Are you a writer? Have you have written novels? Tech books? Do you want to? Assuming you said yes to any of those questions, the next question is possibly the most critical one to follow: Are you building your email list?

If you said “no”, then you might be making the biggest mistake of your writing career.

In this day and age, we are heavily encouraged to grow our followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever. I suffer from the same affliction. As soon as my follower count crosses the next 100-mark (recently crossed 1600), I cheer for about five minutes, and then start asking “are we getting to the next one?” (1700 in my case).

But studies have shown, over and over, that social media is NOT the most effective mechanism to make contact with your readers. Social media followers don’t complete sales very well. I’m not saying that if you have 100,000 followers, you can’t sell a book. But the conversion rates are quite dreadful.

  • According to a 2016 article, the average conversion rate for social media traffic is 0.71%. That means out of 1000 followers, you can only average 7 sales.
  • The same article shows that email conversion rates are 3.19%.

Basically, if you had 10,000 followers on Twitter, don’t expect more than 70 to buy your next book. However, if you had 10,000 subscribers to a newsletter, you could look at 319 to buy your next book.

And there is another factor buried in all this: who exactly owns your following? When it comes to Twitter and Facebook, the platform not you owns this list of people. You aren’t granted a spreadsheet of everyone that has liked your Author page on Facebook. If you were, you could email them directly. Instead, you can post something to your group, but only a subset will receive the message. That is, unless you pay FB a few bucks.

Reports now show that Facebook only reaches 2%-4% on average (unless you cough up some $$$). People that started their businesses out years ago purely on Facebook are feeling the pain of watching their accumulated audiences get taken away.

The flip side is that an email list, something that takes time to curate, is a collection of people more likely to be interested in what you’ve written. That is, if you curated it correctly. Something I was introduced to a couple years ago are reader magnets. The concept is simple.

  1. If you want to sell books to people, the goal is to find people that like your work. Otherwise, writing a book would be like performing for an empty room.
  2. To find these people, you need to give them something of value in exchange for their email address. Like a short story, listed for free on Amazon.
  3. Inside that free book, you have a big ad at the beginning and the ending that takes them to your website.
  4. On your website, you have a big banner that says “Sign up and get ANOTHER free e-book”.
  5. They sign up. You give them something else. Perhaps another short story. Or deleted scenes that were dropped during the edit of your novel.

If you offer people something of value, people will join your email list. With that in place, you have the means to constantly grow your email list. From there, anytime you release a new book, you include links to further build your email list. Everything you release focuses on building your email list. Bookmarks, flyers, slideshows, anything. Wherever you speak, whether its with other people at a conference or on stage speaking, you make it easy for people to give you their email address.

The law of big numbers says with a list of 10,000 emails, on Day 1 of a book launch, a 1% conversion rate would turn into 100 sales. And that isn’t the end of it. Book sales aren’t based on selling purely to your email list. In the land of publishing, there is this thing called “reviews”. The more you have, the more legitimacy you sport.

Imagine selecting a small subset of your email list. Say…9%. That would be 900 people. Six weeks ahead of book release, you send each of them a FREE advanced copy of your novel, requesting, in exchange, an honest review on Day 1. Assume that just 1/3 of those 900 people decide to download it. And of those 300 people assume only 1/3 actually follow through and post a review. That is 100 reviews on Day 1. The technical term for such an accomplishment is a slammus dunkus. Scoring 100 reviews will push your novel up the charts and drive sales far beyond what you could sell just to your email list.

I must confess something. This isn’t 100% my idea. I learned the secret of reader magnets from Nick Stephenson. His freebie book above is of keen value, and I have also learned much by subscribing to his newsletter. The thing is, if you don’t build your audience through an email list, you will find the publishing process a sad story. If you want to be an author, you’re not out to trick people into buying your book. You simply want to find your audience. And the best means to doing that is through an email list that you own.

So, happy writing!