Why “Build Your Email List” Really Is Good Advice for Authors

One consistent piece of advice I see for writers is on the importance of building an email list. It’s also advice regularly tossed about in branding and marketing circles, and there’s a reason everyone is still talking about email like it’s the new tool on the block: It’s the tried-and-true tool on the block.

My day job is content marketing, and I was skeptical of the value of email for a long time. Partly because of the way I personally engage with brands online and with my email. But I know better than to make decisions based solely on my experience, gut reaction or thoughts on anything marketing, because one individual doesn’t make an audience.

If you’re an author (or any type of business or brand) without a newsletter or email signup on your site, here are just a few reasons you might want to fix that fast.

Email keeps you in control of connections and messaging

Connecting on social media or your own blog is great, but you aren’t completely in control of those platforms. Whether or not people even see your message depends on someone else’s algorithms, whether that someone is Google, Twitter, Facebook or some other internet giant.

Organic reach on Facebook is consistently trending down, and Facebook even says you should assume it’s going to hit zero at some point. Organic reach refers to the number people who see general statuses and posts you make — the free ones. You can increase reach with relevant content that engages users, garnering likes, comments, and shares that drive up your engagement rates. You can also pay to sponsor posts to get more eyes on them (which is what Facebook wants you to do, obviously). But no matter what you do, Facebook is ultimately in control.

The same is true of website content. Strong search engine optimization can drive more traffic, but Google and other search engines ultimately decide who comes out on top in the search results.

And the gains you make with these types of platforms can be disrupted because algorithms change or simply because someone doesn’t like your message.

With email, you’re more in control. The Wall Street Journal notes that email is one of the few “open standards” left. Users who sign up for the content typically get your messages. If you create relevant, interesting and useful content and take your content publisher credentials seriously, many of those readers will even open and engage with your content.

I’m not saying email is a replacement for writer social networking, search engine optimization or even paid online advertising for authors. I’m saying you need both, and email gives you a direct way to reach loyal readers no matter what other platforms do.

Readers of all ages are using email as a platform

You might think (or have heard someone say) that email is “old fashioned” and that young people don’t use email. But numerous recent studies disagree.

A survey conducted by Mantis Research showed that around 60 percent of all adults subscribed to at least one email newsletter. Just under half of all Baby Boomers said they subscribed to a newsletter, with almost two-thirds of Millennials saying the same thing. So, email isn’t going out with the older generations.

For many, email is seen as a more positive alternative to social media and 24/7 connectivity. Individuals of all ages are starting to become aware of the negatives of being constantly connected, but very few people in today’s world are going to cut ties completely. Email gives audiences a way to get relevant and important news at their own pace.

Most people don’t mind tactful ads or selling in emails

As an author, your email newsletters should focus primarily on branding and connecting with your readers. Use emails to give loyal readership something extra of value.

But in return for that value, you can slip advertising and selling into emails without worrying about alienating readers. According to the Mantis Research data, people who sign up for and are interested in your message don’t generally get annoyed by relevant and interesting advertising that comes along for the ride. In fact, 70 percent of Gen Zers said they would click on an interesting link or ad and almost 60 percent of Baby Boomers said the same.

If you’re not sure whether advertising is crossing the line in your emails, consider the 80/20 rule. At least 80 percent of the content needs to be valuable to the reader; up to 20 percent can be ad or sales based. As with any type of marketing, you’ll have to experiment with the breakdown to find the exact percentages that work for you and your readers, but the answer is almost always “less is more” when it comes to sales content.

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