Why do you need an email list when you can just reach readers with social media? How can you use reader magnets to build your email list? Tammi Labrecque gives beginner and advanced tips for book marketing.
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Tammi Labrecque writes urban fantasy, thrillers, and LitRPG under pen names. She's also the author of Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert, which we discussed a few years ago, back in episode 414. Her latest book is Newsletter Ninja 2: If You Give the Reader a Cookie: Supercharge Your Author Mailing List With the Perfect Reader Magnet, which we are talking about today.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.
- Why do authors need an email list?
- What is a reader magnet and why do authors need one?
- On what works well as a reader magnet for non-fiction and fiction
- Key elements for a ‘convertible cookie’
- Tips for building an email list and finding new readers
- Why finding readers in your specific niche or sub-niche matters
- Ideas for what to talk to your newsletter subscribers about
- Why it’s okay if people unsubscribe from your list
You can find Tammi Labrecque at NewsletterNinja.net and on Twitter @tammi_ninja
Transcript of Interview with Tammi Labrecque
Joanna: Tammi Labrecque writes urban fantasy, thrillers, and LitRPG under pen names. She's also the author of Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert, which we discussed a few years ago, back in episode 414. Her latest book is Newsletter Ninja 2: If You Give the Reader a Cookie: Supercharge Your Author Mailing List With the Perfect Reader Magnet, which we are talking about today. Welcome back to the show, Tammi.
Tammi: Hi, it's so good to be back again.
Joanna: I'm glad to talk about this new topic. But before we get into ‘Reader Magnet,' I just wanted to play devil's advocate and do some email basics because these days we have social media, we have TikTok, we have Amazon ads. We have loads of ways to reach readers.
Why bother with an email list in the first place? Can't we just use social media?
Tammi: Well, does every devil need an advocate, Joanna, really? Seriously, though, there's actually two ways to approach this. We repeat a lot of the same reasons over and over. Those of us in the community who like to talk about this stuff, which is a small, probably very boring segment of the author community, but we talk about the same reasons all the time. And they're usually because if you don't have an email list, this terrible thing might happen.
For example, we say, don't build your business on someone else's land, digital sharecropping, as I've heard it called, as I've called it myself. And that is true.
When you build on someone else's land, it can be taken away from you.
And whether that's something relatively minor like Facebook or Instagram being down for a day, which happened not too long ago, you'll recall, or something really major like Facebook taking away your ad account or your entire Facebook account. If your social media situation goes south, you don't have access to any of those friends or followers unless they're on your email list, and that's scary stuff.
And there are a few of us who talk about those tried and true reasons a lot. Everybody's heard this by now from me, from you, from David Gaughran, from Mark Dawson. But if we step back just a moment from that, I think a lot of those reasons, while I absolutely believe in them, I think that they come from a place of fear. Maybe it's not as effective to scare people into setting up their email list when there are actually really positive and optimistic reasons to do so.
If you'll forgive me using numbers at this hour of the morning, well, it's not morning in England, but I'll tell you what it is here. Rather than grudgingly start your email list in case Facebook bans you, what if I told you that
You should nurture your email list because 92% of online adults use email
And of that 92% of adults who use email, 99% of them check their email every day, Joanna. And that's not me just pulling five-year-old stats out of my butt. That's from a January 7th article from OptinMonster, January 7th of this year.
Joanna: Do you mean once a day or you mean once an hour?!
Tammi: They actually did have a statistic and it was nuts. It was like sometimes 60 times a day or whatever, and I was like, ‘Listen, even I don't do that.' But 99% of them check their email at least once a day, every single day. That's crazy.
A couple other quick stats just from that same article. I know we have a lot of stuff to talk about, but 58% of users check their email first in the day before they get to social media or news or whatever else they're going to do online, 69% of them check their email while they're watching TV, 57% of them check their email in bed, and probably most important for our purposes, 61% of consumers report that they'd rather hear from the brands they like via email, not SMS, not direct messaging, not the phone. I mean, gross, right, who wants to talk on the phone?
Joanna: Definitely not!
Tammi: No, do not call me. I don't use my phone for that. Now, we're not brands exactly. And I always tell my students and my clients that they should remember that we are very different from most internet marketers. There's a lot of info out there that just doesn't work for us.
I imagine we'll talk about a little bit of that later on. What does work for us usually has to be transmuted somehow to account for how different our customers and using air quotes here, ‘products, marketing.' That's all really different for us.
Those statistics are relevant to anyone with an email list, 92%, 99%, 61%. Those are big numbers of people who want to hear from you. So, yes, you need to have a mailing list, not just as like a fire stop against something terrible happening on Facebook or whatever, but because that's genuinely where people want to hear from you.
Joanna: Absolutely. And I'll add, on the positive side.
This is about a long-term relationship with people who opt into your list.
And it will be a tiny percentage of potentially your social media followers or people who come to your website, but they're actively choosing to be on your list.
We are indie authors. We are independent authors, which means we should try and keep at least some of our stuff in areas we can control. And, of course, I would also say back up your email list. I export people every month. Obviously, we have all the GDPR rules and everything, but these are, I guess, almost business assets or lists of business assets and we look after them and we care for them.
To me, it's also part of that long-term independence that I consider to be a critical part of my author business.
Tammi: I would agree with that 100%. No matter what happens to you, you can just pick up that spreadsheet and you can start from scratch, and that's amazing. What a relief that is. What's the word I'm looking for? Security. That's the word I'm looking for. That's security in your business because nobody can take that list of names away from you.
Joanna: I've had an email list since 2008 and I'm on my third service. I use ConvertKit. And so that's another thing. All of these things change. Everything changes.
All the different services change over time, but the people behind the email account, that's the person we are talking to.
So, okay. So, we agree we need a list. So, let's get into the new book. Why can't I just have a little box that says, ‘Sign Up for my Newsletter?'
What is a ‘Reader Magnet,' and why do I need one?
Tammi: You can have a little box that does that, and, in fact, you totally should. Everybody should have a just sign up box, like no magnet newsletter sign up, put a form on the front page of the website above the fold, please.
Maybe one of those thin little bars that goes across the top and just have the email field, the first name if you collect that.
Don't mention your magnet. You don't have to promise anything except be in the know or get my newsletter or whatever. See how that works out.
You'll definitely get some signups from that, and they're probably going to be some of your most engaged subscribers because they sought out a way to keep tabs on you and they didn't need to be bribed. We love those folks. I absolutely love those folks.
And, in fact, sometimes I go to a website and I do just want to sign up. I actually don't even care about getting a thing right now. ‘Can I just put my name and my email in somewhere?' And if you can't find that, it could be annoying, to be brutally honest. So, you should have that. Absolutely.
That is a really slow way to build your list, that organic process. It begins when someone reads your book and they like it and they happen to have finished it at a moment when they have the time and the ability to head over to the website and find your sign up, right? But if they finish the book like in bed and they've got an e-ink Kindle because those things cannot go on the internet, let me tell you. I actually think they might have, but they might not have browsers anymore, but my old one does but it doesn't work, so that's not relevant. You cannot go on the internet.
Maybe they're sleepy. Maybe their urge isn't strong enough to get up and go to the computer. Maybe by morning, they don't care about it anymore. But if the last thing they saw was your back of a book CTA that tells them about this absolutely irresistible reader magnet, that might just be the thing that makes them get up and go to the computer. Or that's asking a lot, maybe they leave their Kindle on the CTA page or they send themselves a quick text. That's the sort of thing I would do so they'll remember in the morning. Don't forget to get that sign-up thing, and they go to bed.
Joanna: Just confirm what a CTA is because you used that language.
Tammi: Call to action.
So, at the back of your book, you're going to have a call to action (CTA)
that says, ‘Do you want to find out this or do you want to read about that? Or do you want to hear more about this couple or spaceship?' Or whatever it is that you're writing about. That's the call to action.
Click here, sign up for my mailing list, and I'll send you whatever your reader magnet is.
And so then, of course, in addition, maybe it bribes somebody who's on the cusp there, there's also the opportunity then to do things like newsletter swaps and group promotions then giveaways that let authors signal boost each other and share subscribers, and that boosts your numbers even further.
It's a little bit harder to say to an author, ‘I have a new book out for sale. Can you share it with your list?' And they're like, ‘I don't want to ask them to open their wallets today,' or maybe they have a release in two weeks or whatever. They could have any number of reasons, but saying, ‘Why don't we just get together and you send my cookie to your subscribers and I'll send yours to mine?'
And then, of course, that whole situation is more formalized and more organized over at Book Funnel or Story Origin, where people are doing these big group promotion things.
And that boosts your numbers really fast because the reason that's important, of course, is that marketing is…and authors hate to be called marketers.
I apologize to every listener, but marketing is a numbers game, and it's just a fact that the more eyeballs you have on your marketing, whether that's your newsletter or your Facebook ads or whatever, the more people you'll convert to buyers because conversion rates don't tend to change.
If you have a 10% conversion rate on your list, you're probably going to have that no matter how big your list is. People might have higher or lower conversion rates. I'm just terrible at math, so I'm keeping it really simple.
If you send a new release to your email list and 10 people open that email and 1 person clicks through and buys, that's a 10% conversion rate. So, that means that 100 openers, if you had them, would mean 10 buyers, and 1,000 openers is 100 buyers, right? If you've got 30,000 people on your list and a 33% open rate, shaking it up now with the 3s, that's 10,000 opens and you're looking at 1,000 buyers. Like I said a minute ago, it's just a numbers game. So, you're just trying to increase that number as much as you can.
It's a numbers game but with the caveat that you're trying to make sure that the people that you're attracting are people who read in your genre, in your specific niche.
You don't want to cast so wide a net that you've got a bunch of people who wouldn't be interested in your books. That doesn't serve you at all.
But if you can find, and you can, and I assure you, however many tens of thousands of people who read in romance or science fiction or whatever, then you've got that big list and those conversion numbers. The raw numbers go up as the percentage stays the same. It's just math, which I hate, but here we are.
Joanna: I think it's important. You said it's a numbers game with a caveat, which it isn't just a numbers game. They do have to be quality. When I say quality, I mean people who are actually interested in buying stuff. And so that's important.
I've found some of these bigger co-promotions haven't worked so well for me because, for example, I really write cross-genre, and so the authors' promotions will have to be such a good fit in order for people to stick around and want my stuff for the long-term. So, I think that's really important.
Tammi: It is.
Joanna: I do love that you said just use the newsletter sign-up. I don't do that right now, but you've given me permission to do that because I've been feeling that for a while. I do just want some people to come and have my newsletter. So, that's super useful. I'm so glad you said that. Let's get back to what is a read of magnet?
Give us some examples of good reader magnets for fiction and nonfiction
Tammi: I'll do nonfiction first because the theory of that at least is easy. I don't know so much about the execution being easy, at least for me, but the best reader magnet for nonfiction is generally considered to be something that educates the people who download it or gives them a tool of some kind.
[Note from Joanna: I have my Author Blueprint.]
I personally prefer a tool over a lecture any day because I feel like we're all just regurgitating so much of the same information anyway. But, that said, if you have a niche-y market, like you and I are talking to indie authors and that is smaller than say most internet marketers audiences are, an informational lead magnet can actually do very well.
I love to download a spreadsheet that tells me it's going to help me calculate this or a workbook that tells me it's going to teach me how to do that or whatever. I love that stuff. But I'm currently finding the most success that I have, and that's very relative, it's just a cheat sheet of, well, it says 10 tips but it's actually 12 tips because I have problems, but it's just 10 tips for writing emails that people want to read.
[You can find Tammi's cheatsheet here: https://newsletterninja.net/newsletter/]
That's been far more successful in terms of actual conversion to subscribers than previously I had a subscriber avatar worksheet thing that just seemed to confuse people more than help them. So, I do struggle with it.
I haven't felt that my reader magnet situation has been entirely effective. I'm actually about to roll out something new. I'm very excited, but it's really complicated. So, I hope it'll be a big hit. I'll let you know how it goes.
For fiction, though, I feel like deciding the best reader magnet, I'm going to slip, though. I'm going to call this a cookie sometimes because it's a habit at this point. But just there's a negative chance that I would ever talk about website cookies, like the little tracking cookies. So, if you hear me say cookie, I mean a reader magnet.
Figuring out the best reader magnet really starts first with figuring out who the target audience is.
The best reader magnet for someone who just finished a specific book of yours isn't necessarily the best reader magnet for someone who's just finished a different book in that series or a book in a different series entirely or, in your case, a different genre entirely.
And probably none of those is the best reader magnet for someone who hasn't yet heard of you and you're going into a blind promotion like a book funnel group promo or a story origin swap or whatever. You can write reader magnets for all of those people, but they might not be the same magnet.
So, let me just break it down this way. For someone who has just finished a book of yours, the best reader magnet is one which answers a question or closes a loop from that specific book and/or tells them more about the characters or the world of that book because that's the thing they're immersed in, and so that's the thing that when you get to the end and say, ‘Do you want to hear more about this?' They say, ‘Oh, absolutely. Of course, I do.'
But if you don't want to write a reader magnet for every single book in your catalog, though, I will tell you I have plenty of romance writer clients who are doing exactly that. Romance writers are amazing. Maybe you have a reader magnet that would work for that book and it would work for the other two or three or seven books in that series.
So, a side character's story, someone that appears in several of the books but doesn't have their own book that they're the protagonist of or a prequel or a folk tale. I like to use that as an example if you write some speculative fiction, fantasy, that thing. There may be stories that are told in your world and you can actually write that story.
Or somebody's origin story. People love a villain origin story. They love it. Just something like that, something over the world or the characters touch on every book in the series and vice versa so it will appeal to anyone who's reading the series.
But you can go broader than that and try to cover a lot of books with a single magnet. Maybe you've got three trilogies set in the same urban fantasy world or military sci-fi or small-town romance or whatever. And you can write one reader magnet that's relevant to anyone who's read any of the three books in the three trilogies.
Now, I'm talking about one magnet, nine books, and that maybe sounds crazy, but think of the ‘Star Wars' universe. Rogue One would be a fantastic reader magnet. It's an in-world story that really appeals to people who've seen any of the nine movies in the three main ‘Star Wars' trilogies.
Solo, the movie about Han Solo's origin story. That would be great. That'd be a great reader magnet. And what appeals to me about those specific stories is that they also work for people who have not seen any ‘Star Wars' movies. So, now we're moving out of how do you appeal to your exactly specific readers, and into how do you appeal to these people that maybe some friend of yours is just putting your story in front of their audience?
Their audience is not going to pick up an epilogue from one of your books because who wants an epilogue for a book they haven't read? So, if you can write something that appeals to your readers but it will also appeal to people who haven't yet heard of you, that's what I call in the book a convertible cookie.
I actually said in the book that I couldn't remember where I stole that from, but I have since remembered, so I just want to say it. It was an author named Vered Ehsani, I think is how you say her last name. She's an urban fantasy writer I met at a convention. So, a convertible cookie is, to me, one that appeals to readers who know you and readers who don't.
Now, this is a very simple sentence but it's not actually as simple to pull off as it may sound.
The key to that is to write a standalone story that does not require knowledge of any of your published books but it does contain fan-favorite characters or elements from your published books.
So, it doesn't require that people have read them, but if people have read them, they will recognize these fan favorites.
What happens there is that people who have read your book or books, they want the cookie because they want to know more about the character or the world that you've created, but people whose first exposure to you is the cookie we hope will then want to go on and read more about the characters and elements that you introduced in the cookie.
It's a little bit lopsided because then that, we'll call it a need, that need to move from the published book to the cookie is going to be greater than the need to move from the cookie to the published book.
The people who've read your books are more invested in getting that reader magnet than the reader magnet people will be in moving over. But the thing is if you're putting those fan favorites, the side character that they've been clamoring to hear about, the origin story that they keep asking about, the tale that you've told a little bit of, but everyone's always like, ‘Oh, that sounds funny.'
If you're putting those things into the reader magnet, it's pretty safe to say that they will pique interest and spur the people who read the magnet into reading the published books because they have probably become fan favorites for a reason.
If you're creating your cookies based on what your readers want more of, you are very naturally and organically creating magnets that contain some of your most compelling stuff.
I hope that makes sense. You're just automatically making these stories be about people and events and places that turned out to be really, really exciting to your existing readers so they're probably pretty good.
Joanna: Right. So, you've given us loads there, but
Let's take it back to basics because I'm sure some people are like, ‘Wow, I thought I was just writing one novel. Now I have to write all these different reader cookies for different occasions?'
I want to point out to people, it has to be based on where you are. You mentioned the romance readers being amazing, the romance writers and readers, and you are right. The romance writers are amazing and they mostly have a lot of books as well, the successful ones.
I would just say to people you can start out with just ‘sign up for my newsletter'. And then I went from there, for my fiction, I went to here's a free novella, ‘Day of the Vikings,' which does have characters from two of my series, but it's also available for sale. So, that breaks some rules as well.
[You can get a free thriller at www.JFPenn.com/free ]
But essentially, that has been my cookie, my reader magnet for eight years. And to be honest, I could grow my list faster, but that's the one I've been using and because it has a basic email autoresponder series behind it and I haven't changed it. I know I should, but it carries on and I get signups every day.
Just one thing. And that is a good start. It's better than nothing, right?
So, if people really just want to start with the basics, is that enough?
Tammi: Yes. That actually is 100% my position. I always want to give people permission to do the easiest thing or the least thing that will get the job done. Because if you tell somebody, ‘Got to have a cookie for every series, sorry, I don't make the rules.' That's too hard, especially if they're coming to it late.
When I have people come to me for advice before they've really started and they're very close to the beginning of their journey, it's not as hard for them, I say bake it in because that's hilarious to me because I'm a child, but just bake the cookie part in.
If you're writing a trilogy, think as you're writing, okay, what's the cookie for this trilogy going to be? And then just whip it off. It's only going to be 10,000 words. Get it done. And then just if you're building them as you go, it's really easy.
But if you're looking back at, you know, ‘I've written 12 series at this point,' or for you, in particular, ‘Not only have I written 12 series, but they're not in the same world. They're not even in the same genre,' at that point, it's important to give people permission to do the imperfect thing rather than do nothing at all.
I think if you write in multiple genres or fiction and non-fiction, eventually, you're going to have to write at least one cookie for those broadest divisions across which you don't see a lot of reader transference. But if you have to do that, you also don't have to do them all today.
You can look at what's coming up next on your release schedule and go, ‘Okay, I'm going to do a cookie for that.' And then maybe next you say, ‘Oh, I'm going to go backwards and I'm going to write a cookie for my series that is the best-selling one. That's the one that gets into the most people's hands, so if I've got a really good cookie in that CTA, it's going to get me the most sign-ups.' There you go.
Or you can write one for the series that sells the worst and hope you give it a boost. You do you.
But the important thing to remember is that just like with your published books, these are assets you'll have forever.
If you only write one or two cookies a year, eventually, you will either catch up with everything you've written or you'll at least have covered the most important parts of your catalog. If you only have one, you only have one. Hey, it's better than zero, and you should leverage it as best you can.
If it doesn't quite fit with one of the things that isn't quite in the genre, you just explain to people how they'll like it anyway. ‘Oh, you read this stuff, and here's this one that I wrote in this slightly different genre, but it's got X, Y, and Z that you've come to expect from Joanna'. Give them a reason to make the switch.
Honestly, the victory condition is to be Nora Roberts, and it doesn't matter what genre you write in because readers will just follow you anywhere, so go for it, I say.
Joanna: I don't know if Nora has a cookie. I follow her blog.
Tammi: Oh, goodness, no. Nora is beyond cookies. She is so far beyond even the thought of a cookie. No.
Joanna: People say that, don't they?
They say things like, ‘Nora Roberts doesn't have an email sign-up. Why should I have one?'
Tammi: You're not Nora Roberts, honey.
One of the things I hear a lot when I was doing editing, which I, unfortunately, don't do anymore only because it's so time-consuming, it takes up so much time, but I used to do a lot of copy editing and content editing for other indie authors. And sometimes I'd correct somebody's head-hopping.
This happens with romance, in particular, and they'd say, ‘Well, Nora Roberts does it all the time,' and I'd be like, ‘Oh, honey, you are not Nora Roberts. You cannot do this. I'm sorry. I don't know what to tell you.'
Joanna: That's so funny to say that. Because I do remember reading in Nora Roberts, I think it was ‘Year Zero.' I really liked that series. And I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. She is head-hopping within a scene and this is not allowed,' and then I was like, ‘Yeah, it doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter. She's just so great in so many ways.' But anyway, this is not the Nora Roberts fan club podcast. So, just coming back.
Joanna: Maybe we should just get back to the subtitle of the book. So, we've talked a bit about reader magnets, which we're calling cookies as well, but the first part is supercharge your author emailing list.
So, we've got the super gift, let's call it a gift as well that we're giving the reader in exchange for an email sign-up. How do we supercharge that list? You mentioned a few earlier about newsletter swaps.
What are the most effective ways for people to supercharge their email list and get people to that landing page?
Tammi: So, there's two basic methods, obviously. There's asking your readers, which you do in your books, on your website, on social media. Those are going to be limited by your natural reach as an author. So, if you're just starting out, you're not going to get a lot.
If you launch to number one in the Amazon store every time you release a book, awesome, good for you. And you probably get tons of sign-ups because that's just how it works. Again, a numbers game.
So, that's the first method, just ask your readers. Put it in the back of your book.
It should be your first CTA if it's the first thing you want people to do.
Let me just talk real quickly about CTAs, calls to action. You can put as many calls to action on a sales page or in the back of a book or wherever that you want, but, of course, the conventional wisdom is people are mostly just going to do the first one, so make sure you know what you really want.
There's definitely a school of thought, and I think I probably subscribe to it, that your first call to action if there's a next book in the series, is probably get the next book in the series. We're not running a charity here. Go ahead and sell a book.
Joanna: Me too.
Tammi: So, do it. But when you run out of series, you're either waiting for the next one to come out or it's the end of the series, that first call to action should obviously be join my newsletter on your website. It needs to be above the fold. People need to see it right away as soon as they land.
Don't make them look for it. Don't make them hunt for it. Put it on your social media. Pin it to the top of whatever it is that you're doing for social media. If you've got a whole bio situation, make sure that one of the places that that takes you is to a place where they can sign up, all of that.
The other method, of course, is seeking out new readers, which is a thing we can do if we have the reader magnet that stands on its own, a standalone novel, a standalone story, a novella or whatever. And we can take that and you can reach out directly to authors that you know or that are in your network and just do a one-on-one newsletter swap, ‘Hey, I've got this free thing. Do you want to send it to your people? I can certainly send your thing to my people.'
You can do that over at BookFunnel. They specifically have a setup where you can do one-on-one newsletter swaps or you can do group promotions.
You can do what are called BookFunnel bundles, which are a little bit different from the group promotions because those are open to the public and you just go and apply. But you can do like a private Book Funnel bundle where you just reach out to your own network and make a little promotion, which is generally what I prefer.
If you're right at the beginning, probably just do one of the public ones. My goodness, beggars can't be choosers.
But once you've got any audience to actually work with, it's awesome to reach out and actually network with the people that are at your level.
These are the people who are in your also-boughts, the people that you can see are selling at about the same level you are.
If you're a romance writer and you launch to whatever, 12,000 in the store, probably you're not going to reach out to Lucy Score today. And that's okay. You look for the people who are in your range. But I also think that doing the bigger swaps or bundles can work really well for people provided, as we were saying earlier, that you don't go too far afield of what it is that you write.
The more you can niche down and make sure that the people that you're swapping with are very close to your own books, the better off you'll be with subscribers.
Let me just give an example. If you write romance, romance is a very big category, do you write contemporary romance or historical romance? That's a big divide. Do you write paranormal romance or nonparanormal romance? I guess that's contemporary romance. If it's paranormal, is it shifters or is it vampires? You can niche down quite a bit.
The closer the other people in the promo are to being in your exact same sort of book, the more vetted those people are as they come onto your newsletter list because you know that they like cowboy small-town romance, not just romance, but small-town cowboys, which is what you write.
I'd rather do a swap with four small-town cowboy people than three small-town cowboys and a billionaire. You're going to get a bunch of people that aren't going to be quite right for you. So, you're laughing at the billionaire, aren't you?
Joanna: I'm laughing at the book. Three Small-Town Cowboys and a Billionaire. That is a book title.
Tammi: Okay. The first person to write that I want to know about it.
Joanna: That is a real cross-genre romance.
Tammi: I love it. Yes. Okay. But I would rather just keep really tight in my niche.
Sometimes if you're a little too niche-y, you might have niche, niche, niche. You might have to reach up a little bit, maybe your specific brand of whatever. You have to just go up a level to find enough people, but you don't want to just throw in with anybody who's even remotely like you.
That's my main advice about that is if you're going to go out there in the wide world and just start trying to farm out promos, find the ones that are closest to you. If you write cozies, make sure you're in with the pet cozy people instead of the witch cozy people. Those are different enough that I would try to keep them separate, that sort of thing.
But here's the thing. I'm saying that that's what I'm seeing people have a ton of success with right now. I actually have a client right now who came to me before they had published any of their cozy mysteries. They had two of them written. They said, ‘I don't have any idea what to do for a magnet.' We brainstormed something and found a prequel story for them to do.
They signed up for BookFunnel. They joined two paranormal cozies. It's a ghost cozy, not a witch cozy, but they joined two promotions with ghosts, with paranormal cozies. And before publishing book one, they had a mailing list of about 600 people. Now, I would rather launch to 600 people than crickets any day. Their books are obviously not taking Amazon by storm, but they didn't sell four books and drop into the phone numbers either.
It's just steadily trickling along doing okay, more people are coming in all the time. And that person actually just signed up for a one-on-one promo with another author that seems to perform a little bit better and has a bigger mailing list. But they were fine with it because they could see that that person had subscribers and was managing them well and their books were doing well.
So, you can really have some success over there doing that. But it's important to remember that while I'm seeing that right now, we certainly weren't doing BookFunnel bundles in 2014, were we?
Tammi: It all changes so fast. Three years ago, that's not what we were doing, and three years from now, who knows what we'll be doing?
But there's a whole chapter in the new book about strategies versus tactics, which I frankly almost deleted because there's a lot of talk of traffic lights and honestly, Joanna, it was a really hard time for me, but strategies versus tactics is really important.
So, whether we're going to use this software or deliver our reader magnets in this specific way or blah, blah, blah, those parts might change but we will offer you a little bit extra story in exchange for the ability to reach out and let you know when we have new books for you. That's not going to change ever.
Joanna: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. That's long-term. Now we're almost out of time, but a really important question that people have is all right so I've built this mailing list with my amazing magnet, but what do I email people because I don't know what to say when I send the emails? So, give us some examples. You've mentioned a lot of genres with authors who are releasing regularly.
What do we write to people on our email list, especially if we don't release a book very often?
Tammi: This is such a pain point for people. I wish it wasn't because if you have enough imagination to write a novel, you can write a newsletter.
If you were to go out there into the wide world of internet marketing, which I actually do not recommend, they are just constantly banging on about story, story, story. You have to sell to your subscribers with a story. Wow.
The good news is we are already way ahead of the game on that one. If there's one thing that your listeners know how to do it's tell a story. So, I mentioned earlier that a lot of internet marketing techniques have to be transmuted to work for newsletters, right? This is a really good example.
This is what I've been talking about lately with people who come to me and say, ‘I don't know what to write about,' is this. One of the things that's really big out there in the internet marketing land is what they call content buckets or what they call them other things too, but I've heard them called content buckets.
You have these different types of content or themes that you rotate through as you're sending your newsletters or posting on social media or whatever.
So, on Monday, you send a newsletter that shows your authority. Authority is a big thing for marketers. Someplace you've been published or maybe given a talk or something.
And then on Tuesday, you post something educational, and then on Wednesday, you post a case study, and so on and so forth. You just rotate through. Oh, it's Friday, it's time for whatever.
For us, a lot of the themes that your average internet marketer would have for a content bucket, those are not going to work for us. We're not establishing authority or educating our readers on the industry or whatever. But there's a nugget in there that if you take that concept and you twist it a little, well, you can have content buckets or themes or whatever you want to call them.
So, say you send an email every week. And half of your audience just drop dead where they're standing.
You don't have to send an email every week. It's okay. But, let's just say you do. If you don't, then awesome because this will last. You can stretch this over a longer period of time if you're only sending every couple of weeks or every month.
Let's say you send an email every week. The first week of the month, that's when I do work-in-progress updates. So, a funny bit of dialogue or a little scene I wrote today, or if I were writing romance, I would maybe do some banter between the hero and the heroine that maybe ends with like a moment, a gaze, something like that. That makes people want to keep reading.
This is where you would do your cover reveals if you're in a genre that likes cover reveals. I don't think anybody is doing cover reveals in thrillers or whatever, but they're big in romance. They can be big in urban fantasy. It can even just be I'm halfway through, ‘Hey, I got to this word count and I expect the book will be out on time.' Just a little update.
Week two could be the week that you talk about yourself and what you're up to, as personal or not personal as you like. ‘I went kayaking,' or, ‘It's almost spring and the dogs are happy to be getting more walks,' or, ‘I took the kids to the museum.' Or if you don't talk about your kids, some people draw that line there, just, ‘I went to the museum. Here's a picture of a stegosaurus, whatever.'
Week three could be you talk about other books and media in your genre. So, what romance or sci-fi or urban fantasy are you reading or binging on Netflix right now? I'm out of ideas for week four because I'm a little tired, but there are probably more than three things in your life. So, just take another one and make it week four.
And then when you sit down to write your newsletter, you already have a loose idea of what you're going to write about. Oh, it's week four and I write about such and such. Oh, it's week two. What am I watching? That internet marketing idea, the content buckets, and you pick it apart and figure out how it would work for you when you're not selling widgets or courses.
Honestly, that's how I think about the entirety of what I'm doing at Newsletter Ninja, whether it's books or courses or the client work I do. I'm just trying to translate all of that stuff that's out there into ideas that work for us in the indie author market.
Joanna: Another tip, of course, is to sign up for the mailing list of other authors in your niche, and not just in your niche, other authors who seem to be doing well with newsletters. For example, those romance authors, although they have a different voice.
Obviously, the voice is really important of your newsletter, but you can certainly get content ideas, as you say, for your different buckets from signing up for people. And look, most of us don't mind if you sign up for the list, have a look at it, and then unsubscribe.
Also, people will unsubscribe all the time, right? We don't need to be scared of that.
Never be scared of unsubscribes.
Tammi: One hundred percent. Particularly if you're out there doing any aggressive list building, so you go out and you join a BookFunnel promo of some kind and you bring in 1,200 new subscribers in 2 weeks, expect to lose 1/3 of them at least when they come through.
And, in fact, I always tell people the first thing that like a stranger subscriber, somebody that has not read any of your books that you've bribed with this wonderful reader magnet, the first thing they should see when they sign up for your books is probably a giant button that says unsubscribe.
Hey, if you just signed up for the free book, I get it. No harm, no foul. I love free books. You can click here and you won't hear from me again, and a bunch of them will click it and that's totally okay.
Joanna: I did one of these recently and the first email that I got really just did say, ‘Here's the unsubscribe link. You can unsubscribe.' And then there was another one at the bottom going, ‘PS, you're welcome to unsubscribe' because the reality is the more people we have on our list, these are premium, you have to pay for them. So, they have to pay their way, basically.
We have to pay the email services. I always encourage unsubscribes, but anyway, we could talk about this forever.
Your books have amazing information in and I've signed up for your list. I've got your various spreadsheets and all of that thing. So, people can go do that.
Tell us where can people find you and your books and everything online.
Tammi: Everything for me starts at newsletterninja.net. So, that's easy to remember. It's the .net, not the .com which somebody is squatting on. There are links there to all the courses. That's all waitlists as we're recording, but I'll probably run the ‘Advanced Automations' course sometime in the summer maybe.
And there's links to the books, to the Facebook group, to the social media, and, of course, to my own newsletter.
Joanna: Brilliant. Thanks so much for your time, Tammi. That was great.
Tammi: Thanks, Joanna. It was wonderful to talk to you.