If you’ve been in the indie game--or publishing in general--you’ve heard about email lists. We have several articles about them on this site because it’s the most effective way to build an author career.
But not all email subscribers are created equal. Just like each card has a different value when you play a game, each subscriber is different. You may have noticed this already. If you have an email list of 7k that are all Freeloaders, you won't sell many books and might be frustrated with publishing and book marketing in general. That's why I wrote this article. I’m going to go through the different levels of subscribers and how to get the ones you want and how to avoid the ones you don’t.
These subscribers want free stuff. Not just books. Using an Amazon gift card as a prize for people who sign up is a sure way to not only get these individuals but several of their email addresses. Not only will they sign up for the free gift card, they’ll unsubscribe en masse after the first email you send which can not only make the process of gathering the emails pointless it can also hurt your deliverability or make it so you can’t use your email service anymore **cough** mailchimp**cough**. Once you reach the point where you’re paying for a service there is some recourse for mass unsubscribes (as in you can talk to someone about it, but no promises if they can help you) but at that point, the one where you’re paying to store email addresses, wouldn’t you want to make sure each one counts?
To avoid this implement best practices around giveaways.
The Passing Amusement
This subscriber will download your book because it’s free but never get around to reading it. This is incredibly common. I’ve even done it. You see a book, you like it enough to add it to your TBR then life happens and by the time you sit down again, you've forgotten the book existed. These people will either see your emails and remember the book or unsubscribe. These are the majority of your occasional unsubs.
One way to avoid these people is to not give your book away all willy nilly. Instead, put your freebie as a link in a book readers already paid for. This is the best way to get quality subscribers I’ve found so far.
And to turn them into casual fans? Set up your automations.
This subscriber actively looked for you. For whatever reason, they are searching you out. This is someone who discovered you existed, found you on the internet and signed up for your list. These are the people you’re looking for. And these are the people you’ll find through outreach. I‘ve written a lot about outreach on here so I won't get into it much but the basic principle is introducing yourself to other people audience’s to grow your own.
These are people who enjoy your books and newsletters and will buy your book and share it with friends. Most people don’t join your list as casual fans, they turn into the casual fan over time. As they get to know you and your work. If you’re writing isn’t up to snuff, it will be much harder to get your subscribers to this point.
Not to be confused with Bruce Willis fans, these are your ride or die, crowd. They’ll buy every book you put out (sometimes in multiple formats). These subscribers are the ones that will become your launch team and help you each time you release a book. These fans are also cultivated with your writing, newsletters, and blog posts. Some subscribers will be this way after reading a book and join as a diehard fan but most will gradually become that over time as they get to know you.
I need to touch base on this really quick. If you have an email list of 10k subscribers you never contact, they are not going to become casual or die hard fans. They will unsubscribes as soon as you send them anything because they aren't going to remember who you are. There are a few ways to email your subscribers regularly. I usually council authors to start by emailing twice a month (this does not include your automations which should introduce new subscribers to you and your work) and after six months reassess. You may find you want to send out weekly or even daily emails. Whatever you decide, you need to be in regular contact with your list so when you do have a release they respond.
Thats said, it's important to note, subscribers who are constantly given free things are being trained to expect free things--thus reducing the chances that they will buy your book when you send out a new release announcement. Sharing books you'd recommend that are not free and new releases of other authors in your genre will help keep them willing to buy for when you have a new book ready. I refer to this as the health of an email list. A list of 5k that you haven't emailed at all, is not healthy. But you can put these practices into place and give your career the foundation it needs.
Tips Moving Forward
Before I wrap this up, I’d like to chat about sites like Bookfunnel and ProlificWorks (formerly Instafreebie). These are great tools and their list builder promos are fairly effective. Though I found more freeloaders with the latter.
I use Bookfunnel for more than just promos. I use it to send out ARC’s and review copies and deliver by Reader Magnet to new subscribers. Those things more than make the service worth the price. But I’ve also found that Bookfunnel subscribers become casual fans rather than unsubscribes more often than other sites making it that much nicer.
Do you have any questions about subscribers? Ask in the comments!