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Building A Mailing List With Dan Parsons And Melissa Addey: Beginners Self-Publishing Podcast

Building a Mailing List With Dan Parsons and Melissa Addey: Beginners Self-Publishing Podcast

In today's Beginners Self-Publishing Podcast: building a mailing list. Book marketing is an overwhelming topic. From Facebook to Amazon ads to blog tours and physical events—the possibilities can seem endless and ever-changing. But most authors agree that one marketing method remains constant: email.

Learn how to build a mailing list, and you can create a powerful author business, no matter your genre. But how?
In this episode, ALLi’s Product Marketing Manager Dan Parsons and Campaigns Manager Melissa Addey discuss how mailing lists work, as well as how to build one from scratch to help you connect with your readers, create superfans and sell more books.
Find more author advice, tips, and tools at our self-publishing advice center, https://selfpublishingadvice.org. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

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On the Beginners Self-Publishing Podcast with @dkparsonswriter and @MelissaAddey: building a mailing list. Most authors agree that one marketing method remains constant: email. Share on X

About the Hosts

Dan Parsons writes the Creative Business series for authors, bestselling fantasy and horror novels (under Daniel Parsons), and a weekly blog for The Self-Publishing Formula. In the past, he has worked for three trad publishers, managed two bookstores and listened to an unhealthy number of podcasts. Now he's ALLi's product marketing manager.

Melissa Addey has a PhD in creative writing and writes historical fiction set in first-century Rome, eleventh-century Morocco and eighteenth-century China. She runs writing workshops covering both craft and entrepreneurship, most frequently for the British Library. She's also ALLi's campaigns manager, a role in which she loves observing and supporting the vast diversity of self-published authors. Visit her at her website and pick up a free novella.

Read the Transcripts: Building a Mailing List

Dan Parsons: Good evening, here from the UK. This is the Alliance of Independent Authors' Beginner Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations podcast. I am ALLi Marketing Manager, Dan Parsons, and with me today is-

Melissa Addey: Hi, I'm Melissa Addey. I'm ALLi's Campaigns Manager.

Dan Parsons: Today we are going to be talking about mailing lists. So, lots of different things, the how, why, what, when, if, all the different questions to do with mailing lists, and a little bit about reader magnets and sort of how it all connects together.

But first we're going to be talking a little bit about what we've done recently. So, it was another big week, or a big month rather, for ALLi. We both met each other, didn't we, at the London Book Fair this year, and you got up to quite a lot.

Melissa Addey: So, at the London Book Fair we were presenting the outcome of our indie author income survey, which was super exciting. {Clears throat}. Excuse me, clearly I haven't been speaking enough. So, I got to do a presentation to show off what had come out of our survey, which was really exciting.

The big story was that we found out that self-published authors earn more than those who are traditionally published, and this was a fascinating thing for us to find. Not only that, but their income is rising a great deal over time, as compared to the standard surveys that we've seen, which include mostly authors from traditionally published backgrounds where not only is their income lower, but it's dropping quite substantially over time. So, that was a fascinating thing for us to find.

I'm not going to go into all of it now, but head over to our website because we have posted it pretty much everywhere. There's a whole blog post on it, which you can find. It's also on our main website. It's on our campaigns page. So, pop over there and have a look. You can download the whole report and read it; it's really interesting for a quick look.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, as you said, we won't go into all of it right now because that would be a podcast episode in and of itself, but it is an interesting read and there's lots of information in there. Some of it we haven't even explored yet because there are other things coming down the pipeline and it's all very exciting.

So yeah, as of today, we are going to be sticking with the basics. We're going to be talking about mailing lists. So, in marketing there are lots of different options that authors use.

You've probably, if you've been in the author sphere for a while, listening to podcasts and probably binging information that you don't quite need yet, because we all do this years ahead of when we actually need it, you'll know that there are Facebook ads, Amazon ads, BookBub, there's content marketing and all these different things.

But ultimately, the number one strategy for many authors in terms of return on investment, if you're going to be marketing, is to build a mailing list.

Now today, as I've mentioned, we're going to be going into the nuts and bolts of building a mailing list, and some different tools and things that you can use along the way, just to help you progress a little bit faster and do it cheaply to the point where you are able to make money through selling books without it costing a bomb.

So yeah, that is what we're going to be talking about today.

We have a comment here. Someone says that we may be having some issues with sound quality, so I'm going to see if I can turn up my microphone.

Melissa Addey: Okay, I will try and do the same with mine. Let's see.

Dan Parsons: Then we'll see how this goes.

Melissa Addey: It's dangerously high.

Dan Parsons: It's fun to do this live, it's my favourite place.

Melissa Addey: It is. It's so fun. So, does that sound better? Do we think we sound better now? They can give us live feedback so that we can fix this.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, we've both turned up our volumes.

Melissa Addey: So, now it's super loud.

Dan Parsons: Microphone's definitely on. We'll crack on regardless.

Melissa Addey: We'll crack on and we'll see how we go.

What is an author mailing list and why do you need one?

Dan Parsons: We'll try our best. So yeah, Melissa, do you want to talk a little bit about what a mailing list is, and also how you go about putting the pieces together to create one?

Melissa Addey: Yeah. So, the first thing to think about is, just like we said to you, you need your own website, because it's your part of the internet and no one can take it away from you. If you are relying on someone's social media platform as your website, they can take that away from you.

So, you need your own website, and then of course what you'll be thinking is, but what happens to all the followers that I would've had on social media? And we are going to transform those onto your mailing list.

Your mailing list is essentially your followers, as they might be on a social media platform, but with the much-improved situation, which is that you can contact them directly. You are not beholden to an algorithm to decide whether or not your information to them might or might not get shown on a social media platform. If they're on your mailing list, you get to put an email into their inbox, and this is much more direct communication. You can be more certain that they've received it. If they're not receiving it or not opening it, you can take them off your mailing list because they're not used to you anymore. So, it's a much clearer, more straightforward, more direct way of contacting your best customers.

Dan Parsons: Also, it means that in terms of algorithms, you're not going to be throttled if you use certain keywords that are within keeping of your brand. Say for example you write political thrillers or something like that, if you use words like politics or political-based words, you're then not going to be throttled with the amount of readers that you can reach because those rules don't necessarily apply. There are other rules, but those rules don't apply when it comes to sending emails. So, people on your mailing list will still get the information when they may not get it elsewhere.

Melissa Addey: Indeed, you are not going to have a mailing list in terms of the way you are thinking of how you do emails normally. So, they're not on your contacts list, and then you're going to send an email with thousands of people on it; that's not how it's going to work. You're going to have a mailing list provider. The mailing list provider will be something like MailChimp, MailerLite, ConvertKit. There are a few different ones, these are some of the common, popular ones that are used, and that mailing list provider, they're going to hold the email addresses for you. They will make sure it complies with all the GDPR because you are not holding it, you're not looking after it. They're looking after it correctly for you and the emails are being sent through them, and your newsletters, which is the common thing you would send, will be sent through them. So, it's not coming from your Hotmail account or whatever.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, you're not going to be CCing a thousand readers into an email, and they're not going to see each other's email addresses.

Melissa Addey: Which would be terrible. That would be a terrible thing to do. So, this is a much more professional, clear-cut way of doing it.

Also, that mailing list provider will provide you with a nice link that you are putting onto your website where people can sign up to join that mailing list. So, it's not like they're writing to you and going, please can you put me on there? They will just click a button, add their email address, and they will get put onto the list directly. So, it's a very professional, slick operation once you've set it all up.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, and obviously this is part of your author website. So, at ALLi we recommend that authors have a website if they want to write books and publish professionally, because your website will be the hub of your online activity. If you think of all social media channels and things like that, they will all be spokes coming off this central hub, which is your website, and ideally you'd like to be directing people into your website so that A, they can buy books from you directly if that's something that you want to do with your business model, and B, while they're there, very importantly, they can subscribe to your email list via a landing page on your homepage.

So, as Melissa just explained, it can all be done very slick, in a way that everything connects together. All readers will see is a little box on your homepage, or anywhere else on your website that says, join my mailing list, and we'll get onto some freebies and things you can give away a bit later, and then they will be on your mailing list, and you can directly contact them.

How can I grow my mailing list?

Dan Parsons: Now we've talked a little bit about the what and the why. We'd probably better go onto the how. How would you go about gaining subscribers once you've started, because it's all very well and good saying, oh I've got a signup form on my website. Where are my 10,000 subscribers? Where have they come from?

Melissa Addey: Yeah. So, I do occasionally go onto people's sites, and it'll say, join our mailing list, and I think, why? Because I can just come and visit your website anytime, why would I specifically give you my email address? Unless I'm quite certain you're going to send me something interesting in return. Where's the give and take?

So, the most common thing that is used in this situation by authors is what's referred to as a reader magnet, and this means that you are going to give something of value to the reader in return for their email address. It's a transaction going on. So, you are going to give them something nice, this is usually some form of a book, a set of stories, a chapter from something, a workbook, who knows what it is. Something linked into your writing that is of value to them, and they in return are going to give you the email address.

They know when they're giving you the email address, A, because you're going to tell them for a GDPR compliance, so you're going to say, you will be receiving my newsletter. But B, everybody knows instinctively that what you are then going to do is keep in touch with them, and they're okay with that because they see value in that transaction between you.

That's why your read a magnet needs to be quite a tempting thing. It cannot just be something that you've sort of flung together that isn't really of much interest.

What you want is something that tempts in the right kind of reader for you, because then what you've got on your list is a group of people who liked that thing, who liked something about your writing. Because then what you essentially have is a list of warm customers who like to hear from you and you need not fear that you are cold calling them when you contact them, you are in fact telling them something they would like to know.

So, just like if you think about your most favourite author, if they sent you a note and said, my new book is out, you would be very pleased to hear that information.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, so once you've got a reader magnet up and running. The reader magnet, in most cases will be an eBook, because that's the easiest thing to deliver to people free of charge of the author, and that's what makes it economically viable for us authors generally.

Once you've got that reader magnet in place, you've got to drive some traffic there. One of the easiest ways that lots of authors can do it is, if you do a little bit of networking like we've been doing recently at the London Book Fair, you can meet other like-minded authors who all may have, say you've got a hundred email subscribers and somebody else's got a hundred email subscribers, and you both write very similar books that you think both readers will enjoy, you can email your own readers to recommend the other author, and they will do it the same as you. This is not sharing email addresses. You're not giving anyone email addresses, but you are recommending another author if you think their books are good and similar to yours, and they will do the same. Then some of their subscribers will come to you voluntarily, and some of your subscribers will go to them voluntarily in order to get another reader magnet.

But you know, that's not the only method of building a mailing list is it, Melissa?

Melissa Addey: Yep, there are also other ways.

And bear in mind that what we just described there is called a newsletter swap. So, if someone ever says, do you want to do a newsletter swap, they're not going to take over your newsletter. They will share info about you. You will share info about them. That's what they mean when they say that.

So, then there are other things that you can do. So, you can have your own reader magnet and you are building your own mailing list. Especially at the beginning, you may want to take advantage of kind of, professional newsletters, is how I tend to describe them.

In other words, these are organizations who have already set up a very large list. So, we're talking hundreds of thousands of subscribers in different genre categories, and they will mention you in their newsletter. So, you are paying for the privilege of that rather than just swapping with another author, because they have very large lists.

That can help you build your list a lot faster, especially in the early days when you don't have so much of a list yourself. These are ones like Prolific Works, Book Sweeps, Free Booksy, Fussy Librarian, these are some of the ones.

Ask around, ask who's been using what and what they think is good, but these are some of the most common ones that we've enjoyed using.

What you'll get there is you will usually set your book to free or say 99p/99 cents, that kind of thing, and what you'll get there is a big uptick in people downloading your book, reading it, and what you're getting there is hopefully some nice new reviews, which is always good, but also you should get read-through. So, we'll talk about when you've got multiple books, that's a good thing to have.

You'll also get new readers. These are new people discovering you, and it's quite possible that they'll then come over to your website, check you out, and pick up your reader magnet and join your own list.

Dan Parsons: Yeah. So, those are the very basic, ground level ways of building a mailing list.

There's a slightly more advanced one that we're not going to go into the nuts and bolts of today, just because that's an entire course on its own, but some authors do also run paid Facebook ads because, what you're doing then is you are sort of heading into new frontiers. So, rather than getting shared email subscribers essentially that have come from another author or come from one of these professional services, you are going onto Facebook and you are finding average people who are not subscribed to other author's mailing lists and you are showing them, I've got this thing that you can see on Facebook, you can click through the ad on Facebook, and then they will sign up on your mailing list on your website. So, there are authors that do that. That generally long term is a lot more expensive per subscriber, but those subscribers are then not getting lots and lots of newsletters from different authors.

So, generally they're a little bit easier to get interactions and things from, because they're not swamped by lots of authors. So, if that is the route you want to go down, you may pay a little bit more per subscriber, but then you may get more interactions and they'll be more loyal and dedicated to you rather than having been on 30 different email lists from different authors.

It's just a different business model. It doesn't really matter which way you go down; you can be successful with both. It's just good to know that you've got those two options there when you're doing this.

Melissa Addey: Yeah, it's probably best in when you're right at the start to keep your costs as low as possible, because you won't have a lot of books to get the read through from. So, things like Facebook adverts generally work best when you have a run of books that a reader can work their way through. But it's worth bearing those in mind for when you are continuing to build your mailing list, because your mailing list, you will build all the way through from when you are total beginner and onwards forever. Forever and ever, you will be building your mailing list. So, you can just raise the level of what brings traffic into your mailing list as you go along.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, a mailing list, as you can probably imagine from this conversation, isn't something that stays consistent forever. So, you've got people joining your mailing list, and some days your mailing list number will go up and then other days it might come down, depending on if some people have unsubscribed because you've sent out a newsletter and they've decided they no longer want your newsletter. Some people become inactive just because they've burnt out with too many emails, or lots of things happen to people and they don't look at their emails anymore. So, there's lots of things that can go on.

But what you should consider is a way to keep them more engaged for longer and to keep most of those readers around, is to create something called a newsletter sequence or an automation sequence.

What this is, is essentially a run of different emails. So, when people sign up to your main list, they get the first email, which I like to think of as a whitelisting email. So, this is just you telling them, congratulations, you've joined the list, you've got access to news and stuff, would you like to whitelist me just by saying I am not spam? And that's essentially a good way to start and maybe get them to say, all done, as a reply to your email, because that way they will be more likely to see your emails in the future.

How can authors deliver a reader magnet to readers?

Dan Parsons: And after that, literally five minutes later, you can give them the reader magnet. So yeah, that's a way to sort of get them on board. How would you deliver that reader magnet, Melissa?

Melissa Addey: So, the best way, that's most commonly used is a service called Book Funnel. It's such a good service. I've never had trouble with it all the years. They're just so good.

So, essentially Book Funnel will hold the file of your reader magnet, your eBook, it will hold that there and it will just give you a very simple link where your reader can go and collect it. So, when you set up your mailing list, it will say, when this email arrives at the mailing list provider, you are to trigger off this other email I've written, which will go back to them and say, hi, great to have you on board, whitelist me and then it will say, here is the link, pop over to Book Funnel and download your book.

So, that sequence happens automatically without you doing anything about it once it's all set up. And they just go over to Book Funnel and it will say, what format do you want it in, and then it will talk them through how to download it if they've never done that before. So, they take care of all the tech, they take care of anyone who goes, I don't really understand how to do the blah. They take care of that. It's a joy.

Dan Parsons: This process may sound complicated if you're completely new to it, but once you understand the basics, you may have to write it down on a piece of paper just to see it, in like a bubble, and you know what connects to what, but your website connects to your mailing list provider, and your mailing list provider sends out these automated emails, and one of these emails has a link to your reader magnet, which is delivered by Book Funnel.

So, it's pretty simple once you get into it and what it does is, it will save you hours and hours of time every week where you would normally be seeing people join your mailing list and then physically emailing them files, which is horrific and nobody ever wants to do it, and then also having to do tech support when they can't get it onto their Kindle or reading device, and nobody, we wants to do that.

So, this setup will make sure it does it automatically for you so that all you see is new subscribers have joined your mailing list and then you can carry on with your life.

Melissa Addey: Exactly, and the thing is, yes, you will sit there for a couple of days and scratch your head and go, I don't understand, where's the link? What's the something? Have I done it right? You'll run endless test messages. I apologize to my husband for endlessly signing him up to my mailing list and then un-sign him and then re-signing him to see if things have worked. But when you've done all that, like Dan says, you will then hardly ever think about it ever again. It will just automatically, gently carry on doing its thing, signing people up, giving them their lovely reader magnet, and then you can just contact them when you feel like it.

What can I give away as a reader magnet?

Dan Parsons: Now that's the techy bit. The fun, creative bit that you're probably going to be more interested in is, what can I give away as a reader magnet?

A book takes a long time. Not for some people, I know, weirdly, but it does take a long time for me.

Melissa Addey: For you and I it does.

Dan Parsons: So, it may take me six to nine months, some people do it in six to nine days. Those people are insane, but they're very impressive.

Melissa Addey: We take our hats off to the insane people, yeah.

So, it is really depressing when you've written one book to be told, why didn't you give a book away for free? And you just think, you are joking? It's taken me years to do this and get to this point.

However, I got to that point. I had one novel and then I read all this stuff about reader magnets, and I just thought, I'm not giving away a whole book, that's crazy. Also, I only have one book, so that's no good. So, I thought I will write a novella. So, my books are 80 to a hundred thousand words. I wrote a novella that was 30,000 words. So, like a mini novel, and I put that, and I cannot tell you, I thought, first of all, I thought it was just for the mailing list, so I thought, I'm going to put that on, and it will help me build a mailing list, which it has for many years, and I'm very happy with it.

But it also quintupled the sales of the novel. It made such a huge difference. It was massive, and that was the point where I thought, ooh, this self-publishing lark, it might work, because even though it took me probably nine months to write the novella and set up the whole system and everything, it then just really took off and I could see that was going to work.

So, a novella is a fantastic idea. Perhaps a short story anthology. If you are someone who's written a lot of short stories over the years, you might put together little anthology. Some people have things like secret photo albums, or they have case files and maps.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, I think maps are pretty good for fantasy authors, and when it comes to case files, that's more of a thriller, left the army, what did they do in the army that made them a tortured soul sort of thing? It's a little bit of a titbit background information thing that you wouldn't necessarily include in your book, but readers of your book would go, well, why are they drinking heavily at 9:00 AM, and it's not going to come up in the book, but they'll want to know about this previous mission that they were on. And you don't have to write about the entire mission, you can just give little details, and pictures of dog tags and all that type of stuff so that there's an essence of it, which a lot of readers do appreciate.

Melissa Addey: Yeah, and for things like romance. So, Julia Quinn, who wrote the Bridgerton series. She did what she called a little happy ever after for each character. So, at the point where they got married and we've married them off, hooray, she'd then do a little snippet of what that life is like afterwards, and she put all of those together into one book. So again, those are just little snippets that the reader who's invested in those characters really would like to know.

So, if that's an exclusive piece of content on your website only, that can be a really special thing for the reader.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, if it's a paid piece of content and it's not exclusively wrapped up with a retailer then you can also use something that's available in the world for sale, but for free as a reader magnet. It just tends to be the fact that exclusive content that people can only get through your mailing list works better to convert browsers on your website into email subscribers, because if they know they can't pay for it elsewhere, they're going to have to sign up to your mailing list to get it, and when they're binging your content and that's the only thing left, they're going, I've got to get it, that last little bit.

Melissa Addey: They can't bear not having it.

Dan Parsons: Yeah. So, what you've got to think of when you are creating reader magnets is, what are my readers going to want, and what mindset are they going to be in? What part of the reader journey are they go going to be in when they come to my website?

So, you may want to write a short story that comes after your first book or one that comes before, depending on how your story is set up. You may even want to give them the first book in another series if you've got two different series on the go, which no, if you're a beginner, probably not. But this is one of those things that eventually you get to think about.

So, you should really think about your strategy, and then what most people tend to go on to do, authors when they become quite prolific is they'll say, I have a starter library, and this is really good for warming up readers because you can drip feed a few books in the automation sequence where they'll get a little link every single email for a few days or weeks and they get different bits of information and free content pieces, which is quite nice.

Melissa Addey: Also, I should mention for non-fiction, there's a couple of things that work really well. One can be like a chapter from the book, something that you've sort of pulled out of that book, but that could be a little standalone piece. The other thing can be things like workbooks, or something that goes with the main book.

So, that works really well where you go, now that you've bought this, come over to my website and I've got the free thing, the companion item that goes with it, and you can just make something simple and nice yourself. So, you can use something like Canva and just make a lovely little journal that goes with your self-help book, or those sorts of things, and that's the kind of nice extra piece that people like to come over to your website for.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, I quite like the idea that one author just sent us through as a comment, that you can create a reader magnet starring a supporting character that's quite popular in your main series, because obviously people want that bit of a character there.

Often, I find, and I've done exactly the same thing, but the other way around, where they got their own book series, but sometimes that supporting character is great in small doses. So, a novella that you give away is a really good idea.

So yeah, there are lots and lots of ideas and you can get really creative.

As we've said, there are some authors that have done secret photo albums based on locations in their book, and they've visited the area and done all that sort of stuff.

Why should authors segment their mailing list?

What you should also consider is segmenting your list. Now, Melissa, would you like to enlighten us on what that means? Pop quiz.

Melissa Addey: Pop quiz. Boom.

So, segmenting your list is so that you can take, rather than just have this bigger morphos blob of readers, which is good to start with, but you can then divide them down more than that. You can, for example, if you have multiple pen names, you can have multiple lists for those. If you have multiple series, you could have lists for those because now you know which series they started with, and then you can guide them into other series and things like that.

You can segment them by a whole load of different things. You could segment them by location and then you could write to them when there were particular promotions going on in certain places. There's just a whole bunch of different ways of splitting up that bigger audience into different lists so that you can then contact them in a way that is best for them and set up different sequences of information and emails to them that will fit them best.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, just to give a concrete example of that. So, I've got two different areas, even of the same pen name, I just work under two different genres. Some of them are sort of fluffy, nice fantasy books, and in some of them people are getting murdered by zombies. So those two reader types don't necessarily want all of those books.

So, if I've got an update that I want to send out to them about some sort of zombie news, I'll just send it to the zombie people and then the fantasy people get fantasy stuff. If there's something where I've got loads of news, I'll send it to both of them, but at least the content is kept more relevant to them more often, which keeps them engaged.

Because if somebody is reading zombie stuff through me and then they get five newsletters in a row that are all about the fluffy fantasy stuff, they're going to stop reading my emails. So, it's a good way just to keep them engaged long term.

How often should authors send newsletters to their mailing list?

Dan Parsons: Which actually brings us onto the idea of sending regular emails once you've got them onboarded and everyone's warmed up. So, what is your approach, Melissa, and then what are the best practices? I suspect they're exactly the same.

Melissa Addey: I don't think so. I only send a newsletter once a month and that's because, having signed up to quite a lot of authors newsletters, which I recommend by the way. Sign up to lots of authors newsletters, have a little look at what they do. You can always unsubscribe again; they won't be offended. They're not personally monitoring it. I am, but no one else is. Not really, you just sign up and see what they do. See what it's like. See what it's like to be on the other side.

So, I send them once a month because I find anything more than that a bit much, for me, and I think even my most favourite authors, if they were writing to me every week, I think that would get too much for me.

I have had a few readers say, oh, I'm glad you only write once a month. But then again, bear in mind that I write slow. So, there's a limit to how much new material I can send you.

If I was someone who was putting out a book a month, clearly, I think I'd be writing to you a little bit more than one newsletter a month. So, I write once a month, and very early on I decided I had to have a formula because I thought, otherwise, every month I'm going to sit there and think, oh, what should I write? What should I say? What should I something? And in the end, I thought, no, I need a formula so that I'd have to think this through every month.

So, my formula is something nice for the reader. So, this will often be where I'll mention another author. So, I'll go, so and so, that's their reader magnet, or they've got a promotion on, you'd really like their stuff, or it might be, I've got a new audiobook out and I have free codes for it. So, those sorts of things. So, something nice for them.

Something nice about me. So, that's where I'll say, this is what I've been doing behind the scenes. I've been writing, here's a new book cover, here's the actual new book. That's a bit more of a big thing about that. But generally, things that are going on in my writing life.

Then the third thing is something nice from the world around us, because I really hate negative news media. So, I get really annoyed with that, so I put something a bit more positive.

So, that's my formula. That makes it incredibly easy once a month to sit down and go, right, I need a thing for that, a thing for that, and a thing for that. Rather than, every time trying to figure out what I was going to say, that makes life a bit easier.

People love behind the scenes stuff. They love it more than anything. I can't even remember if I showed you this, but I love putting together beautiful book trailers and putting loads of effort into it and all lovely. Then one day I posted that, that's my scruffy bit of stuff on the wall that is my word count, that I cross stuff off, and everybody went berserk and I'm like, what am I doing all the effort for with the other stuff then if they just wanted to see my scruffy little bits of stuff stuck on the wall?

Dan Parsons: Lots of readers are also writers, and if they see your word count of how many words you're writing every day, that's going to be exciting to them because they see a little insight into your process. Even if they're not writers, they just want to know how quickly you can be banging these out and you're not doing it.

Melissa Addey: I know. They're like, how come there's only 4,000 words? What's wrong with you?

So yeah, I just found that really interesting that they do like those sorts of behind-the-scenes things. Now you can choose how much you want to share that's personal to you, or whether you want to share your cats and your kids and your life and your whatever. You can pick whichever bits you want, but people do love behind the scenes.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, what I will say is don't be worried about sharing too much with readers. Obviously, you don't want to share anything dangerous, but readers don't have a TMI button. They're not going to say, I didn't want to know that, because generally these are people that are signed up to your mailing list and they want to know things about you. So, there are lots of authors, and what I mean by this specifically is, authors who are worried about sending email newsletters at all, you can't really oversend, to a certain point.

Because, if it's one or two or maybe three newsletters a month, most people can tolerate that and it's fine, but it just depends on what the content is in those newsletters, that is what you should be careful about because they will accept as much information as you can give them.

Melissa Addey: But the fun thing in the newsletters is you can put you on a research trip, a picture of what you thought the character looked like, sneak peeks of covers, cover reveals. If you've just started writing, here's the first line, this is what's going to open the next book. There's loads of things that you can put in there that are related to what you're writing about.

If you do historical fiction, like I do, I can put up historical artifacts and go, look, this is what the shoes looked like, this is what the jewellery looked like. And all of those things, people really enjoy them.

Dan Parsons: You can even recommend other authors books. Now this is a thing that seems counterintuitive, because if you're new, you may see your newsletter as a sales tool, but you may not always have a book out and the readers still want to read some books, so you can recommend other books in your genre.

Now, this is a slightly advanced tip really, but if you are recommending other books like yours, if nothing else, you're actually training retailer algorithms to associate your readers with the readers of other books that are similar to yours. So, even though you're recommending other people's books, that's going to come round to you because those algorithms on retailers will then promote your books to readers like them.

So, you can't really go wrong with promoting other people's books if they're good.

Melissa Addey: Yep, exactly, and if that sounds like a fancy and techy way of putting it, just remember that, for example, if you get someone to keep reading around the topic that you write in, even if it's someone else's, you are keeping them in that area for when your book comes out. You're not letting them wander off and read some other genre, some other thing. You're keeping them focused and interested in your zone of genius, if you like to call it that.

Dan Parsons: Your zone of genius, great.

In terms of little pro tips, once you've got into this, you've got past the automation sequence and you're sending regular emails, you don't necessarily have to be doing a hard sell. As you said you can just be sharing some information about research and things like that, but it does help if you've got a strong email signature. Now that email signature could be branded. Now, I believe yours is branded, isn't it, Melissa?

Melissa Addey: It is. So, you can set this up in whatever your email provider is. You can just set up, go have a look at the signature bit and see how you can adjust it, because think about every time you send an email. If you email the dentist to go, when's my next appointment, for all you know, the dentist's receptionist is really interested in your genre. Or they can mention it to someone, and they'll be excited that they've got an author on their books and they'll be like, ooh, and then they'll go and explore.

So, what you can have is your name, you can have in their images of the books themselves, you can have a link through to your website, you can have a link through to whichever site is selling the books. Make it really easy for someone to just explore your books, because you don't know who's seeing that email.

Dan Parsons: No. I've got the reading order for my books at the bottom of my newsletters. So, I may be telling them about some strange obscure plant that mind controls ants in the rainforest, because that is a genuine inspiration for zombie stuff, but then in the bottom of the newsletter, I've just got, these are all of the books that you'd be interested in under this genre umbrella, and they go, ooh, I didn't know you'd done that one, I'll go in and read that.

And I haven't even asked them to do it, it's just that there's a link at the bottom with the name of the book and they go and check it out. So, that can sometimes help quite a lot. So, you don't have to do a hard sell every time.

What Mailing List Resources Does ALLi Have for Indie Authors?

Now, I think that concludes everything, unless you have some extra ninja tips. Otherwise, we're going to be going on to our further resources which you have that you can recommend for this month's extra reading?

Melissa Addey: I do. So again, referring to my special sheet, so I get things right.

So first of all, we did talk about how much you're going to share and how personal things are and that kind of thing, and it's lovely to share and you can choose the level that is right for you. However, we also would like you to take into account author safety. So, there's a little leaflet at selfpublishingadvice.org/bookshop/authorsafety.

You can also find it on our campaigns page so, allianceindependentauthors.org/campaigns.

You will find in every single campaign's page, the Author Safety leaflet. It's just a little leaflet, it just reminds you of a few author safety titbits, if you like. There's just five steps and we really recommend that all authors do them. They're very simple, they're very easy, and we just think it's important to protect your own personal life. There is a line that we don't want people to cross. So, that's that one.

Choosing the Best self-publishing Services. So, because you'll be going out there trying to find the right services, for example which mailing list provider and that kind of thing. So, John Doppler's book is at selfpublishingadvice.org/choosebestservices, and the Ultimate Guide to Mailing Lists for Indie Authors, this was a blog post at https://selfpublishingadvice.org/email-marketing-for-authors-part-1/

So again, yes, you will spend a few days cursing over the exact links or getting it exactly right and being sure that it works, but I guarantee once you've set it up, you will probably very rarely think about it again and it will just gently keep bringing in the new readers and building up your mailing list, which is a really important marketing thing for always.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, and if anybody mentions it in the future, if you are at a talk with another author and they mention things, you will instantly understand how it works because you've done it once and it just sticks with you. It's a bit like riding a bike, creating a mail list, it's that sort of thing where once you've done it, you're over the hill and you can just carry on writing books.

Now I think that brings us to the end of today's episode.

Next month, on the first Tuesday, I believe, we will be discussing writing a series, which, as beginner authors, you will all be very interested to listen about because it doesn't have to be all on the tech side. We like to talk about tech because we're quite into the world of author business things. But generally, it is all about the writing, and people who write in long series generally tend to make a career out of authorship, or they tend to be more likely to make a career out of authorship.

Melissa Addey: We'll have some good stats on that next time.

Essentially, we will be looking at, at some point, we've done a lot of how to do your marketing foundations, and now we would like you to stop marketing for a bit-ish and write some more books. So, we're going to go through different ways in which you can get those books going out there.

So that will be a really cool thing, but also because we planned a whole year's worth of these sessions and in August/September, they will come to an end. So, from now on every month we're going to ask you, after we've gone through this sequence, what other topics would beginners like from us so that we can plan next year's podcast for you.

So, any ideas, we are very happy to hear from you.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, absolutely, and you can tweet us or message us in whatever social media capacity you feel is right and we are there. So, on Twitter, I am, @DKParsonsWriter. Do you know yours off the top of your head, Melissa?

Melissa Addey: I think it's just @melissaaddey.

You could also write to me at [email protected].

Dan Parsons: Okay. Yeah. So yeah, we'll both be contactable, and we will be going forward with suggestions. So, it is yet another great month of publishing from us, and we're looking forward to more in the future. So, you will see us again next month.

Bye everyone.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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