Nowadays, some traditional publishers won’t even consider signing an author who has less than 10,000 email subscribers. Even indie authors see a big jump in sales after they build an email subscriber base.
Over the last ten years in publishing, nothing has consistently performed as well as email when it comes to selling books and connecting with readers. This is true for indie, traditional, fiction, and nonfiction authors.
Do you want more email subscribers?
Learn how to use these amazing tools that will help you grow your email subscriber list.
In previous podcasts and blog posts we’ve addressed various techniques to help grow your list:
But today you’ll learn about tools you can use in addition to techniques.
Tool #1: BookFunnel.com
Cost: $20-$250 a year
Many authors, especially novelists, offer a free short story in exchange for a reader’s email address. We’ve called it a “lead magnet” or a “reader magnet,” and most often it’s offered as a PDF file.
But the problem is that readers don’t want to read a PDF file on their laptops. They prefer to read on their e-reading devices like Kindle, Kobo, and Nook.
Book Funnel solves this problem by making it easy for readers to get your ebook in the proper file format for their device without the technical delivery nightmares for you.
But how does that grow your email list?
BookFunnel makes it super easy for readers “buy” your short story (or reader magnet) with their email address. The easier it is for readers to read on the devices they prefer, the more they will love you.
Offering your reader magnet through BookFunnel is one of the most effective ways of growing an email list, especially for novelists. Nonfiction authors can offer tip-sheets and guides, but BookFunnel works best for novelists who give away short stories and full length ebooks.
Tips for using BookFunnel
- Write the very best short story you can. Learn how to write a great short story by listening to Episode 137: How to Write Short Stories that People Will Love.
- Get a professional cover design for your reader magnet. The better the cover, the more subscribers you will get.
- Have your short story professionally edited. To learn about working with an editor, listen to Episode 133: How to Find and Work with an Editor with Karen Ball
Tool #2: BookSweeps.com
Ryan Zee hosts book promos for authors at booksweeps.com. Your short story or free ebook is listed in their directory, and readers can sign up for your email newsletter in order to receive your short story.
Book Sweeps (Affiliate Link) also promotes reader magnets to their email list of over 100,000 readers.
Authors who use BookSweeps tend to get 400-800 new signups within a month. On a recent coaching call, one author told me she went from 0 to 1100 subscribers with a single BookSweeps promotion.
You can learn more about BookSweeps in Episode 177: How to Grow Your Email List With Ryan Zee.
Tip #1: Register Your Pen Name
Authors can add a pen name to the site featuring their bio, website, and social media information. Readers can find authors by searching the Pen Name Directory or relevant genre pages across the site.
Tip #2: Add a Reader Magnet
Authors can add a reader magnet to the site for free as a means of passively growing their email list. Readers can find your short stories and reader magnets in BookSweeps’s evergreen Reader Magnet Directory.
Tip #3: Share Your Own Giveaways
As a registered author, you can list your own giveaways on the website for readers to find in the Giveaway Directory and across the site.
Tip #4: Join a Giveaway
Grow your email list or BookBub following by joining a promotion and offering two copies of your book. In a ten-day promotion, authors have added hundreds of people to their emails lists and BookBub followings.
Pro Tip: It will cost you to join giveaways, but when you sign up with BookSweeps, use coupon code “AUTHORMEDIA” to save 10%.
Tool #3: StoryOriginApp.com
Story Origin is a hybrid of BookFunnel and BookSweeps with a few extra features thrown in.
- Delivers lead magnets to reader devices like BookFunnel.
- Hosts group promos like BookSweeps.
- Connects authors with other similar authors who want to do a newsletter swap.
In a newsletter swap, you tell your email subscribers about another author’s book, and that author tells their email list about your book. You’re not truly swapping your readers’ email addresses (You promised not to do that). You’re simply emailing your fans to tell them about about a book in your genre by a different author. Since your fans like your writing and trust you, they’ll be eager to read a book you recommend.
Story Origin acts as the matchmaker for authors in the same genre. They also make sure both authors fulfill all parts of the newsletter-swap agreement so no one is left high and dry.
Since Story Origin is free (for now), there is no risk in trying it. To learn more listen to my interview with Evan Gow, the CEO of Story Origin, here.
PRO TIP: Evan Gow has a free comprehensive Email Marketing Guide you can find here.
Tool #4 WordPress.org
Cost: $5-$10 a month
Every author needs a website is to help grow their email list. The remaining five tools in this article either require WordPress.org or work best on WordPress.org.
There is a reason more websites run on WordPress than on any other platform. WordPress has been the most popular platform for authors for 15 years. They don’t advertise, because they don’t have to. Their platform works, and it’s the best.
During the Book Launch Blueprint course, many authors asked, “When should I start my website?” The answer is, “Right now.” There is no reason to wait to build your website. The older your website is, the more likely it is to rank with search engines like Google and Bing.
Traditional publishers are looking for authors with good-looking, well-established websites. If you’re an indie author, your readers are looking for the same thing.
Having an author website is so important that I’ve created a new course and recorded next week’s podcast to show you the easiest way to build a WordPress.org website. Subscribe to the podcast to hear the episode and find out about my new free course on how to build a website.
- Use WordPress.org not WordPress.com. WordPress.com is primarily for blogging.
- Use the Divi Theme from Elegant Themes (Affiliate Link). I build every website with Divi, and it is amazing.
Tool #5 KingSumo.com
Cost: Free or $198
One of the fastest ways to grow your email is with a viral contest. While it is nice to work with other authors through a site like BookSweeps and StoryOrigin, you can also host a viral contest on your own website with KingSumo.com.
When viral contests work, they can quickly add hundreds or even thousands of emails to your list. They have been the secret to success for many of my clients.
Anyone can host a contest on their website and ask readers to tell their friends to enter, but the strategy is flawed. When people ask friends to enter a giveaway, they decrease their own chances of winning. The reader is statistically more likely to win if they keep the contest a secret.
A viral contest allows people get additional entries for themselves when their friends also enter the contest. KingSumo gives each person a special link to share with their friends and offers the incentive of extra entries when their friends also enter the contest.
Instead of decreasing your chances of winning, you increase your chances when you get your friends to enter the giveaway with you.
KingSumo has two versions:
- WebApp (Either free with limitations or $19/month)
- WordPress (One time payment of $198)
I use the WordPress version, and it installs right into my WordPress.org websites.
Viral Giveaway Tips:
- Give away something valuable. A free copy of your $20 book is not enough to motivate someone to spread the contest to their friends. It must be something they really want.
- Give away something specific. Everyone wants a $100 Amazon gift card, but that’s a problem because not everyone will be interested in your book. Use the right bait for the fish you want to catch. For example, Not everyone wants a signed photo of Leonard Nimoy. But if you’re writing a SciFi space adventure, a signed photo of Leonard Nimoy might be exactly what your future readers would love.
- Set aside some money for promotion. If you spend money on a valuable and unique prize, you should also spend money to spread the word about your giveaway.
- Offer a prize everyone wins. In addition to the grand prize, give away a short story if you write fiction or a mini-course if you write nonfiction. Everyone benefits whether they win the grand prize or not.
Tool #6 Bloom
Cost: Free with the Divi theme.
Bloom is a WordPress.org plugin by Elegant Themes (affiliate link). It allows you to create delayed popups, embedded opt-ins and many other cool opt-ins for your WordPress.org website.
The first time I experimented with adding a popup to a website I didn’t know if it was a good idea. I wondered if people would complain or if my sign-ups would drop. After adding the popup, I saw a ten-fold increase in the number of signups each month. That is a 1000% increase in the growth rate.
Bloom comes free with the Divi Theme (affiliate link) which costs $249 one time. Divi is the best theme for WordPress and I highly recommend it. (Subscribe to the podcast to learn more on that next week.)
- Have a reason to visit your website. Website opt-in forms only work if you have people visiting your website. They tend to work best for authors writing blog posts worth talking about.
- Don’t pop right away! People hate this, and it doesn’t work. Let visitors get to know you before asking to send them emails.
- Don’t pop on every page. Be strategic about which pages the pop-ups appear. Your home page may not be the most strategic place.
- Experiment. Bloom allows you to use different kinds of opt-ins and evaluate which perform best. Perhaps a corner pop-up is all you need.
- Don’t ask for information you don’t use. If you don’t know how put someone’s first name in the emails you send, don’t ask for that information in the opt-in form.
Tool #7 Quiz & Survey Master
If you write nonfiction, quizzes can be one the best ways to grow your email list. Back in episode 224, I interviewed Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith who grew her email list from 2,000 to 25,000 in one year with a quiz.
She used a WordPress plugin called Quiz and Survey Master. Setting up an online quiz is a lot of work, but it can be well worth the trouble. It takes time and effort to create the questions and the results. But after you’ve done the work, Quiz and Survey Master makes the technological part easy.
Quiz Types Include:
- Which character are you? (Only works for bestselling authors)
- What is your [topic] style? Parenting, investing, speaking, etc. Then talk about the pros and cons of that style.
- What kind of [topic] are you? Writer, Parent, Manager
Nonfiction authors often get a quiz idea as they write their book. While you’re immersed in your topic, the quiz questions come to mind.
- Connect the quiz with the topic of your book.
- Make the answers to the quiz helpful. After readers have taken time to answer questions, they want a genuinely helpful results page.
- Make the quiz results easy to share on social media. When people share on social media, other people want to take the quiz to find out about themselves too.
Important Note: Quizzes don’t work for unpublished novelists. Use BookSweeps instead.
Tool #8 Crowdcast
Crowdcast (affiliate link) is a webinar hosting platform that I have fallen in love with this year. Online events have been the #1 source of new email addresses for me this year. A webinar platform like Crowdcast is better than Facebook Live because you can capture the email addresses of everyone who signs up to watch.
When writer’s conferences were cancelled because of the pandemic, I decided to create my own online writers conference. I recorded nine live presentations for my newsletter subscribers through Crowdcast. As word about the webinars spread, we went from 200 signups to 500 signups per webinar.
Some features I love about Crowdcast:
- It runs in Chrome. No special software is required.
- Attendees can vote on questions so you know which questions are most important to your listeners.
- Polls, chat, and a call to action button are available to engage your viewers.
- You can bring attendees on screen to ask questions.
Webinars tend to work best for nonfiction authors but some novelists have found creative ways to make them work.
- Team up with other authors to host the online events.
- Make the webinars useful. You want people to want to come back.
- Make the webinars fun. You want attendees to bring a friend next time.
- Answer questions and interact with the audience to build trust and form a connection.
Would you like me to personally help you hit your publishing goals? I have worked with thousands of authors ,from beginners to New York Times bestsellers, and I can help you go further faster in your career. You can get personalized, interactive training and encouragement from me and a small group of other masterminds. Once you join an Author Media Mastermind Group you get access to the private Mastermind Slack Channel and the monthly mastermind video coaching session.
In the frozen north, children link hands in a ritual circle and sing a song they never learned to summon a primordial enemy they never knew existed. Frosty is just a fairytale, they say. They are wrong.
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My wife and I have been putting our branding training into practice when it comes to our toddler. It is amazing how influencing perception can change reality.
I’ll let my wife Margaret tell the story:
I had put two slices of tangy and delicious cheddar cheese on Mercy’s plate. She’s been eating string cheese recently, and she hasn’t had cheddar in a while. She looked askance at the cheese on her plate and refused to take a bite.
I said, “Mercy, you used to love this cheese when you were a baby! See, I’m eating some too. It makes my mouth happy! It’s happy cheese!”
She then immediately picked up the cheese and took a small nibble, and I saw the wheels turning. Within a minute or two she had eaten both slices and was asking for more!Margaret Umstattd
Readers are a lot like toddlers. They want what they already like. If you want them to try something new, you have to convince them it’s similar to what they already like. You need to help them see your book with new eyes. This is not the scary new food. This is the “happy cheese.” Yours is not the scary book. It’s the happy book.
As an author, you do this with your book cover. The more your book cover is similar to other books in your genre that your readers already like, the more likely they are to take a chance on you.