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SPF-046: Masterclass: Building a Mailing List part 1 – With Mark Dawson

At Self Publishing Formula, we often bang on about the importance of building an email list. It’s the most important piece of digital property you’re ever likely to own as an author – perhaps even more than your books. That’s because your email list is the jump start to every book launch. Up to now we’ve never really gone in depth to tell you exactly what comprises a list and how to build one. That all ends today. This episode of The Self Publishing Formula is the first of a series of podcast episodes that will unpack the mystery of mailing lists and teach you how, step by step, to build your own. It’s the crucial component of a successful author career so listen carefully!

So what IS a mailing list?

A mailing list is a collection of names and corresponding email addresses that you own and are able to send correspondence to. But there’s more to it than that. The kind of email list we’re talking about on this episode is one where the people who are on your list have CHOSEN to be on the list. They have asked to be added because they’re interested in the type of things you promise to share through your list. That’s a powerful thing! It enables you to engage with readers without fear of spamming or bothering them. They want in on what you’ve got to offer.

List Building is Career Building!

Your mailing list will allow you to start creating long-lasting relationships with readers that will pay dividends not only when it comes to book launches but also with regard to research, feedback and writing inspiration. Getting the relationship right is key. Mark offers up some clear advice on how to go about this.

Build your first email list.

Mark and James take a hands-on, practical approach in this episode, walking you step by step through the process of building an email list. The first thing Mark suggests you do once you’ve decided on the method you will use to collect your subscriber information is to reach out to 10 people you know personally – family or friends – and tell them what you’re doing and ask if they would be interested in being part of your list. It’s an easy but often overlooked way of getting your list started.

Keep it going.

There’s never a time when you should feel that your email list is large enough, no matter how big it gets. Mark and James discuss the various ways you can build your mailing list on an ongoing basis – with more tips, tricks and advice to come in the weeks ahead.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:23] James and Mark introduce this episode about mailing lists.
  • [5:33] This is the first of 3 episodes about mailing lists – how it’s going to work.
  • [9:02] Why SHOULD you have a mailing list?
  • [12:55] What tools can you use to build your mailing list?
  • [20:01] How to begin building your list.
  • [25:44] The importance of growing and maintaining the relationship with your list.
  • [29:16] How often should you send email to your list?
  • [33:01] Using social media to grow your mailing list.
  • [42:30] Additional methods to give people opportunity to join your mailing list.
  • [47:00] The challenge for this week: Get 10 subscribers by the next episode.

Resources & Links Mentioned In This Episode

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SPF-026: ConvertKit: A Mailing List Service Designed Especially for Authors – with Nathan Barry

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ConvertKit is an example of a niche focused business.

And the focus is authors and bloggers. Nathan Barry was (and still is) running a very successful self publishing business of his own and found that the majority of his sales came through promotions he made to his mailing list. But he began to have problems. There were not enough options in his email software to segment people according to purchase history, interest levels, and more. The frustrations became so great that he decided to create his own solution, and ConvertKit was born. On this episode you’ll hear how Nathan came up with the idea, what ConvertKit can do that other email providers can’t, and why it’s the ideal choice for authors and bloggers.

I already purchased your book. Why do you keep asking me to buy it?

That’s an example of just one of the complaints Nathan was getting from his mailing list that forced him to create an email solution of his own. Tremendous success selling his books enabled him to be in touch with many of his customers – but his email software at the time didn’t have a way of excluding people who had already bought his books from receiving a second or third email encouraging them to buy. Nathan gives a quick walk through of the features of his software and highlights why it’s the perfect solution for authors.

ConvertKit is created by authors and bloggers, for authors and bloggers.

And that really matters. As an author you have some unique needs about interacting with the fans who have opted in to your mailing list. You want to be able to address them uniquely, according to purchase history, interests, needs, and more. Nathan and his team have created a customized solution for authors and bloggers and its growth has truly been phenomenal. You’ll find out what all the fuss is about on this episode of The Self Publishing Formula podcast.

How Does ConvertKit compare to MailChimp?

Many self published authors start out building an email list with MailChimp’s free plan. It enables them to get the basic features of an email list up to a certain number of subscribers. It’s a great way to get started from scratch that Nathan says is the way to go for most authors. But when you have a thousand or more subscribers to your mailing list and need to begin interacting with them in specific ways, you need something more – which is why Nathan created ConvertKit. Convertkit doesn’t have a free plan but offers so much more that fits your needs as an author. You can hear Nathan’s description of the software and learn more about how you can see videos and more of the software in action.

The transition from MailChimp or Aweber to ConvertKit could be a “done for you” proposition.

For authors who have already built a significant following and have 500 or more subscribers on their list at present, Nathan and his team provide a concierge conversion from any other email service provider to ConvertKit. All you have to do is ask.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:23] Mark and James introduce today’s episode and guest.
  • [1:20] A new course in the works from the Self Publishing Formula team.
  • [3:10] James’ book and process will be the demo for the course.
  • [7:09] How the formatting stage will work within the course.
  • [8:48] Chatting with Nathan Barry, owner of ConvertKit.
  • [10:53] Why a mailing list and the benefit good software can be.
  • [13:31] How and why Nathan created ConvertKit.
  • [16:07] How ConvertKit works.
  • [23:13] How Nathan’s team does direct sales for ConvertKit.
  • [26:06] ConvertKit pricing and comparison to other services.
  • [28:45] The user interface and features of ConvertKit.
  • [25:20] How you can find out more about ConvertKit.

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SPF-018: Using a Non-Fiction Book to Create Income From Online Courses – with Nick Stephenson

Much of the Self Publishing Formula audience is engaged in writing fiction. But there are distinct advantages to learning how to write and distribute non-fiction works. To investigate and expose these opportunities we’re starting off today with the first of a 3-part series that focuses on how to write and leverage non-fiction for the purpose of creating income streams beyond book sales. In part two, next week, you will hear David Siteman Garland tell us that EVERYONE has an online course in them, even if you think you’re only a fiction writer at the moment. We start however with our good friend Nick Stephenson. Nick has a proven track record in this area and happily provides a wealth of insight on the subject with tips on how you could follow his lead.

The advantages of non-fiction when it comes to producing income.

When it comes to fiction vs non-fiction, it’s often issues of preference, life experience, or writing skill that determines what we end up writing. But Nick points out some very compelling reasons to consider adding non-fiction to your writing skills toolbox. Besides his own success at making the switch, Nick’s also come to realize that the profit potential for non-fiction writers is much greater, simply because the topics non-fiction writers write about are more narrow, more specialized. That means there’s a demand for the information you’re putting out there that is unique. It’s that demand that can drive the need for additional resources to help readers apply what they are learning. Nick shares his journey into non-fiction writing and the amazing income that’s come from it. Be sure to listen so you can learn how to apply his techniques to your writing career.

The frustration that led Nick to build his first online course.

Nick had become a very successful fiction writer, selling at a level higher than most authors ever reach. He wrote a very popular blog that chronicled his journey, including the steps he’d taken to make his writing accessible and produce sales. He began receiving requests to turn his blog into a book, which he did. It sold well but he continued to get the questions that he’d already answered in his book, even from people who had read the book! He wanted people to apply what he’d taught so he decided to build an online course for those who really wanted the knowledge he had to share. His income from that course has grown in leaps and bounds ever since. Hear how Nick did it, and how you can move in the same direction, in this episode.

Why a course gets results that a non-fiction book doesn’t.

As Nick began to sell the online course version of his non-fiction books, he saw that the participants in the course were more engaged in the learning and more likely to apply it than those who purchased the book. What he discovered was that making a greater monetary investment proved to be a greater motivation for his students. They were invested in their own success at a level that those who had made a book purchase simply weren’t. He suggests that all non-fiction writers consider creating a course to go more deeply into the subjects they’ve written about, to increase personal income but also to increase the likelihood of students actually applying what you’re teaching. Hear more of Nick’s journey in this episode of The Self Publishing Formula podcast.

Could you make the transition into writing non-fiction?

Nick believes you can achieve this. It’s his conviction that everyone has something in their history or background that they could leverage into a non-fiction book. It may be a skill, a way of dealing with a situation, or a philosophy or spiritual perspective. Whatever it is, every person views the areas of life from a unique perspective that might help others. And Nick not only believes you could write a non-fiction book, he also believes that from that book you could create a course to teach students on a deeper level about the concepts you’ve already covered. And one of the amazing benefits will be that your income opportunities increase exponentially. In this episode you can hear how Nick suggests you get started.Much of the Self Publishing Formula audience is engaged in writing fiction. But there are distinct advantages to learning how to write and distribute nonfiction that fiction does not lend itself to. To investigate and expose those opportunities we’re starting off today with a 3 episode series about how to write and leverage nonfiction for the purpose of creating streams of income that go beyond book sales. For this first part of the trilogy we’ve invited our good friend Nick Stephenson to join us. Nick has proven to be very successful at doing exactly what we’re after and on this episode he shares a wealth of insight into how he got started and how you can do the same.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:24] Welcome, and your invitation to the free webinar on writing copy for books.
  • [3:30] Why courses are a powerful means of income and an introduction of today’s guest: Nick Stephenson.
  • [6:57] Nick’s bio and introduction.
  • [7:52] How Mark was influenced by Nick’s work and career.
  • [9:12] Nick’s transition from fiction to nonfiction writing and his first courses.
  • [12:01] Why a course gets results that a book does not.
  • [13:54] The right and wrong way to use a “free” resource or book.
  • [16:03] How Nick follows up with the people on his mailing list.
  • [20:00] The lifestyle Nick and Mark get to enjoy because of their courses.
  • [23:37] Why writers need to understand that writing is a business venture.
  • [25:29] The tone of Nick’s emails to his list.
  • [31:25] What kind of frequency does Nick publish his email to his list?
  • [35:40] Nick’s preferences and goals in writing.
  • [37:04] How Nick builds his mailing list from the beginning.
  • [38:59] The power of testing your course topic and idea.
  • [46:13] Leveraging competitiveness to make your business work.

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SPF-011: Everything you always wanted to know about Mailing Lists (but were afraid to ask)

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When Mark Dawson first started seeing success as a self published author he was a bit late to the game when it came to interacting with those who were showing interest in his books. The best they could do was to buy his book, read it, then search Amazon for any other books he might have written. It wasn’t a very reader centric approach and not what Mark wanted. That’s when he started investigating the various ways he could interact with his readers via email lists. In this episode you’ll get to hear the story of how Mark first approached the issue, the mistakes he made, and the many helpful things he’s learned about truly engaging with readers that make them happy to hear from you and even eager to help you promote your writing to others.

How NOT to create an email list.

At first Mark knew that he had to have some kind of email list but didn’t really know how to start. His first step was to include his private email address in the back of each of his books. It was better than nothing, but became very cumbersome since he was adding each person to a spreadsheet and then bulk emailing everyone from his private email account each time he had something to communicate. He quickly learned that the time it took him to do all of that work could be mitigated through using a free service like MailChimp. Mark talks through how he made the switch and the huge benefits he’s seen from using an email provider of this type.

But isn’t email being used less and less these days?

James asks Mark whether he thinks email is still useful in the modern day. Studies and articles frequently report that people are turning to text and instant messaging platforms rather than email. But Mark’s convinced that email is still the very best way to communicate with fans and makes his case for why that’s so in this conversation. You’ll learn a lot about why email is powerfully important to your brand and future book sales as well as how to go about reaching out to your audience in a way that is natural and effective.

What sort of tone should you write with in your emails?

Mark believes that everyone can effectively write email sequences and truly connect with their readers. They know how to be themselves. If you keep in mind the fact that anyone who signs up for your email list is doing so because they are interested in you and your writing, you’ll realize that the thing they are wanting to get to know is you. So be you. Take the time to put some of yourself into your emails in a natural, unapologetic way. You’ll be giving your readers what they want from their interaction with you and also provide a way for them to feel like they are on the “inside track” when it comes to your books and your brand.

The nuts and bolts of email software and services.

What you’re probably the most interested in learning is how to set up an email service to begin creating your email list. James and Mark walk through the basics of how Mark did it, what services he considered and the one he finally went with, why he made that choice, how he uses his email list on a regular basis to drive interaction and book sales, and the benefits he’s derived from having an active, engaged readership that communicates with him via his email list.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:21] The introduction today’s topic: Mailing lists for Authors.
  • [1:27] A special announcement (it’s exciting!).
  • [3:20] The importance of a mailing list cannot be underestimated.
  • [4:20] The difference a mailing list has made to Mark’s career.
  • [5:40] Why Mark is convinced email is still the best way to communicate with fans.
  • [8:10] The different types of emails that you can send out and how they work.
  • [9:41] Using your email list to solicit help from readers to launch your books.
  • [12:45] The importance of “tone” in your emails.
  • [15:48] How Mark started his first email list.
  • [19:27] James’ tips for MailChimp beginners.
  • [21:59] What is a double opt-in?
  • [24:10] How do you create different lists and why?
  • [26:15] How to use the information from your emails to refine the process.
  • [29:00] Great ideas for getting more subscribers from your readership.
  • [31:50] The personal touch you can have through your email list.
  • [33:47] Tips and tricks about mailing list strategies.
  • [36:16] Using advanced email service providers.
  • [40:29] Get Mark’s April income report.  

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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