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12 Ways to Create a Mailing List That Will Sell Books

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We've all heard this: capture email addresses on your website so you can market to them again. So we do, we capture email addresses and then we wonder what to do with them. What if you don't really have news? Do you mail the list anyway? How can I monetize my list, and how much is too much?

We've had "The Book Marketing Expert Newsletter" for over eight years now and the newsletter, bursting in content, is one of the best promotional tools my company has. We've never done a single piece of advertisement for my firm, all of it has come from word of mouth, online, and our newsletter.

The key to a good newsletter list is simple really and the biggest piece of this is you've got to have something useful to say. While your friends and family might enjoy hearing about your latest book signing, people who happened onto your site and subscribed to your ezine might become bored with this information and unsubscribe. If you have a list or are considering starting one, consider these tips to get you going and help you maximize your newsletter.

  1. Timing: How often you send the newsletter will really depend on your crowd, but I don't recommend anything less than once a month. I know some people who send a quarterly newsletter and that's fine if you don't really have much to say, but if you're looking for content so you can send the newsletter more frequently, then read on; I have some ideas and ways of maximizing the use of content for your newsletter.
  2. Distribution: How will you send your newsletter? If your plan is to email it, forget it unless you have less than 100 subscribers. Anything over that and you should consider using a service like Aweber or Constant Contact. These places will handle your subscribes and unsubscribes for you. If you start mailing to a list larger than 50 from your email service, you run the risk of getting shut down for spam.
  3. Easy Opt In: Make it easy for people to sign up. Make sure there's a sign-up on your website, preferably the home page and then a mention of it again on your most popular page which, for most of us, is our blog. The opt-in will take new subscribers to your welcome page (which we'll talk about in a minute) and handle sending your new readers right into the mailing list.
  4. Ethical Bribe: So what will you give readers to get their email? It might not be enough just to tout that you have this fabulous newsletter; in fact, often it isn't. Have something that they'll want, a key item: e-book, tip sheet, whatever will entice readers to sign up for your newsletter. Here's a hint: give them something they'll have to keep referring to again and again so that your name and book stays in front of them.
  5. Free: There are some folks in the industry who try to charge for their newsletters. Listen, I get it. A newsletter is a lot of work, but if done properly, it is a key promotional tool and therefore, should be free. Magazines can charge for subscriptions, you can't. Make it free. Don't even put a value on it. I know folks who do this, too. I think the value of the newsletter should be evident in its content, not in the price you chose to put on it.
  6. Welcome pages: After someone signs up for your newsletter, what will they see? A simple thank you page on your website is a waste of an opportunity. Make sure there is a welcome page that shares their freebie (the ethical bribe) and tells them about one or two of your products. It's also a great idea to offer a special on this welcome page as a "thank you" for signing up to your mailing list.
  7. Check your facts: The quickest way to lose subscribers is to publish a newsletter full of factual mistakes. Do your fact and link checking prior to it going out. Seriously. It's important not just to the credibility of your newsletter, but to you as well. I mean who wants to buy something from someone who can't even be bothered to check their facts? Also, please get your newsletter edited. I've seen some newsletters with a disclaimer that they are unedited. If you aren't an editor and can't afford one, see if you can get it done for free and then blurb the person in your newsletter as a way to reciprocate. Remember, everything is your resume. Would you send a CV to a potential employer that was full of typos? I didn't think so.
  8. Promote: This is key because once you decide to do a newsletter you'll want to promote it. You can do so by adding it to your signature line in email ("sign up for my newsletter and get a free..."), you should also never go to a book event without a sign-up sheet, and add your newsletter info to the byline of any article you write that gets syndicated online.
  9. Collaborate: If you're strapped for content and time, why not open up your newsletter to other collaborators? Our newsletter, "The Book Marketing Expert", is a collaboration of a lot of voices. We have publishing tips, website tips, social media tips, and the main article. It's a great way to let others have a voice in your newsletter, which helps to promote them -- and the best part of this is that if you have a collaborative newsletter you can all promote it to the different people you touch in your travels. This will help increase your sign-ups exponentially because you're hitting that many more people. Your collaborators should be in the industry, but specializing in different areas. This will give your newsletter the flavor and interest it needs. Don't worry about sharing your newsletter space with others, we've done it this way for years, and it's a great way to build lots of useful content.
  10. Be generous: Give lots of good information. By giving away good information people will want to read it, and when they read it you will build a readership and loyal following, not just for your newsletter but for your books and products as well.
  11. Balance: The key to a good newsletter that will not only get read, but passed along, is balance. By this I mean balance giving with selling. My general rule of thumb is 95% helpful information and 5% selling; while that number may seem low trust me, this is a great balance. Yes, you can offer specials and offers to your readers, but that's the 5%.
  12. Content creation: While it may seem daunting to have to write content for a newsletter every month or every two weeks, you can use and reuse this content because not everyone will find you in the same place. What I mean by this is that some folks will find you on your blog, others might find you on Twitter and still others will find you by searching online and happening on an article you've syndicated. Once I create content for "The Book Marketing Expert Newsletter", that content is then redistributed and reused in places like our blog, my Twitter account (@bookgal) our Facebook Fan Page or on my page at the Huffington Post. Use and reuse your content, though not too much. I generally will use my articles in one or two other places and that's it, but the point is that they can be used again.

The idea behind a good newsletter is one that not only brings your readers in, but keeps them interested. It's the marketing funnel we marketing people love to talk about so much, once you get someone to sign up, stay on their radar screen with helpful content. Once you do, you'll find not only loyal readers, but loyal buyers as well.