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How to build an email list with your book

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It’s amazing how many people publish a book with the intention of making money or growing a business, but they have absolutely no way to build their email list. If you want to sell books, speak, give workshops, attract clients, or create products, you absolutely need an email list. These are the people who will tell their friends about your book, come to hear you speak, pay to attend your workshop, become your most excited clients, and raving customers. These are your fans and the only way you can communicate directly with them is through email.

Bookstores make it almost impossible to build an email list.

When you buy a book, the bookstore does not give your email address to the author. And this makes sense! You’ve never checked out at Barnes and Nobles and had the cashier ask you to give your email address so they could forward it to the author, right? And when you buy a book from your Kindle, Amazon doesn’t send your email address to the author. As the consumer, we appreciate that bookstores don’t give our email address out every time we buy a book.

But from the author’s side, this is problematic. If you’re an author with a traditional publisher, you don’t even know exactly how many books you sold, let alone who bought them. If you’re an author with a digital publisher (like Amazon), they’ll tell you exactly how many books you sold, but they won’t tell you who bought them.

So, how are you supposed to get in touch with your readers when you’re putting out a new book or giving a speech or hosting a workshop?

You need some guerrilla tactics inside your book to lure people to a website and offer their email, in exchange for a really interesting/awesome/valuable free gift. What might such a free gift look like? Let me give you my top five free gifts to recommend.

1. The audiobook version of your book

This is hands-down the simplest free gift to offer that has sustained longevity. If you read last week’s post Why You Should Publish An Audiobook, Too, you’ll know that I recommend producing an audiobook. Simply create a single .mp3 file of your audiobook and offer it for free. In the first few pages of my book, I share a website address where people can submit their email and my email service provider (ConvertKit) will send them the .mp3 file. And you know what? I still sell hundreds of audiobooks, even though I also offer the audiobook for free.

2. A PDF that has related information

Another option is to think of a PDF handout that would have related, useful information. Hire a designer to make it look pretty (which increases the perceived value of the PDF), give it a curiosity-piquing title, and include the link to opt-in for the PDF at the beginning of your book.

For instance, if your book is about in-home fitness, you might create a checklist of equipment that the reader might need to do a great in-home workout, and you might call it, “Seven Essential Items for your In-Home Workouts, All under $25.” Or, you might create a checklist of equipment that travels well and call it, “Three Compact Items that Fit in Your Carry-on so You Can Workout While Traveling.”

Or, if your book is about parenting, you could create a PDF of books to read with your children and call it, “The Best Books to Read To and With Your Child, Age 0 to 18.” Or, you might create a list of questions to ask your child after school that will prompt good conversations and call it, “25 Questions to Ask Your Child After School (Not ‘How Was Your Day?’)”

Do you see the patterns, here? These are PDFs with information that’s related to the book topic but not necessarily the exact same content as the book. The catchy title is also important. Think about the PDF as a magazine article that’s going to be featured on the front page of a national publication—how would they title it? Those magazine headline writers are the highest paid copywriters in the industry, and for good reason, they get people to buy a heck of a lot of magazines. Channel your inner magazine headline writer, and you’ll grow your email list like hotcakes.

3. Online resource center

Sure, you can include worksheets and resources in an appendix, but what’s even better? You can also create a password-protected website that houses those same worksheets and resources and drop the link to that website throughout the text, beginning, middle, and end. Make sure that when the reader goes to that link, they put in their email address, and your email service provider (e.g., ConvertKit) sends them the password to access the online resource center.

What might be in this online resource center? Worksheets with exercises, instructional videos, inspirational audio files, links to other places for information, a private forum—anything!

4. Downloadable Google Sheets

Do you use any Google Sheets in your topic? If you’re in the financial space, do you have any formulas or templates that would help the reader create a budget or allocate investments? If you’re in the productivity space, do you have any timelines that you use to schedule out big projects? If you’re in the marketing space, do you have any formulas for how much to spend on an advertisement? These could all be converted to a Google Sheet, which you can then share as a freebie anywhere in the text of your book.

5. Links to a Dropbox folder

Do you have any free files you could offer to help your reader? If you’re in the meditation space, do you have any guided visualization audio files? If you’re in the photography space, do you have any free photos you could offer? If you’re in the design space, do you have any PSD templates? You can easily share any document, photo, audio file, or video file on Dropbox. As with any of these free offers, in the actual book text, you’ll share the website address, where someone can go to submit their email, and then your email service provider (eg. ConvertKit) will send them an email with the link to the Dropbox folder.

I hope this has given you some new ideas for free offers.

Really, there are so many different ways you can package something useful for your reader and offer it for free, in exchange for an email address. Spend some time sketching out some ideas and then field-test them. Ask your beta readers or people who would be interested in your book what they think of the free offer. Create the free offer, put it into your book, and if you ever want to change it, you can! I’ve changed my free offer several times. Actually, my free offer is only in my e-book, because that’s the easiest place to swap out the free offer.

If you want a peek at my free offer, take a look at the first few pages of my book here: Start Writing Your Book Today

What about you? Do you have a free offer in your book, already? What is it? Are you brainstorming options? Share your thoughts with us here!

Publishing Success Blueprint

Get our blueprint for the journey from book idea to published, successful author and everything you'll need to think about along the way. (It's free!)

GET THE BLUEPRINT NOW