How (and Why!) to Build an Email Following

Today’s guest post is by Scott Lieberman.

Perseus Books Group reached out to me. They wanted to pay me to write fiction. They would choose the topic. I’d write it.

I had never written a book. I had my work published in magazines. But that wasn’t what caught their eye.

It was my email list. My built-in audience.

They felt my writing style matched their book idea. And just as importantly (or maybe more so!) I had a platform upon which to market it.

If you plan to self-publish, your email list is even more vital.

Folks who join your email list are your biggest fans. We all get way too many emails. These kind people are willingly giving you permission to message them. You have their attention!

Email Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing

Social media is terrific for certain types of marketing. However, email will never refuse to show your messages to 75% of your audience because of “low engagement.” Email won’t change the algorithm on you every 3 months. Email doesn’t make you compete with the thousands of other content creators that a person follows, plus “suggested” follows.

Email Marketing Provides Useful Information about Your Fans

The best email marketing software has terrific features. You can easily see stats that will help you analyze how well your campaigns are going.

  • “Open rates” – the percentage of subscribers who open each email. This way you learn which topics are most compelling to your readers.
  • Location of your readers – if you decide to do in-person meet-ups with your fans, this can give you an idea of which towns to visit.
  • Number of new subscribers – you can chart your progress over time and to see which promotions (more on that in a moment) worked best.

Send Specific Emails to Different Groups of Readers

Email marketing software also has useful features you don’t often find on social media. For instance, you can intelligently segment your audience.

Let’s say you write two very different types of fiction: romance novels and fantasy adventure. You can have one list of all your subscribers, but you can choose to send certain emails to, say, ONLY your romance novel fans.

You can also set-up segments based on your fans’ behaviors. Let’s suppose you have 10,000 fans on your email list. You can move fans to a new segment after they have purchased your first book in a series. Then you can alert these readers when your new book in the series is on sale. You’d also know NOT to market your first book to them because they already have it.

This is much smarter than blasting the same message to everyone. It’s more considerate and personalized.

How to Build an Email List for Your Fiction

Think about what your audience really values. Remember, they’re saying, “Please email me. I like you and your content!”

You can offer what’s called a “lead magnet.” This is simply a thank-you gift you give to your new email subscribers. It could be

  • a copy of one of your ebooks
  • a sneak peek of your upcoming novel, such as the first chapter
  • a chance to win a fun prize, such as an autographed copy of your hardcover book, an invite-only video conference with you and fellow fans, and so on

Promote this lead magnet

  • On your website
  • On your social media
  • When you are interviewed by bloggers, podcasters, and others
  • To book clubs
  • In your paid advertising

Decide what you’ll offer your email subscribers on a regular basis.

What can your readers expect to receive in their emails from you? Some ideas:

  • Exclusive access to your new short stories, essays, or poetry
  • News and updates about your work and other authors you enjoy
  • The opportunity to reply to your emails with questions that you later answer in a “reader mailbag”

Action Steps

  • Build a direct line of communication with your readers
  • Get professional email marketing software (there are even free starter plans) that’s easy to use
  • Create a lead magnet to incentivize folks to trust you with their email address
  • Send periodic emails packed with content your readers really want
  • When the time is right, let them know your new book is for sale!

For you as a writer, this might be the most enjoyable form of marketing you can do. You get to connect with your readers through letters! I encourage you to give this a try. It will help you reach more readers by leaning into your greatest strength: your writing.

Scott Lieberman is an online business expert. He teaches entrepreneurs how to make money online. Scott reviews business tools from the best web- hosting services to email marketing software and has worked with multi-billion-dollar corporations, as well as with small businesses, to double their profits to millions of dollars.

Featured Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

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One Comment

  1. My biggest problem is getting people to sign up to my newsletter, in spite of doing almost everything you suggest. They ‘like’ my post suggestions they would get a lead magnet, but still don’t sign.

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