Email Marketing for Indie Writers: A Beginner's Guide

Email Marketing for Indie Writers: A Beginner's Guide

Having a strong email list is a crucial component of any book marketing plan. A goal to build an email list of 10,000 subscribers is a great place to start, and it is achievable without spending a lot of money. Increasing your sign-up rate can be done in many ways, including offering a free chapter or a discount code for your book to those who sign up.

A mailing list is the first marketing decision that any author should make. It is the central element of every author's marketing strategy, and the one thing that they will always own and control. Consider this scenario: your first book is a huge success and sells 10,000 copies in its first month. What about the release of the second book in the series? How will those original 10,000 customers know about it? Without being on your mailing list, it is unlikely that they will.

Your author mailing list is the most important tool for building a long-lasting relationship with your readers. It can turn readers into repeat buyers and unconditional fans. Every sale that is made without a mailing list in place is essentially a lost opportunity. Therefore, it is important to devote time and effort to building and maintaining a strong email list.

Choosing Your Email Marketing Provider

Now, you might be surprised that Mailchimp isn’t on the list of providers below.

Mailchimp would have definitely been my number-one recommendation until 2019, but in that year they decided to change their pricing model, as well as their brand focus, and turned into a highly unattractive option for authors.

So instead, my main recommendation is to go with MailerLite, Sendinblue, or CampaignMonitor.

The Setup

The first step is to sign up for a free account on your chosen service provider. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be prompted to create your first list. You’ll need to fill in a bit of info about your list. After that, you’ll be able to manually add your first subscribers.

If this is your first mailing list, you’re probably wondering whom to add at this point.

My recommendation is to start with anyone you personally know — that’s to say, anyone who you think will be genuinely interested in hearing about your books, really.

You can add them to your list by either importing a .csv file (spreadsheet), or copy-pasting their addresses. Then drop them a line personally to let them know you’re adding them to your newsletter, and that they’ll be able to unsubscribe at any point.

Creating your first signup form

Alright, you now have your mailing list. But what good is it going to do for you if you can’t bring in new subscribers? That’s what “signup forms” are for.

On MailerLite, you can find, design, and customize the signup form for each one of your lists by going to “Forms” in the top navigation. You can select between:

  • Embedded forms: this is a small form you can then embed on your website;
  • Popups: to add a popup form to your website (e.g. exit popup);
  • Sites: this allows you to create a full landing page, from scratch, with a signup form on it.

It’s important that you spend a bit of time on these, as they’re literally the first interaction your subscribers will have with your list. Make them personal so that your subscribers feel they’re interacting with a human being.

The great thing about MailerLite (which is also true for all the other services I mentioned previously) is that it can integrate with pretty much any website/blog platform out there. So you can use this functionality to build good-looking forms on your website that integrate directly with your MailerLite list, and send subscribers to it.

It’s important that you spend a bit of time on the general forms, as they're the first interactions your subscribers will have with your list.

To give a few examples:

  • On Wordpress: it's a matter of copy-pasting 2 codes in a widget
  • On Ghost, Squarespace, and most other platforms: You will have to insert a code into your theme (and most often, this can be done without having to download files or anything.)

With that in mind, I’ll let you create that list and customize your signup form. Next, we'll talk lead magnets.

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