Successful authors know the benefits of engaging with their readers. When they publish a book or article, they engage with their readers. When they’re writing their next book, they also engage with their readers. When they’re about to launch their book, they engage with their readers.
At every point along the journey of writing, successful writers actively seek to engage with their readers. They involve their readers from conception, gestation and birth of their book. Then they do it all again.
There are 4 main tools you’ll need to build your online community of readers and engage with them:
- Your Author Website
- Email database and automation (e.g Mailchimp)
- Blog posts
- Social media (e.g. Facebook)
In the article, Social Media Tips for Writers: How to Build an Engaged Community of Readers, we discussed how to use social media to engage your readers. In this article, we’re going to focus on the reasons why building and engaging your email database of readers is important for writers and authors.
The money is in your list, the marketing gurus proclaim. Over the past 15-20 years, emails have stood the test of time and still provide online marketers with some of the best and most consistent ROI (Return On Investment).
Although this isn’t a definitive list, there are 5 key benefits to using email to engage your readers:
- Drive sales and convert leads into customers/readers
- Personalize your target market database
- Measurable results
Gone are the days when you needed to have an IT degree and understand HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) to build a website. Nowadays, anyone with a computer or tablet and internet access can build and create a website in minutes. There are dozens of website hosts to help, such as Wix and WordPress, and super affordable. Some are even free.
Automating your email database is also just as easy. Blogging sites such as WordPress even have an automated system whereby readers can subscribe to your author blog so that each time you post an article your readers get notified.
The next level of building your email database is with mailing list providers, such as MailChimp, Aweber, YMLP, Get Response, and a host of others. These mailing list providers are relatively cheap to set up, and some even allow you up to 2,000 subscribers on your mailing list for free. They also come with a host of free templates for you to use in your email campaigns. Furthermore, you can fully automate your emails to send to your subscribers once they’ve signed up to receive your emails.
The next level up is Infusionsoft. This, however, does require some in-depth understanding of coding and is perhaps best left for IT experts with experience in setting up.
Drive Sales & Convert Leads
Emails still provide a great ROI for marketers. As your email database grows, it becomes your own uncontested market place. You own your email list, nobody else, which is probably the best reason not to buy emails from data management firms.
Firstly, you don’t know how many times their list has been sold. Secondly, their list could be old and have 20-30% redundant email addresses, which means you’ve wasted 20-30% of your money. Thirdly, people hate spam. If they haven’t signed up to your email list, the chances are your emails will just go straight to their junk folder and/or ignored.
Readers who do sign up to receive your emails, however, do so because they want to hear from you. Readers are genuinely interested in the writer behind the words. They’re keen to engage with you as an author, to learn more about you, to know you better, and get to like you as a person as much as a writer.
These are the readers you want signing up to your emails and newsletters. These are the readers who will be keen to buy your next book when it’s published.
Personalize Your Target Market Database
One of the great benefits of having your own uncontested database of interested readers is segregation. Mailing list providers – MailChimp, Aweber, YMLP, and others – allow you to segregate your list of emails into groups. For instance, you can group readers into fiction, non-fiction, YA, children’s, and poetry readers. You can even segregate these groups into sub-groups, such as non-fiction self-help, how to, memoirs and autobiography, science and other readers. You can segregate fiction readers into thrillers, romance, mystery, historical, and other genres.
The power of this is to personalize your content directly to those who have indicated a preference to receive certain types of information in your emails. A reader who likes romance fiction probably doesn’t want to receive information on how to build a treehouse. Likewise, a self-help reader probably doesn’t want to receive information on memoirs and autobiographies.
Give readers what they want to read. Engage your list and readers how they want to be engaged. Do this and they’ll likely stay loyal to you and not unsubscribe from your email list. Send them information they don’t want and more often than not they’ll become disinterested and unsubscribe from your emails.
There is a saying that goes like this: The good news is we know 50% of marketing works. The bad news is, we don’t know which 50%.
That’s not necessarily the case anymore. The internet provides writers and authors with the ability to easily track and measure their email campaigns. Emails sent via your chosen mailing list provider will have the option of tracking measurable KPIs such as:
- Who opened your email
- Who did not open your email
- Who unsubscribed from your mailing list
- Which emails are now obsolete
- When your email was opened
- What links were clicked (e.g. downloads, websites, social media etc.)
- Who bought your product/book
- What type of device was used to view your email (e.g. PC, smart phone, tablet)
- Split test your email campaigns (e.g. email headers, call to action, time and day sent)
Over time, these KPI statistics can help you hone your marketing message by allowing you to segregate your mailing list further. For instance, MailChimp automatically rates each subscriber with a 5-star system so you know the value of each subscriber. 5-star subscribers love you and open nearly all your emails. 1-star subscribers virtually ignore everything you send.
We have touched on this earlier, but email marketing still had one of the best ROI on offer. For writers who are looking for affordable promotional tools, emails are far cheaper, more reliable, and more measurable than other marketing avenues such as Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, print media advertising, SMS text marketing, TV advertising, and other print material such as posters, postcards, and business cards.
If, as a writer, you only have a budget for one thing, building your email database would probably be the top of the list. It’s probably the simplest and cheapest way to engage your list of readers.
When it comes to engaging your readers with email, remember to:
- Use a mailing list provider such as MailChimp or Aweber
- Build your own uncontested market of interested readers (and don’t buy an email list)
- Give readers what they want to read, not something they’re not interested in
- Measure your KPIs
*This article was inspired by the talk given by the Director of Webaioa, Kris Zelkas, at the 2016 Digital Marketing Workshop sponsored by the Australian Digital Publishing Group.
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