Getting started with your author platform can be daunting. There’s so much to get together – a website, social media accounts, branding, outreach – and it can overwhelm you quickly. Today, I want to tell you about the most important asset in your tool box. This is the one you need to start with.
Are you ready?
It’s an email list.
An email list is not only your most important tool, it’s valuable for the duration of your career. Having a newsletter allows you to begin and sustain a long-lasting conversation with your fans and followers. That relationship can continue no matter how your subject matter changes. Readers want to connect with authors because they’re fans, and an email list is a good way to stay connected in a busy world filled with tons of distractions.
But… what about social media?!
Social media has its place, and we’ll get to that in the future, but if you have to focus on ONE thing right now, it should be building your newsletter. Social media platforms reserve the right to change the rules at any time – an email list is a long-term investment that you own.
Here are some simple reasons you should have a mailing list:
When a visitor comes to your website, that’s great! But what if they don’t come back again? They’ll never know if you are writing a new book, won’t know about the great article wrote, or that you’re at an event in their town. Having an email list allows you to not only reach out to them directly, but also find out more about your fans – which books they purchased, what their interests are and more.
Shortly after college, I worked at a sign shop. In that industry, we used the “3 seconds of visibility” rule of thumb. You only had 3 seconds to get your message across with a sign, which meant we couldn’t be too wordy.
The same rule applies for the web. You may have a little more time, but an average of 10-20 seconds1 with a visitor is still an incredibly small window. A newsletter allows you to go into more detail; it’s a format people are expecting to spend more time reading.
Consider your own experience. When you visit a website, are you reading every word, or just scanning for the information you’re looking for? Now think about your email. You’re expecting to read… if you’re like me, you might even grab your glasses.
All of the emails I sent come from me – email@example.com. That means you can reply directly to that email, and I’ll get it. Your response will land in my inbox, and now the conversation goes from one to many, to one-to-one. Now we’re talking in person. A newsletter gives you that opportunity.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ can and will change their platform at any given time, making it more difficult to reach your fans and followers through those channels. As you grow an email list, you’re growing a list of people who have raised their hands and opted in to you and your writing. The email list you grow is yours to keep. Forever.
No matter what you’re working on now, whether you’re writing a book, or you’re just passionate about a topic and want to share it with others, the connections you make with people through your newsletter are an investment in your future. Whatever path you take, you get to take those fans with you.
Remember, this is about creating long lasting connections with your fans and followers. An email list is the best way to tell your story, spread your message, and, in the end, sustain a career.
1. “How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages?” Nielsen Norman Group
Joseph Hinson is the president and owner of Out:think Group, a firm that helps authors build their platforms, connect with readers and sell more books.
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