Yes. I have shut down my author mailing lists to the general public.
Let’s start at the beginning. Current best practice recommendations include running a mailing list for readers. And that’s fine as far as it goes. But let’s examine this in more detail
Let’s Start With Why You Want To Send Author Updates
In theory, communicating with readers is a great idea. It shows them you’re a “real person” and provides a way to create that much-desired “relationship” marketers tell us about.
What’s The Problem With This?
No problem in theory. In practice, you run into a small thing called “Free”.
Free as in free beer and not free speech.
Most folks would like both (or perhaps I should say, “I’d love both.”) But, as we know, there’s a price to be paid for both. In this case, we’re talking about the “free beer” part of this.
In case you haven’t heard of this concept. Free beer is the term used for things that cost money and resources to produce and are not typically given away. Free speech has no resources needed to enjoy it.
(And yes, we know there’s a bigger cost to free speech but it’s not a dollars and cents thing for the normal business production cycle that appears in a profit and loss statement. Yes, maybe it should but let’s go with this definition for now)
And because there’s a cost involved in both the creating and delivering information or entertainment online, somebody has to pay that cost.
With author mailing lists, the author pays the ever-increasing cost for sending out entertaining/informative information.
Again, in theory, sending out the emails creates a relationship and encourages readers to buy your books.
But then we run into the “free beer” part of things. With so many options online, readers can pick and choose where to be entertained and at the lowest cost to themselves. We all do this – and I include myself too.
So, readers decide whether to support the creator by buying the ebooks or whether to simply continue with “free” somewhere else. And with the plethora of choices online, it’s a simple thing to move attention elsewhere.
There is also a demographic and content component of this. Some demographic sections tend more to “free beer” than others. The more the demographic wants “free beer” the harder it is to monetize the content.
My Experience in Gardening
Much of my experience is in the non-fiction gardening genre. I’ve written before on the impacts of large newsletters had on ebook sales, Google ads, and affiliate income.
To summarize though, sending out this list cost me more money than it generated.
And I’m more than willing to entertain the thought I just wasn’t doing this whole newsletter/reader thing properly for the demographic on the
My Experience in Fiction
When moving to fiction, I did a ton of research about current best practices and came up with much the same set of practices as I’d been using in non-fiction.
- Give away a book in exchange for a subscriber.
- Entertain that subscriber / form a relationship with that subscriber
- When you publish a new ebook, the list is how you generate interest and sales.
Note: Savvy email users know how to segment a list out between buyers and lookers.
I signed up for the ebook promotion site BookFunnel. This site is a terrific way for authors to give away free ebooks in exchange for subscribers.
I participated in promotions with other authors and quickly grew my first fiction list into the 1000 subscriber level.
I published several ebooks in a series and a book of short stories similar to those I’d sent out to the
Sales were zero. Or, at least they weren’t measurable or didn’t show as having come from the newsletter (which had a tracking code.)
Encouraged the list to buy the ebooks in a series of email broadcasts interspersed with free stories. Roughly four stories to one general update with buy links.
And then came email subscriber firstname.lastname@example.org
The first part of that email address “
myspambooks” is exactly what the email address started with. The rest I’ve changed to avoid putting up a real address.
And something in my gut told me I wasn’t likely going to make this person into a raving fan.
I thought about this for – oh, I don’t know – maybe two seconds. It was a long process.
My First Reaction
My first reaction was to
And with the resulting clarity, I knew I had climbed back on my treadmill of gathering readers who want
My Second Reaction
The second thing I did was make notes and analyze sales patterns. The thing that stood out was the Amazon Marketing System. It worked very well.
A very few sales did come from my website and my email list but these weren’t at all profitable when I looked at the time and resources needed to create and maintain both.
You can likely see where this is taking me but let me be clear.
My mailing lists and websites weren’t profitable but the AMS ads were.
I immediately discontinued the email list. Put the gardening website into
And Then. And Then…
- Why not just give away the introductory ebooks as normal. And not collect emails. Just give it away for free and go wide (all ebook retailers) to do it.
- At the back of the introductory ebook is a link to the first ebook in the series and not the mailing list.
- If the readers like the first giveaway ebook enough, they’ll drop 99 cents on an ebook. If not, they won’t buy the ebook.
- If a reader is willing to buy a 99 cent ebook, they might be my reader. So the link to the email newsletter address is now included in the back of the “for-sale-for-money” ebooks.
- By comparison, if somebody isn’t willing to pay for a 99 cent ebook, and only wants “free”, they’re not likely going to buy anything else.
My Author Email Lists
My lists are all ebook buyers or are transitioning to this.
The gardening email list is back with access only to ebook buyers. I’m currently “going wide” and rebuilding all gardening ebooks to include these links.
Both fiction pen names are implementing this system as I’ve described it.
The free ebooks are being
I’m still thinking about this site.
Like a lot of tech stuff in the Internet world, my ideas tend to morph and change. Instead of one or the other – everybody onto the list or only a small group on the list – I’m in the middle of creating a multilayered list. In other words, if you sign up from the Net or free ebook exchange, you get X. But if you sign up from an ebook you get X plus Y. If you add your name again from a second book, you’ll get X+Y+Z.
So when you join one of my fiction lists, you’ll get the basic story package. If you then subscribe via a link in an ebook, you’ll get another story package. Etc etc. The more ebooks, the more (and different) story packages related to that book.
I note this process is a work in progress (as am I. Sigh…)