If you’re going to launch a book, you need to build a following—a tribe of readers who are interested in your work. They will be the people who will eventually buy your book! And one of the best ways to do that is to collect email addresses on your website. Email is still one of the best–and most reliable–ways to communicate with readers, and if you do it right, it can lead to book sales!
Here are some tips for how to start building your email list on your website:
The first thing you need to do to start building your list is decide what your “offer” is going to be. What will you promise to give readers in return for their email address? You have many options:
- A free PDF excerpt from your book (with hyperlinked “buy buttons” embedded in the pages)
- A complementary audio or video (like a course)
- A weekly or every-other weekly tip in the area of your expertise that your target audience would find useful
- A quiz that provides people with useful information about themselves (check out http://www.interact.com for a great quiz-building platform)
The key is to make sure your offer is compelling, and that it feels very valuable to your audience. It should actually feel a little uncomfortable to you to give away “that much” for just an email address. But remember, an email subscriber is a customer for life!
In order to start capturing email addresses on your site, you’ll need two things:
- An Email Service Provider (ESP): This is a service that allows you to accumulate email addresses and then send “mass” mailings to them. There are hundreds of options out there. My favorite is MailChimp for its simplicity and affordability (free up to 2,000 subscribers), but there are other good ones like Aweber or Constant Contact, that may also work for you. (Note: I do not get commissions from any companies! I’m recommending the ones I find to be the best value and most effective.)
- Opt In Widget: This is the portal on your website through which people can enter their email addresses. It syncs with your ESP and adds new addresses to your list. (Most website platforms come with some kind of native “opt-in form” but these can be quite clunky. There are some great WordPress Plug-ins out there for capturing email addresses. My favorite is Bloom, but do some looking around and see which ones work for your site and your style.)
Once you get these two things, you can start designing your opt-in and get to work putting it up on your website.
TIP: For an example of an email opt-in on an author’s website, you can visit some of the sites we’ve designed. Here are two good examples:
PLACEMENT ON YOUR WEBSITE:
There are 3 different “types” of email opt-in forms:
- Time-Delay: These are forms that appear on the screen after a visitor has either been on the site for a certain period of time or scrolled a certain distance on a page. These generally pop up in one corner of the screen, or right in the middle. While maybe slightly annoying, these are BY FAR the most effective opt-ins in terms of conversion percentage.
- Button Triggered Pop-Ups: You can set up your email opt-in so it appears only when someone clicks a button. These are an elegant addition to your site and allow you to hide your form until someone clicks the button, which many people prefer from an aesthetic point of view.
- Embedded Forms: These are forms that sit within the content of your site. My favorite place for these are in the sidebar to your blog, but they could be anywhere else you’d like them to be.
TIP: Here’s an example of a give-away form embedded in the sidebar of an author’s blog.
In terms of placement, I recommend the following, at a minimum:
- Set up a time-delayed opt-in across your whole site so that no visitor will miss the opportunity to subscribe. Make sure you adjust the settings so that once someone either opts-in or closes the box, it doesn’t reappear.
- Put a form in your blog’s sidebar, right at the top. Your blog should be one of the most highly trafficked areas of your site, and you want to make sure that all your readers have the opportunity to subscribe.
- On your book pages, offer a free excerpt button. This allows potential readers to get a sneak peek while giving you their email address so you can follow up.
TIP: Here’s an example of a free chapter offer on an author’s book page
THE FOLLOW UP
This may the most important element of your list building efforts! Before you start collecting those valuable email addresses, you need to decide how you’re going to communicate with your subscribers once they join your list. What will you say to them, and about what? This could take many forms, but here are two essentials:
- A “drip” campaign of introductory emails that are automatically sent to your subscribers over a predetermined period of time. Most ESPs offer this functionality, often called “Autoresponder.” This is your chance to introduce yourself to your new subscribers, tell them about the various aspects of your work, share your books and other writings, etc. Don’t just “sell” with these emails! Give people things like video or audio interviews you’ve done, or particularly interesting blog posts. Make your content valuable so people keep opening—and reading—your emails.
- Regular communications. I consciously avoided calling this “newsletter” because newsletters are boring. You can send people regular updates or insights, but don’t call it a newsletter. Share your latest blog post or a successful review or interview. And use a subject line that speaks to the topic you’re sharing. Don’t just say “The Latest News from Me.” Make sure you choose a frequency (weekly, every other weekly, or monthly) that you can handle, and then stick to it.
SOME GREAT EXAMPLES:
Here are a few of my favorite email opt-in strategies. They’re not all necessarily author sites, but they are still relevant to anyone who wants to build a fanbase of engaged readers and followers:
I hope you’ve found this useful! If you have questions about any of this, please feel free to post a comment, shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or give me a call (510.684.2645).
And if you ever need professional help renovating or building your author website, my wife Laura and I can help! Check out our author website services.