As many authors will tell you, having an email list makes life so much easier. You can use it to get more sales, more reviews, and even better author connections.
However, there is just one problem… how do you convince your book readers to sign up for your email list?
If you’re running into that problem of getting email subscribers, this article will help you out. I’ll show you exactly how you can turn book readers into subscribers, all without sounding spammy or unprofessional.
What You’ll Learn
- The differences in list building for fiction and nonfiction authors
- How fiction authors can increase email subscribers
- How nonfiction authors can increase email subscribers
What is the difference between list building for fiction and nonfiction authors?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a fiction or nonfiction author, having a booming email list is a huge asset to your author business. However, a common question authors have is if there are any differences between list-building for fiction and nonfiction authors. The truth is, there is a huge difference between the two.
Now, a lot of the basics are the same. You’ll still need an email marketing service, you’ll need opt-in boxes or calls to action, and you’ll also want a lead magnet — a freebie for people who join your email list. But where fiction and nonfiction email lists differ is what type of audience you want to attract.
When a fiction author starts their email list, the aim is to sell more books. But, with a nonfiction author, the end goal can often be to sell accompanying products or services down the road.
So, you’ll need to make sure your lead magnet speaks to the needs of your ideal customer. That way, every subscriber you get is hyper-relevant and likely to be interested in your future work.
How nonfiction authors can get email sign-ups
While fiction readers read for enjoyment, a lot of nonfiction readers are looking for a solution to a problem — some form of self-help advice.
Many of the strategies to attract readers to your mailing list involve helping readers take the ‘next step’ in their journey. You’ll want to further solve the problem that made them interested in reading your book.
Here are some ways you might do that.
A complementary course
A standard nonfiction writing style is to offer a process for achieving a particular goal. Some readers will take the lessons from the book and implement them straight away. However, others may need some special attention and further guidance.
That is where a short, complementary course comes in. A course should follow the outline of your book and help readers implement the steps faster. Throughout your book, mention your course and how to register.
My friend Pat Flynn created a companion course for his self-published book, Will It Fly, which generated over 15,000 sign-ups for his email list!
Video courses are easy to create with tools like Thinkific. Or, if you’re starting out and don’t have the time or resources to write and record a video-course, your course can be text-based and sent out via email.
In the early days, the delivery method isn’t the most important thing. What’s most important is the message and help you provide.
A small content upgrade
If a full course is a little too much for you to create right now, no problem. You can get great results offering cheat sheets and additional PDF resources. Some examples of these resources could include:
- An action guide
- A list of questions related to the book’s content for readers to ask themselves while reading
The goal of the resources is to make the book’s steps as simple as possible for your reader. If you have any exercises that readers complete with a pen and paper, consider creating a worksheet to make that step easier.
Content Upgrades are popular for bloggers as they help turn engaged readers into subscribers, and the same principle works with your book readers too.
Further reading recommendations
If your book is content-rich and research-heavy, you can offer suggestions for further reading or give more information about the sources of your study.
Ryan Holiday, for example, offers an extended reading list, more quotes, and a bibliography to get readers of Ego is the Enemy to join his mailing list.
Holiday’s book is full of thoughts from influential philosophers and leaders throughout history. Because of the sheer amount of authors and thinkers Holiday mentions throughout Ego is the Enemy, he can only include small snippets and quotes. But at the end of his book, he encourages readers to access his full reading list by subscribing to his email list.
Giving access to a reading list or to your research is a great way to leverage the work you’ve previously done on your book. Rather than produce a whole new course or resource, you can use the research you’ve already completed to attract new subscribers.Giving access to a reading list or to your research is a great way to leverage the work you’ve previously done on your book. You can use the research you’ve already completed to attract new subscribers. #Youpreneur Click To Tweet
A timesaving resource list
If your book includes suggestions for tools and products, you can create a resource list for your readers. These recommended resources should be collated to help your reader execute the steps in your book. You can even look into building affiliate relationships with the creators of the tools and products.
These affiliate partnerships can help increase the revenue from the book, which is handy if you don’t have your own product yet.
Sure, it may not be an email list, but if you’re a nonfiction author who already has a Facebook author page with a corresponding group, you can use that as another way to draw readers in closer.
For example, in Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning, he mentions joining a dedicated Facebook Group. In his group, you can meet like-minded people for discussions on topics surrounding the book.
Access to a Facebook Group can be a great extra offer. A dedicated community can attract those who are not interested in downloading your lead magnet. Once you have readers in your Facebook Group, you can offer support, a sense of community, ongoing engagement in your work, and further avenues for readers to join your list later on.
How fiction authors can get email sign-ups
Below are a few strategies and techniques you can use to increase subscriptions to your email list if you write fiction books.
Most of these strategies involve giving further information about the characters, settings, or plot, connecting with your most engaged readers. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Your readers are already in love with your story and characters, so build on that to get email signups. You can do so by offering…
When writing fiction, you have a significant advantage over nonfiction authors. Your plot and characters are unique to only you. If a reader connects with your story, there’s nowhere else they can go to scratch the itch. So, use your unfair advantage.
By writing a prequel to your book, you’ll be able to give engaged readers a further look into the characters and their past. This is especially helpful if you’re intending to write a series. If a reader enjoys the first book and joins your list to read the prequel, it’s likely they’ll want to read the next books in the series.
A side story (AKA “the Kobayashi Maru method”)
I’ve named the side-story technique after the Kobayashi Maru from Star Trek — a ship the characters talk about but is never actually shown.
I first saw this side-story technique when I interviewed author, W.H. Lock about his ways of generating author sign-ups. Rather than write a full prequel or sequel, write a short side-story that involves your characters. It is best to write a side-story this is unrelated to the main plot, and then have characters mention it throughout the book.
To be clear, you don’t have to be writing a sci fi series like Star Trek for this to work. For example, let’s say you’re a crime author, and your protagonist refers to ‘the Jones case’ that happened last year. Once you’ve planted the seed, your audience will want to know what happened. Why is the Jones case still a topic of conversation a year later? You’ll create an open loop for engaged readers, and the only way they can close that loop is by joining your list.
Your side story certainly doesn’t have to be the length of your books. It can be much shorter, and it’s a fun opportunity to write creatively. The goal is simply to find an idea that readers of your book will be eager to get their hands on.
A sequel or follow-on chapter
If the book you’re promoting is the first in the series, then you can offer the beginning of the next book in your series for free. Your audience will want more once they’ve finished the first book. The beginning chapters of a sequel will be a tempting offer to attract those interested readers right when they’re wanting to know what happens next.
Work that supports your book
One of the most significant benefits of writing fiction is you create characters and worlds that are unique. There’s an opportunity to use that created world to build your mailing list. Design images and supporting resources that enhance the world you create in your series. Some ideas for resources that support your books could be:
- Maps that show where your characters visited throughout the book
- Character profiles
- Images and drawings of various settings and characters
- How-to-guides focused on the story. Say, your characters’ secret chocolate cake recipe mentioned in your book
When I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the book had a detailed map of Middle Earth. I could see where all the characters started their journey, and where they had to travel throughout the books. Resources like these can be great addons that readers will subscribe for.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can guide readers to your email list. Choose the strategy you feel will work with your book and see what happens.
You can always change your lead magnet or test different options later on. All you have to do is edit the manuscript and re-upload it to your publisher.
It’s work, but it’s worth it. Because by guiding readers to your email list, you can create a sustainable author business.