skip to Main Content
Five Reasons Authors Need An Email List: Reaching More Readers Podcast With Dale L. Roberts And Holly Greenland

Five Reasons Authors Need an Email List: Reaching More Readers Podcast with Dale L. Roberts and Holly Greenland

In the Reaching More Readers podcast, Dale L. Roberts and Holly Greenland discuss five compelling reasons why authors should maintain an email list. They address the common perception that email marketing is crucial for an author's business despite some authors' reluctance to embrace it. The hesitations often stem from concerns about time and effort, technical challenges, fear of spamming, and a lack of understanding or concern over costs. However, Dale and Holly argue that email marketing does not demand excessive time, expertise, or financial investment. With a plethora of online tutorials and free email marketing services available, the primary barrier for many is simply inexperience—a starting point for everyone.

Find more author advice, tips, and tools at our self-publishing advice center. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. Thoughts or further questions on this post or any self-publishing issue? If you’re an ALLi member, head over to the SelfPubConnect forum for support from our experienced community of indie authors, advisors, and team. Simply create an account (if you haven’t already) to request to join the forum and get going. Non-members looking for more information can search our extensive archive of blog posts and podcast episodes packed with tips and advice at ALLi's Self-Publishing Advice Center.

Now, go write and publish!

Listen to the Podcast: Five Reasons Authors Need an Email List

In the Reaching More Readers podcast, @selfpubwithdale and Holly Greenland discuss five compelling reasons why authors should maintain an email list. Click To Tweet

Don't Miss an #AskALLi Broadcast

Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify or via our RSS feed:

Subscribe on iTunes   Stitcher Podcast Logo for link to ALLi podcast   Player.fm for podcasts   Overcast.fm logo   Pocket Casts Logo  

About the Hosts

Dale L. Roberts is a self-publishing advocate, award-winning author, and video content creator. Dale’s inherent passion for life fuels his self-publishing advocacy both in print and online. After publishing over 50 titles and becoming an international bestselling author on Amazon, Dale started his YouTube channel, Self-Publishing with Dale. Selected by Feedspot and LA Weekly as one of the best sources in self-publishing of 2022, Dale cemented his position as the indie-author community's go-to authority. You can find Dale on his website or YouTube

Holly Greenland is a self-published author, content writer and strategic communications consultant. She has worked in marketing and communications for nearly twenty years, including at the BBC, UK Parliament, and award-winning agency Social & Local. Holly is currently completing a Publishing PhD with Kingston University in London, investigating the factors that increase the likelihood of indie author success. Find out more about Holly's writing on her website or connect on LinkedIn.

Read the Transcripts to the Podcast: Five Reasons Authors Need an Email List

Dale L. Roberts: It's time for another monthly round of Reaching More Readers here in the Alliance of Independent Authors. I'm Dale, of course, joined here by my co-host, Holly Greenland. Holly, I'm really excited about talking about five reasons authors need an email list, but let's explore a little bit more here.

We've heard it time and again how email marketing is important to an author's business, but some authors avoid it at all costs. The reasons include time and effort, technical challenges, fear of being spammy, lack of understanding or sometimes cost.

However, email marketing doesn't require a ton of time. It doesn't require a lot of experience or even any cost up front. With countless tutorials online covering email marketing and free email marketing services, the only thing in your way is the lack of experience. And hey, everyone has to start with no experience at some point. Am I right, Holly?

Holly Greenland: You're right, and today I think we have got five solid reasons that everyone needs a good email list for much more than just sending out the odd sad little newsletter. There are loads of things you can do, honestly, there are.

I'm going to kick off, I think, this time around. Number one, and let's just start with basics.

So, your email list, the really important thing about your email list, what it’s about nurturing your relationship with your readers. One of the best things I think really about being an indie author over that kind of traditional publishing author relationship with your reader is that you have the opportunity to really build an ongoing relationship with your readers.

For a lot of our authors, we know that they spend a lot of time actually thinking about that reader relationship, and quite often have a very targeted niche group of readers who they want to engage with on an ongoing basis, particularly if they've got a series or a niche specialism that they're going to want to return to time and time again, and your email list is going to be really important for building that relationship, that really connected relationship, with your readership so they come back to you time and time again.

And your email list is going to be really important because that's an opportunity to go back to that group whenever you want to, whether that's going to be on a monthly basis, weekly basis, every couple of days, and there's lots of things you can send out to them, not just what used to be that old school newsletter of sort of four ideas with a subheading.

What sort of things do you think you can send out? You're a kind of email list newsletter kind of guru, I would say.

Dale L. Roberts: I don't know about guru, but it's something I do look forward to and enjoy. And there was one point or another that I absolutely just detested it because I wasn't very good at it. But I think the most important thing when I'm putting out my emails is I think about what my reader would look forward to opening.

Now. It's going to be really tough a good friend of mine, Thomas Bradley, he's a horror novelist and he always gets stumped. He's like, I don't know what to email them. I'm like, pretend like you and I are having a conversation about horror novels or about horror books, what's going to be something that's going to grab my attention. Maybe how you developed your characters, or your favourite books that you're reading, or maybe your inspiration, or maybe your motivation, or maybe even your writing processes.

Sometimes it's just a case of figuring out what that reader is going to want and here's the best part Holly, just ask. That's the beauty of email marketing. You can literally send out an APB, an all-post bulletin, to all of your email subscribers saying, I don't know what you guys want, so could you tell me? You can provide them with a poll, or you can even tell them to reply to your email.

Then when you get that in your email inbox, nurture that, respond to it. Don't just let it sit in your inbox for weeks at a time before you're like, hey thanks, that was really great. No, get on top of it right away. When I get an email from somebody who's responded to one of my emails through the marketing collateral of some sort, I am all over it. I'm on top of that because that right there is building that relationship. It's getting it to where we have a better connection so the next time, I send out an email, they're very likely to open it because one, I already know what they want and two, I've already responded and interacted with them in some capacity, so they feel a lot more invested in the emails that I'm sending out.

Does that make sense, Holly?

Holly Greenland: Yeah. So, when your newsletter goes out, I think that's the thing sometimes, people think of them as these kinds of passive things, the newsletter goes out and then that's job done. But actually, people need to be able to respond, come back in some way, and maybe people also are concerned that they're going to get a million responses. Presumably most people do not actually, they're not going to respond. You're not going to get a million responses. You will get a few, and actually those people need to then feel heard because if you're going to put in the time to get in touch with them and they put in the time to read your work, you need to engage with them.

Particularly if you're going to be asking for things. Newsletters are a great way to get reviews, to get beta readers, to get advanced copy readers. If you're asking things of them, they're going to want to ask things of you.

When people come back to you, do you respond to all of those responses you've had? Does that make sense? Are you going back to everybody that comes back to you?

Dale L. Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, and unless you're Stephen King, I highly doubt you're going to be getting tens of thousands of emails coming back to you. If you're getting half a dozen to a dozen at a time, great. Cherish it. Love it. Embrace it. Take a little bit of time out of your day, even if it's five minutes to get a response together. It could probably be thanks. I really appreciate your insights; this really made my day. Just something as simple as that can make a huge difference in your reader's lives and feel a little bit more connected.

I feel this is a perfect segue over into point number two, and it might seem rather redundant, but we're still going to go ahead and double down on this point. Direct Connection. This is why you're going to be doing email newsletter, and there's so many ways that we can do this, but here's what you guys need to understand. Yeah, you could build your readership on social media, but guess what you've got to account for? Algorithms.

So, for instance, I've got a Facebook group of over 5,500 members, but I post something in there, sometimes it's crickets. It's not that they don't want to see my posts, it's the fact that Facebook is not serving it up.

Guess what I don't need to mess with when I'm doing my email marketing? I don't need to worry about search engine algorithms.

Yeah, I need to worry about probably landing in their inbox, but that all comes down to crafting a good email newsletter and making sure some best practices are in place.

Some of the reasons that you want to go with a direct connection also is, I think one of Orna's favourite things, is direct sales. We actually had an interview not too long ago, and she was like, Dale might not be bullish on direct sales, but I am. So, direct sales is where you can remove the middleman from the equation. You can remove the things like social media, but you could also remove things like Amazon or any other distribution company like IngramSpark or Draft2Digital, all those, you can remove that middleman and get it to where your readers are buying directly from you.

There were three other options that we already touched on, but I think it's so important to remember that, as you start to scale and grow your email newsletter, chances are very likely, these subscribers are readers who are also reading your books, but they might not be leaving reviews.

So, there is a great opportunity to set up something in your automation that says to them, hey, did you read my first book? What were your thoughts? Here's a blurb from one of my latest reviews, and it could probably be a good review, could be a bad review, be like, what do you think about it? And while you're thinking about this, could you do me a favour and leave a review of this at X, Y, Z? Could probably be Amazon, could be Goodreads, it could be Apple, any number of those.

Holly Greenland: Oh, that's a great idea. So, you don't just say, remember to leave a review, you say, here's a review, have you left one?

I quite like the idea of putting down a bad one, because that probably would motivate me, because these are your fans. So, actually seeing a bad one is going to make you think, okay, I need to counteract that.

Dale L. Roberts: Yeah, it's a knee jerk reaction because I don't ever want to see someone beating down one of my favourite authors. If I see someone like, oh my gosh, one star on that book, that was great.

Here's the other thing too, and I know this probably needs to be saved for an episode on reviews and ratings, but worst case scenario, you can always put like in your postscript at the very bottom below your signature, you can always say, Hey, I totally get it, if you don't have the time to leave a review, could you just go over onto the platform and leave a rating? Anywhere from one to five stars, it would mean the world to me. That will take you just two seconds.

Provide them the link. They'll go over and they'll go ahead and leave that there for you.

So, there's so much you could do within that email newsletter, and again, it's all about that relationship building. It's about that engagement and also getting that direct connection with your reader. I know these first two points seem rather redundant, but we want to drive this point home that it is about connecting with your readers, and it makes such a huge difference.

You can build a huge, advanced reader copy team from your email list. You can get beta readers that can go and read your book before it even gets over to your ARC readers. There are so many ways that you can leverage this connection with your audience that the sky's the limit.

And again, it doesn't matter if you have 8 subscribers or you have 80,000 subscribers, this makes a huge difference in your world as an author.

Holly Greenland: Yeah, and it goes without saying that of course you're going to put in little titbits of what you're working on and all of those nice little bits within your newsletter that gives them those kind of special behind the scenes bits, along with all of the bits that you need from them that kind of gives them the salesy bit, but there's also things that you can, along with the bits you're giving out to them, you don't want to forget the bits you can get back.

I guess that leads on to the next point, which is there's some market research opportunities, right, for your marketing? Which is stuff that's maybe obvious to them. Like for example, putting in polls and things like that, asking some kind of direct questions.

So, say you're thinking about where they're maybe seeing some of your ads or what kind of ways you might want to describe your new book, what's going to work, what covers you're thinking about doing.

You can actually ask directly your audience and get some really important feedback through your mailing list, which can be really useful for your marketing planning.

But you can also look at some of that back-end data from your mailing list to help you with some of your planning, which can be really useful, gathering insights on preferences and on demographics, depending on what kind of mail mailing list setup that you've got, and that can help with other planning as well.

So, thinking about how you can use your mailing list in different ways for other parts of your marketing planning can be really useful. Any tips on that from you, Dale?

Dale L. Roberts: Yeah, if you've got a good email marketing service, which most of them come built with it, they will give you everything from the region that they're coming from to sometimes age, demographic, all that type of stuff. Sometimes it goes really granular.

But in the same instance, you can still take that list. Let's say you look at that data and go, I don't know what the heck this is. If you happen to be running any type of ads on Facebook or Google, there's something that's called lookalike, where you can build campaigns based off email list that will have some specific people that they're serving ads to that share the same traits as those folks that are on your email list.

So, it's a great way to really dive deeper into your niche, and get it to where you're serving your ad out to that specific audience. That's another conversation for another day, but just all that to say this, that just from a very basic standpoint, you can be able to see in your backend, who am I communicating with and what is going to be the best thing for me to communicate to them, and how, of course.

As we talk about market research, let's look in the other end of things. So, point number four would be networking. Now, this sounds crazy, a lot of people are like, oh my gosh, here we go, he's going to talk about networking. This means I can't be an introvert anymore.

It's okay. I am an introvert myself. I'm not the biggest fan of having to get out there and meet new people, but I do know it makes a huge difference in my business, and you don't even need to leave the comforts of your home in order to network.

Here are a couple of the ways that you can collaborate with authors, and that would be newsletter swaps and group promos. Are you familiar with those two options, Holly?

Holly Greenland: I've heard them. I have to say, I haven't done a lot of them. Tell me more.

Dale L. Roberts: Great. This is perfect. She set me up just perfectly on this one here. So, newsletter swaps. Let's start the very basic thing here. Now, it was so funny, I heard this phrase originally tossed to me by Evan Gao of Story Origin. Now, Evan, really good friend of mine, love the guy to death, and when he said newsletter swaps, at first, I got a bad connotation of it.

I was like, swaps? Wait, does he mean like review swaps, which review swaps are not good. All right.

Newsletter swaps are actually good. You're not giving people your email list. What you're doing is you're showcasing one author's book, or whatever they're trying to promote, on your newsletter. In exchange, they're sharing something of yours.

So, it could probably be a sale on a book. It could probably be, you're looking for advanced reader copy team. It could be, I don't know, getting more reviews. Any number of those things, you can work with other authors.

Now, I would recommend that if you do any type of author collaborations, of course, it goes without saying, work with other authors within your niche.

So, for instance, I don't think it would make very much sense that Holly and I would be doing newsletter swaps. Me being a non-fiction author and you're doing the mystery, correct?

Holly Greenland: Yeah, probably wouldn't be a great swap.

Dale L. Roberts: Yeah, your subscribers would be scratching their head going, what the heck is going on here?

So, it's getting to where you understand it, and newsletter swaps can work in any variety of ways. It could be for a book launch; it could be for a price promo. It could probably just be because. You might like another author and say, oh, I really like this book. I want to share it with them. Hey, would you mind sharing mine on yours? And they'd be happy to do it.

Now, you want to take newsletter swaps and just pour jet fuel on top of that buyer, that's group promos. So, this is where you get a collection of like authors, similar authors, to work together in a price promotion of some sort. What everybody does is they create broadcast this out to all the email subscribers about this deal, and it sends them over to this group promo page of some sort.

Now, there are a lot of services, I already mentioned one of them before, StoryOrigin. Book Funnel's another one.

Do your due diligence, see which ones make the most sense, but you don't have to necessarily always need to have a third-party service like a StoryOrigin or a Book Funnel to do a newsletter swap or group promo. Sometimes, it's getting together with other authors that you know and trust, and you won't need to actually have to put together all of this stuff through a third-party service.

So, be very diligent about who you're working with. Just because someone's inside your genre doesn't necessarily mean they're going to mesh with your readers. So, make sure that you at least give a good skim through someone's books or read an entire book, so it makes sense to work with them in a capacity of a newsletter swap or a group promo.

Love talking about that, and I'm sure we can probably spend an entire episode doing newsletter swaps and group promos alone. They're super exciting, and they can really net a pretty good positive return.

Holly Greenland: Yeah, that makes total sense because actually once that group, say you've swapped and I guess they start on your first book, you've potentially captured them for your next series and then got them on your newsletter list. You've captured a whole new audience there. So, that sounds like a great idea.

Shall we move on to, I think we're up to point five. Is this the final point?

Okay, final point.

So, it's not the most exciting point, but probably one of the most important, is that once you've got that mailing list, you've got the details of that key fan base. These are the guys who are going to be coming back time and time again for your books, is that essentially, you've got an insurance policy there. So, if there is an issue down the way, a de-platforming, or you just choose to take your books off maybe one of the key platforms, for whatever reason that might be, or something goes down, you have an issue with one of the platforms where you've been selling, and you've decided to go onto your own website. You are still able to contact that key group of people that you have been selling to, because you're able to reach them through your mailing list.

It's just really important as an insurance policy. You can transition them over onto your direct sales platform. Just a really important point, I think, about having those details, which is where your newsletter list, your mailing list comes in.

I don't know if that's something that comes up, Dale, with people that you know, or whether you've heard any kind of horror stories, about people who have needed to use that insurance policy at all?

Dale L. Roberts: I've had far too many to count, but I do recall somebody who was a peer in my industry and the YouTube business. This guy was crushing it with a romance publishing brand, and all he was publishing at that time was eBooks because his mentor told him, romance print books don't sell. Audiobooks don't do well, which I was like, that person is absolutely insane, but okay, we'll just run with that idea. This person kept publishing eBooks, didn't do a website, didn't do an email newsletter.

When the hammer came down, for whatever reason, he did not know, Amazon KDP kicked him off the platform. They just said, look, you violated our guidelines, you're out of here. He tried to get his account back in so many ways and they just pretty much were like, no, you're not coming back, guy. So, he was left out in the cold. There was no way for him to communicate with that rabid reader base that he'd built through Amazon's platform.

He could have saved himself so much time and heartache if he would have just done a small call to action at the beginning of his book, or even at the end of this book, to subscribe to his email newsletter. It's super simple.

I know we say sometimes, you have to have a lead magnet, or you have to have a reader magnet in order to entice. No, sometimes readers like what you're doing, and they don't need to be enticed. You could probably say something as simple as, hey, if you've enjoyed this book and you'd like to actually have advanced access to content like this, deals and discounts, join my email newsletter. By the way, don't call it an email list, nobody wants to be on a list. Last time I was on someone's list, it was my mom, and it was never really ever good. She was usually shouting at me and shaking a wooden spoon at me. You don't want to say anything other than email newsletter, or you can find something fancy, could probably be, I don't know, the VIP readers club or something, find something fancy.

But yeah, it's an insurance policy, and this gentleman who lost, he was pulling in upwards of six figures per month, six figures per month on just eBooks alone. It was absolutely ludicrous and insane, and my heart went out to him. I believe he actually just quit the business. He was done. He was burnt out. He was like, screw this, and I'm sure he probably made up enough money that he probably was able to coast by until he found something else, but that insurance policy should not be taken lightly.

Put something in place. Again, even if you have anywhere from 8 to 8,000 subscribers, it's better than having none whatsoever, because if you have to start from scratch elsewhere, oh, it's enough to make you want to quit the business, and I'd hate that to happen to anybody that's listening to this podcast at all, because it's heart-breaking.

It's mind blowing. So, take those extra steps, folks, it makes a huge difference.

But we shared these five tips. Are there any last-minute suggestions or tips that you have, Holly?

Holly Greenland: No, I think you make a good point at the end, don't make it too difficult for yourself.

If you are feeling nervous about it, make it simple. If you want to hear about the next book coming out, and you want to keep in touch, don't start to think, oh my God, I need to have a free novella, I need to have set up an entire system.

Start small, know that it's going to grow slowly, and don't make it too difficult for yourself.

It's like with everything, don't scare yourself into never starting. Get going and see how it goes, and you can always develop as you move along. But once you get going, you're on your way, and as you say, think about it as insurance policy to begin with, and then get going.

Be positive.

Dale L. Roberts: That's it. That's the ticket here, folks.

As we start to wrap up the Reaching More Readers podcast segment here for the Alliance of Independent Authors, it just tickles us to death that you've taken a little bit of time out your day to spend some time with us. Holly, we're always open to ideas and suggestions as far as the content we should cover. What's the best way for people to send some recommendations to us for future podcasts?

Holly Greenland: Probably to email me directly. So, what I will do, is rather than spell it out on here, because it's late in the day as we are speaking across continents, I will put my email into the show notes and people can drop me an email directly with any questions, any ideas, anything they want us to talk about, and we can answer on the next show.

The next one's coming up. We speak every month about anything to do with marketing, fiction, nonfiction and yeah, we will answer your questions.

Dale L. Roberts: Yes. Thank you so much, everybody, for tuning in. I'm Dale, and on behalf of Holly, thank you so much for tuning in.

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/


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Back To Top
×Close search