Building Your Author Mailing List From Scratch

In all my research about how to market your books, the consensus I keep finding is that the real foundation for an effective strategy comes down to two things: your next book and your mailing list.

This makes sense. Each book boosts all the rest, and there’s no point in finding ways to drive traffic if there’s no high-quality catalog of books for people to find. And for all the social media and book promotions and algorithm hacking, I can’t imagine a more stable and consistent way to make sales than to have a list of people who like what you do and have asked you to contact them directly when you have new work available. So while I’m constantly experimenting and researching to find and harness good ways to get the word out, my fundamental strategy rests on writing more books and maintaining a strong mailing list.

Except I don’t have a mailing list yet.

This sets up an interesting situation. I’ve already been a bit noisy about my book launch (speaking of which – get your copy before the price goes up on Saturday!) And while I don’t mind a bit of justifiable self-promotion, I really don’t want to be that friend who’s constantly trying to get you to buy my book, so I’m not going to just put all my friends on my mailing list (which is poor practice and borderline unethical anyway), and I’m a little hesitant to even broadcast a lot of invites.

But I also have some amazing friends who will do everything in their power to help me get the word out, who eagerly want updates, and who will be all the more effective if I can give some clear goals and unified direction. I want them on my list. And across years, cities, and continents, I’ve built up wonderful circles of friends and acquaintances who, though we may have fallen out of touch, might be very excited to read my books and get in on the fun.

Or possibly some of them have forgotten who I am.

So how do you start a list that has everyone who should be on it but nobody who shouldn’t?

Here’s the solution I’ve come up with. I’d love to hear what you guys have done. I’ve gone through my entire contact list (including some very old and diverse acquaintances) and narrowed it to just the people I remember and I think might remember me and be interested in the fact that I’m publishing books now.

I’m getting set up with a mailing list service—still testing things out, but probably MailChimp—and I’m going to make a burner list out of those contacts. I’ll send out one email letting them know about the launch and upcoming cool stuff and give them a link to sign up if they want updates. I’ll probably send a reminder or two in a few days, just because sometimes people miss emails. And then I’ll delete that list. Anyone who signs up for more will get it, and I won’t bother the others any further.

The fun thing is that since I’m a geek and game-obsessed and process-oriented and (let’s admit it) unnecessarily complicated about stuff, I’m already finding some really fun possibilities for segmenting the lists. I’m playing with interesting sign-up forms that will help me find which of my people are big readers or aspiring writers, who’s a socialite and who’s an enigma, who wants to spread the word and who likes missions and experiments.

But more on that later. Or you can sign up here and get in on the ground floor. I’ll warn you now, it’s all experimental and subject to change. But I think it’s going to get pretty sweet.

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9 comments

  1. I am kind of in the same place as you–getting ready to launch a book but don’t have a mailing list yet. Thank you for sharing this post to get the fire going. Getting started is the hardest part.

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      1. Well you’re definitely headed in the right direction. Feel free to email me, if I can be of service. I have had to use Mailchimp quite a bit for work. Otherwise best of luck.

        Like

    1. Hey Josh!

      Looks like this ended up on my blog, not Lynette’s. Looks like my dastardly plan is working. (But seriously – might want to resend it as I’m not sure if she’ll see it here.)

      Cheers!
      Ben

      Like

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