Once people are on your list, it’s very worth your while to treat them like the special group that they are.
It is a very well established principle in business that it’s much easier and cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to try and find a new one. And this goes triple for good customers. Same is true for readers and fans. Especially the loyal ones.
The absolute number one driver of book sales seems to be word of mouth, and there’s no better source of a dynamic word-of-mouth campaign than a cadre of dedicated fans and friends.
Top Two Rules of List Nurturing
The above principles mean that your list-nurturing efforts should be guided by generosity and inclusion, knowing that the result will be both reliable customers and great advocates. Think in terms of nurturing relationships with friends rather than marketing to customers. As a practical matter, that means always, always following these two rules:
Rule 1: You start off the relationship building (with newcomers) by being the Giver. Give your new people generously of your time, your writing and anything else on your giveaway list. Give, give and give again before making your first Ask. See the section on Nurturing Newcomers for more on this.
Rule 2: You continue this theme by making sure that 70-80% of your contact with your readers is a gift for them. This builds a trusting relationship (if you keep it up). Then, when you do ask for something, it will feel fine. To both of you.
Okay, that’s really just one rule – give more than you ask.
Nurturing newcomers to your list
Pay special attention to newcomers to your list. They may have signed up on a whim, and you want to quickly reinforce the idea that being on your list will be an ongoing pleasure.
The mechanism here is to send new subscribers additional special welcoming emails – every week for a couple of weeks if possible. The first can be a personal welcome with information on what they can expect by being in your inner circle (special discounts, advance notices, WIP previews, input into plot). The next can include one of those “inner circle” specials. The next could highlight some of your most popular blog posts. And so on. Tip: Use your email service provider’s Autoresponder feature to automate this process.
It’s probably best to keep the promotions to a minimum during the welcoming sequence. Zero would be a good target.
This series of special welcome emails is a great way to take casual signups quickly along the road to becoming enthusiastic fans.
Ongoing list nurturance
Effective ongoing list nurturance requires regular, consistent communications. Most experts and authors recommend a minimum of one emailing a month. Weekly is better – if for no other reason that it forces you think about your readers and fans at least that often. Plus, if you are mailing once a week you can be brief and friendly and its actually less of a chore.
There are two types of regular email contacts:
Short, notice style emails. Usually these cover one item or topic (a new review, a blog post, a giveaway, etc.). They may be on a regular schedule (every second Tuesday) or not (regular is better but timely is more important).
Longer, newsletter-style emails. You know what these are.
In my opinion, your long-term goal should be to get on a schedule of short weekly updates plus one newsletter per month (which can take the place of the weekly update). It’s certainly okay to start with less frequent emails and build up to the weekly reader connection, especially if you are on your first or second book. Like anything, once you start doing it, it gets easier and takes up less of your time.
Tip: Use Templates
One way to take some of the weekly or monthly angst out of your email communications is to create a basic template for each type (weekly and newsletter) so you can basically just fill in the content. All email service vendors offer both pre-designed templates and an easy design-it-yourself method of creating your own.
My advice on templates is to keep it simple. As a rule, too many graphics just distract the reader. The template design should also be reflective of your books. If you write light-hearted, humorous pieces, keep the design light and whimsical. If you write dark, gothic horror, then your template style and color scheme should reflect that. One rule: don’t do light text on a dark background; it’s way too hard to read. In your template, you can have “blocks” dedicated to different parts of your content so you know what content you need each time, and where you’re going to put it.
It bears repeating that an author’s email list is probably their most powerful marketing tool, because it will cement your relationships with a growing and loyal cadre of fans who will, through word-of-mouth, create a greater demand for your books that almost any other technique. For free.
Are you on a regular email schedule? What does it look like? What tips do you have for getting it done?