Does an Author Really Need a Mailing List?

Author Mailing List Image

So far in this series about what “things” an author really needs, we’ve looked at websites and blogs. Today, let’s finish out the triumvirate of oft-recommended author site things with a look at the mailing list.

An author mailing list, in my humble opinion, is one of the most essential tools for both building your audience and selling your work. In fact, I would even rank it above an author website if you had to choose between the two. To be perfectly clear: yes, you do need a mailing list.

Let’s look at why, shall we?

Why should I have a mailing list?

There’s one major reason for having an author mailing list: built-in, ready-to-go audience.

Imagine this: You have at your fingertips a multitude of people interested enough in your books that they have asked you to e-mail them when you have news to share. In essence, whenever you release a new book, you have a list of people who will be thrilled to hear about it.

The reason this works is that pretty much everyone on your mailing list signed up because they wanted to hear from you. Rather than having to convince this group of people that they should be interested in your latest release, you can just tell them, “Hey, I have a new book out!” and they will come running.

Why wouldn’t you want that? It’s almost as if you have a line like the ones that form at the Apple Store when a new iPhone comes out! (On a smaller scale, of course. If you sell anywhere near as many books as Apple has sold iPhones, please get in touch with me. I want to interview you.)

And yet, I hear many authors say that a mailing list is too much trouble or they don’t know what to send out. I’m pretty sure this is just a misunderstanding of the way a mailing list works, so let’s talk about what you can (and should) do with one.

What should I do with a mailing list?

There are actually a number of approaches to running an author mailing list. Here are three ways you could run yours.

Send your blog posts

If you’ve opted to run an author blog, send new blog posts to your mailing list! It’s a great way to get a nice traffic boost when you launch a new post. Your mailing list should be a key part of your plan to get people to read your content.

Another benefit of this approach is that you will be e-mailing on a regular schedule, so your mailing list subscribers will expect your e-mails. That means you don’t have to remind the reader how they got on your list and why you’re mailing to them—that’s something you’ll need to do with most other approaches so that you don’t have a mass exodus from your mailing list when your subscribers don’t recall signing up.

Events and news

Without an author blog, you might wonder what mailings you can send. Well, you can certainly send out news about your books, such as invitations for your subscribers to join a group of beta readers, announcements when a new book is launched, notices that your book is on sale, or even special coupons just for your subscribers. And if you do live appearances such as book signings, you could also send out details on how your subscribers can come to an event and meet you.

Remember that if you don’t have a regular schedule for these e-mails, you will want to include a note at the top of each message explaining what this mailing list is. For example:

Time for another update from Jordan Smith! Thanks so much for subscribing for news about my upcoming books and events.

Just send book release announcements

This is similar to the previous approach, but it’s a very scaled-back version. With this approach, you simply send out an e-mail whenever you have a new book available. Once again, since this isn’t going to be on a regular schedule, you will want to remind your subscribers that they signed up. Something like this could do the trick:

You signed up to receive an e-mail when I release new books. Today, I’m excited to announce my latest novel…

This method, by the way, works great if you include a note in the back of your books telling readers how they can sign up to receive news about your next book release.

But which one should I choose?

Now we’re down to deciding which approach is right for you. Once again, you should have a mailing list. So which one of these approaches should you choose? These questions should help you decide:

Do I have a blog? If you already have a blog, go with the first approach of sending out your blog posts. You’ll probably be posting about your event schedule or new releases anyway, so those will be included in your mailings.

Do I want to connect with readers at live events? If you want to do book signings and other events, the second approach will work best for you if you don’t want to run a blog. Just send out news as you have details. If you want to keep this mailing list on a regular schedule, you could turn it into a monthly author update in which you share writing progress on your latest book and list your upcoming events.

Do I want a more hands-off method, but still want to tell people when I have a new book out? In this case, go with the third approach and concentrate on writing new books so you can send more announcements.

I hope this has helped you get going on creating your own author mailing list. Next time, I want to take a short break from looking at “things” authors really need and talk about the ways I’ve built up my own author mailing list. It’s going to be great, so be sure to sign up so you don’t miss it! (See what I did there? 😉 )

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