Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Author, the Mailing List, and the Wide World of Email

At the start of the month, Dani posted about electronic newsletters and generated some great discussion in the comments. So, today I’d like to address some of the questions that came up—the “why” of mailing lists and newsletters. Tomorrow I’ll be back with more ideas on strategy, content, and frequency.


Why Do You Want, or Need, a Mailing List?

A mailing list is a valuable commodity and is evidence of a platform. If your statistics are good, you can use them in query letters to agents and publishers. If you’re an indie author, you can sell or trade advertising in your newsletters (never sell access to your actual mailing list, though). And that’s before you’ve even begun using it to market your own books. According to Copyblogger.com email marketing still generates more sales than other online communication options.

Why not...?
- Blogging, Instead of Email?

A blog is an excellent platform to build, but you have little to no control over whether a first-time reader will ever return to your blog. Even if he enjoyed your post, he might click a few links, read a couple more articles, and forget about you. But if you manage to convince that reader to sign up for your newsletter you can land your best headlines right in his inbox and bring him back to your blog until he’s a regular.

- RSS, Instead of Email?

Some people do sign up for RSS feeds and use either a reader or their email account to read blog posts. But it hasn’t taken off as well as it might have and many people still don’t know how to set one up or how to sign up for a feed. And, while some syndication systems do allow you to access the names and email addresses of your readers, you cannot use those contact details without skirting a very fine line.

- Social Networking, Instead of Email?

If you have a thousand friends on Facebook or a large Twitter following, you might be wondering why you can’t just use these platforms to communicate with your fans. Again the problem is that you don’t have any control over whether your friends and followers actually check in to their social networks, or whether they have filters to keep the noise down to only their IRL friends and family. Most people do check their email, though.

Yes, but, you may say, email can filtered, too. Disposable email addresses might never be checked. And that’s true, and a good reason that social networking works well in chorus with email newsletters and a blog.

The other issue with social networking is fickleness. Remember MySpace? The names and addresses in your mailing list database are under your control, not Facebook’s. You can back it up, and if your mailing company goes under, you can move your database to another one. If half your Twitter followers decide to move to Pinterest instead, you have to move with them or risk losing them—if you have no other means to connect with them.

And that’s where your mailing list comes in.

Elle Carter Neal is currently building up her own email mailing list (again) after mistakenly believing email correspondence would die out. Elle is the author of the teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin, due out later this year.

10 comments :

  1. This is going to be such a helpful series and is already off to a good start. I am looking forward to the other posts that will offer more advice and tips on creating and maintaining a mailing list.

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    1. Thanks, Maryann. Between Terry and I, we will look at two different companies that provide mailing list services.

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  2. This is a method I haven't considered. I just changed my email and plan to be stingy about who I give it to. I'd like to learn more.

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    1. I hear you, Diana. Some of my dearest friends have lost the privilege of having my main email address because they forward email harvesting messages. But Yahoo mail offers disposable email addresses, which is awesome. You can give everyone a different address so you can tell who is leaking spam.

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  3. I think it's important to link all these tools. It doesn't work as well to just send an e-letter to your mailing list. If you simulcast the newsletter on your blog, you encourage more new readers. If you promote your e-letter on Facebook and Twitter, you build your platform even more. If you have all the components working for you, THEN you have some real reach and growth potential. I think that's important to stress. And enjoy all of it, because if you don't want to do it, the energy comes through.

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    1. Absolutely, Dani. There are many options for generating interest. But I do like the idea that your newsletter subscribers get a little something extra, as a thank you for trusting you with their email. That could be an ebook, or the fact that they get extra content in the newsletter that's not available online.

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  4. Great points, Elle, and Dani's perspective that all tools work together for good is a valuable one. I recently read that you can only expect for 10% of social media followers to see any one post—that's sobering!—whereas 100% of those signed up will get (if not read) the newsletter. Definitely food for thought. I too am eager to read more about this.

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    1. Thanks, Kathryn. Yes, there's a lot of noise in social media that we all have to filter by necessity. It makes it more difficult to reach our readers, but that is why we really need to treat loyal subscribers with care and attention.

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  5. Another valuable application of "don't put all your eggs in one basket." I like this idea a lot. Did I miss the part about where I get the mailing list?

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    1. Linda, building up a mailing list is the really hard part. It's mostly a case of enticing people to sign up. I'll cover some of the nuts and bolts on Saturday in a "How To" post.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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