In a perfect world, you publish your book, and readers come running.
You check “Become an Author” off your bucket list and start thinking about what the topic for your next book should be. You get ready for all the glory of being called an author—
But that day doesn’t come nearly as soon as you’d hoped. Sometimes book launches don’t go as planned. Whether you choose to go with a publishing house or self-publish, without a strategy for selling books you’ll end up with fewer book sales than you’d hoped.
That doesn’t mean being a successful author isn’t in the cards for you. It just means it’s time to put some elbow grease into your marketing.
Why authors need an email list
Creating a relationship with your readers and fans takes time and trust. Your email list is the place where you can nurture your audience so that when you’re ready to release your next book, or another product or service, you have people ready to read it.
Authors need an email list because it makes their life as an author easier, more enjoyable, and more predictable.
#1: Your email list nurtures your audience
The more touchpoints you have with your audience, the stronger your relationship will be. Create touchpoints through online content, events, or DMs that connect you and your audience.
For example, your weekly newsletter nurtures the relationship you have with your audience. You don’t want to only reach out to your audience when you’re ready to sell something. With an email list, you can create a consistent, reliable relationship…that sometimes includes exciting news about the pre-order date of your book.
#2: Build a bigger audience and grow your readership
Use your email list to grow your readership and house them in a reliable place (which we’ll talk more about below). If you have 1,000 people on your email list, you can start to predict what your book sales will look like based on your open rates, click-through rates, and past book or product purchasing rates.
To get more people to sign up for your email list, make it clear to your audience what they’d get from joining. Add in a freebie, like a free guide, training, webinar, access to exclusive events or content, or discounts. Your audience is excited to connect with you more—don’t be shy about promoting yourself.
#3: Own your platform
The 2021 Instagram “blackout” was a great reminder to authors that they don’t own their audience when it’s built on another platform. Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat are all rented platforms that you don’t have control over. When they go down, you lose access to your audience.
Build your email list so you have control over your audience and blackouts and algorithm changes can’t stop you from reaching your readers. This guarantees sustainability and longevity in your writing career. If you own your audience, you can own your future book sales and product sales.
#4: Share new launches, products, and books
Your email audience is full of your biggest fans. They’re the ones likely to buy your products, and they’re the perfect audience to launch your newest books, services, and other products. Having an email list helps self-published authors get control over their book sales.
Imagine having an email list with 5,000 people and a 50 percent open rate. That means 2,500 people per week are reading your newsletters. If just 5 percent of those people bought your next $25 book, that’s a $3,125 book launch, and you get to keep promoting it to your audience for years to come. You can also create special email discounts to boost book sales for your subscribers (since they’re your number one fans!).
If you’re nodding your head, accepting that it’s time to create an email list, consider our job here halfway done. The next step is knowing how to create an email list. Our favorite authors love to talk about their writing process, like Stephen King’s On Writing. Rarely can we get them to open up the can of worms about their marketing process.
We'll happily take that role.
How to get started with email marketing
You don’t need to take a course to market yourself as an author using email. You definitely don’t need to walk into a college classroom to learn this new skill. You just need a foundational understanding of how to start.
Here are the three steps to getting started with email marketing as an author:
Step 1: Create a landing page and form
A landing page is a single-page website designed to promote a single product or service. Landing pages include a specific call to action—a request for the reader to buy a product, sign up for a call, or join an email list. As an author, your landing page’s call to action asks the reader to join your email list.
As an author, you’ll use landing pages (with forms to subscribe to your email list) on things like:
Your Profile Page: An author’s profile page talks about who they are, their book, and has a signup form. Take a look at an author profile page here.
- Your Link Page: Link Pages allow authors to link out to several websites when a social media bio only allows for one link. Add a link to your Link Page on your social media profiles so that you can link out to your book, other socials, website, and newsletter in one place.
Building a landing page and connecting it to a form doesn’t need to take hours. With ConvertKit’s landing page templates, you can choose the template you like best, customize colors and fonts for your brand, add images, and quickly add a form that connects to your email list.
Step 2: Create a welcome sequence
A welcome sequence is a pre-written series of emails that gets automatically sent to new subscribers.
With Visual Automations, you’ll connect your landing pages and forms to this email sequence. This means that while you write, sleep, eat, exercise, and drink coffee at your favorite cafe, you’re sending emails to new subscribers excitedly welcoming them to your corner of the internet.
Your welcome sequence will have four emails that follow a specific template:
- Email #1: Greet your subscribers, tell them who you are/what you’re about, and what to expect from your emails in the future.
- Email #2: Connect with your reader and engage them by teaching them with valuable content (don’t sell anything yet!).
- Email #3: Connect with your reader and engage them again, but this time add an introduction about your books and products.
- Email #4: Finally…talk about your product!
Inside ConvertKit are Visual Automation templates for releasing a new book, pitching your book with a free chapter, and welcoming subscribers to your newsletter.
Step 3: Use special features and promotions to sell your products
In your newsletter, you can add special features that make your promotions stand out. These features use marketing strategies like urgency and scarcity to remind your subscribers there’s a limited time to take you up on your offer.
Here are some examples of how authors can use these strategies:
- Offer a limited discount code on the first 25 pre-orders of your book
- Add in exclusive content for the first 100 orders of your book
- Give access to the first chapter of your pre-order book for the next 48 hours
Authors use ConvertKit’s countdown timer to create urgency around their pre-orders, book launches, and discounts. You can also add in special promotions and discount codes for your subscribers that aren’t available to non-subscribers, and extend those discount codes to your digital products.
Email marketing isn’t hard. With platforms like ConvertKit creating templates and Visual Automations, authors can use email marketing without needing to have extensive background knowledge. And, once you’ve built an audience—there’s a lot you can do with it.
4 types of content to send your readers
Every author needs to send their audience four types of content to nurture their relationship, sell their books and other products, and create more in the future (we know your creative mind is always buzzing with new ideas!).
These four types of content are:
Newsletters nurture your relationship with your subscribers.
We’ve talked a lot about nurturing because we want you to build your email list on a solid foundation. And a solid foundation is built from a strong relationship with your readers.
Your newsletter (weekly, biweekly, or monthly) keeps you in touch with your audience. Instead of asking them to buy your books, you’re giving them plenty of content to realize you’re one of their favorite authors. When it’s time to sell your book, you hardly have to ask. They’re dying to read it!
Use newsletters to share your ideas, experiences, and writing with your audience regularly.
Show your subscribers how much you appreciate them by giving them special promotions or first access to new promotions. You can send this in your newsletter or send an email dedicated to the promotion.
Here’s a marketing idea for you: tell your social media audience that your subscribers are getting special promotions and add a link for people to subscribe to access the promo by a specific date—for example, within the next 24 hours.
Here are a few ideas of things you can promote:
- Book launches
- New products
- Services (like coaching or consulting)
Using ConvertKit’s Visual Automations Templates, you can plug and playbook promotions with our “Pitch Your Book with a Free Chapter” template, specifically made for authors.
Your subscribers care about you. They want to know what you’re up to, what you have planned, and when your next book is getting released. That’s why they signed up for your email list—to keep up with you!
This means your email subscribers are the ideal audience to share updates with. For example, if you’re working on a new book, keep your audience in the loop. Share what part of the process you’re in and even small excerpts from the book to tease the release. Get them excited about your book so that when it launches, they’re already ready to buy it.
Update your audience to let them know the latest on what’s happening in your writing world (they’ll be excited to know!).
One of the best parts of having an email list is getting direct access to talk to your readers and fans. Surveying your email audience is a direct line telling you what your fans want to see next.
Ask your audience what they’d like to see from you and use ConvertKit’s tagging feature to send personalized content to your email list based on their interests.
You can also use surveys to figure out what your next project should focus on. This is a great way to make your audience feel involved in your writing and creation (and make them more connected to the final product). You can also see what topics your audience wants your next book to cover and what they’d like to see more of from you.
8 top email marketing tips from bestselling authors
What’s a New York Times bestselling author’s perspective on email marketing? What does a newly published author have to say about using their email list to publish their first book? How are authors using their email list to sell other products?
Here are eight tips from active authors explaining how they’re nurturing their relationship with their audience, launching their books, and selling other digital products through email marketing.
#1: Your fans want to know more about you—and email nurtures that relationship
New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong only realized just how important her email list was after building her audience. Using ConvertKit, she sends out newsletters and emails with promotions for her books and book events.
“It turns out [readers] actually click on links to my books and book events more than almost any other content I provide… They really did sign up for my newsletter just to find out about me.”
#2: Make your content relevant to your audience’s interests
Literary author and agent Kate McKean figured out what email audiences want to and don’t want to see from their favorite authors.
“Make the content relevant. Writers should NOT write the, ‘Wow, it's been sooooooooooo long since I posted!!! Do you love to hula hoop? Respond to letters asking for advice on love life or astrology. Argue the finer points of grammar. Write about what matters to you and what matters to your readers.”
#3: Own your audience
“Email marketing not only allows me to share my writing and inform my audience about new podcast episodes and blog posts (without the dread of yet another algorithm). It also allows me to build genuine trust and relationships with my readers. As an author, my main purpose behind using email is to provide value, nurture my audience and use call-to-actions that drive traffic to my books and products.”
#4: Create relevant products that your audience would love to buy from YOU
Author and freelance journalist Jen A. Miller uses her ConvertKit email list to offer 1:1 business consultations and sell resources, like ebooks, to aspiring journalists.
“I’ve made more money on that self-published ebook than on either of my published books. It’s a niche product that pairs well with my newsletter, which is a niche topic, but that’s exactly the type of content that my newsletter audience is interested in.”
ConvertKit’s Visual Automations make it easy to pitch your readers on products they’re interested in. Grab this pre-built automation to promote and upsell your other products:
#5: Build an email list amplifying your network and opportunities as an author
“It’s just mind-blowing to me. I’ll get emails from billionaires, Fortune 500 CEOs, professional and college athletes and coaches, bestselling authors, publishers, and entrepreneurs…ConvertKit is more central to me than any publication.”
#6: Use your email list to align your writing with your audience’s interests
Srini Rao turned a blog into Wall Street Journal bestseller Unmistakable: Why Only is Better Than Best, without the help of a publishing house. After getting rejected by publishers, Srini realized that he had all that he needed to sell his book directly to subscribers.
“The very perk of being a creator is that you are the one who first gets to decide what’s important. Email is the biggest driver of book sales to this day.”
#7: Give your audience more value than you’re asking for in return
On a mission to make kindness cool, the author of It’ll Be Okay and You Will Be Too Dr. Jeremey Goldberg connects with his subscribers through a weekly email he describes as “inspiring and badass.” He’s learned that…
“Email is about giving rather than taking. I try to offer value and service, whether that's in the form of sharing wisdom and insights, or simple entertainment via book and movie suggestions. I also try to offer a bit more honesty and depth than I do on social media. I craft the emails as if I'm writing to a friend or family member. This makes it easier to create while also fostering and maintaining a more genuine connection with the recipient.”
#8: Promote your book by sharing excerpts
Kirstie Taylor, dating and relationship columnist and author of What I Wish I Knew About Love openly shares excerpts from her book with her email audience. She specifically used this strategy during her launch to show her audience why this book was exactly what they were looking to read.
“During my launch month (right before and after my book came out), I shared excerpts of my first chapter exclusively with my email list. I also told them that if they ordered a copy, to reply so I could send them a free guide I created. Whenever someone replied letting me know they ordered my book, I sent them my free guide along with a thoughtful response about whatever they told me included in their email.”
These authors have figured out that email marketing isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. It’s how they launched their first books, kept in touch with the readers who turned them into a New York Times bestselling author and continued to grow their creative business. Grab a pre-built Visual Automations template to pitch your book to your readers with a free chapter:
4 best practices authors should follow in their email marketing
Email marketing doesn’t require a master’s degree in marketing. You don’t need to spend 10,000 hours studying the art of marketing, and you certainly don’t need to know every marketing strategy available.
Here are four best practices for authors to use in their email marketing:
#1: Introduce yourself
Your audience is meeting you at different stages of your writing career and journey. Even if you’ve been writing for 10 years, they may have only known about you for two days.
This means that part of your email marketing (and social media marketing!) should always be dedicated to introducing yourself.
Give them some background on who you are, what you write about, and what to expect from your emails moving forward. Put this in the first email of your welcome sequence . Remember, introducing yourself isn’t the time to promote everything you’ve ever created (you’ll have plenty of opportunities to promote in the future).
#2: Be consistent
Consistency builds trust with your audience. Figure out a schedule that realistically works for you and stick to it. You don’t want to show up in your audience’s inbox every week for four weeks straight then disappear for six weeks.
Here’s a rule of thumb for putting together your email schedule when you first start building your list: underpromise and overdeliver. If you think you can write two emails a week, start with one—and send two emails per week when you can. When you know you can commit to 2x per week, because you’ve committed to 1x per week for 2+ months, then you can promise your audience 2x emails per week.
#3: 80% content, 20% promotion
Don’t promote too much in your emails or people will unsubscribe. You already know this because you’ve unsubscribed from companies that wouldn’t stop taking up space in your inbox with endless promotions. There’s a point where these promotions go so far that the company gets a tainted reputation in your mind. You don’t want to create that reputation, ever.
To avoid that reputation, make your emails 80% content (newsletter, columns, advice, questions, etc.) and 20% promotions (pre-orders, books, events, digital products, services). This makes sure your audience doesn’t see you as just another company trying to sell them stuff. They see you as an author with incredible stories and insight, and they get excited when they see your emails in their inbox.
#4: Add Visual Automations
Use Visual Automations to automate specific parts of your email marketing. For example, your welcome sequence should be entirely automated. You can also create Visual Automations based on a subscriber’s interest or where they subscribed from by tagging them in ConvertKit.
Here’s what Visual Automation looks like when you release your new book. You’ll create a book release landing page that sends subscribers to an automated email sequence. You can also ask your current subscribers if they’re interested in your new book release and for those that say yes, you can send them to the same automated email sequence.
Visual Automations (and our templates) are an author’s best friend. Spend less time marketing and more time writing by using these tools and templates.
Want to self-publish your ebooks?
As the age-old saying goes, you could write the best book in the world. But, if nobody reads it, they’ll never know how great it is.
That’s why email marketing is such an important part of a writer’s journey to becoming an author. It’s the reason brand new authors are building their lists and experienced authors, like Ryan Holiday, are still sending daily emails to their audience.
These writers are giving themselves an upper hand, so when they’re ready to publish their next book, their audience is poised and ready to buy. And with the ease of self-publishing, your next book can be right around the corner.
With ConvertKit Commerce, you can upload your book and promote it directly to your subscribers. Send thank you sequences to subscribers that buy it and create special promotional sequences for the subscribers who clicked on the link but haven’t bought yet.