The Elusive Mailing List, and Why You Need One

  • For the most part, when people ask for your site, they'll be referring to your main author site or your Facebook page. The problem is that most sites don't give an opportunity for people to be reminded to come back. Facebook has its own hurdles, notably less organic reach, limiting posts, closing accounts without warning, and not allowing romance authors to run ads.

     

    Don't be held hostage by Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. You are on those platforms because they allow you to be, and at any time, those privileges can be taken away. This is absolutely devastating for an author, and if you don't set up precautions now, that means you'll be starting over from the beginning when it comes to getting your fans and readers back.

     

    Mailing lists are yours, and yours alone. You don't share them, no one else owns them, and no one can take your list from you. If you move platforms, have something important to say that you don't want limited, or worst, get your account closed or hacked, you can communicate with your fans quickly and easily through a newsletter. Most understand why they are important, they're just not sure how to go about starting them. There are multiple avenues, and what you choose depends on how you plan to utilize your list.

     

    Email Providers

     

    If you're just starting out, paying for a newsletter subscription can seem cost prohibitive, but it doesn't have to be. For brand new authors, simply collect the emails with a form, and just email all of them. It's more time consuming, but at first you won't have many people signed up so it doesn't take much time out of your day when you have to mail out a quick newsletter. Make sure to put the address in the BCC part, that way your subscribers don't see each other's email. That's just bad business practice.

     

    Newsletter Software

     

    As with most software, not all companies are equal. You can start out fairly cheap/free, only to realize that as you grow, the prices become astronomical. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two of the big names on campus, but if you look at their pricing structure, you get penalized for having a popular newsletter. Once you hit around 2,000-2,500 subscribers, your prices will skyrocket. Almost every newsletter creator offers a free plan. This is great news, because it lets you join and test a few.

     

    Be sure to look at the pricing. It may not seem like it now, but if you keep at it, your list may very well grow beyond the “free” limits. You need to plan for the present as well as the future, especially if you follow some of the tips in the next blog we do, on building your mailing list.

     

    Liliom's favorite is currently SendinBlue. It's so far the cheapest that we've found, and has basic analytics for a free plan. It is limited to 300 sends per day, with 9,000 free users. This means that once you go over 300 subscribers, you'll have to sort them into multiple lists to send on different days, or upgrade. The good news is that upgrading at SendinBlue to get rid of that limit is $7 a month, for up to 40,000 emails. That's the cheapest we've seen anywhere.

     

    It's not the easiest to use, but it's definitely the cheapest. After creating an account, you need to set up your first campaign and schedule it. They have templates and a drag-and-drop editor. The system will mark it as a draft, and someone from SendinBlue will contact you, asking to see your website link, your newsletter form link, and asking how you got your newsletter subscribers.

     

    Don't panic! They're just trying to make sure no one bought their email list, which is bad and leads to people marking them as spam, which makes newsletters from the company get flagged. They don't want that, and neither do we. The best response is-

     

    My website is (insert link here.) The newsletter signup form is (insert link here.) To get my subscribers, I do giveaways and book takeover events, asking anyone interested in my writing to sign up to the newsletter. They have to go and click the link, add their email, and confirm it in order to be added. I don't buy mailing lists, so all of my subscribers are organic.”

     

    That's it! They're not trying to be a pain, they're just trying to protect us and all their other newsletter customers. Once you reply to the email with the above information, they'll let you know that your account has been approved, and you're free to start sending your campaigns.

     

    We found there was a slight learning curve with the editor, but once you try a few things and get the hang of it, it's easy to format gorgeous newsletters simply.

     

    If you don't want a monthly payment for a newsletter, you can get the branding and sending limit removed by opting to pay as you go. With this, you buy credits towards email sends. At $27 for 5,000 credits, that means you can send up to 5,000 emails for that one flat rate. If you get up to 5,000 users, and want to send an email once a month, it'd end up being $27 a month to send them all. It equals out to be more than the Micro monthly plan, but for those of us that prefer to preset things without plans, it is another option.

     

    For a look at some other mailing list software, you can check out http://upcity.com/blog/top-25-free-or-low-cost-email-marketing-web-applications/ In the end, where you go depends on what features you want, how easy the software is for you to learn/manage, and how much you anticipate being able to spend if you grow beyond the free plans. Since we're going to give you some great options for building your list in the next section, be sure to plan ahead as suggested. Just because 2,000 readers seems insane right now, doesn't mean it always will be. Make sure to choose a provider that allows you to export your contacts if you need to, that way the move is as easy as it can be for you if you decide to switch providers.

     

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