Greetings and welcome back to my series about what to do with the awesome story idea you have. If you are here for the first time, this is part six in a ten-part series. You can find the full list of recommended steps at the end of today’s blog, with links to the other parts of the series that have already been written.
If you have been following the series, welcome back! I’m thrilled you are here because today’s discussion centers around the most important marketing tool in your entire author platform: your personal author email list.
While there are many important parts to your author platform, your personal email list is the single most important one. The primary reason for this is because it allows you to do two things at once: connect and promote. Each of these is a separate function of different parts of your author platform, and email lists are unique in their ability to do both. Another feature unique to an email list is its ability to connect you directly to people who want to read your writing. When someone signs up to be part of your list, he or she is giving you permission to speak directly to him/her any time you like.
This ease of access is especially beneficial in regard to social media. As popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram become more and more ad-based, an author’s unfiltered influence wans. Where friends or followers used to have unlimited access to your new posts as soon as you posted them, the algorithms on many popular social media sites filter the posts your connections see based on the amount of money you are willing to spend in post boosts and advertisements. With email, you control your list, guaranteeing that all list subscribers receive each new email you send.
Which leads to the hardest part of building your author newsletter email list: drawing in new subscribers. Conventional wisdom recommends growing your list organically via a call to action placed at the end of your stories and/or a subscription incentive (aka a “hook,” a “draw,” and a “lead magnet”). Since you are a writer, the most obvious incentive is writing-base: a free short story, pre-released chapters of an upcoming work, deleted scenes, or access to a members-only section of your website. The possibilities are endless and are limited only by your creativity and willingness to research new ideas.
Of course, as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben is famous for saying, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Once you’ve convinced readers to subscribe to your email list, you must make it worth their time. In order to keep readers from unsubscribing, you need to provide content that is both original and entertaining. Since your newsletter should be a reflection of your personality, writing style, and story content, there is no one way to “do it right.” Still, there are plenty of resources out there to give you ideas. One of my regular go-tos is the Novel Marketing Podcast, hosted by Thomas Umtstattd Jr. (please note this is a non-affiliate link). Another resources that I’m currently working through, and which I like a lot, is Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert by Tammi Labrecque.
I’m curious to know how many of you have an author email list. Do you have a subscription incentive? If so, what is it and how useful have you found it to be? Which part of your newsletter do your readers respond to the most? I’d love to hear your comments and insights below.
As promised above, here's the complete list of what to do with your story idea:
1. Write down everything you know about the story idea. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything to add. (Read more here.)
2. When you’re not writing, work on your social media platform. Develop your on-line presence authentically, in a way that is genuine. (Read more here.)
3. Go back to your idea. Organize everything you wrote in step one into something with structure and shape. Turn that collection of ideas into a plan and begin your first draft. (Read more here.)
4. Start a website. A blog is good because it gives readers a taste of your writing, but if you feel that you can’t commit to a blog, then you need to have a website at the very least. (Read more here.)
5. Edit your first draft. Complete this step as often as necessary. (Read more here.)
6. Start an e-mail list.
7. Enlist alpha readers who will give you story feedback.
8. Once your book is as polished as you can get it, enlist someone else to edit it.
9. Decide how you want to publish (indie or traditional) and study the process. Learning the necessary details will save you a lot of time and, potentially, a lot of money in the long run.
10. Start the next story!