If I could go back and do one thing differently from the day I published my first novel, it would be to start an author email list on that day.
Why You Need An Email List
I published The Awakening (Book 1 in the Awakening series) in ebook format in 2011. When I put it in Kindle Unlimited and made it free for a few days, I had thousands of downloads.
But I had no second book to link to in the back for readers who liked the first. I was working a lot of hours as a lawyer at the time, so it was 2 1/2 years until Book 2, The Unbelievers, came out.
At least if I'd had an email list sign up option in Book 1 with some sort of bonus for people who joined I might have had a way to reach those readers.
But I didn't. So when Book 2 came out, I had to start all over.
Forms, Bonuses, And Costs
Bonus materials or other incentives are a good way to encourage people to join your email list and to remain on it. When you offer a bonus or gift to new subscribers, though, you need to (1) be clear that you are asking them to sign up for an email list and (2) let them know what else they'll be receiving from you.
Your email provider typically has on-line forms you can customize for your list and whatever bonus you're offering. I use MailChimp. This is a simple form to receive a Character Creation Tip Sheet for subscribers to the Writing As A Second Career list.
Sending readers a bonus or gift doesn't mean you need to spend money, though some authors do.
If you don't want to spend at all, you can email a file directly to readers yourself.
If you'd like to have someone else deal with any technical issues and you're sending an ebook as a bonus (more on that below), you can use a service such as Book Funnel.
For a minimal amount (right now $20 a year), Book Funnel will let you create a reader landing page for your book and will handle the download process. Readers can download in whatever format they read. If they have problems with the download or have questions, Book Funnel handles those.
Types Of Bonuses
Some ideas for bonus materials:
- Complete Books
If you have more than one novel or non-fiction book, you can offer readers a free ebook edition. Offering a complete book works best if you have a series, especially one with multiple books that are for sale.
Make sure you include sale links to your other books in the back matter of the free book.
- Inside Information/Snippets From Your Writing Process
If readers enjoy a book, they often like getting a glimpse into the writing process.
You can offer items such as:
- deleted scenes
- scenes written from a different character's perspective
- early drafts (including with handwritten corrections)
- author commentary
- interviews with favorite characters
- author interviews
- research notes
I offered some or all of these at different times. More recently, I put some of these items into a Reader's Guide in ebook format.
Here's the Book Funnel landing page for the Books in Order and Reader's Guide I created for the Awakening series. People who sign up for my email list get the guide free. Otherwise, I sell it for $1.99. (Go ahead and download it for free if you'd like to see how the process works.)
- Worksheets, Checklists, Tips
For non-fiction, useful materials like worksheets, lists of tips, or checklists can be a good draw.
Years ago I downloaded a book launch checklist from Bryan of the Sell More Books Show. Now I'm a devoted listener to the podcast and I attended the Sell More Books Show conference this year.
Creating those materials sometimes can help you as the author figure out what to write next. I got such a good response to a bonus I offered on a simple 5-point method for plotting that I expanded it into Super Simple Story Structure: A Quick Guide To Plotting And Writing Your Novel.
- Short Stories
If you write fiction and aren't yet able to offer a novel, you can offer a short story.
A short story may not be as intriguing to readers as a full book, but it's a place to start. Also, it can be a draw if it ties into a novel or a series.
Some authors use short stories to tie two different series together. In that way, the free short story may draw a reader from one world of yours into another.
Also, once you have several short stories, you can consider putting them together into a collection and selling them.
Some authors offer readers promotional items such as pens, mugs, T-Shirts, coasters, or other items with logos or names identifying the author or the author's work. Others offer signed paper books.
The downside of physical promotional items is the cost of shipping.
The upside is that other people likely will see the items, possibly adding some free advertising for you.
A podcast for my favorite TV show does a great job with physical merchandise. Whether or not you're a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, it's worth a look at the merch page for the Buffering The Vampire Slayer podcast to see what can be done.
That's all for today.
Until next Friday when I'll talk about Adjusting Your Writing Goals When Life Throws You A Curve—