Building a (Legal) Author Email List

For the last few weeks, my Wednesday publishing legal posts have been looking at legal guidelines for author email marketing. Today, the focus shifts a little, from “you must” to “you should”: some helpful tips for building a (legal) email marketing list.  

Build your email list personally and deliberately. Make sure everyone who receives your emails has “opted in” or given permission for you to include them in a mailing. Ways to obtain that permission include:

— Put a visible “subscribe to the newsletter/mailing list” option on your website, preferably on the front page and/or blog. Many web templates have the option to include this, either as part of the initial template or via a widget or add-on. If you have a newsletter or mailing list, make it easy for readers to find when they reach your website.

— Take a sign-up sheet to author events and appearances, so attendees can join your list without having to visit your website. The easier you make the process, the more people are likely to sign up for your list. When you return home from events, input the information from the signup sheet directly into your mailing list. Don’t wait to add the addresses (you might forget or lose the list).

–Team up with other authors–for example, offer to write an article for another author’s newsletter or blog, and include your own newsletter signup information (or link) in your bio. Other authors may or may not allow guest articles–so ask politely and be prepared for “no.” Remember to reciprocate, and offer the other author space in your newsletter also.

–Give people a reason to subscribe: run a contest (check the laws in your state to be sure contests are legal) or offer bonus content only to subscribers. Contests are subject to federal email laws as well as the laws of your home state, so be sure your contest complies with all applicable rules. When selecting contest prizes, make sure they: (1) comply with the laws governing your contest, and (2) are tailored to your readers. If your incentive draws in people who quit the list when the contest ends, it wasn’t really helpful in the long run.

Don’t build your initial email list by auto-adding your entire contact list. Many times, your email contacts include business and professional contacts who know you in a different context and may not appreciate being added to your author emails. Your email contacts also include agents (and editors) you’ve queried–and they don’t appreciate receiving unsolicited author announcements.

  Also, don’t buy a list of names and email addresses and spam the galaxy. Mailing lists work best when they’re targeted and focused–meaning when you send them to the people who actually care about the information the email contains. Random, unsolicited emails irritate recipients.

Obviously, this isn’t a full list of all the ways to build your author mailing list. You can use social media (but please don’t spam the request!) and many other creative methods to attract new readers. The key is making sure that people subscribe voluntarily–drafting them against their will can hurt your reputation and makes the author look like an amateur. However, a list that goes out to voluntary subscribers keeps the author in contact with readers and can help build buzz for the next release.

Have you got favorite methods for building or increasing your email list? I hope you’ll share them in the comments.