Have you ever noticed that you start seeing ads and trailers for movies long before the premiere? For months prior to the movie release you will see behind the scenes looks from the director and the cast. The movie studio will post articles about the costumes and the special effects. Mock-ups of the movie poster will be leaked to the press. Hollywood is a master at publicity. They start building a fan base that eagerly awaits the movie release and helps the studio build buzz.
Many authors think that they have to finish their book before they start marketing but we should emulate the Hollywood studios and start building a fan base as soon as we decide to write our book. Today I’m going to review AWEBER, the tool that I use to capture email addresses and build a fan base for my book.
You may be wondering why I’m recommending using a professional email service as opposed to sending email messages from your personal email account. The best email service providers:
- Have anti-spam protection built into their service and have a high acceptance rate as it relates to email clients. That means that your emails will be delivered. It doesn’t do any good to craft a wonderful message if your recipients don’t see it.
- Provide unsubscribe links in every email which comply with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2004. This act is for your protection as well as those of your recipients. It reduces the possibility of your email being marked as spam and potentially loss of your email account. By making it easy for a subscriber to opt out of your messages, you ensure that only those people who want to hear from you stay on your list. It’s also important because most email service providers charge by the number of subscribers or the number of messages. Keeping people on your list who aren’t interested in hearing from you means you’re paying for names that won’t ever generate any revenue.
- Make it easy to segment and manage your mailing lists. They provide tools and reports to help you gather email addresses and gauge their effectiveness by showing you how many people opened each email and whether they clicked on a link or not.
The email service provider that I’ve been using since I started my business in 2006 is AWeber. I have briefly used other email service providers but I’ve found that AWeber provides the best balance of features and costs for me. The app has lots of features. I’m going to review the four that I use most frequently:
- Create a mailing list and segment it if needed
- Create a sign-up form for new subscribers
- Design and send emails that are pleasing to the eye by using templates or designing from scratch
- Build trust with autoresponders
Create the mailing list
If you’re starting from scratch and don’t have a mailing list you will build it using a sign up box. If you have a small email list you can manually enter each name using forms that are available on the AWeber website. If you have a larger email list, you can import it into AWeber by converting it into a file in CSV, TXT, or XLS format.
One of the drawbacks of AWeber is that the tool doesn’t allow you to import a contact list from Gmail. That means you have to export your contacts to a CSV file before using the import function.
As part of the import process, AWeber requires you to document how you acquired the names on your list. Although it’s a pain, I like this requirement because it ensures that you have gotten permission from the individuals. A confirmation message is sent to each of the subscribers to ensure that they want to be on your list.
Create a sign-up form for new subscribers
After you set up your list you’ll create a sign-up form. This will be the normal way that you will add people to your mailing list. The form can be hosted on your author platform website, hosted on the AWeber web site, sent in an email, or added to your Facebook fan page. You’ll see an example of a sign-up box at the bottom of this post where I invite you to sign up to my mailing list.
Design and send emails
I’m using the term email generically. You can send simple emails to your entire list or to a segment of your list. You can send newsletters. You can send special offers and announcements. You can link your list to your blog so that every time you write a new post it will automatically be sent to your subscribers. Unlike some other email service providers, there are no limits on the number of emails that you can send each month.
You will design your emails using templates and a drag and drop editor. When I started using AWeber the email design templates left something to be desired. They were very bare-bones. Now there are hundreds of templates. You have access to a stock photo database in addition to being able to upload your own photos. If you’re not very tech savvy, you will have a learning curve before you feel comfortable using the editor. There is extensive video tutorial help as well as text help in the email editor tool. Live support is only available during business hours so if you like to work in the middle of the night and need help you’ll have to wait until the next day.
Build rapport with autoresponders
With this feature you can set up an email sequence in advance for every new subscriber. Suppose someone signs up for your mailing list at the very beginning of your writing project. Just like with the movie studio, you may send them an email describing your reasons for writing the book and what your publication date will be. As time goes on you’ll send out other emails that contain quotes from the book or summaries of interviews that you plan to include. What happens if a new person signs up for your list two months later? They’ve missed all of the previous emails. By using an auto responder you can add each of your emails to a sequence which you set up in advance. Now when a new person joins your list, you can take them through your entire series of welcome emails and bring them up to speed. Of course, depending on the number of emails in your sequence, you would space them out over several days or weeks. Once you set up the sequence, it will automatically run every time a new subscriber signs up.
AWeber provides extensive reporting functions. You’ll be able to tell who opened the email and whether they clicked on any links in the email as well.
AWeber offers a 30 day free trial and a free live demo. You can sign up for monthly, quarterly, or annual billing. Pricing starts at $19 a month for up to 500 contacts and unlimited emails. I like the fact that all of the features of the app are available even at the entry level. With some service providers you get a limited set of features at the entry level and must purchase higher levels in order to get more features. AWeber’s pricing goes up based on the number of contacts. At 5000 contacts, the price is $49 a month.
This tool offers a good balance of costs and features. It’s one of the tools I use to run my business and I liked it enough to become an affiliate. Below, you’ll see a link to purchase the tool or sign up for the free trial. It is an affiliate link so if you purchase I will receive a small commission.
There are other mail provider services available. If you’re on a very tight budget and can’t afford the monthly fee for AWeber, I recommend MailChimp. It’s free for the first 2000 subscribers. It provides the ability to create a list, a signup box, and send emails using templates. It doesn’t have the auto responder capability that AWeber has and it doesn’t have the extensive reporting capabilities but it is one of the leaders in the email space. If you decide you need more advanced marketing capability later on, you can migrate to AWeber.