Focusing on my email list, I tripled my income from fiction in 2022 from the year before.
You've heard about the necessity of email from the moment you started looking into publishing. So, I won't go crazy on the why's of it all, but I have to say, this is the only way to be in control of your career. If you don't have a list you're putting your long-term business success in the hands of Facebook, or Amazon or wherever it is you keep telling yourself readers are finding you. An email list is the only thing you own. No one can change the algorithms and take away your ability to reach your fans.
1. Choose an Email Service
There are a lot of choices for email services. MailChimp is a popular one because you can start a list for free. However, they recently lowered the number of subscribers you can have on the free plan and increased the cost of the first paid tier. MailChimp also integrates with most other services you may use to deliver books and grow your list like Bookfunnel. Make sure you look not only at the limit of subscribers but what you will have to pay once you get to those subscribers.
Another popular choice is Mailerlite. Free up to 1k subscribers I've heard a lot of authors say the interface was easier for them to use than MailChimp but that was not my experience. While the interface is straightforward, I struggled with it deleting my emails rather than bringing me to the scheduling page. If you use this one I recommend writing the emails out in another program (word or google docs) and then copying and pasting them in.
Aweber is also popular, they don't have a free tier but do have a free trial (14 days I believe).
Sendfox, grew in popularity recently, I do not recommend them, and I'm trapped with them for another 10k subscribers. They have a niffty automatic setting that optimizes your account and only allows you access to a fraction of your readers then when those readers don't get your emails, they forget about you or their service, Google, stops delivering your emails. It's great fun to delete readers who have opened every single email you sent since they signed on because you have no way to reach them now. That was sarcastic, in case you missed it. I never should have left Convertkit.
Which brings me to ConvertKit. This is the one I settled on after some issues with MailChimp and Mailerlite and returned to after issues with Sendfox. To be clear, my fiction list is still on Sendfox and will remain there until I get my money's worth. But I use ConvertKit for all my non-ficiton and direct sales. There is no free tier but I find the ease of use and lack of delivery and saving issues well worth the price. If I had to start over tomorrow, I'd still pay for ConvertKit. Or I'd be working towards being able to pay for ConvertKit.
2. Create a Hook
A Reader Magnet designed to entice readers to invite you into their inbox. This is the permission part of Tim Grahl's Connection System (Your First 1000 Copies). Not offering something to readers, just doesn't convert in most places. If someone reads your book, enjoys and then sees your email sign up at the end, they'll sign up without much hesitance. But for a new reader who's not sure where to spend their reading money, a reader magnet can make all the difference.
NOTE: If you live in the EU, please consult an attorney. From everything I've seen and heard, the GDPR law is focused on big corporations, not authors but you need to make sure you have all the facts before you make a decision.
3. Place Your Reader Magnet...Everywhere
Your reader magnet should be:
4. Email Your List Regularly
This is so important. Simply having a list doesn't do you any good. If you never email your subscribers they will forget who you are and unsubscribe when you send them a new release notice. And my debacle with Sendfox proves this. Every time I unoptomize my account, I reach new, previously inactive subscribers which their support will tell you to delete. But we worked so hard to get them on the list and one unopen, or even a few shouldn't affect that. As a reader, I skip emails from authors often, unless the subject is really catchy, but seeing their name regularly keeps them at the forefront of my mind and therefore, my kindle.
If you're not sure what to email them about, start writing two emails a month. One author update letting them know what you're up to, what your writing, any family trips or special occasions you're celebrating? What are you reading? The second should include the link to your content. Whether it's a guest blog post, a podcast interview or your own blog, get them used to clicking through your emails.
NOTE: While giving away free books can be nice, don't do it all the time. Get your readers used to buying from you by sharing new releases and featured authors in your genre. Check out this article on 5 Common Mistakes Authors Make with Their Email List