Mailing Lists 3 – Creating a Plan

mailing-list-serviceThis is the third 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:

Part 3: Creating a Plan

Before you get all excited and announce your Reader Club, be sure you have everything set up! I made the mistake of announcing my VIP Club and THEN said, “HOLY HELLO! I have to make the freebies and create the autoresponders for next week!” Talk about pressure!!! Learn from my mistake and draft your program FIRST, set it up, THEN announce it!

As I said in the previous post, how you set your program up will depend on how many books and freebies you have. But let's start with the basics…

The concept behind the drip campaign is to promote your books to your subscribers through a series of emails that automatically deliver (I recommend) weekly. The goal is to entice your subscribers to read your books, but not in the “buy my book” fashion, which doesn't work anyway. Your freebies will give back to your fans and provide benefits to being a member of your mailing list. Use teasers and fun topics to sell the books.

I also recommend you spend 3-4 weeks on each book – so one book could give you four messages that go out once a week, thereby spending a month on each book. This not only gives you the opportunity to promote the various formats your book might be published (i.e., eBook, print & audiobook), but you'll have a lot more content to share and draw the Reader Club out longer. The more emails you can put in your drip campaign, the longer you can be in front of your subscribers and increase the chance of getting them hooked on your books.

Outlining the Plan

I do not recommend you do this on a piece of paper. You're going to be adding and building on this list as we progress. What you're doing is creating a plan for a line of messages that will all go out in an automatic drip campaign (MailChimp calls this Automation). All of these are automatic e-mails that are sent out based on the day the member enrolled in the club and then based on when a previous message in the series was sent.

  1. Start by creating a list of all the books you have on your backlist.
  2. Now add to the list the different formats and use sub-bullet points (e.g., eBook, Print, Audiobook).
  3. On the same line for each of those bullet points, write either a freebie you already have done (e.g., a short story or writing challenge you plan to edit and include) and/or a freebie you plan on making (e.g., desktop wallpaper, smartphone background, more short stories, etc.).
  4. And while you're at it, you might want to create another bullet point for the message you'll send them to ask for a review. “Have you enjoyed [book title]? I'd love to know about it! Would you please write a review? It would really help me out!”

By the way, Autoresponders are not the same thing as drip campaigns, although the functionality of autoresponders are used in drip campaigns. The main difference is an autoresponder is an email that goes out based on a date, such as when some subscribes to your list. The first message in a drip campaign is usually based on that trigger – when someone joins your list.

But a true drip campaign is a series of emails that automatically go out that are triggered by the actions (or lack of actions) based on the previous message in the series. So, message #1 will go out when someone signs up for your list, but message #2 will go out 1 week after message 1 is sent OR you could trigger message 2 to be sent ONLY when message 1 is opened.

With a series of plain autoresponders (like MailerLite has), when the message goes out is strictly based on when the subscriber joined your list and is independent of any other message. You could use autoresponders to create a drip campaign, but that's kinda like lining up a bunch of dominoes that need to be tipped over one by one. A drip campaign is lining those dominoes up and just tipping the first one in the line. They all go down because the previous one triggered it to happen. Okay…that analogy was reaching, but you get the idea.

WARNING: Automation (as MailChimp calls it) or the ability to create true (and even complicated) drip campaigns usually requires you to have a paid subscription with most mailing list services. MailChimp is free to have up to 2000 subscribers, but in order to get the Automation feature, you'll need to upgrade to a paid account. Honestly, if you have less than 2000 subscribers, go ahead and start paying for the monthly plan (CLICK HERE for pricing). It really is worth it and as your list grows and you actively do what I'm recommending, your income should be increasing enough to pay for the higher subscription rates. I'm at 5400 subscribers now and I pay about $65/mo. I'm definitely bringing in enough money to cover those expenses AND my InstaFreebie paid account. I sacrificed doing any ads and put all my marketing budget into my mailing list. It was the best decision I ever made!

SOME services provide automation or drip campaigns for free. Mad Mimi is one of them and they're really easy to use. I'm not crazy about their newsletter editor, but…eh…it's free…up to 100 people. After that, you have to pay for Mad Mimi, too. But she definitely has lower fees than MailChimp.

CLICK HERE to access a Google Drive Folder I've created that not only has a sample Reader Club plan, but also some Photoshop templates to create freebies and whole slew of other information.

Remember, you can always keep adding to your drip campaign as you publish more books and short stories. I have more books coming out in my series, so when they're done, I'll be adding messages on the end of the campaign with desktop wallpapers and smart phone backgrounds for those, too! When I start my new series, I'll introduce my subscribers to the next series with a free short story prequel and more freebies. The sky is the limit!

Part 4: Setting Up Your Reader Club

Once the plan is outlined, you'll have to get to work with creating the content – the freebies, short stories, blog posts that could feature the full-length short stories and character interviews (so your newsletters aren't a mile long). If you've elected to use coupons for discounts on your books for members only or to distribute your short stories, then you'll need to create those and test them out, too.

bbb02_533x800Don't bother with creating a “members only” secured spot on your website. When I first did this, I went through this whole detailed process of installing up to eight different plugins to support this secured part of my WordPress site. All it did was create an administrative nightmare for me when people couldn't login or recover their passwords or the links to the free stuff didn't work (because they hadn't logged in). It was crazy and so not worth the time.

Here's my philosophy – if subscribers want to share the links to the free stuff, that's fine by me. My branding and books and website address are all over the gifts and that's just free advertising. I want my stuff into as many hands as possible and in front of as many eyes as I can manage! If they like my desktop wallpaper because of the quote or scene, then my website address is also on their computer screen and they'll see it every day. On a subconscious level, I'm in front of them constantly and eventually they'll buy one of my books or someone else will when they notice the pictures or quote.

Part 5: Implementing Your Program

Once you've created all your freebies, you'll want to create the messages in your drip campaign. I recommend drafting them in your mailing list service. The messages in a drip campaign (or autoresponders if your mailing list service doesn't have drips) are just like creating a newsletter. CLICK HERE to see a sample of a message I have in my drip campaign. And to save yourself some time, be sure to create a template. Then every time you create a new message in your drip campaign, you only need to add your content! No need to worry about the look and feel of your messages. Your template will do that for you. CLICK HERE to read more about templates in MailChimp.

The two main things each of your messages should have is the freebie for the reader and something to promote your book. Here are some book promo ideas:


  • Book Cover & Blurb – These are GREAT for that message where you're introducing a new book to a subscriber. The cover and blurb is what entices a reader to buy a book on Amazon. Why wouldn't it do the same thing in your newsletter?
  • Teaser Scene – I recommend you keep your excerpt/teaser to around 350 words or less. And always leave the teaser on a cliffhanger. And when I say cliffhanger, I mean CLIFFHANGER! “She reached for his belt buckle and… CLICK HERE to find out what happens next!” And that “click here” should be the buy link to the book. Don't forget to include the cover!
  • Character Interview – or at least the first 200-350 words of it. I recommend putting the complete interview on a blog post on your website. Then you can leave the interview on a cliffhanger and link to the blog post. “CLICK HERE to read the rest of the interview”. This encourages visits to your website/blog. I've had lots of readers put a book to the top of their TBR pile because of what they learned about a character in an interview. And don't forget the cover!
  • Reminders for Reviews – Has it been a few weeks since you introduced a book? Ask them for a review and perhaps share a few quotes from some reviews. And let them know how much reviews help you and other authors.
  • Reminder to Spread the Word – Encourage people to forward your e-mails to friends who might like your books or ask them to tweet for you on Twitter and share Facebook posts. CLICK HERE to see how I incorporate a short story I wrote and ask readers to help me share the story on social media.

You'll want to be sure to include information that isn't necessarily dated OR provide content that won't need to change a whole lot. For example: Don't put sales of other books for friends because you'll have to go back in and change those if the pricing changes. You want “evergreen” information. Save those messages for one-off campaigns. Make sense?

That's it for this post. In the next post, we'll talk about how to grow your list! In the meantime, share what's worked for you so far. What other ideas can you suggest for free content you can distribute to your mailing list members in your autoresponders that I haven't mentioned?

CLICK HERE to read the next post

That's my two pence…


  1. Arial, thank you SO MUCH for all this great information. I first learned about your newsletter strategy via your videos on the subject during the virtual writers conference this past January. I’ve recently tried to go back to re-watch those videos as I slowly put together my own drip campaign, but I couldn’t find them. So I’m overjoyed to discover all the info right here on your Author Bank site. THANK YOU!

    • You are very welcome and, as we discussed in our conversations, I am THRILLED you’re using all this information. Be sure to come back here and give us an update on how well it is working for you once you have it all set up. Have fun!

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