This is Part 3 in our series How to Build a Rock-Solid Mailing List. 
Part 2: 7 Ways to Turn Readers into Buying Fans
Part 1: Is Your Mailing List Effective? 5 Ways to Find Out

A mailing list is one of the best, inexpensive tools an author can use to sell more books.

But what if you’re not making as many sales from your mailing list as you’d like?

Here are seven simple strategies for selling more books through your reader list without having to get all “salesy”.

1. Focus on signing up real fans

If your list is mainly made up of contest entrants, there’s a risk that because they only sign up for free stuff, they won’t ever buy anything.

Instead, make sure that your real fans have plenty of opportunity to sign up to your list. You can do this by making your sign-up links prominent in your books, on your website and on social media.

As an advanced strategy, you can even set up two lists to test how engaged different types of subscribers are. As well as a list for subscribers who sign up from your books or website, create a second list of people who sign up via competitions, giveaways, or via lead generation campaigns, such as on Facebook. When you have different lists, you can see which one brings you the most sales, and see how subscribers on different lists respond to different messages.

2. Think about how you can get your subscribers to open your emails

Your task is to write email messages that your subscribers can’t help but open. Think interesting subject lines – and content that’s either so compelling (or even exclusive) that makes it worth your subscribers while. If you do this frequently enough, you’ll be able to “train” your subscribers into opening each and every email you send.

The more often readers open (and act on) your emails, the less likely it is that future emails from you will end up in a spam or promotions folder.

This is one reason why setting up an auto-sequence or welcome email is such a good idea – especially if you’ve offered an incentive in return for their sign-up. In the subject line you can write something like “Welcome to my readers’ group – here’s your download link” to encourage your new subscriber to open the email and take action.

3. Get your readers in the habit of taking action

Build in interaction from the beginning of your relationship with a new subscriber. For example, make your first welcome email enticing and remind your subscriber to download their free chapter, story sample or other incentive you may be offering.

Then, in all your following emails, give your readers a reason to connect. You can ask a question, for feedback on a cover or blurb, or ask your readers to tweet a link or share a post. Small actions like these have two purposes: they turn passive readers into active readers, and they also pave the way for a bigger action later, such as asking your readers to buy your book or leave a review.

The experts say that responding to small favors psychologically prepares your readers to respond to bigger ones, such as buying a book. You’re also encouraging reciprocity. If you provide value in your emails through sharing exclusive or entertaining content, it’s perfectly ethical to ask your subscribers to do something in exchange.

You don’t have to make a big point of it, either. If you aren’t comfortable asking for a small favor, try adding a P.S. at the end of your email where you ask for some sort of action, or provide a link to your blog post, or book product page, for example.

4. Build up excitement ahead of your book launch

Building up interest with a series of pre-launch emails helps to magnify their impact.

Plan your sequence to start a month or so before publication, and focus on a different angle (cover, early reviews, etc) in each email. Anticipate the “story” of the next email in the sequence so you can increase the buzz.

Here are some ways to tantalize your readers:

Reveal covers, character or plot insights

Do a giveaway or contest (for a free copy)

Offer a limited special promotion price (for the first two or three days)

Put your book on pre-order

Do a “soft launch”, where you make the book available (for free or for a discount price) to your “street team”, VIP group, etc. This is also a great way to get early reviews before you launch the book to the rest of your list.

5. Ask for the sale

When you come to the final email in your launch sequence, be sure to actually ask for the sale! Don’t worry about your readers unsubscribing or reporting you for spam if you include a sales link in your emails. They won’t. They signed up to read about your updates, which includes hearing about your new books. If you don’t ask for the sale, they won’t buy – it’s as simple as that.

Here’s a four-step format you can use in your final (sales) email:

Step 1: Announce the publication of your new book

Step 2: Say why you’re excited about it (you had so much fun writing it, the plot is your best yet, etc)

Step 3: Say why you think your readers will love it (it introduces a fabulous new character that you think your readers will love, it continues one of your best loved / best-selling series, etc)

Step 4: Ask your readers to buy it, say how much it costs, and provide links to Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords, etc. (This is also known as the “call to action”.)

For a non-fiction book:

Step 1: Announce the publication of your new book

Step 2: State the problem that many of your readers have

Step 3: Tie in how your book answers the question or solves the problem

Step 4: Ask your readers to buy it (provide links)

With this format, the sales part of the email (step 4) flows naturally from the first three steps. By writing your email in this way, asking for the sale doesn’t sound like a sleazy imposition. Instead, you’ve linked it to the rest of the email in such a way so that it seems like the logical next step.

Here’s some copy that you can adapt:

(Name of book) has just been released on Amazon.

This is the book I’ve been wanting to write for years! If you love (character’s name) as much as I do, you’ll have hated the way her romances always seem to end. Finally, I have a chance to put things right for her.

It continues the story of (heroine’s name) as she finally finds true love with the man of her dreams. But will her past come back to haunt her? I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, but a figure from her past makes an unexpected – and unwelcome – reappearance in her life, just when she needs it least.

Click here to get your copy on Amazon (link to your product page).

Thank you very much – I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Your name
P.S. This book is only at the special price until DATE.

6. Entice your readers with irresistible calls to action

Did you spot that “P.S.” in the sample email copy above? Here it is again:

“P.S. This book is only at the special price until DATE.”

The concept of scarcity (used in time-sensitive or limited offers) increases the sense of urgency and encourages people to take immediate action, rather than waiting for too long and then missing out.

You can create another irresistible call to action through “social proof”. Mention your sales figures or pull out juicy quotes from reviews to prove how much other readers love your book. Here are some examples:

“Find out what all the fuss is about! More than 500 downloads already.”
“Here’s what people are already saying about ….”

7. Turn your “thank you” message into a sales page

With many mailing list providers, you have the option to send just-confirmed subscribers back to a webpage.

Make this webpage an “upsell” page, where you include some information about you and your books, a sample chapter or a special offer on a book or box-set.

 

Co-founder of Publishing Spark.

We help fiction and non-fiction authors grow their readership with a simple-to-use, no-hassle mailing list service. Check us out.

7 Ways You Can Use Your Mailing List to Drive Sales

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