At the risk of sounding like a broken record; email is the most important part of any effort to build an audience and sell a product or service. While you can’t read a marketing article without email being touted as an absolute must, it’s uncommon to find much about email capture, building your email list, and user segmentation.
That, to me, is weird. There’s an endless stream of advice about when to send emails, how to write clever subject lines, and speaking to your audience, but a dearth of advice on how to get that audience.
Let’s rectify that today with a look at how you can capture email addresses from your fans.
What Is Email Marketing for Authors?
Briefly, email marketing means first encouraging people to give you their email addresses. Then (this is the marketing part of it) you need to send them emails that they enjoy reading and that encourage them to engage with you. Engage could mean reading a blog post, watching a video, or buying your book. With the latter being the ideal result, of course.
Creating Amazing Emails
You need to know and use all the tricks and advantages you can get when you’re sending emails. Since about 320 billion emails get sent every day, you need something that makes yours stand out from all the noise. But before you can strategize email marketing campaigns that will drive your subscribers to open, read, and click through your emails, you have to get that all-important email address.
It All Starts With Email Capture
The first and most basic way to get someone to give you their email address is to simply ask.
The above is a form I built that is connected to our Email Service Provider (ESP). When you drop your email into the form (which you should do, please) it gets added to an email list (also known as a segment). That segment gets a weekly email with links to all the new posts for the week.
The tricky part is encouraging people to give you that email address. While experts can prattle off dozens of ways to convince people to sign up for your emails, there are four methods that are vital for capturing new email subscribers.
#1 Make A Compelling Offer
Often called ‘gated content,’ one potent way to gather new email subscribers is to offer them something for their email address. Since we’re talking about selling books, one obvious thing to offer is an excerpt, chapter, or short story. But there’s really no limit; anything you can deliver digitally can be a potential reward for signing up.
Offering something for ‘free’ is one of the best ways to build your author email list and gauge that potential customer’s interest in your content. Remember, offering content for ‘free’ is still a transaction; you’re asking for their email address in exchange for that free content.
#2 Share High-Quality Content
This one almost always comes as a blog or video. If you create high-quality, SEO optimized content, you’ve got a good chance of piquing the interest of searchers on the web. And once they’ve clicked over to your content, if they like it, they might decide they want more. Now is your chance to snag their email! Encourage this kind of engagement by first creating amazing content and then making it easy for readers to subscribe and get your next piece delivered directly to them.
Offering great content (for free) bolsters your authority in your chosen field. When readers see you as an authority, they’ll want to know what else you have to say. And they’ll be more comfortable paying for that content if they see that your free content is quality.
The other benefit of useful, quality content is that it becomes recyclable. If you noticed a video (with a call to action at the end to subscribe to your newsletter for more videos) led to a significant number of email sign-ups, you can use that video again in a few months.
#3 Make It Easy
The other day I was reading a blog post about marketing channels. The post linked to a study that sparked my interest. So I clicked over to the site hosting the study. I had to provide my name, email, title, shoe size, phone number, and company name just to click the button to request the study.
(Kidding about the shoe size thing… )
From there, I got an email to verify my humanity, which linked me to a landing page where I had to find all the traffic lights in a grainy stock image. Finally, secure in the knowledge that I am, in fact, a human, this site sent me another email with a link to download the study. This brought me to another landing page where I could—finally—opt-in to their mailing list and download that study.
Don’t make your customers do all of that.
Make signing up easy with a simple form and verification process. Even if you’re giving away content to get their email, the easier the process is, the happier your new subscriber will be.
#4 Lean On Social Media
If building an email list is intimidating, know that you’re not alone. But if you’ve already been working to develop a following on social media, you can leverage that audience to kick-start or bolster your mailing list. A simple post on your preferred channel (or channels) to let your followers know you have a mailing list might be all it takes.
If you’ve got some unique offers—such as a free chapter from your next book—you can highlight that as a benefit for signing up too. Since these folks are already following you, it’s safe to assume they want your content. Requesting their email address for a taste of that content won’t feel pushy or sales-y when you know this audience is already interested.
Likewise, you’ll want to be sure you give email subscribers the option to follow you on social media as part of your marketing process. Make sure your fans can find you on all the platforms you’re active on.
Email Technical Details: Segmentation and Capture Forms
Having a strategy to convince people to sign up for your emails is key to growing your small business and selling more products. But what about the technical side of email capture? I’m talking about the form you see in a website’s footer or the pop-up that interrupts that blog you’re reading.
Do you know what happens when you drop an email into one of those forms?
Most likely, that email address is being added to a list hosted by the site’s ESP. The first automated emails you’ll get after subscribing (usually a welcome email) will be triggered when the ESP sees that new email address in the database.
I’ll give a quick overview of a few ESPs to consider near the end of this post.
What you need to understand is how your followers are being sorted when they sign up for an email. For example, let’s say you have five unique locations for email capture:
- A form in the footer of your site
- A form embedded in each blog post
- A pop-up on your home page
- A signup landing page you link to from social media
- A check box to sign up while buying your products
For each form, your ESP will bring in custom field data for each user that signs up. This will show you that the form works properly and gives you information to create segments. If you see more sign-ups on your blog, you’ll know your fans are interested in your posts and can focus on sharing that kind of content more often.
What Are Email Segments?
An email segment is a subset of your subscribers who have expressed interest in something specific that you offer. For example, let’s say you’re a fitness trainer with your own business. You might sell workout guides, yoga mats, and athletic gear, and have a video subscription plan.
Some of your followers might subscribe to the videos but have never made a purchase from your store. Others might buy your books but never touch your other products. If you segment these subscribers into unique groups, you can send them emails personalized and suited to their interests.
User segmentation is the pathway to personalization. And every marketing expert ever will tell you that personalization sells.
Email Capture Forms, Landing Pages, and Pop-Ups
Okay, we’ve gone pretty deep into the why for email marketing, but what about that annoying how? Setting up capture forms and such on your site to build your email list will vary based on your platform and the ESP you use. Luckily, all the most popular websites and ecommerce platforms include simple ways to build and design.
For your email capture forms and pop-ups, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to use a plugin for your site. WordPress, Shopify, and all the other popular options for hosting your site will offer a plugin library where you can search for and find plugins built by your ESP that work directly with your site.
Finding the Right Platform For Your Email Capture
Making choices is always tough. And to build your email list, you’ll need to pair your current website’s platform with an effective email service provider to maximize the number of new subscribers you can earn without making a lot of work for yourself. Fortunately, there are a few great options that can work for creators just starting their site to the most experienced online entrepreneurs.
If you’ve got a website to sell your books or you’re building one, there’s a very good chance you’ve heard of Mailchimp. They’re the most common and among the most popular options for creating email lists and sending emails for good reason.
Mailchimp allows you to save up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 10,000 emails per month for free. For most creators, Mailchimp’s free plan will be perfect to get you started. They also include metrics, some basic templates, and customization for both email and sign-up forms.
And since Mailchimp has been around for some time, they’ve got integrations and plugins for website hosting services that make it easy to add sign-up forms, pop-ups, and even landing pages to entice new subscribers.
While Mailchimp still enjoys a lot of broad name recognition, savvy creators have been flocking to Convert Kit recently. Convert Kit’s free plan at 1,000 subscribers is a terrific deal. Their interface is simple and clean but doesn’t lack features.
Convert Kit is a full marketing suite, with email capture, landing page, and email campaign tools. They offer numerous integrations, including a WordPress plugin that worked noticeably better than Mailchimps.
There are plenty of automation and testing options with Convert Kit too. Most importantly, they’ve tailored their products to creators and entrepreneurs. That means the tools are easy to use but as sophisticated as their competitors. All while keeping the costs reasonable with a sliding price scale based on the number of subscribers you’re emailing.
Gaining in popularity as a Mailchimp alternative, Mailerlite’s free plan includes 1,000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails per month. Be very conscious of that subscriber difference. Getting 1,000 subscribers is a solid goal for any entrepreneur, but if you use Mailerlite, you’ll need to pay for those additional followers.
Outside of the difference in subscriber allowances, Mailerlite has a nice library of stock images you can use for your emails. They offer some automatic services—such as remails, which will automatically send an email again after a few days to any subscribers who didn’t open it the first time. You’ll also be able to create multiple audiences (Mailchimp limits you to one), making segmentation easier if you’re working on personalizing your emails.
If you already have a growing email list and you want to automate your marketing efforts, a service like Constant Contact may be a good option. You won’t have any free plans with Constant Contact, but they offer a variety of list-building tools to help you expand your audience even further.
Constant Contact is not an entry-level email platform, but if you’ve got an audience and products to sell, their email list-building and email capture tools will help you expand your audience.
Last on my list is HubSpot—one of the premiere tools for all kinds of marketing. Their free tools offer a lot: not only can you build your email list and send regular emails to your subscribers, you can also use HubSpot to offer customer support, chat, and loads of data and metric tracking.
HubSpot offers a lot for free, but realize that they designed their platform around inbound marketing. That might be overwhelming if you’re just starting out with your email marketing efforts. But if you have big ambitions, using HubSpot from the get-go is a good way to be prepared for growing and scaling your audience.
Why Email Marketing Matters
In all my years working as a content marketer, I’ve never once found an expert or piece of data that disagree with the following statement:
“Email marketing brings the highest return on investment (ROI).”
You can find countless articles and statistics to back this up. Until your email list grows into the multiple thousands, you have plenty of options that make emailing free. Meaning the only investment is your time. And we all know that email followers are the most interested—even if signing up is simple, they still have to do more than any social media follower ever will to get on your list.
That screams INTEREST in you, your brand, and your products. So whether you’ve just finished your first book and are building your author website or you’re a seasoned entrepreneur selling a variety of products, don’t miss out on the opportunities email marketing offers.
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.