The bottom line is audience – how well you deliver real value to them, and how they respond.
In short – your relationship to your readers (also known as: audience.)
The practical term for this is mailing list. Authors who have one can influence their book sales.
Which points to the key action of getting subscribers.
To keep this really simple, I’m not going to spin a bunch of reasons or quotes about why this is. There are tons of books and articles out there that validate this idea. And they all have their individual spins going on this subject.
There is a model you can apply:
Writer + audience = author.
Authors are writers who find an audience and help them find and buy their books.
Books are valuable idea containers. And they come in many forms (ebook, print, audiobook, courses, articles).
Audience buys into the author’s work in many ways. The two we are talking about today are
1) mailing list opt-in, and
2) book sales.
The most effective way to influence your book sales is through email – meaning that you compile a list of your reader’s emails.
The idea of an author’s “list” goes back to before the written word. Back to the times of markets and being a regular client for any store or business. Which of course goes back to the days of personally shopping for things and actually talking to the cashiers and business owner. (Which is why I like Walmart over Amazon – they hire real people you can talk to. Store managers, too – who’s the local Amazon store manager when you shop online?)
The trick with all book outlets is that it’s their site and they keep the emails. If they allow you to talk to their audience at all – it’s entirely on their terms.
But – the secret is to always invite the reader to contact you – from links inside the book.
Core strategy: find your audience and talk to them – regularly.
Sure, they like your books, but they also like hearing directly from you.
Care and Feeding of Audience Mailing List
The key reference that applies to becoming an author is “Content Inc.” by Joe Pulizzi. Because writers produce content. Using content to market your books makes you a content-marketer.
You have a business, which is writing and selling books (your containers of valuable ideas) to people who appreciate their value.
In Pulizzi’s book, the core premise is to get subscribers. Once you have enough subscribers, you’ll understand what they want better by talking to them. The more you deliver what they want, the more they will buy from you.
There is a lot of data on how to write emails (and like Sturgeon’s Law – it’s “90% bunk.”) The short hand is to write interesting emails – like you are talking to one person in front of you. It’s far more about “you” than “I” in that email, just like in real life. People want to hear about themselves, not you. They’ll respond as long as they are interested. Just like the books you write. So keep it interesting in everything you say to your audience.
And similarly, if you want people to respond, you have to regularly give them a reason to. You and I know our email and how it works. Give people regular reasons to open your emails and they’ll respond in kind. Send an email only once in a blue moon, and they’ll probably ignore you. (Blue moons happen maybe once every three months, and most people don’t notice.)
So we’ll keep this simple and leave it at that. Sure, you can make it easy for them to respond by giving them links to click on instead of having to actually respond to your email. And just opening your email at all is a response. But the highest ideal is where they will actually send you an email back – and this happens only in about 1 percent of the time or less.
Meaning we are mostly going to look at opens and clicks. Of course, one of those clicks can be a survey – but also realise that your survey will only be a sample. A very informative sample, true. But like political surveys, the results are only as good as the questions – and you’re going to get the answers they expect you want.
The main points are: finding your audience, talking to them regularly, and inviting them to respond.
After years of collecting data, and recent months of boiling this all down, here’s the simple equation:
List building is:
sending traffic to web pages
where people can get reader magnets
by submitting their email address.
Your core actions are then:
- Create a reader magnet (something they will opt-in to get a copy of – a trial offer)
- Build a landing page where they are simply asked to give their email to download that book.
- Work out ways to send traffic to that page.
A landing page is a nice presentation of what’s inside that book they’ll get by giving their email to you. Look over any Amazon or other book outlet description, and you’ll see a micro version of this – there they give you 4,000 characters to make your offer.
Places That Send Traffic For You
Traffic can be gotten several ways – paid ads, free articles, free excerpts. All of these have a link for you to click on that will take you to the landing page.
Consider this like a hub-and-spoke arrangement.
Your reader magnet has its landing page at the center – and the spokes go to it from all the various sources of traffic.
Why this works is because the best subscribers you are going to get are from the reader magnets you put out there. Back of book, especially. These subscribers are hardest to get, but very responsive – closest to your “true fans”.
Some of these spokes can be:
- Book Outlets like Amazon, Apple, Nook, Kobo and the rest. People buy your book and click on the ad to get your reader magnet – and give you their email.
- Facebook Ads are effective, and an investment. So get a decent course that will tell you how to make sure these work for you. (Like Mark Dawson’s – at least get a copy of his free videos that he puts up as part of his regular launches.) Depending on how you structure your ad will determine what quality opt-ins you’ll get. (Bookbub also falls into this paid category, but run completely different.)
- Wattpad – idea for fiction. Can take awhile to build up your audience. You take your story and piece it out in chapters. Each chapter can have a link at the beginning and end of it that leads to a page where they can opt-in to your list. This one strategy is what made “The Martian” and “Shades of Gray” become “overnight” successes – after those authors spent years publishing their books on Wattpad and similar forums. (I’ll go over a hybrid way to do this in a bit, which should cut down on those years.)
- Medium – some fiction being posted here, but this is better for non-fiction right now.
- Newsletter swaps/giveways. Places like StoryOrigin, Instafreebie, and BookFunnel are where authors go to network with other authors and organize giveaways with their reader magnets. Essentially, you mail to your list and they mail to yours. You can see how this is very effective. But if you use the same authors all the time, then your list becomes their list and vice-versa. Instafreebie has their own huge list, but it’s the same general approach.)
- Guest posts on other’s sites / podcast interviews – where you do some homework on their site, their audience, and propose something valuable that will help their audience (and encourage that audience to join yours.)
Your action steps
- Have a mailing list (like Mailerlite – it’s free and full-featured) and somewhere to put a landing page. (Mailerlite will host these.)
- Create a valuable reader magnet. (Host the download for free on StoryOrigin.)
- Get the backmatter in all your books set up with reader magnet ads.
- Get your fiction books up on Wattpad as chapters, each one linking to your landing page, where they can opt in (and get your reader magnet.)
- Non-fiction – write short articles on Medium with a link to a page where they can opt-in.
- Consider using some of these giveaway/newsletter swap sites (StoryOrigin is recommended – and right now it’s free.)
- Send out weekly emails to the list you have – and always keep to one interesting subject and have one link ( and that link repeated a few times.)
- Study up on Facebook ads and consider implementing these cautiously, with low ceilings on what you spend weekly while you dip your toe into these waters. (Mark Dawson has a nice course on this, and also some free videos you can look up.)
- Measure what you do, and reinforce what works. Try adding more spokes into your reader magnet landing page as you can.
If you liked this article, or got something out of it…
Also published on Medium.