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  Frequently Asked Questions

Before we begin I thought I'd address some common questions and challenges authors have about email list building or email marketing - here are some questions we raised in my private Facebook community.

Later videos will answer these in greater detail but this quick round of Q/A will make sure we're all on the same page. (You can skip the video and read the answers below, or dig straight into the course which covers these topics in much greater detail).

1. How to organize/analyze/clean up your list?

I split my lists between a general list of targeted readers (people I know are interested in my subject or genre) and a "real fans" list of people who signed up after having read my writing. Every few months you want to re-engage or cull your list (I usually choose those who haven't clicked anything in the last ten emails, because "opens" can be problematic but clicks are pretty clear).

2. Any advice on researching email addresses for Influencers?

I wouldn't focus on infuencers - unless you're reaching out to guestpost on their website for extra traffic. Asking influencers to share your content won't work (you should be providing value and doing favors FOR influencers, to build relationships). Don't count on others to help you; build your own platform to help others. Become an influencer yourself.

*That said, I follow influencers on Facebook or Twitter, say nice things, like and share their content, and build content that features them - they're much more likely to share that than anything else.*

But mostly, don't worry about "influencers". Focus on that one reader who loved your books and amplify their voice.

3. How to start building your subscriber list before you publish.

I did this with book giveaways; you could also do it with a permafree book or sample - even the first few chapters of the book you're working on. OR you can pull reviewer info from people who reviewed similar books.

4. How to engage your subscribers.

So many things! But mostly, tell interesting stories about things they're interested in. Don't treat them like a customer, treat them like a best friend, a privileged insider, and whisper secrets into their ear while listening to their darkest fears.

5. Getting higher open rates and avoiding spam complaints.

Spam complaints happen when someone signs up to your list but forgets why (or doesn't even know who you are). That happens if you're doing joint author promos and sharing a list between authors (which you shouldn't do) or if the reader is downloading hundreds of free books and doesn't want all the authors emailing them.

You can overcome this by making each email a delightful gift, something you created to share joy with your readers, building trust early on, and telling stories that capture the imagination. Don't focus on small, boring stuff. Don't do small talk. Pick up your sword and lead them on an adventure.

6. How to engage people who are just not opening the emails.

Assuming you have a LONG email autoresponder (I recommend 24 emails over 3 months) if they're not opening anything, maybe it's an email they never use. Or maybe you aren't saying anything that catches their interest (that's on you - work harder!).

But every few months, gather together your unengaged subscribers and send them a re-engagement campaign (the "break up" email). Something like

  • "Am I boring you?"
  • "Poke poke - still alive?"
  • "Is anyone out there?"
  • "Are you lazy or am I just boring?"
  • "Seriously, are you OK?"
  • "You've been unsubscribed."

You don't want to be a jerk, but you do want to get their attention - then just say you don't want to keep sending emails if they aren't interested, so they can unsubscribe themselves or you can unsubscribe them (or, give them another choice to pull them back in - another free book, gift, giveaway, something).


7. How to sell your backlist.

You can put a row of book covers in your email footers; I also think having a specific story question lead-in to each first book in a series is a good idea. Introduce the book through a crazy or surprising personal anecdote, with a great subject line.

8. Which email newsletter provider offers the best deal.

These three, in this order. MailerLite is cheaper and has some excellent features (like landing pages and optin forms). Mailchimp is free to get started up to 2k subscribers, but it'll cost you more later. ConvertKit is the most powerful, but probably more than you need.

  1. MailerLite
  2. MailChimp
  3. ConvertKit

9. How to keep costs down.

The better question is how to keep revenue UP - by thinking of other things your audience needs or wants that you can share with them for some affiliate income (other favorite books, cool toys for readers of that genre, etc). This can also be a fun way to establish your brand "You'll never believe what I just found on Amazon..." or "These are a few of my favorite things."

Your email list will help you sell, but you'll be limited by how many products you have, how well they satisfy market demand, and how much you can charge for them. Selling books only, it can be difficult to make money until you have a large backlist (5 or 10 books). But there are other ways to make money from your list besides your own books. Also the value in a list is much more than the revenue you're generating. A large list has inherent benefits, like being able to cross-promote with other authors in your genre.

10. How to weed out freebie seekers from potential buyers

I love freebie seekers, and everybody is a potential buyer. The trick is getting freebie seekers to start reading your writing, learn enough about you to love you, and encourage them to get active by building a fun community. I give away most of my books to most of my list, for reviews and visibility. But there are still lots of readers on my list who are happy to pay (once you have a big list, just launch at full price, then do a 99cent deal a month later, and a freebie deal a month after that. Your true fans who want the book will pay rather than waiting)

11. How often should you email / blog?

Get three excellent articles up asap so you can include them in your autoresponder sequence. Then write one or two a month. Focus on keywords and topics your readers are actively searching for. Feature other authors so they share and link back to you. The more links you get on a piece of content, the better it will rank.

After that, send an email once or twice a week for 12 weeks; pause your autoresponder when you have a new launch and are going to send a flurry of news

When you do launch, tell them it's coming, give away excerpts, share the amazing cover art and early reviews, tell them it's for sale and encourage purchases with a bonus like an extra book for free if they buy it at full price.