of positive thinking. Someday I'll blog about the dream wheel.

Even so, if someone asks a question about publication on a writing bio survey, don't answer pre-published. It leaves the dimwits among the crowd (me) scratching their head wondering how you got published before you were published.

Entirely off topic of the off topic, I received a request on a full yesterday. It's the first time an agent has asked what the status is with other agents. I've seen some agencies say they will only read a full on exclusive basis or they expect you to let them know if someone requests a full, but this is the first time an agent has asked for the information. She was very polite and professional and I don't mind at all. She's a wonderful agent and I'd be very happy to work with her. I was just surprised.

Kind of like Wash on Firefly, "Oh, God! Oh, God! We're all going to die!" How do I answer this? Is there a wrong answer? What does it mean?

Apparently my woodland creature brain has not calmed down just because it's a new year.

Colin Smith said...


"Request on a full"

Does this mean the agent asked for a full, and wants to know if anyone else is reading it? That's how I understand this phrase, so I want to be sure I'm getting appropriately excited for you. :) I hope you told the agent, "LOTS of people are reading it, so you'd better pull your finger out!" ;)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Lisa, I am not there yet. I am just a recent parolee from Carkoon and mentioned that my fellow former exiles will be on my mailing list when the time comes. We have kale in common after all.

I will let everyone know often and loudly when I get to where Donna is as I hope all Reiders will do as their book release dates are announced. I bought new bookshelves for the new year, and I would love to fill them with fellow Reider books.

Janice Grinyer said...

EM; thank you for the link - Will take a good look as I know you know preparation is nine-tenths of the law when writing. Or something like that. Going the non-instant gratification publishing route can be tedious, and scary, but so much less scary when you know there's someone ahead of you on the trail :)

Anonymous said...


Yes, she requested the full but also asked for a bio, synopsis, and how many other agents were looking at it.

As I said, she was very nice and professional. I was just surprised. I, of course, was honest, but didn't elaborate.

One day we will discuss decorating cakes in bed.

Janice Grinyer said...

Julie! I must go put on my Firefly spandex pants and my Captain Tightpants now!

And that's why I live in a remote area.

Steph said...

Congrats Julie, that's great!

@Lisa Bodenheim: Thanks for the sketchprayers link, they're lovely :)

John Frain said...


Congratulations and good luck. You say the agent is professional, which is good. Now we'll find out if she's smart and signs you, which will be even better.

Now that you've given her the requested information, I guess it's back to writing. Otherwise your mind might obsess over some distraction.

Janice Grinyer said...

clarification - *Captain TightPants T-shirt* like it's important for everyone to know...

Colin Smith said...

Janice: In the interest of humor and a great turn-of-phrase, I'm ignoring your clarification. ;)

Donnaeve said...

I'm still stuck on decorating cake in bed, or something.

But. I'm also SCREAMING about the full for Julie Weathers! Yep. That's me you hear, that irritating high pitched chalk board sort of YIPPEEE!


Is it for FAR RIDER???? Which work is it?

Janice Grinyer said...

I am glad that was my third comment otherwise I would have to...oh....nevermind.

Since I'm already breaking the rules of three comments, let me just add this - Julie, that is absolutely wonderful terrific news and we thank you for sharing your joy and jitters with us!

Anonymous said...

Julie, that's terrific news! *fingers crossed* And thank you for the visual of decorating cakes in bed. Sounds . . . deliciously messy. Can't wait to hear about your teacher. Ahem.

And only slightly off-topic, since we're talking about promo -- and YES, I want to know when every single one of the commenters over here has publishing news! -- if you're commenting as Cinnamon Sparkletoes and I really enjoy reading your comments and think you're someone whose fiction I want to read, but that's not the name you're publishing under, it's going to be difficult for me to buy your book. Because I won't know it's you. I was thrilled to see Poof! start commenting as her "real" name a while ago (Pam-something, Powell? I'm so bad with names and need to see it a few more times before I get it right) and I actually did a little fist pump that day. I know some of you might not have decided on a pen name yet, and that's fine (for years, I was online as BCB and that anonymity was very comfortable). You're "promoting" yourself every time I see your name on a comment or FF entry. Just something to consider.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

A fullllllllllllll for Julie W.
Yee haaaaaaaaaaa !

Anonymous said...

Yes, the request was for Far Rider. Rain Crow is only about 40% complete and will undergo numerous revisions. Cowgirls Wanted is still in the beginning stages. A museum responded today and offered me all their archives on the lady bronc riders. Good news.

Re the decorating cakes. When I was about six months pregnant with Mirinda, a friend talked me into taking a cake decorating class at the community college. We showed up for the first lesson with baked cakes, a bowl of buttercream icing, and decorating equipment. We learned how to assemble layer cakes, put on the sealing layer, the finish layer and do some simple piping.

Yee haw!

I went into premature labor that night.

Don was out of town. My friend took me to the hospital. She sat there, crocheting a baby afghan by my side and keeping me company. A nurse came in to check me and pointed at me, "You slow down." Then she pointed at Barbara, "You hurry up."

They released me a couple of days later, but put me on complete bed rest. So, Barbara would bake extra cakes and bring one to the house after the lesson and show me the latest assignment. I made hundreds of icing flowers. Piped pans of shells, scraped them back into the icing bowl and started all over again until I got them perfect.

Since I didn't have a tv in my bedroom and was going stir crazy, I got lots of practice.

Panda in Chief said...

Did somebody say "cake"?
and if you decorate it in bed, don't you get frosting all over the sheets?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Julie: That's great news.

And yes, I'm imagining swirls and splotches of bright colored frosting on white bed sheets.

Steph: yes, I love her color choices.

Anonymous said...

Julie, congratulations! So excited for you. :)

As Sian says, there are laws about mailing lists. In the US, it’s the CANN-Spam law. You can’t just add people, you have to have permission. That’s where using a mail list host saves you time and hassle. The list host handles getting permission, then compiles the list for you. All you have to do it create and send the emails. When people want to unsubscribe, the host handles that too.

I subscribe to several author newsletters because I want to know when they release a new book. When the newsletter comes, I open and look at the first paragraph. If it doesn’t say anything about a new book, I usually delete. Except for John Connolly. He’s funny.

nightsmusic said...

OT but Not OT...

John Connolly's website is the perfect example of a site address that speaks to who you are. If you Google John Connolly, you get either John Connolly, former FBI agent convicted of racketeering charges in conjunction with Whitey Bulgar, (you get a Wiki page first) OR, you get John Connolly Author who's website is located at:


There's no mistaking who you're looking for, unless of course, you're looking for former disgraced FBI agents in which case, you want the Wiki page...or the other 300 plus pages that have to do with the wrong John Connolly...

Lennon Faris said...

This is a very interesting post. The thought of selling your own work is terrifying, especially to someone who doesn't like to 'bother' other people. I guess that is the point of this post, though - you are making sure you aren't a bother. I like having a few rules listed out. It will certainly help those of us uncertain about social faux pas in the writing/ publishing world. It's definitely a foggy place for me.

And Congratulations to you, Julie M. Weathers!

Anonymous said...


I put a separate sheet over my bedspread when I did the decorating. It kept all the crumbs and icing off the bed proper.

Anonymous said...

All, thanks for the congratulations. It's just a request for a full, but certainly a step in the right direction. Again, thank you.


Colin Smith said...

Julie: Given the number of requests for fulls I got for my last project, I would consider this a big deal. Celebrate. Your fellow woodland creatures celebrate with you. :D

Kae Ridwyn said...

Thank you for this post, dear QOTKU - it clarifies the whole mailing list situation (which this little woodland creature is terribly scared of, truth be told) immensely. So when I finally find the courage to try MailChimp - or TinyLetter, which sounds less intimidating, so thanks, David Bridger! - I'll know what to do. And in the meantime, I've gone and subscribed to several of my favourite author's newsletters, to see how they do it. Thanks, Colin Smith, for the idea!

And Julie M. Weathers, CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I'm with John Frain here - here's hoping she's smart and signs you!

Lance said...

How much more ignorant I would be if I had never found the blog run by the great shark of the literary deeps! Thank you.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

1. I set up a MailChimp mailing list several months ago. I'd been reading a few too many people who'd sell their second-born for the sake of their mailing list. Said it was the One Thing that drove their sales. So I've got a mailing list... in theory.

2. Since then, not a single name has signed up. I believed it was bad manners to add people to your mailing list if they hadn't specifically requested it. Am I incorrect?

3. I hate those little pop-up windows that beg you to sign up for someone's newsletter. Yet when I bemoaned that to a fellow author, she shared my misery... and her conversion to the dark side. She said that ever since she put up that stupid little pop-upon her web site, her mailing list more than doubled. She also swears by the power of her mailing list.

4. I am not convinced. Until I can actually get a mailing list, I'm having a hard time seeing its value. But how do I create a mailing list without offending people?

5. I vote Julie M Weathers be made exempt from the three-post limit rule.

6. I'm really enjoying these topics on promotion. I've learned a lot and am currently putting much of this advice to good use, as I've got a book out in about three weeks. Hoping for more on this topic.

Anonymous said...

THANK you for this post! I've had a group of 15 potential fans who signed up to receive a free book from me (and thereby agree to email from me, though NOT spam, obviously) and I was double-guessing emailing them because it'd been done through a host company.

This post showed me exactly how to contact them (as regards form) and also made me realise that I shouldn't waste the connection that had already been made. I used something very similar to what you outlined to start off the email, so we'll just see what happens!

Now they can either sign up or not to my proper email list, and either enter or not enter the giveaway I'm running for my debut novel's first birthday :)

Anonymous said...

Also, HUGE congrats to Julie W! I expect to be buying your book from my local Dymmocks in the next couple of years :D

(And if anyone is interested, I use MailChimp as my email subscription service. They were very terrifying and new and alien at first, but now I'm starting to get the hang of it).

Unknown said...

I would just add to the bit about spam: all of these emails should include an opt-out or unsubscribe option. Any sales/marketing emails must comply with CAN-SPAM. It can be as simple as a line in the footer, "Don't want to receive any more emails from me? Reply with the word "Unsubscribe."

Source: I'm a digital marketer.