I’m often asked why authors, particularly novelists, should bother with an email list. Aren’t email lists just for nonfiction writers or Internet marketers with something to sell? Novelists are trying to get readers involved with the worlds that they create, and to care about the characters who populate those worlds.
In other words, they really want people to get engaged with their writing.
This gives you a hint about why email lists can be really effective for writers who are trying to find readers. It’s all related to the level of engagement that exists with your readers.
In the book business readers sometimes become fans, anxious for more involvement with the author of a book that’s made a big impression on them and looking forward to more books from the same author.
Online, it’s also common for fans to become readers. Someone who encounters you on Twitter or by reading your blog may become sufficiently intrigued by your writing to buy your book. So this process goes both ways.
Since you are marketing online, your aim is twofold:
- Attract people who may be interested in your ideas, your writing, or your solutions to problems.
- Inspire enough trust and interest in a percentage of those people that they are moved to buy your book, your service or your product.
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?
Where the Email List Comes Into Play
Think about this process from the point of view of levels of engagement. Let’s plot it out:
- A reader notices your name on someone else’s blog or in an article. They become aware of you and perhaps the name or genre of your book, but they have no engagement with you.
- They decide to click a link and are now on your blog or website. They might stay and read if something looks interesting, or they may bounce right off. They have engaged with you but at a very low level.
- Perhaps they find something on your site, like an article, a great “About” page, or a sample chapter from your book that they really like. They decide to come back and visit again. This is a higher level of engagement. They will remember you and perhaps come back.
- Either the first piece of content they saw or repeated exposure to your writing makes them want to stay connected in a world where it’s all too easy to lose track of a link you put aside for later. They subscribe to your blog through the RSS feed or an email subscription. This is a much higher level of engagement, and we’re starting to get into the range where this person has given you “permission” to keep sending them the content they are enjoying. At this point you have something of a relationship, although mostly a one-sided one.
- The reader realizes that you have a lot to offer to them. Looking for a way to stay connected or to get a special piece of content you are offering, they opt into your email list. You are now at a high level of engagement. Granting someone access to your inbox is an act of trust and hope. Now you can take your relationship to a higher level, since you can interact with your subscriber more intimately.
If you didn’t have an email opt-in available, you would never get to this level of engagement with readers. You can answer blog comments, but how many do you get? You can guest post, run ads, write for magazines, but they all pale in comparison to the immediacy of a permission-based relationship in which you are invited to send email to your reader.
Even if you never use your email list to attempt to make book sales, the ongoing communication you have with the subscribers to your list is in itself a force that helps to cement your relationship with readers and fans.
Your email list: a way to hold out a hand to the people who most want to stay connected to you & your work—Click to Tweet
So if you don’t have an email opt-in form on your blog or website, put one up this month. It’s not hard to do, and there are many services that will help you get started. But do it. It’s a way of holding out a welcoming hand to the people who most want to stay connected to you and your work.
Originally published as Levels of Engagement, or Why Authors Need an Email List on Dana Lynn Smith’s blog The Savvy Book Marketer.