Monday, June 08, 2020

Building email lists

Dear Janet,

I hope this email finds you well. Your blog continues to be one of the most useful and delightful parts of my day. I can't even begin to tell you how much you've helped. 

I have a question about newsletters. I have an author site. I have an author fb and twitter pages. I have a mail chimp account. I created an email sign up popup on my site that pops up within five seconds of anybody getting to my site (and then doesn't for a year after it's been dismissed). I have newsletter content ready to go once I have subscribers. I know to only send out a newsletter once in a while and only with useful or fun information or giveaways. 

What I don't know is HOW to get subscribers? How? I don't see any guides on doing that. I have only two emails in my contact list right now - me and myself. 

I know how to make things look pretty and I know how the technology works, but that's the limit of what I know. Any advice would be cherished and followed.

Thank you very much for all that you do,

Here's an article to get you started

One of the simplest ways to get started is simply let people know it's there.

Example: "My newsletter with helpful info on tormenting agents for fun and profit goes out on Friday. Sign up now to get the skinny." And of course include a link.

Of course, the key thing here is "helpful."

Think about what your newsletter will HELP somene do.
Focus on that.

"Sign up for my newsletter" isn't compelling, even if I know you. Even if I'm your fan.

Building a mailing list is a long term project.
You have to work on it regularly, in small chunks of time.
You can't get 300 sign ups with one tweet.

And when I say Tweet, if you use other social media, substitute that for Twitter above.

Twitter can be a real cesspool and I know a lot of people have deactivated their accounts.

Any questions?
(yes I know I owe you contest results. I'm eyeball deep in a big client revision so I'm behind
on the fun stuff)


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"Your blog continues to be one of the most useful and delightful parts of my day. I can't even begin to tell you how much you've helped. "

Just had to repeat OP's opening remarks.
Thanks Janet.

Also regarding THE NOISE IN SPACE post yesterday.
Your bunny brought back many memories of a life lived long ago when I had dreams reflected in the colors of glass. And to those requesting pictures, my albums were lost in a downsizing move years ago. It breaks my heart. I mentioned my grandest project in a comment just this morning.

OP today. Your efforts to garner a following are beyond impressive. You were right to ask Janet. Much luck to you.

AJ Blythe said...

I know a newsletter is something I need to work on, so this is a wonderful question, OP. I wouldn't have known where to start either. But my biggest problem is what I have to offer subscribers. At the moment I can think of zip. Once I can work that out, I can worry about sign-ups.

nightsmusic said...

Whatever you do, OP, please don't buy an email list. Please don't do that. Don't mine sites for addresses. I've had new authors in the past do that. Authors frankly, I've not heard of and probably in part because they're new. Suddenly, I'm getting emails I didn't sign up for, am really not interested in and don't always have an unsubscribe link. Maybe they think if there isn't one, they'll hang on to you. They don't. I mark them as spam and when I've had enough, their email address gets blocked. However, I remember who sent them and will never purchase one of their books.

However you put yourself out there to garner a list, don't do it that way.

Kitty said...

I no longer sign up for newsletters because I rarely get them. The problem is not on my end; the problem is the other end. They don't write it and send it out. I know because I've checked. So, if you're thinking of a newsletter, write it and send it out. Tell your readers up front that you plan on writing on a set schedule -- monthly would be good. No longer or readers will lose interest. Even if there is no news to report, write that newsletter anyway. It doesn't have to be long, but it has to be regular.

Colin Smith said...

Janet: Is that a big client revision, as in you're representing Godzilla's memoir, or a big client revision, as in Jeff Somers has written a 500,000 word magnum opus and you're trying to find a few words to cut so the publisher doesn't have a heart attack? :)

Linda Shantz said...

There are all kinds of resources out there on how to grow your list. I think we get stuck thinking we need to find one that's specific to writing. That's ideal, of course, but we have to think of it as a business, so look to some of the business gurus out there. They all have list-building free courses leading to paid courses. They all say pretty much the same thing!

I took one by Jenna Kutcher, who is a photographer, and really liked it. My list is for my artwork, but when the day comes (if it ever comes) that I have a book to sell, I'm hoping at least some of those people will come on board because they know me. A book is probably an easier sell than a four-figure piece of art, so hopefully some will even buy it!

I'm always amazed that the emails I send out that get the best response are those where I don't really talk about anything strictly art-related. I share pics of the horses, or my dog, and babble about this and that. I think people just want to see you're human and approachable.

NLiu said...

I wanted to ask this question but was too scared and disorganised. OP, I thank you a thousand times and send you tributes of cookies with stardust on top, dancing elephants, and one wish on a magic fairy*

I thought I had two names on my email list but when I looked they had disappeared. Not sure if this was my fault or some kind of IT issue. It was still plenty demoralising.

Very excited to hear the contest results are only out the back having a fag and not off exploring Everest without crampons.

Thanks again for the great advice, Janet!

*N.B. wish may not come true.

KariV said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KariV said...

This post is very timely because my monthly newsletter goes out today. I've been doing this for a year and my newsletters tend to be more of updates in my publishing journey, plus books I am reading or want to read. I struggle with coming up with *helpful* content, although I can def see how that's the way to build a following.

Thanks Janet for your tips. I'm off to brain-storm helpful content. If anyone wants to hear monthly updates from a small potatoes YA SFF author, you can always subscribe to my newsletter at

OP, one way I've gotten subscribers is to carry around a paper sign-up sheet to my events. I keep it at the front table/registration/information and encourage people to drop their emails to receive monthly updates. My follow list isn't great, but I do get a few people that way.

Beth Carpenter said...

OP, giveaways can help, like a free short story for signing up or a rafflecopter giveaway where one of the options is to "sign up for my newsletter." The downside is sometime this draws more giveaway enthusiasts than readers who buy books.

Android Astronomer said...

"Twitter can be a real cesspool and I know a lot of people have deactivated their accounts."

Please convey my sincerest best wishes to my dear friend with whom I made terrible chicken puns. Every time he posted, it was a bright spot in my day, and I miss him terribly.

On Topic: I've thought about doing a newsletter, but it would probably be humorous in a selective niche sort of way, which nobody really needs. Alas, my novels will just have to sell themselves.

Craig F said...

The hard part for me, with a newsletter, is consistency. For me a newsletter has to happen on a regular basis, both in the timing and in the content.

I know I would find times that a newsletter would turn into a ball and chain, especially when it starts to look like I am beating my head against it.

That is probably what happened to those newsletters I am signed up for and haven't gotten for a while.

Eileen said...

The book Newsletter Ninja is also really helpful as it's even geared for writers.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I know that I am very, very strange, but if I'm freshly arrived at a website, and reading content that I clicked for, or just trying to familiarize myself...a popup inviting me to subscribe it not what I want. I ever sign up for things via those windows, and indeed, they tend to come after I've already said "No, I don't want this site to know my location", "no I don't want this site to send me alerts", "yes the cookie policy is fine" so it's one more thing in my face, and all of that really tends to outweigh whatever I went to that site for.

Granted, my own newsletter readership is very small, perhaps as a result of my unwillingness to use the tactics that I dislike. Same with my Patreon readership, so okay fine. Though also, even though I've been having more collected marketing thoughts, right this second< also doesn't seem like a very good time!

Barbara Etlin said...

I agree with Jennifer R. Donohue about pop-ups. They're distracting and annoying. If you're going to offer a newsletter, just put a link to it somewhere.

Thanks for asking that question, OP.

KDJames said...

Yes, totally agree about dislike of pop-ups. Never click them, for any reason, out of sheer orneriness. Just post an obvious link somewhere on your site. Don't be irritating.

I think sending something "entertaining" is as good a lure as something "helpful." It's a fine line, IMO, to assume someone needs help and that you're the one with just the thing for them.

But I've never sent a newsletter, in spite of having a sign-up link and several subscribers for it, so take a big grain of salt with my so-called advice. The few times I've mentioned in a blog post that people can sign up for my newsletter, I instead get a handful of people who subscribe to my blog. I'm fine with that, since I control that platform too. Actually, I might have more blog followers than newsletter, twitter, and FB combined.

I know general wisdom says to get a jump on this before you're published, but as a reader (and I am one!) I'm honestly not interested in a newsletter from you if I don't already know a) you have a book on the way that I want to be reminded to order and b) I love your writing. So don't fret too much about not having followers. Get the infrastructure in place now so you don't have to scramble to do it along with new book promo. Write an amazing book, readers will follow.

PS- please tell Bill I miss his tweets too, but I understand