Monday, June 26, 2017
Author Newsletters — Part 2: Finding Subscribers
By Valerie Comer
Back in April, I posted Author Newsletters — Part 1: Getting Started, in which I discussed when, how, and where to begin an author newsletter. But what’s the good of investing the time to get something rolling just for your three email addresses and your mom, right? You want subscribers, and you’ve basically got three places to find them.
1. Turning friends and family into fans
At first, your subscribers will come from people you know. Just this one time, send a personalized email to many or most of your email contacts. Give them a brief update on your writing progress, and let them know you’ve set up a newsletter. Tell them you will not harass them, so this is the only time you'll ask them personally. Then, of course, give them the link! It may take the better part of a day or two to email your friends, family, and acquaintances. It is time well spent. You’re touching base, you’re being respectful, and you’re offering them something of value.
Passive ways to encourage signups include adding the link to
• your email signature
• your social media accounts
2. Turning readers into fans
In my opinion, the best source of new subscribers is from those who are reading your books now. When they get to the end of their current read (your book!) and breathe a happy sigh, reluctant to part with your characters, what would you like them to do?
• Buy the next book in the series if it’s available
• Subscribe to your list so they’ll know when the next book releases
How do you get them to do that? Simply invite them. For the next book, I usually offer the first chapter (even if it’s all I have written yet) after the final chapter of the current book, with a link at the end of the excerpt: Buy 'this book’ here. It’s a retail link if the book is available and a link to the book’s page on my website if it isn’t. If there are no retail links yet, the book page invites readers to join my email list to find out when ‘this book’ releases.
The subscription link at the end of my book is simply a more direct link to the email signup!
But here’s a good question: why would a total stranger sign up for your newsletter?
You offer a reader magnet (aka a lead magnet). It’s just what it sounds like: an offer so good it’s like their finger is drawn to the link magnetically. They can’t possibly resist clicking that link or button.
In practical terms, a reader magnet is something you offer your new subscribers in exchange for their email address. It incentivizes them to move from being a casual reader to a subscriber. In my case, I offer a 7500-word short story that takes place at 2.5 in my six-book Farm Fresh Romance series.
This short story was directly responsible for about 3,000 new subscribers in just under one year. It took me a week to write, and a small amount of money to have edited. My designer created a simple cover for it — one that doesn’t need to look competitive on retail sites since it will never be for sale. Readers click to receive this story every day, so the minimal effort has been well worth it.
Whatever you write, that’s what readers will want more of in your reader magnet. Here are some ideas:
• A report on something related to your topic (nonfiction or fiction)
• A full-length book that is also for sale (nonfiction or fiction)
• A short story linked to your novels (fiction)
• A case study or character interviews (fiction)
• A world history (fantasy/scifi)
• Exclusive audio or video content
• Other? This is only limited by your genre and your imagination!
If you start offering Kindles or other non-book prizes, you might find yourself with subscribers who are there for the prize, not because they care about your work. So, I recommend aligning any incentives very closely with your own content.
Make it worthwhile to be on your list. Promise them exclusive content or sneak previews or giveaways or other opportunities, and then follow through.
You can deliver this bonus material several ways:
• Most email marketing service providers allow you to upload content for subscribers to download
• Host the material on your own site and offer the link in your welcome letter
• Use a service such as BookFunnel or Instafreebie
Personally, I’m a huge fan of BookFunnel. There’s a monthly (or annual) fee, but they offer terrific support to both authors and readers. I upload both an epub and a mobi file, and BF walks people through how to download the correct file onto their preferred device.
3. Turning strangers into fans
Turning friends, family, and readers into fans probably won’t cost you anything beyond the basic service fee at your mailing list provider. But what if you want to grow your list more quickly? Before you jump on the bandwagon — or pooh-pooh the idea — here are some considerations.
• How much is a subscriber worth?
• How many books do you have out?
• How many will you have in the next year?
• How much do you earn per book sale?
• What if you paid two dollars to gain that subscriber, they bought one more book of yours, and you made that two dollars back?
If you think you might be interested in paying for growth, there are a variety of places you can pay for additional exposure.
• Facebook lead generation ads
• Twitter lead pages
• Ryan Zee, LitRing, and other list-building promotions
I haven’t tried social media advertising ads for lead generation yet, though I plan to run some this summer. I have participated in two Ryan Zee promotions so far. He invites 25+ authors, usually in close genre, to pay $60US (prices may vary) and offer several e-books to the winners. He adds a Kindle, creates graphics, and runs the promotion, asking everyone to share. Each person who signs into his ‘booksweeps’ gets added to all participating author newsletters… there is full disclosure. I expected to find these subscribers cooler, but the unsubscribe rate has been low while open rates and click rates (more on stats in the fourth post on author newsletters) have been similar to my organic lists.
BookFunnel offers a DIY group promotion page. Seventeen Christian Contemporary Romance authors joined together in April for a promo event that was considerably cheaper than Ryan Zee. We all promoted the event. Curious readers could click individual book covers and choose to get the book free by subscribing to that author’s newsletter, so the results were more targeted. It was a great experience, with over 500 new email addresses added for pennies each.
I haven’t ever used LitRing or Instafreebie, but mention them because they are popular and may be methods you’d like to look into. Of course, there are more options, too.
Note: If you have signup sheets out at events, either keep an iPad open to your subscription page so they can sign up themselves, or keep the dated documentation to prove that person specifically asked to join the list. You don’t want to be accused of spam!
I hope this gives you some ideas of how to find subscribers for your newsletter. What ideas can you come up with to offer as reader magnets? Any questions about finding subscribers?
This is the second in a four-part series on author newsletters that I’ll post in 2017. Find Part 1 (Getting Started) here. In later episodes, I’ll cover how to choose content and how to track your statistics.
Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily-ever-afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.
Valerie is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner. She writes engaging characters, strong communities, and deep faith as she injects experience laced with humor into her green clean romances. Visit her at ValerieComer.com.