Monday, January 19, 2015

Building an author mailing list: PART 2, Calls to action.


You know you want one.  You know you NEED one.  But how do you GET one in the first place?

(If you’re not convinced yet, go back and read Part 1 of this 3-part series to find out why you need an author mailing list.  And then take a look at Part 3, which takes you through the (super-easy) steps to get started.)

The best way to build your mailing list is… to let readers know it exists.

Sounds simple, right?

But are you doing it?  The way to do it right is with a call to action at the back of your book.  Calls to action are known as CTA in the marketing business, so that’s what I’m going to call them here.

Notice I said marketing business.  Lots of writers feel kind of slimy when they think about marketing.  If you do, that’s something you’ll have to get over.

A back-of-book CTA should be super-simple.  This is a two-step format that every reader will recognize:

1.  Tell them why.

Okay, your reader finished your book, and hopefully, liked it.  What is she going to get out of signing up?  Free stuff is good, but it’s not the only thing people are looking for.  Reread PART 1 in this series if you aren’t sure what you’re going to send out as an incentive.  You musing about the state of your writing isn’t all that interesting, but a free chapter or short story just might be. 

IMPORTANT:  If the book they’ve just finished is part of a series, even if the next isn’t out yet, mention that it will be and get them to sign up for details when the next book is released.

2.  Ask clearly – use a verb.

Don’t start with “If you’re interested in receiving biweekly updates,” because I’ve already tuned out after the word “If.”  (no, I’m not!)  Instead, use a word like “click” or – in a print book, where you can’t click - “Join me at”.  Something that your reader can DO right away.

IMPORTANT:  It’s okay to use the word “click here” in an ebook, but please, PLEASE change it for print.  I hate the idea of a reader poking the page over and over, while your print book doesn’t load the signup form…

Using a mailing list CTA in a print book

Here’s an example of a CTA from the inside back page of my print book Chanukah Monsters:


This is a print version, so I’ve tried to keep it very, very simple.  Here’s my bio, with the signup link at the end:


That address,, will take you to my Jewish parenting mailing list, where I also keep readers up to date with new releases, sales, freebies and more. 

When you’re including a URL in a print book, keep the URL very, very short.  Remember, your reader is going to have to type it in, so don’t give them a nightmare address like this one…

Instead, use a service like or to turn it into a short, friendly address like this one…

(They’ll both take you to the same page.  I prefer TinyURL for most things, but lets you track who’s clicking what where, which you may find useful.)

Here’s an example of a more complex CTA that I used in the print edition of my book No Santa!:


(If you spot the typo, don’t worry – I’ve fixed it already.)

This one is actually a 3-part Call to Action:

  1. Link to my site – oops, not my mailing list; probably, it should be! (I’m learning as I go along in this business!)
  2. Request for a review
  3. Other books the same reader might enjoy – ideally, books in the same series, but this isn’t a series, so I included books for the same age range and type of subject.

Using a mailing list CTA in an ebook

In ebooks, it’s even easier to include a call to action.  You don’t have to worry about typing errors, because any links in the back of your book can be clickable, so readers can head right over and sign up.

By the way, you’ll notice here that I keep saying you should put your CTA at the back of the book.  Most writers believe that’s the best place for it.  How does your reader know if she likes you and trusts you at the front of the book?  It’s also too easy for a reader to skim over stuff you put at the front of the book.  At least, that’s what I do – because I’m eager to get to the story.

I figure I’m a typical reader, and when I get to the back of a book I’ve really enjoyed, that’s when I’m totally interested in finding out more.  That’s when I’ll read a book preview, all about the author, anything you want to show me – by the end of the book, I’m open.  (Assuming your book has worked its magic.)

So get over your hesitation at the thought of marketing.  You are giving readers more of what they want, right?  And isn’t that your job, as a writer?


Here’s more on list-building for authors:

Speaking of mailing lists, here’s my signup.  Pop your email address in the box if you haven’t joined already… :)


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