In today’s episode, I’m sharing 3 steps to help you get started with list building. Here’s a preview of what’s included:
[1:45] Having an email list is one of the best ways to build relationships with your readers over time. It’s what helps keep you top of mind the next time readers are looking for a new book to read, or a book to share with their friends and family.
[3:15] Step 1: Define your target audience of readers. These are the people who will buy your book, leave you positive reviews, and recommend it to all their friends. It’s who all your marketing efforts need to speak to!
[5:35] Step 2: Start generating leads for your list by offering a freebie (or lead magnet) in exchange for email addresses. You could offer things like sample chapters, book club questions, free ebooks, character interviews, and more.
[9:30] Step 3: Develop your content strategy so that you can stay in communication with your subscribers and build that “know, like, and trust” factor before you write and sell your next book. Don’t overcomplicate this step!
[12:25] Final thoughts and episode recap.
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We all start with zero subscribers, but if you want to get your books in the hands of readers, creating an email list is not something that you can skip out on. Your email list will grow over time as your readers find you and as you actively promote your books, so don't stress over this part if you're just starting out. Like most things, I'm always going to recommend aiming for progress, not perfection, and you will see your email list grow over time. Welcome to the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast. My name is Savannah Gilbo and I'm here to help you write a story that works. I want to prove to you that writing a novel doesn't have to be overwhelming, so each week, I'll bring you a brand new episode with simple, actionable and step-by-step strategies that you can implement in your writing right away. So, whether you're brand new to writing or more of a seasoned author looking to improve your craft, this podcast is for you. So pick up a pen and let's get started. In today's episode, we're going to talk about email list building for authors. So we're going to piggyback on last week's topic, which was how to start building your author platform, and one of the things I talked about in that episode, which is episode number 106, and I will link to that in the show notes for easy access. But one of the things I talked about was how important it is to start growing your email list, no matter where you're at in the writing, editing or publishing process, so I wanted to dive into that a little bit deeper in today's episode. Also, I get asked at least once a week do authors really need an email list? Do I really have to do this? And spoiler alert my answer is always a very emphatic yes, you do. Your number one goal in building out your author platform and your website and everything you do to market your books online should be to grow your email list. As I mentioned, it's one of the most important elements of your author platform and we're going to talk about why that is so. Having an email list is one of the best ways to build relationships with your readers over time. It's what's going to help keep you top of mind the next time readers are looking for a new book to read or a book to share with their friends and family, but it's also part of a long term safety net strategy for you, the author. So, unlike social media, having an email list gives you an audience that you can reach out to yourself, no matter what happens. If social media disappeared tomorrow, or if social media goes down for the day of your book launch, let's say, you would lose access to all of those contacts and all of that content that you've built over time. But that isn't the case with your email list. Something else to consider is if you are a traditionally published author and, let's say, you're working with a publishing house and down the road, sometime maybe you stop working with them for whatever reason, you lose access to all of their contacts as well. So it's super important to get people on your email list, which is something that you own and that you control. So let's talk about how to actually get started with your email list and to do that, I'm going to walk you through three steps to help you get your email list up and running. But before digging into those three steps, I do want to mention that you'll want to choose your email service provider or your ESP. I'm not going to cover the tech parts of getting your email list set up, and that's just because most email service providers offer training videos that will help you get your email list up and running as far as all the tech goes. So just something I wanted to point out. So, with that being said, let's go ahead and dive into those three steps to get started with your list building. Step one is to define your target audience of readers. Your target audience is made up of readers who are going to love your book just as much as you do. They're the type of people who will buy your book, enjoy reading it and recommend it to all their friends. They're going to leave you glowing reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, comment on your social media posts and respond to your emails. So, in other words, they're the potential readers that your author platform needs to speak to. This is why it's so important to understand who they are, what they like and what they might want to see from you other than really entertaining it in good books, before you set up your email list. Now, if you're like most of the authors I work with, you might be thinking but I have nothing interesting to share. Who's going to want to hear from me? And I just want to let you know that many writers think this way. They think they have nothing relevant or meaningful to offer or share with readers, whether they're current readers or potential readers. But the root of the problem isn't actually that you have nothing important to share. It's more than likely that you don't know who you're trying to share it with and what they value. It's extremely difficult to determine what to communicate when you haven't first taken the time to fully identify who it is that you're trying to communicate with, and that's true for anyone in any aspect of life. So what you need to do is you need to identify your communication sweet spot, and this is the common ground between your interests, passions and needs, your readers' interests, passions and needs, and your book. So the genre of your book and that core emotion that books in your genre evoke in readers. So one more time, it's the intersection between your interests, your passions and needs, your readers' interests, passions and needs, and then your book. So you want to consider all three of those and then look for the intersection between all three of them. And when you can identify this sweet spot, that's what enables connection and it makes communicating with your target reader way easier. You won't have to search for something to say because your shared interests, passions and needs will lend themselves to a natural discussion. This is why knowing your target reader is critical and that's why it's the very first step. So step one define your target audience and then find that communication sweet spot. Step two is to start generating leads for your email list. When a reader gives you their email address and they ask to hear from you, it's a really big deal. In most cases, you'll want to have a lead magnet or some kind of freebie to give to your subscribers as a way to say thanks and to bring them into your world more so. Some ideas for what you could offer as a freebie or a lead magnet are things like a short story or a novella based around one of your characters, the opening chapter of one of your books, an entire free ebook if you have more than one book available, bonus scenes, deleted scenes, epilogues or sneak peeks, a behind the scenes look at your writing process, links to Pinterest boards to show your subscribers your book's aesthetic, and things like that. Spotify playlists that capture the vibe of your book. Sketches or inspiration photos of your characters, book club questions for your published books, if you have them. Audio or video recordings of, maybe, you reading a chapter of your book or any interviews you've been a part of a promo code or discount on your latest book, or even something like a list of recommended books in your genre or books that readers of your book would also enjoy. The options are truly endless here. Just make sure that whatever you offer is something that's relevant and that falls within your communication sweet spot. So, if you write thrillers, you probably don't want to offer your target readers a cookbook unless it's somehow relevant to your book. Right Now, when it comes to sharing your lead magnet, I recommend at least making it prominently featured on your website, sharing it on your social media accounts and highlighting it in the opening pages of your book itself. Doing this will make it visible in the Look Inside section on Amazon, so that free sample that people can download if they want to check out a book. You can also mention your lead magnet in any interviews you do so newspaper interviews, podcasts, youtube videos, tv any kind of media like that as well and all of this is just going to help you make sure that you're collecting the email addresses of your current and potential future readers. But again, I do want you to think outside the box. The ways that you can share your lead magnet are as endless as the types of lead magnets you can create, and the more you share your lead magnet or your freebie, the more subscribers you'll collect, which in turn, means the more books you'll sell in the future, and that's what we want right Now. You might be wondering okay, that sounds fine, but what happens after somebody subscribes to my email list? Like, how do I communicate with them in an effective way? And that is where step three comes in. So step two was to start generating leads for your email list, and step three is to develop your content strategy. So, once someone subscribes to your email list, it is super important to stay in touch with them. Regular email contact with your readers is going to create a long string of impressions and, again, this is important so that your name stays at the forefront of their mind. And then, when an opportunity arises so a book club needs a new book to read, your subscriber or a friend wants a new book to read people are far more likely to think of you if they frequently see your name. So what this means is that, in order to make it easier for you to stay in touch with your subscribers, you're going to need to do two things. Number one is create an automated welcome email that gets sent to your new subscribers, and number two is to develop an ongoing content strategy. So let's break each of those steps down. The first thing I mentioned is sending an automated welcome email to new subscribers, and you can find welcome email templates for authors all over the internet. But essentially, the goal of this initial and this automated email is to share a few things. So, number one, your lead magnet, if you have one a brief introduction to who you are, what kind of books you write and things like that, and also what your subscribers can expect going forward. And you can keep this really simple and make it conversational, so it doesn't have to be something fancy or overly formal. Just pretend you're writing to a friend and share those three things. So your lead magnet a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of books you write and what your subscribers can expect going forward. After that, you'll want to develop your ongoing content strategy. So that's the second thing I mentioned, and a content strategy just basically describes how you're going to communicate with your audience on an ongoing basis. So how often will you communicate with your subscribers? Will you send regular email newsletters? Will you post on social media? Will you write blog posts, share podcast appearances, youtube videos or do something else. And again, if you're just starting out, please don't overthink this part Keep it simple at first, and then you can add additional types of content or send out content more often once you're comfortable, kind of doing that bare minimum. So I want to reiterate this point that consistency is more important than doing all the things at once, and consistency for you is going to look different than everybody else, right? So in practical terms, this might look like sending out an email newsletter once a quarter, and, yes, that's only four emails per year and that's totally doable, right? It might also mean only showing up on Instagram once a week to start. So whatever makes sense for you and whatever you can consistently commit to is beyond good enough for now. So just start there. And if you're not sure what kinds of things you can communicate about to your subscribers, I have some ideas for you. So you can share things like writing, updates and new releases, events and appearances, book reviews and or recommendations, any kind of personal notes, updates or photos. If you would like to include those, you don't have to. You can answer your readers questions or commonly asked questions about your book. You can share quotes from your book or create little graphics with the quotes inside of them. You can share Spotify playlists of songs that inspired your book, questions for book clubs to use to chat about your book and really anything you want. Again, as long as it's relevant and kind of in that communication sweet spot and I know I'm going to sound like a broken record, but this is not something that you should overcomplicate, especially at first. The goal is to let your voice and personality shine through so that your subscribers can get to know you and make a connection with you. That's primarily the reason why they're signing up for your email list. They probably want that freebie if you're offering one, and they also want to get to know you more and learn more about you. So just keep that in mind. There is another human being on the other end of it, and sometimes it's actually easier to think of it that way, so thinking of our marketing efforts as connecting with other people versus just selling our books. So once you're done with step three, you're all set. For now. Those are the first three steps I would recommend you take to get your email list set up and running, and then, over time, you can iterate on how you're delivering content and or communicating with your subscribers based on what you learned about them and or your own preferences, so you're not locked into. Whatever you decide on now, you can definitely iterate. It's very normal to iterate. The most important thing is to just get something up and running and to start practice being consistent, because consistency is again the thing that matters most. Now let me quickly recap those three steps, because I know we want to mention this really important time that we all start with zero subscribers. But if you want to get your books in the hands of readers, this is who all of your marketing efforts are going to speak to, and you can't properly speak to them. It is an essential part of your art, and what kinds of things are interesting. Step number two is to start generating leads for your email list. So this is going to require getting your email list technically set up and also creating some kind of freebie or lead magnet if that's something you want to do. So don't stress over this part, but you know, do what works best for you. Like most things, I'm always going to recommend any of your content. Slash, not perfection, and you will see your email list grow over time. Are you going to communicate with your subscribers? And remember. The key here is that consistency is more important than being everywhere at once or trying to do all the things. So start small, build up that consistency muscle, and then you can iterate or expand your communication and content strategy over time. The other thing I want to mention that's really important is that we all start with zero subscribers. But if you want to get your books in the hands of readers, creating an email list is not something that you can skip out on. It is an essential part of your author platform and the good news is that you can get started right now. No matter where you're at in the writing, editing or publishing process. Your email list will grow over time as your readers find you and as you actively promote your books. So don't stress over this part if you're just starting out. Like most things, I'm always going to recommend aiming for progress, not perfection, and you will see your email list grow over time. And on that note of not stressing, I really do want you to try to have fun with this. You know, never forget that on the other side of all of your marketing efforts is another human being who most likely genuinely wants to engage with you. So if you keep this in mind, then building an email list and marketing your book can actually be kind of fun and not so overwhelming. So just something to keep in front of mind as you're working on building out your email list. So that's it for today's episode. As always, thank you so much for tuning in and for showing your support. If you want to check out any of the links I mentioned in this episode, you can find them in the show notes listed in the description of each episode inside your podcast player or at savannahgilbocom forward slash podcast. If you're an Apple user, I'd really appreciate it if you took a few seconds to leave a rating and a review. Your ratings and reviews tell Apple that this is a podcast that's worth listening to and in turn, your reviews will help this podcast get in front of more fiction writers just like you. And while you're there, go ahead and hit that follow button, because there's going to be another brand new episode next week, full of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer. So I'll see you next week and until then, happy writing.