As an author, your email list is your most valuable asset. We talked about this a bit last month.
Your email list is your best direct line to your biggest fans, which no publisher, book store or giant drone conglomerate has any control over. But this also means it’s completely up to you to find those new readers and convince them you’re worth a slot in their inbox.
This is no small task!
At first, it can be easy to get new subscribers on your list, because you’re new to everybody. But once you exhaust your immediate social network, how do you continue expanding your reach and finding new readers?
As far as I’ve seen, there are two major approaches used by authors to find new readers: cross-promotion giveaways and targeted social media ads.
Which is better? I tried them both to do a side-by-side comparison and find out.
1. Cross-promotion giveaways
Services like Instafreebie and BookFunnel are an easy way to automate the delivery of your reader magnet. But one of their most popular features is the ability to connect with other authors in your genre to offer group giveaways. (This is fairly new for BookFunnel, as they try to keep up with Instafreebie.)
How does it work? In short, you submit your book to the giveaway, and then all authors included (often between 20 and 100 of them) blast the giveaway out to their email lists and social media feeds to promote it over a short period of time, such as a week.
The idea behind this approach is that readers love to find new authors and new great stories, and that by partnering with authors in the same genre, you can get in front of the readers most likely to be interested in your work.
For this purpose, both services function well, and they certainly deliver on new subscriber activity (specific results depend on the giveaway size and reach of the authors involved).
Overall both services are great, but I prefer BookFunnel. It’s actually not even because BookFunnel costs half as much for the same services. It’s because while Instrafreebie adds every new subscriber you get to their own book promo list too, BookFunnel’s policy is that your readers are yours not theirs.
If you’re looking to grow your list quickly for overall subscriber quantity, or to simply get quick exposure for a new promo work, fire away. This approach will get the job done.
But, I have to add the caveat that I have seen engagement on my list go down as my subscriber numbers grew from these giveaways.
With this approach, I worry about lack of focus on readers beyond a genre label, and also about how many new readers you’re really getting exposed to over the long haul, if the same authors keep participating in the giveaways over and over. I’m also not a fan of blasting my readers with promo announcements all the time.
But for $10-20 a month, this is a very reasonable and sustainable investment for what you get.
2. Social media ads
Some self published authors swear that listbuilding with a reader magnet and targeted social media ads propelled them to the bestseller list.
And just like the cross-promotion giveaways, this can be done on a very small monthly budget.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter allow users to access advertising at low budgets to reach an audience beyond their existing followers. All you need is some teaser content, a good image of your book and an idea of who will want to read it.
Don’t let the extensive targeting options intimidate you — just use your common sense and imagination to focus on the people most likely to enjoy your book.
The setup for a social media ad is a bit more extensive, and to get the best results you should test updating the ad’s elements regularly.
You won’t see the rapid growth you would with a cross-promotion through these ads, but even $20 a month will give you a steady, healthy growth rate. And, because the approach is more targeted, this approach results in a much higher engagement rate, for me.
Which approach is better?
If you’ve got to choose one approach, my opinion is that a highly engaged email list is better than a rapidly growing one — so go with the social media ads.
However, I do think there is a place for both, if your budget allows for it. I was surprised at just how much I got from my first giveaway promo — several hundred new subscribers in just a couple weeks. Call me superficial, but I think there is some value to having a decent number of overall subscribers, even if it’s simply to help you demonstrate your platform size to an agent or editor.
Ultimately, the key is to never lose sight of what your email list is for. Like all author marketing, it’s about building relationships. When reaching out to new readers, and engaging your existing subscribers, always remember to consider what will motivate them to read more.
How do you get in front of new readers?