Over the past couple of years, Scarlett Braden has done an amazing job building her mailing list, getting book reviews, and cultivating relationships with her readers.
Many authors could get a lot of value from her experiences, so I asked if she would be up for sharing.
Below you'll find highlight's from my conversation with Scarlett on how to start your mailing list and make it your most valuable marketing channel.
The mailing list is the most valuable piece of marketing that I have even though I'm really big into Amazon ads.
Why does Scarlett say her mailing list is her most valuable piece of marketing despite being "really big" into Amazon ads?
Unlike ads, you can use a mailing list to form direct relationships with readers to:
Let's dive into those.
The probability that a reader will buy your book diminishes significantly when they see there aren't any reviews.
Building a review team means you don't have to wait for a slow trickle of reviews.
They get those reviews out before the book launches for me so as soon as it launches there's already reviews on Amazon.
It's a scary prospect not knowing what those reviews might be though.
That's another reason building your mailing list is valuable.
There's no better way to improve your craft than getting a critique from someone that knows and loves your genre.
When readers respond directly to you, you can even invite them to read early versions of your manuscripts.
This is a great way to find beta readers. This only works if readers feel comfortable responding to your emails though.
So, give them a reason to respond.
In most cases, it's not just the readers you get to connect with, but other authors who have led me to some great resources and recommendations for my books.
People love being helpful in areas where they feel they have some expertise.
If you invite readers to come on your journey both in writing and in life, you'll get recommendations for cover designers, editors, or even what type of grill to buy!
Before cross-promotions and newsletter swaps, I was floundering.
Scarlett started building her mailing list with with sign-ups from her website and the back of her books.
She only got a few sign ups that way.
Then, she looked into how to run newsletter swaps, but it was a hassle to manage everything on her own.
That changed when she got on StoryOrigin (what she calls her "virtual PA" because she no longer needs to worry about tracking everything on her own).
Here are Scarlett's stats directly related to StoryOrigin.
By emailing on a regular basis, they become involved with me and my life and that's what makes them such great fans.
You may think that if you email too often, you'll lose subscribers.
It's actually the opposite.
If you only email when you have a new release, your newsletter just becomes about selling to your readers.
By emailing your subscibers more frequently, they are able to be a part of your journey.
When you take readers on the journey with you, they become real fans.
That's only part of it though. You can't just email more and expect readers to become your champions.
You have to engage with your readers.
Any way you can find to get them to interact with you is the key.
Scarlett does something I find really interesting in her newsletter.
She makes her newsletter feel like a community by sharing pictures from her readers of their pets.
I absolutely love this idea, because:
Ultimately, it's all about building personal relationships with your readers, which has an extra effect...
Even if there are three people that you're interacting with, If you envision those people when you're writing that newsletter and you're sharing something with them, then it makes it a lot less intimidating.
Engaging often with your readers also makes you feel more comfortable.
You began to feel like you're talking to people you know even though you've never met them.
As you become more comfortable, it also makes it easier to write future newsletters.
Scarlett's reader magnet for her first series was a prequel, which she released before publishing Book 1 in her series.
For fiction authors, I recommend using a prequel to build your mailing list.
When you build a list with a prequel before releasing Book 1, you are then able to launch Book 1 to an audience instead of to crickets.
For her second series, Scarlett isn't using a prequel, but had a few different ideas for different reader magnets:
If you don't have a prequel already written or short stories to use, you might also consider using a sample/preview version (e.g. the first 3 chapters) of your book.
Scarlett has 2 different welcome sequences.
She has 3 emails in one welcome sequence and 5 emails in abother welcome sequence.
Scarlett suggests having 5 emails in a welcome sequence.
With more emails in your welcome sequence, you're more likely to start building a rapport with your reader.
If you can entertain them; if you can make them laugh; if you can make them relate to where you are and what's going on in your life... they love that kind of stuff.
First, you want to thank your subscribers for joining and send them the link to their freebie.
They should get that immediately. You don't have to do anything extra with that.
(Note: You can use the Direct Downloads feature on StoryOrigin to securely deliver freebies to existing subscribers.)
The remaining emails are meant to help you build rapport with your readers. ("getting to know you/me" type emails).
For welcome sequence emaails, the best "call-to-action" for your subscriber is to get them to send you an email back.
When a reader responds to one of your emails, you start to form a personal connection with them, so you can start to form a personal connection with them.
Readers are much more likely to become your champions if they have a personal relatonship with you.
Scarlett does this in her emails by asking simple questions, such as "Do you prefer camping or a five-star hotel?"
This is a great strategy as these questions are easy to answer and can naturally lead to sharing further (for example, about a particularly good or bad camping or hotel experience).
Many of us did not start with a welcome sequence.
You don't need a welcome sequence set up for your mailing list on Day 1.
The most important thing is starting your mailing list.
Once you've started, you can focus on more of the advanced stuff later (for example, welcome sequences, branding, etc.)
When have updates that readers can provide input on (e.g. which logo to choose), they'll get excited about it with you.
Take your readers on that journey with you.
[The] set of tools is what makes StoryOrigin just so amazing and wonderful. I often call StoryOrigin my VA [virtual assistant]
Many authors are wary of adding onto theirs plates when they have 5 different logins and 8 different spreadsheets for cross-promos, following up with reviewers, distributing audio promo codes, tracking word counts, etc.
Let StoryOrigin reduce your overhead by being a 1-stop-shop to manage it all.
Do things you otherwise wouldn't have time for *and* get more writing time.
About the author: Evan Gow is the indie developer of StoryOrigin