Authors are told their most precious marketing asset is their mailing list. This advice has become so common it’s now accepted as gospel. I have my doubts.
Over the past few weeks, admittedly a little late in my writing career, I’ve been attempting to set up this promotional tool. I’d love to report it as fun, rewarding, easy and worthwhile. It was none of these. In fact, I’m now regrowing the hair I pulled out in the process.
First, like all good students of the new and unfamiliar, I researched alternatives on offer. These ranged from the free and mostly worthless to those so expensive only already financially secure authors could afford them. In between were a couple worth further exploration and I finally settled on a service that’s free until the list reaches a specific number, when charges start to accumulate. Once the list has reached this dizzy height, the argument goes, the author will be making more than enough cash to cover monthly costs. Maybe I’m sceptical, but that seems an inflated claim.
No matter, I set off along the road to full discovery and implementation. It was rocky and involved a steep learning curve. I won’t bore you with details; you’ve better things to do with your time. So have I.
The initial step involves forming a list. Now, forgive me, but isn’t the whole purpose of this process that of forming a list? So be it. I did the obvious and asked a few friends and family members to allow me the use of their email address so a list could be started. That launched me over the first hurdle.
Next, which perhaps I should’ve done first – but I was eager to get on – I began to read the full instructions for the process. Pages and pages of dense advice took me from one part of the process to another, via links. I never got far enough to uncover the entire system but my guess is I’d have had a printed manual the size of an average encyclopaedia.
I took what I could find as ‘essential’ and began to design my ‘sign-up’ form. There were no instructions; the process apparently so intuitive a child of six could perform it. I’m no techie, but I’ve some understanding of the modern world of computing, as evidenced by my website, which I built. Clearly, however, my intuition doesn’t match that of the programmers of the system. Nevertheless, with patience and experimentation, I worked out more or less how it operated. And I designed a neat little form giving potential readers the option of 5 rewards for subscribing to my list.
Next, I used the detailed instructions to place the form on my website, in the sidebar where it could be seen by all visitors. Great idea. Unfortunately, after several attempts, using multiple variations on the instructions, I failed completely. It must be me! Help was required. I emailed the helpdesk (there’s a misnomer!). Three days later, the reply told me the code used to design the sign-up form conflicts with the code used to construct the website. But this applies only to my type of website. I deliberately selected WordPress.com as my website host as they’re the most popular one for writers. The mailing provider, however, not only can’t design non-conflicting code, but fails to warn users of this important matter during the obvious opportunity of form-building! I suggested this might be a good idea and would save other users a deal of wasted time.
There was an alternative. I could use the URL link to the form and place it in my sidebar. Simple, though not what I was hoping for as it would take people away from my site to fill in the form. But a worthwhile alternative. Oh no it wasn’t! Perhaps it’s my chosen website theme, but the offered URL appeared not as a link but simply as a non-active URL in text form!
Not to be beaten after umpteen frustrating hours on this process, I tried a different ploy. I inserted a paragraph, with built-in link, into my Welcome page. Wonderful. Except, how many people visit the Welcome page when specifically directed to a post by that post’s link? Very few. I could, of course, place text in the sidebar directing visitors to the link in the Welcome page but…How many would bother with a process that takes more than two clicks to reach an uncertain destination? We live in a ‘one-click’ world.
I looked again at my site. I already have a system for people to follow by email. WordPress.com provide this and the list is growing daily. It’s not a true mailing list, as it delivers an email every time I produce a new blog post, but it’s better than nothing. I make the titles of my posts clear to readers so they can filter out the stuff in which they have no interest. And I can reward readers and followers of my website by including the offered sign-up incentives in the body of the website.
So, that’s what I’m doing. From the date of this post, I offer you the option of joining those who already follow my website via email. It’s supremely simple and you’ll find the necessary device at the top of the sidebar. It involves providing your email address. I know some people are wary of such activity in these days of increasing scams and overwhelming spam, but WordPress.com is specifically designed to use the email only to let subscribers know when a new piece is posted and what that post contains. The email addresses are never shared with anyone and are used only for this specified purpose. I know: I use their system for other blogs and websites and it works very well indeed, giving me notice of subjects of interest and allowing me to swiftly delete those messages that are of no interest.
So, a final word on this issue before I get back to actually writing again: Please, pop up to the top of this page and enter your email address in the box provided. You’ll receive an email every time I produce a new post. I’ll make a point of entering a short post each time I update the Writing Contest table so those who want this information are able to enter their efforts. And I’ll let everybody know when I’ve found time to enter on the site those rewards I initially offered as an incentive to signing up to my ‘mailing list’.
Thank you for reading this far. You’re clearly more patient than I am!