3 Questions to Ask Before Choosing A Mailer
You did it. You wrote a book, revised and formatted it, and released it into the world for everyone to see. And now you’ve decided to put together a mailing list of fans so you can tell them all about your next releases and catapult yourself into success.
A mailing list can do a lot of things for you. With a mailing list, you can cut the need for expensive advertising services by pitching to your readers directly. You can build a relationship with your fans that’s more personal and intimate than social media updates, and as soon as you have a new release, you can send people flocking to your book with the press of a button.
However, maintaining a mailing list can require a lot of upkeep. Paid mailers usually charge about $20 a month for a subscription, and a little less if you buy annually. Mailers also come with a significant time investment. While you don't need to send emails out every week, every email that you send will likely take time both to write and lay it out.
The good news is that there are a ton of options out there for starting your list--and some, like MailChimp or Flodesk, don’t even cost money. Even if you're relatively new to self-publishing, setting up a list can be easy and straightforward.
Here are some questions to ask when you’re deciding what you want in a mailer:
1. Why do you want a mailer?
Different people want lists for different reasons. The two lists that I keep are very different from each other. One sends out a weekly update about my most recent blog posts and self-publishing tips. Blog integration is important for this list, as is the ability to send out weekly automated emails. Fortunately, these features were all easily available on MailChimp, and I was able to get started there for free.
For my fiction based list, I wanted an emphasis on aesthetics and segmenting so that I could set up a street team and beta readers all stemming from the same basic list. I also wanted to be able to give books away for free on my list and host drawings without the need for an author site. For this list, I decided on Aweber, a paid option, that had all the features that I wanted. I set up the pages I needed and put together a basic template to use, and I was ready to go.
When you're reviewing and comparing different mailers, make a list of the criteria important to you and track how they stack up.
2. What can you commit to a mailer?
Another question worth asking is how much you can commit to a mailer. As I mentioned earlier, the standard paid email service will cost about $20 a month. While that price isn't staggering in itself, it adds up after a few months. What payment plan would work best for you? Are you willing to sacrifice features for a free service?
You also have to keep time into account. I usually spend upwards of an hour designing emails for my fiction list. This is after I already took the time to develop a template that I can use every time I want to send out a new email. Emails aren't just about content, after all. You have to take the subject line into account, any links that you want to share, and anything you want people to sign up to. My emails typically come with several different components that I have to commit to by the time I implement them.
Some mailers are more automated than others, and some take more time to figure out. A more intuitive mailer might also be more limited, so keep in mind exactly how much time and energy you want to pour into your emails.
3. How will you use your mailer to sell books?
At the bottom of all this, we need to remember your state as an author. A mailer, in the end, is merely another way to get books into the hands of your readers. How are you going to accomplish that?
There are several popular methods, including:
Announcements of new releases,
Bringing up and linking to old books readers might have missed,
Directing readers to an event or blog tour,
Mailing list swaps with other authors,
You don’t have to take part in every possible mailing list promotion, and it’s fine if you stick to cover reveals and general updates every now and then as well. A smaller emphasis on sales can also mean that you come off as more human and less sales-y, which helps readers trust you more when you do tell them you’re having a sale and they need to check it out.
Decide what sounds like fun and what gets you excited, and choose a mailer platform that will help you reach that goal. For example, you’ll want a mailer that allows for file uploads if you want to use it to host a giveaway of your latest book. Pick one or two things that you can’t resist, and choose the best mailer accordingly.
Today’s mailing list options brag a ton of versatility, and it’s easier now than ever to find a mailer that is approachable and that has the features that you most want.
What’s the most important feature you consider when choosing a mailer? Which mailer is your favorite? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers to continue the discussion.