Mailing lists and self-publishing

Credit: the blowup photography journal by Narain Jashanmal on Unsplash

Mailing lists matter. I’ve spent a lot of time researching self-publishing recently. And everyone I speak to, hear from or read, agrees your mailing list is one of – if not the – most important marketing tool.

People are beginning to subscribe to my email, so I’ve spent some time looking for the right email marketing tool. Ultimately, it should help the self-published author (that’s me!) sell books.

From what I understand, mailing lists are the best way to communicate with your readers. And although it may take a while to build one, it will be worth it. So, I thought I’d start now.

Learning about self-publishing

If you want to know where I’m getting my information, at the moment I have two main sources.

First, I went to a fantastic free webinar hosted jointly by Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). It was mostly about self-publishing in the US. But the hosts – Michael La Ronn and Christopher Locke – were so accommodating, they talked about how things work in other parts of the world too.

The webinar was very thorough and extremely valuable, so I’d recommend signing up for any others they may be running.

Secondly, there’s this brilliant self-publishing guru called David Gaughran. The guy is an absolute legend. He’s self-published loads of books and gives away free e-books and resources about doing it. The advice is really thorough and takes you through each step. That gets you thinking about your plan.

To be honest, if you’re reading this blog because you’re interested in self-publishing, you should definitely be looking at his.

Anyway, one of the key things I’ve learnt about mailing lists, is this is a quality not quantity thing. Everyone agrees the aim is to engage potential readers rather than play a numbers game.

They also all pointed out you have to use an approved service. Don’t just send things out from your email. This makes complete sense, especially because of GDPR etc. But there’s a tonne of these services out there, so how do you pick the right one?

Email marketing tools

I was already familiar with MailChimp and have always liked it, so would probably have just gone with it if I hadn’t had guidance.

As usual, my first step was to google! Whose isn’t? When I typed in Mailchimp, the predictive text offered a search term about comparing it with Mailerlite. So I went with the flow and I found a blog comparing Mailchimp and Mailerlite on Hubspot. (I’m a big fan of Hubspot.)

Both offer free packages, but comparing them makes you think harder about exactly what you want to do with your emails. Are you going to want access to reports so you can see how subscribers are receiving your emails, whether they’re opening them then coming to your website?

Are you going to need lots of fancy templates, or can you make do with just the one basic thing? That might depend on what you’re self-publishing.

So then I went to the pricing pages for both Mailchimp and Mailerlite and it got even more exciting. I had both open in different tabs and if one had something I liked, I checked the other to see if it offered the same tool or service.

Growing mailing lists

The self-publishing gurus all recommend offering giveaways to entice people to subscribe. And that’s inspired me!

I’ve been reading about formatting for an e-book too so I thought, why not try it out with a Hallowe’en themed short story. The one I have in mind was long-listed in the Rubery short story competition many (many) years ago and is perfect for Hallowe’en.

But that does mean I’ve set myself a deadline. I have to format for epublication and make it available to download on my website by Hallowe’en. It’s a bit of a challenge. But – thanks to all the free selfpublishing resources and support from independent authors around the world – I might just manage it.

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