This is the second in a five-part blog series about how to create and manage a mailing list. Here are the links to the articles in the series:
- Mailing Lists 1 – Why Have One & Finding a Mailing List Service
- Mailing Lists 2 – Creating Your Newsletter
- Mailing Lists 3 – Creating a Plan
- Mailing Lists 4 – Growing Your List
- Mailing Lists 5 – Newsletters
In this post, we'll talk about how to create a reader club (aka newsletter) that will give back to your readers and encourage them to not only stay, but sell your books!
STEP 2: Creating a Reader Club (aka Newsletter)
Part 1: The Name
Personally, I've found more success in gathering people for my mailing list by NOT calling it a mailing list. That term tends to have a “spammy” air about it and many people shy away from joining a mailing list for fear of their inbox being filled with a bunch of advertising and useless information. A “newsletter” is coming close to that, but it is a little more acceptable.
For my newsletter, I use “VIP Club” (<– pssst….by the way, that's a Pretty Link). My readers feel special when they're one of my VIPs and I do my best to treat them special by offering exclusive content, goodies and information. More on that later. So I would recommend coming up with something unique to YOU and/or your books.
My good friend Catherine Bybee has a FB group she calls “Chatty Cathy's”, which is the name of her street team, but there's nothing to say you can't come up with something similar that speaks to you and your books for the name of your reader club!
If you write about vampires, you might want to call your mailing list “Vampy Readers” or if you write about wolf shifters, you could call it “Howling Good Reader Group”. My series name is “Bonded By Blood Vampire Chronicles” so I could have also chosen to call my list, “The BBB Followers”. Whatever suites your fancy!
Try to come up with a fun or unique name that doesn't imply you'll be sending them tons of junk mail. Also, keep in mind that if you're planning to write books with other subject matter in the future, keep the title of your mailing list more generic. “Chatty Cathy's” will always be about Catherine. So will my “VIP Club” or “Arial's Reader Club” be about me. I am already branching out from vampires into shifters and will be featuring some pure fantasy books with elves, unicorns, dragons and more…so “BBB Followers” would have limited my image. Don't pigeon-hole yourself. Think ahead!
Part 2: The Freebies
Most authors know readers LOVE freebies! Swag, books, gift cards and more! This is how you'll give back to your readers and why they'll want to join your list. To maximize the quality of your list, I would HIGHLY recommend you stick with freebies that center around you and your books. And, if you're on a really tight budget, swag and gift cards can get expensive, so here are some suggestions that will keep your freebies to low cost or free, except for the time you'll put into making them…
- Short Stories – Giving away short stories is a FABULOUS and very effective way of attracting readers who enjoy your books. The more short stories you write or already have, the more freebies you can offer! Other short pieces of fiction that fall into this category are writing prompts and flash fiction (1000 words or less). In fact, the shorter, the better because you can include the entire piece in your newsletter.
- Coupons – If you're a self-published author, then you have this option in your back pocket. However, this won't apply to your titles enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited (Amazon's KDP Select program as your TOS include exclusivity through Amazon). However, if you publish your books through Smashwords, you have the ability to create coupons. If you published with Draft2Digital, you can still publish through Smashwords, just don't elect to distribute your books through the channels that you're distributing through D2D. Coupons give you the power of providing members-only offers. You can either giveaway short stories for free ONLY to those on your mailing list, OR give them member-exclusive discounts on all your books, giving coupons for 25% off or whatever you want to offer your faithful readers. I do NOT recommend using a shopping cart option to provide books on your website. I did that with the WooCommerce plugin and it created an administrative nightmare. Let Smashwords handle the “I can't get my eBook onto my device” problems and leave your time for writing more books! You'd be surprised how many readers do NOT know how to do this! Learn from my mistake! It's not worth the headache or the time-suck.
- Free eBook Distribution – Another option to distribute eBooks for free is through InstaFreebie. What I highly recommend, though, is spend the $20 per month for the paid plan and ANY TIME someone downloads a free eBook, you get their email address…and that can be added to your mailing list. If they're already on your mailing list, then you'll know which of your subscribers actually downloaded a book. This is a GREAT tool if you're distributing ARCs to your Review Team (how to build one of these later). I DO NOT recommend you give away all your books for free. You can't make money this way and I do not condone it. GREAT for short stories, novella or the first book in a series…but get those email addresses to build your list! UPDATE: BookFunnel now has giveaways where you can collect email addresses, too. And some authors favor BookFunnel because they seem to have great customer support for the readers and they DON'T collect the email addresses through your giveaways to build their own mailing list like InstaFreebie does. However, InstaFreebie also uses those email addresses to advertise free eBook to readers, which enables them to discover more books AND InstaFreebie also allows you to list your free eBook on their site, which also increases your discoverability. June 28, 2016, I started using their MailChimp integration and made my “lead magnet” (aka free eBook) available as public on their website AND sharable so readers could spread the link about my eBook. As of today (10/5/16), I have over 950 new subscribers through InstaFreebie. (See my article on How To Build Your Mailing List Quickly for instructions.)
- Gift cards – These are good, but I would stay away from spending a lot of money on them AND you actually end up attracting a lot of people who have no interest in your books and just want the money. Keep them limited to low amounts – $5, $10. If you can afford it, you can do a quarterly drawing for a gift card that is available ONLY to those on your mailing list. If they forward the e-mails you send to new people, you could give your members additional chances of winning. I do this through my friend Jonny Andrews at Author Platform Rocket. He hosts the giveaways and I give out the prizes, but I also get the advantage of his advertising and his 80k+ reader audience. It's a great deal, so check it out. But my advice is to keep gift cards to a minimum as they don't really revolve around your books. And the new Kindle Reader with eInk is only $70, so that's an option to giveaway once a quarter and attract real readers instead of people who just want a new tablet (like the Kindle Fire). Remember, all of these are write-offs for business expenses.
- FREE Graphics – You don't need to be a graphic designer to create fantastic images! Check out this FREE tool – Canva! OMG my best friend AJ Nuest turned me on to this online tool. They have beautiful templates already created for various sizes and they have free images you can use, too. However, their free supply is a little limited, so I would recommend subscribing to MightyDeals.com and keep an eye out for the DepositPhotos.com image pack sales. You can get 100 images for $99. That is a STEAL! They have great stock images! AND if you're a little more ambitious or like a little more control, try Pixlr for their free online image editing tool.
Example Graphic Freebies
This one pictured here is from the forth book in my series, Midnight Eclipse. The pirate ship is the one I used on my cover, so it incorporates not only the quote, but a scene directly related to my novel. Also, I got this amazing image at DepositPhotos.com with the image packs I bought through MightyDeals.com. You can use your own images bought through DepositPhotos at Canva and Canva already has templates for monitor backgrounds and smart phones, but I'll give you the pixel dimensions here just in case:
- Widescreen Monitor – 1366 x 768
- Regular Monitor – 1365 x 1024 (fits most 1024 x 768 resolutions and larger)
- iPhone – 640 x 1136
- Android Samsung Note – 640 x 960
Be mindful when creating these graphics – keep them related to your books. Use quotes from your characters, images that remind you of the scenery from your books, and think about creating them in a generic way. For example: the scene above is enchanting. It's a beautiful image, so it might belong on the desktop of anyone who likes pirates or the sea. If you make a picture of just your books, it won't appeal to a wider audience. Though these are advertisements for your books, don't have them SCREAM by my book. Give back to your readers by creating some beauty or art. If you click on the image above, you'll see I also include the title of my book, my series, and my web address. Branding! Branding! Branding! It's subtle, but it's there. You could create inspirational quotes, especially if one of your characters has said something inspirational. GREAT opportunity to inspire and reveal a character! Oooo! The possibilities!
The next post in this series will feature how to create a plan for your club with plenty of examples.
CLICK HERE to read the next post.
That's my two pence…