Kevin talks about building your platform with a focus on your mailing list, and creating super fans by being personable and engaging with your readers.
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Kevin: 00:00 Hey Slingers, welcome back to another week of the word slinger podcast. And today we're going to talk about mailing lists. Stick around. Hey you looking for a jump on your own indie author career, but kind of confused about where to start. I got the place for you. Check out draft two digital. That's where you're going to be able to convert your manuscript, distributed worldwide, online, and get help the whole way from the best author support there is. Trust me on this one. So go check out draft2digital.com/wordslinger
Announcer: 00:36 It's the Wordslinger Podcast, where story matters. Build your brand. Write your book. Redefine who you are. It's all about the story here. What's yours? Now here's the guy who invented pants optional ... Kevin Tumlinson, the Wordslinger!
Kevin: 01:01 Well that's right. This is Kevin Tumlinson, the Wordslinger. Thank you for tuning in to another week and another Wednesday. Ah Nah, I decided I would scrap telling you what day of the week it is cause I have no idea this could go live on Thursday. Uh, depending on how the day goes. Who knows? So another, uh, solo words linger episode, Solo slinger. So anyway, um, as promised I wanted to talk to you today about mailing lists and, um, I'm going to try and give you some useful stuff. Um, mostly it's, I think it's going to be about perspective on these things. Uh, but here, here we are, you've probably heard this advice before, so don't, don't roll your eyes if you have, maybe there's something new here, uh, that we can talk about. But we, um, I treat mailing lists as my primary marketing tool and I actually believe everyone should, and one of the reasons for them just to get this out of the way right off is, uh, you, you control your mailing list when no one could come along and do a term of search terms of service change and lock you out of your mailing list.
Kevin: 02:11 There could be circumstances under which that could happen, but for the most part, especially if you're backing up your mailing list, saving that as Wa, uh, a CSV file, um, which is basically like a, uh, a spreadsheet. You should always have a backup your mailing list. Okay. So, um, if you are keeping that a handy then a, you can always switch services, right? So the idea here is you want to own your platform. Now your platform in general terms is a, your reach, your ability to sell books as an author of your platform is your ability to sell books. Um, we, you know, w directly your direct reach to an audience. That's, that's the rule. That's the definition we're going to go by. Okay. Um, so your mailing list is most important piece of that. So you can have a social media presence, you can have a youtube channel and a huge following there.
Kevin: 03:09 Um, you can have a lots of people who have signed up for notifications on your releases on Amazon and BookBub and Draft2Digital. Um, you can have all of that, but at some point, one of those or all of those might shift the way they approach things. Here's a good example of this. Uh, it's sort of an example. Um, MailChimp. Now, I used to recommend mail chimp as a free, uh, a way to get started with a mailing list for free up to like 2000 subscribers. A, that's usually pretty good for most authors. And you get a lot of functionality. You used to, I don't, I think maybe things have changed. Maybe they haven't changed so much. I'm not sure. I do know that the way they, that mail chimp handles audience is irksome because basically they make a, even unsubscribes are part of your audience and you can be charged for them.
Kevin: 04:03 So I don't recommend mail chimp for authors anymore. I'm not saying that there move in the industry is bad. Uh, they're doing what they got to do for their own goals and in their own interests. Um, they'd just have now become less appealing as a, um, a mailing list management system for authors. Uh, if you're looking for a replacement mailer lite is the one that seems to get the, uh, the most buzz right now and there are all kinds of other options out there. Um, so that's the sort of basic technical side of what you need for a mailing list. By the way, you need something to manage it. You don't want to be sending your emails out to your list from like your Google account, your Gmail account or something, or from your, uh, personal, whatever your email management software of choice is. You want to have a such a service that's dedicated to managing large lists.
Kevin: 04:56 And one of the reasons for that is that it helps with, you know, keeping you from being marked as spam or violating spam laws, that sort of thing. So it's, it's useful to have a service to help you manage all that. Um, okay. So owning your platform is the biggest reason to do this. If you have your mailing list, you can reach out to those, those folks at any time. One of the advantages of a mailing list is that a lot of you, if you're doing this right, everyone on that mailing list came to you because they're interested in you and your work. Um, if you're just reaching out, targeting people on Facebook through ads or, uh, or using any sort of ad targeting at all, you are kind of just rolling the dice that the people you appear in front of are going to be interested in your work.
Kevin: 05:48 And they may not be a, so you really hadn't less control over that. It's not a bad thing to do this. It's not a bad thing to reach out and try to grow your were platform. But my recommendation is everything you do, aim, aim, everyone that you encounter back at your mailing list, get them on that mailing list. A very important, okay. So when I first started doing this, I had lots and lots of questions about, well, how the heck do I even start building this mailing list? And I got some really like just junk answers. I remember sitting through an entire Webinar one time, uh, and this guy is a, he's the guest and he's, uh, he's there to talk about mailing lists and he's, they're specifically talking about how to build and grow your mailing list. But the one thing he didn't cover was how do you even get started? Where do you, how do you build this? Like how do you get people to sign up initially? Because if you don't have, you know, an audience already, it's difficult to build one. Uh, his answer was use Facebook and I'm not kidding you, that was the complete answer. Use Facebook follow up questions were not answered.
Kevin: 07:02 So that was frustrating. Uh, I still have a transcript of that entire thing. I don't wanna, I don't wanna burn this guy publicly or anything, but I keep it to remind me, uh, and that's to your benefit by the way, cause uh, that reminder, it means that I'm going to give you a place to start. Facebook is definitely a place where you can start all your social media is. Um, so here's the thing about social media. It's a little easier to grow your, in your sphere of influence. I don't know that I would necessarily consider social media to be integral to your actual platform. I mean you can consider it as, as such, especially as it grows bigger. If you become an influencer for example, people are turning to you for advice about whatever. Um, then you know, social media is a great way to reach out to those people.
Kevin: 07:53 I would still try to encourage them onto your mailing list and what what you do. Um, one way to start this is offer something for free that will attract people to sign up for your list. I know I'm talking to a mixed crowd here and a lot of you already know this part. Bare with me if you will because um, I have some other, some other things about being personable that I think are going to be constructive, but you can start your mailing list by reaching out first to the, uh, the network you already have. So if you're on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, uh, that's a great place to start. But don't neglect your own contact list. Um, now don't spam everybody answer that. This is going to be key, but you can reach out. I would, I would advise doing this in small groups of people you know, well, first on your contact list, so family and friends, coworkers, as long as it's not going to get you fired, uh, to do this, by the way, be careful how you do this.
Kevin: 08:54 And uh, you know, some companies have rules against the sorts of emails you can send out. Um, two groups, at least within your company email infrastructure. So I'm mostly talking about personal contact lists here, but you, you can, uh, start reaching out to people on your contact list and say, Hey, look, I'm, I'm writing a book or I've written a book. I, I want to build up my mailing list. Would you mind getting on the mailing list? And I can give you a free short story is a 100 ways. You can do this a thousand ways. You can do this, this part, and I'll talk about that in a second, but, uh, or a free chapter or a free article, if you're a nonfiction writer, maybe you're giving a, just some free content that would be attractive to someone who might be interested in reading your books.
Kevin: 09:46 Um, or it could be, you know, you can get creative with this, by the way. Infographics, for example, especially for nonfiction writers, uh, for fiction writers, maybe it's a downloadable map of your world that you're writing in. You know, so you can get creative about what you offer. Uh, and that's gonna, that's gonna play in, be a little more important later, really. Uh, but as an initial offer to get people on your list is not bad. Um, you could even offer, you know, people who get on your list, uh, initially get, you know, the book for free, for example. I know that seems counterintuitive, but if your plan is to write a series and you're giving anyone who gets on your list the first book free, that can help with building up a, a, a loyal following up, a nice platform. So now you've reached out to, you know, your mailing list, your, your contact list, rather, um, friends and family.
Kevin: 10:42 Uh, you should also be, you know, ready and prepared to give people a way to get on your list when you encounter them out in the three d world. Uh, you can use sites like Moo, moo.com and [inaudible] dot com or vista print or whatever to get some cheap business cards that have a link to your website where people can go and download your Freebie. Okay? So, and you can, you can generally do this for like 25 bucks for a couple hundred cards. You know, this is really not that expensive. If that is still somewhat cost prohibitive for you. Um, you know, you can do this the old fashioned way, just, you know, do, do some handwritten slips, get a pat of a postit notes and write, uh, write the URL on, I'm gonna get us to stamp. If you can afford that, you know, there's, there are ways to do this.
Kevin: 11:37 In other words, you can print some stuff off on your computer. Just, um, you know, hop on, hop in Microsoft Word or excel or something and create a table with a whole bunch of the URLs and your name and the title of your book or whatever you want. You can include a little thumbnail picture of it and print out a page of that stuff and just cut them out with scissors. I mean, that's, doesn't have to be super fancy. Uh, now the nicer the presentation, the more credibility you're going to get. But I'm, I'm trying to encourage you to be creative even if you have a lack of funds and resources. So look around, determine what you got and use it. Um, now, okay. We've talked about platform. I want to talk a little about the, the meat of this is a what to do once you've got the mailing list.
Kevin: 12:30 Uh, but I, I do want to make sure I'm adequately covering how to build a mailing list because this is, it's, this is all pointless. All this stuff is pointless if you don't have anyone they actually talk to. As time goes by, you start doing things like, um, you know, getting on podcasts, doing guest blog posts, writing articles, um, you know, anything you're doing that's getting attention for you, make sure all that stuff points people back to getting on your list. Okay. So let's just use guest blogging as an example. That's still, it's kind of lost a little bit of its zing, but it's still a great way to at least get some people interested in what you're doing. So you go on a a blog or listen, you know, let's use something really accessible. Like medium, medium is a sort of blogging platform itself.
Kevin: 13:20 It's got the reach of like Huffington post without the gatekeepers. Um, so you could actually write on your topic. Let's say you're a fiction writer. You can write short stories and post them to medium. You can write out the chapters of your book and posting to medium get feedback. You can always take that stuff down later. Um, so if you're a nonfiction writer or a fiction writer, you can write articles about, uh, that were related to your topic, you know, and that, and on each of these, you want to put contact information in there. You want to put a little bio that says, Kevin Tumlinson is an author living in Sugarland, Texas. Uh, and he loves his dog and his wife. And you can get one of his free short stories at, um, you know, Kevin thompson.com/join me, um, or whatever your unique proposition is. So, uh, the point here is start looking at ways that, that you can get yourself in front of people and then always point everyone back to your work.
Kevin: 14:30 Point everyone back to where they can find you and the stuff you're writing and, uh, encourage them to get on your mailing list. Okay, so that's one of that. That's a sort of in a nutshell how you start to grow a list. It's a time consuming thing. Don't think that overnight you're going to get a 100,000 people on your mailing list. I spent the first four or five years of my writing career with approximately 60 really uninterested people on my mailing list. Now I'm sitting at around 40,000 or so now. Um, and that's been, you know, years and years of promotion and hard work. Uh, that's been me spending money on ads. Uh, one way that a, you can grow your, you're a mailing list is if you do have a Freebie to offer, use your Facebook ad budget to, uh, to promote the Freebie rather than the paid book.
Kevin: 15:27 That it's a way to get to funnel everybody into getting on your mailing list and you can only sell to them later. Uh, and speaking of your paid books, I mean, every book you publish should have a call to action somewhere in it. I recommend a at the very end, but you can do front and back that says, join my mailing list to get this free short story or this free article or this free info graphic or whatever and be informed, you know, whatever. I think it doesn't really help to say, be informed. Just just tell them they can get their freebie there and uh, and then just roll from there because at least you're asking for it and your chances of getting people on your list go up when you actually ask them to do it. All right now. So I hope that was valuable in the list building part. Now I'm going to pause momentarily and sip this water. Okay.
Kevin: 16:23 I kind of wonder how disgusting that may sound that people, I'm sorry about that. Um, so now we've, we started building our list and it comes down to what to do with it. Now there are a lot of approaches to this. One of the, one of the popular approaches is to use what's called autoresponders to nurture, you know, a nurturing sequence. This is sometimes called, you can look these up. There are a lot of a checkout, uh, Tammy Lola, Brex, um, newsletter Ninja for some advice on this stuff. Uh, go on Youtube and type in a autoresponders, you know, and that sort of thing. You can find all kinds of information. You just look around. And the autoresponders sequence is a set of emails that trigger as soon as someone gets on your list. And they usually go out, they go out in the intervals maybe once a week, maybe once a month.
Kevin: 17:13 Uh, but they're, they're meant to nurture that, that new lead as we refer to them, that new reader. And they'll do things like, you know, you want, you want this to be engaging. Uh, so you use what we call open loops. An open loop in a marketing sense is, uh, something that, that, you know, we're just going to define it this way. It's something that creates a engagement with your reader. It makes them want to receive. I want you to keep, to keep up with you though. If they interact with you, you've won in a positive way. If they interact with you in a positive way, even in a negative way, you can sometimes turn that and spin it. But if they are interacting with you, answering a question you asked. So a good, good example of an open loop would be, uh, you write an email that says, hey, I wanted to introduce you, introduce you to myself, my work. Tell you a little about myself. You know, I am a, I live in the Houston, Texas area and a town called Sugarland. I have a dog named Minnie. I have my wife Cara. You know, you'd be a little better about it than I'm being right now.
Kevin: 18:23 A little more engaging and interesting than I am right now. But you've told them all that. Now, the way you create an open loop is who am I? You know, you can ask a question. You can say, one of my favorite books when I was growing up was, is game by Orson Scott Card. What was one of your favorite books? And that question mark is the open loop. That's where you're going to, uh, engage your audience. Okay? So, uh, and if they respond to that, you've really got them and make sure that when they respond, you also respond. So if someone says, Hey, I'm, my favorite book was a Jew, super fudge, a budgeting bloom. Um, and, uh, now you can say, you know, you can respond to that immediately and say, [inaudible] sorry. Um, I love that book too. That was a really influential book on me, uh, back in like fourth grade or something.
Kevin: 19:20 So now you've got a conversation going. Anytime you got a conversation going, you're in a good position from a marketing perspective because, uh, for one thing, readers just never really expect it. Writer's going to return an email. They just think that we are somehow above them living in the clouds. Um, so when they do get a response from us, it's a big deal. So be a big deal for somebody and that creates what we call super fans or raving fans. Uh, depending on which book you read on the topic, that's what we want. We want, we want our, uh, our, our best fans. We want these people to be enthusiastic about us because enthusiastic readers become evangelists for us as writers in evangelists for our books. They go out and they tell other people to go check us out and buy our books. That's what we're after.
Kevin: 20:18 And that's the best marketing areas. It's free. It comes with built in enthusiasm and it comes with more credibility. If you go and say, I'm a really good writer and you're gonna really enjoy this book, I may say, hmm, you could be, I might check it out. But if someone I really care about, if my wife Cara comes home from work and says, uh, Kevin is an amazing writer and you're going to really love this book, I loved it. I know you're going to love it. That carries a lot more weight with me. So that's what you're aiming for. Um, I wanted to talk about being personable. Uh, so here's what I mean by that. So there's personal, which is you're revealing personal details about your life and you're saying, you know, I'm having surgery next week and, um, my, my wife has been sick and, um, you know, my father in law is going to, you know, take care of the dog for us.
Kevin: 21:13 And those are personal details. You don't always want to share that stuff. You don't want to get too personal in these things because you are talking to strangers. Uh, but you can share like metered amounts of information with, with people, uh, in a personable way. So even if even if you're not revealing personal details, even if you're not telling anybody about your upcoming surgery or whatever, you can be personable by being approachable. So, um, a being personable in the sense that I'm using it is, uh, you're, you're sincere, you're tone is sincere, you're not Hadi, you're not trying to put on airs. You are um, you know, open and available. So, uh, you make it clear to your readers that you think of them as friends, as friends and family. Um, you want your email to read as if it is an email you wrote to a buddy or to a family member.
Kevin: 22:16 Maybe somebody you haven't seen in a while. So you're being just a little cautious about how much you share, you know about opinions you share. Um, but you are, while being cautious like that, you are also saying to them a non verbally usually that you're, that you appreciate them. You're honored that they're there and you want to have a relationship with them. Human beings want relationships. We are social creatures, we are always out looking for ways to connect to other human beings. Um, even the curmudgeons among us, such as myself who sometimes who sometimes get a little bit hermit like and, uh, close to themselves off in there, you know, really nice office, really cozy, comfortable office. I love you office. Um, but you know, even folks like me, I'm, I'm out looking to make connections. This is why I'm doing this podcast. That's why I write in the first place.
Kevin: 23:18 Uh, so what you're saying in these personable emails to your platform is that you're a human being who a is open to connections and the more deeply you're able to connect with your readers, the more loyal they're going to be and the better evangelists they're going to be for you. So, um, I have people on my mailing list who just share everything with me. Now. I don't share everything with them. I share select things with them, but they feel like they know me very well. Uh, and they, for the most part, they do. I mean, they know who I am. I'm not hiding who I am. I'm just, I just don't always share, you know, the really deep, intimate details of my life. Uh, but I do occasionally do things, you know, um, I share funny moments in my life. For example, one example of this is, um, I had injured my arm, uh, and it was a, you know, kind of tense and I need, the muscles were all sort of nodded.
Kevin: 24:22 And so I have a tens unit, which is this little like electrical pager sized thing with electrodes that you can put on your body and you'll send electrical current into your body. Um, and people don't use these for all kinds of reasons, but you know, it also can help relax tense muscles. So I had one, I put the leads on my arm and I turned it on without checking to see what it was turned up too. And it just so happened I had bumped it and turned it all the way up to its highest setting. So now I have so much current going through my arm that my muscles are contracting and, and can't move and hurts. Right. So I go to reach for the, uh, the one of the, one of the leads to pull it off without quite thinking this through. And so as soon as I make contact with it, now this electricity is going through both hands and they're both seized up and uh, this is a true story.
Kevin: 25:27 And so, and then in my convulsions, I knocked the tins unit under the floor, uh, so I've got no way to reach it. So I ended up having to step on the tens unit and use my other foot too to try to pull the leads out so that I can cut the current off, which works. Now I, I share that story, um, because one, I have no shame, but also because, um, think about what you're feeling right now. Like, you know, this detail about me, right? And this is a funny story. So you get a little laugh out of it. You feel a deeper personal connection because I'm sharing something that is kind of embarrassing but is not so deeply embarrassing that I wouldn't want the world to know about it, you know? But it feels like I've opened up to you. And so because of opened up to you, you feel um, a connection with me, you feel more loyal to me, you care.
Kevin: 26:24 And if you care, then when I say, Hey, I got a new book coming out, I would really appreciate it if you get an on pre order, uh, for cheap or whatever, whatever your, whatever your value prop is. Um, I got a new book coming out or hey, if you read one of my books, would you mind giving her a review or, um, I've got this special promotion happening. You know, you can announce those things. You do that in between the personable emails. You don't want every email you send out to be, go buy my book. I got a new book, I got an old book, I got Ya series, I've got a box set, go buy, buy, buy, buy, buy, buy. No one wants to hear that. But they love hearing. I screwed up and electrocuted myself and uh, I'm glad I'm still alive or I'm glad, I'm glad no one was around to see it.
Kevin: 27:17 I'm glad no one's around to see it, but I'm going to share it with you anyway. Um, and they love that stuff. And then if you say, hey, feel free to share this with your friends and family. There's a funny story. I don't mind if you share it and uh, and if you get a chance, go buy my book. Use more elegant language than this. But, uh, you know, be subtle about your sales approach by the way. But if you work these things in, then people have a reason to share the email. A personable email is a shareable email. A personable email is something someone reads and says, I really feel close to Kevin. I really feel like, I know Kevin and I think that my sister would enjoy reading this email. And you know, if you've got some branding in, there are some links to your books.
Kevin: 28:05 You know, people read these personal emails and then they make go on to checkout your other work. Or maybe you put a link to get on your mailing list with, well, maybe a little picture, a thumbnail of the, a Freebie that they get. And they read this email and think, aw man, this Kevin's a doof cause he caused himself to go into electrical convulsions. But, uh, I think maybe I'd like to check out the rest of his work. Maybe I'd like to see this free short story and I'd like to get more emails like this one. And that's, that's, uh, that's key. So, so here's the deal. So here's what this all comes down to because we're coming towards the end. I want to, I want to wrap up, um, your goal, this is, this is marketing 101. You're creating, um, a brand, okay. And that brand it, when you're an author, you are the brand.
Kevin: 29:01 Your pin name is that brand. If you write under a pen name you, but you have a personality and, and readers relate to authors who share who they are. Okay? I mean, how many times have you read something, read a book by an author, and you reach down hoping that maybe you connect with that author because you know, it's such a personal thing, right? You're, you, you are spending a few hours with their voice in your head. Uh, you did them the favor of letting them kind of take up some space there. How, how sort of deflating is it when you reach out to that author and they either never responded all or if they do respond it's a form letter or it's this sort of, you know, like, you know, less than enthusiastic or maybe even angry response. You know, some authors I've had authors respond to me like, you know, WTF man, why are you writing me?
Kevin: 29:59 I don't, you know, I have work to do. I'm, I'm too busy to answer your questions. You know, uh, maybe not literally, but I've gotten that sort of vibe off of off of emails I've gotten from people. So it'd be willing to connect with your readers because the better connected you are, uh, the, the more benefit you can see from that relationship being a writer is about cultivating relationships with readers. That's what we're doing. If you, if you don't think of it that way, start considering it because that is how you build a raving fan base that will go out and promote on your behalf. And that's going to make marketing a lot easier. A lot of us stress over marketing gives us fits of anxiety, but the reality is a marketing can be as simple as making friends with your readers. So that said, uh, we're going to go ahead and wrap up.
Kevin: 30:55 I appreciate you sticking around. It's been 30 minutes. So, you know, I'm still kind of on, on why I go over a little, I'm going over a little right now, but, uh, I appreciate you being here and I appreciate your support and everything that you're doing for me out there. But I want you to know I'm here for you too. So you got questions, you need some help, whatever. Uh, you know, I'm connected with draft two digital of course, but I'm also just here, so, uh, feel free to email me. Go to work on your podcast.com. Send me your questions, a guy, you know, comment on this episode on that site, um, and make sure you're subscribing to the show on iTunes, stitcher, Google, play, Spotify, anywhere fine podcasts are sold. And, um, you know, share this with as many people as you can. Share this with everybody, you know, who is in this writing space, who's maybe struggling with this idea of what, what, what should the mailing list look like?
Kevin: 31:53 What does this process look like? This may not have answered all your questions. If not, ask me those questions and I will, I will provide you with answers in one form or another. So that is it for today's episode of the Wordslinger Podcast, the Solo slinger episode. Uh, make sure you tune in for the next episode. Uh, I am, uh, talking to actually give me two seconds and I can probably, no, I don't have it up. I'm talking to someone you're going to want to hear from, uh, those episodes typically go live on Fridays. But again, I'm trying to get out of, uh, uh, Jodi Millman. I'm talking to Jody Millman, this, this, uh, this at the end of the week. So tune in for that. There's some really interesting stuff in that interview. I know you're gonna like it, so god bless each and every one of,
Kevin: 32:45 yeah. I, uh, I hope that I'm providing some something useful for your life and career. Uh, that is one of my chief aims in the world. And, uh, I hope you're inspired by all this and I'll see you all next time.