Losing Readers? Keep Your Mailing List on Track
Having a large and active mailing list is a huge benefit when you’re self-publishing. Your list will save you time, money and effort on advertising so that you can focus more on writing what you love. But what happens when your list starts moving in the wrong direction?
The worst part of having a thriving fan base and mailing list is when it shrinks—which happens to everyone, sooner or later. It doesn’t mean that you’re becoming worse as an author or even that your emails aren’t good—but it might be a good time to take a step back, relax, and figure out what in the world is going on.
There are three main reasons why readers might unsubscribe from your list. The first is that they only came for the free goodie you gave them for signing up. Second is that you either email people too often, or not often enough. Third is that your emails need a lot of work.
1. The Freebie Freeloaders
When you have a free reader magnet that works, you’re going to get a lot of new readers to your team. Unfortunately, while some of these readers will become devoted fans after encountering your work, others will simply look for the next free book.
Readers who don’t actually want to buy anything from you probably won’t last long on a list where you sell things for money. There’s no way to avoid these readers unless you decide not to use a reader magnet at all and trust new readers to purchase a book before reading, but there’s still some good news here: freebie freeloaders don’t affect your sales. You won’t see a boost when these people sign onto your list, and you won’t lose any sales when they leave.
If you notice a lot of people unsubscribing shortly after they got their reader magnets, you don’t need to do anything or take any action (though you might consider backing down on giveaways so that you don’t hold onto these readers indefinitely).
2. The Busy Browsers
These readers are happy to follow you—and several dozen other authors as well. If they unsubscribed, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like your books anymore or that you’re not writing good emails. But it can mean one of two other things—either that you email people too much or you don’t email often enough.
These days, with everyone’s email inboxes so crowded, there is a push for fewer emails. Ten years ago, you could have emailed your readers two or three times per week and built your involvement, but today, that kind of frequency will get you marked as spam. Even once a week is more often than most authors send updates. At the same time, not emailing people often enough could cause them to forget you and see your name as unwelcome.
A standard frequency runs about one or two emails per month, a small commitment for you as an author and consistent enough for readers to enjoy. If you don’t publish many books in a year, you can also consider shifting your frequency to build momentum for your new books.
3. The Lost and Lonely
It’s possible that your emails need work. Writing an email is a different activity than writing a novel, and some of the best authors lose the ability to put things in words when speaking directly to readers.
The best way to improve your emails is to simplify them or work from a basic template. Mine goes something like this:
Colorful header > cheerful intro statements > advertising a specific book > group promo and/or newsletter swaps > final words and signature (or see template below!)
You don’t need to delve too deep into your life story, but you also don’t need to get on your hands and knees to bed people to buy from you. If your tone is light and conversational, readers will love it and get excited about your books.
Here’s a sample email template for reference:
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