Why do authors even need mailing lists anymore?
It's a really good question. I'll tell you why. In the past, authors have been able to reach all of their readers via social media. Readers who followed them on Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest, would see every single post in their newsfeed. But then Facebook decided to start selling paid advertising. And no one's going to pay to boost a post, if all their followers are already seeing it. So Facebook started hiding posts from people. A really interesting post on my page might be seen by 1200 to 1600 fans, but is hidden from the other 18,400 – 18,800 people who follow me. Snapchat has just announced it will begin doing the same thing, following FB's example. Twitter is also pushing paid ads. These companies are doing everything they can to ensure that no one who has something to sell, is able to reach their customers without paying the company to do so. And that's okay. It's capitalism. But it means authors have to find alternative ways to reach their audience, and I don't think there's one of us who could pay FB enough for a post to reach every one of our followers. In fact, I don't know of any way to even calculate what that price tag would be.
How do I know it's safe to sign up?
Your email address is a valuable asset. Unscrupulous email address harvesters gather huge lists and then sell them to companies that want to send you spam. I personally don't know any authors who would do such a thing, but there are other players out there who might. A quick email to the person asking you to trust them with your email addy should get you a fast reply with answers to the following questions, if they aren't already answered in the initial sign up form. Here's what to find out before signing up.
Look for the author's promise that your email address will not be shared with or sold with anyone, including other authors, ever.
Ask how often the author will send emails and decide if it's reasonable to you.
Make sure every single email from the author will include an easy to find, one step, unsubscribe button.
Sometimes I just want to sign up for the prizes!
That's completely okay. There is nothing wrong with wanting to sign up to an email list in order to get the freebies being offered, or to be in the running for some great prize or other. Authors know that lots of readers might feel that way, and the wise ones understand it.
Authors don't mind if you unsubscribe after the contest is over, or the freebies have been downloaded.
The truth is, authors who have more than a couple of hundred subscribers are paying pretty hefty monthly fees to places like MadMimi or MailChimp or Vertical Response or some other service, and the more subscribers we have, the higher that fee goes.
Inevitably lots of newcomers will join our mailing list when we offer them freebies or prizes for doing so, and lots of them will unsubscribe once they get the freebie or prize. In face, it's better for us if those who aren't interested in our work unsubscribe. We actually prefer they do that, rather than having people sign up for the prize, then stay subscribed even though they have no interest in our work. We'd prefer it even more if they show up for the freebies, fall in love with our work, and become a part of our tribe.
The Author's first job is to make her free titles so good that readers will buy her other books. The Author's second job is to make the content of her newsletter so valuable to the reader that they want to stay subscribed.
I unsubscribe from mailing lists all the time. Any that come too often, any that never have content I find useful. But I also sign up for new ones constantly, get a few issues and decide whether to stay subscribed. I like my inbox full, but I also like it manageable and sane.
Authors are paying a fee for every single email subscriber
That's how important you are to us. With social media owners putting big pricey obstacles between authors and our readers at every turn, our own personal email lists are worth their weight in gold to us. But only if we can manage to make them worthwhile to our readers too.
This is why I am constantly trying to include useful, enjoyable, valuable content in my mailings.
Here's what my email subscribers get
Every year, I write a serialized story that comes out one segment a month for subscribers only. Last year's was a Wings in the Night tale, The Rhiannon Chronicles. This year's is a Brown & de Luca thriller, The One Who Cried Wolf.
Every new subscriber receives an immediate email with links to every free book I have available and links to every chapter of the serial stories so far published.
Every year, I run several contests with valuable prizes (Kindles, iPads) where my subscribers are automatically entered and don't have to do a single additional thing to win. We have one of these coming up in early July.
Email subscribers get early looks at new cover art, early notice of upcoming releases, first shot at exclusive excerpts, and first notice of price drops.
Every subscriber has my personal guarantee that no other author or company will ever so much as glimpse my mailing list. Your address is safe with me.
I send 1 issue per month every month, no matter what. Occasionally there will also be an extra mailing when there's a contest running or other important news I need you to know. In the final run-up to a new release, you might see more emails than usual.
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