MailChimp and FeedBurner are two popular free services for handling your email list and messaging. (MailChimp does have a cost once you have over 2000 subscribers.) AWeber is another popular mail service, with some additional features, but those come at the cost of $19 / month.
You should create a series of emails to be automatically sent at intervals to your readers when they sign up. Don’t send emails more often than once every three to four weeks because you don’t want to inundate your readers. Just think about how many emails you, yourself, receive and how many of them you read.
The first one is always a welcome email confirming they have signed up that is sent out immediately. Send another one a week or so later, then send new ones on a regular basis. Decide what you are comfortable with and keep a consistent schedule.
No one has an infinite number of these emails, so set a target number for yourself. Three or four may be good to start with. Don’t stress over having a ton ready when you start! You can keep going back and adding content as you find or create it. Since you shouldn’t be sending out daily emails, it’s fine – perfect, really! – if you only get a good idea once a month or so.
What should you write about? Clearly, your books, but also anything related that you think your readers might like, but try not to use current events for your main “broadcast series” of emails. If you use current events, the email can quickly seem dated, creating more work for you in the long run.
While you do clearly want to promote your books, your readers won’t want to just read about how great your books are – in your opinion. If that’s all, or most, of what you are sending out, they will quickly unsubscribe, making all that hard work to acquire them for nil. Be sparing in your self-promotion. One or two sentences at the end of your email tying the whole thing back to your work makes perfect sense, and one email a couple times a year just promoting your works is fine – that is the reason you are doing the emails, after all!
But mostly – find other content for them! Search out great reads by other authors – if they are obscure, even better! Find activities, apps, and websites that might appeal to them. Do you write cookbooks? Maybe there is a feature on AllRecipes.com or another popular website that you could write about, or a series of YouTube videos that does a great job of demonstrating a difficult technique you could direct them to. (Links to those YouTube videos would also make a great addition to your website or blog post.) Just always be sure you are directing them to things, not including work by others without their express, written permission.
One-Time Email Blasts
Presumably, these are people who genuinely want to know about your work. When you have a real update, such as a new book being available for beta readers or pre-orders, send them an email update and let them know! These are one-time emails, which is different from the series discussed above. Your subscribers receive series emails at different times, based on when they first subscribed. These email blasts go to every one of your subscribers at the same time.
If you are doing a promotion or giveaway, this is a great way to promote it! So is social media.
Email blasts like this are also good if you want to address something topical or date-specific. There is no way to know when an email in a series like the ones discussed above will go out. If you write a great email tying your book into a specific season, such as planting a garden in the spring, or a holiday like Thanksgiving, you want to be darn sure it goes out at the right time. This is the best way to do that.
If you hit a big milestone, such as becoming an Amazon best-seller or getting your 100th 5 star review, then it is perfectly acceptable to send out an email letting your readers know. To reiterate: “an” email, singular, is fine – but only one, maybe two. Repeating the same message will just lead to readers unsubscribing, and that is not what you want.
Don’t forget to use images! Spend $5 to have someone on Fiverr create a logo for you as an author, or for your book. Design a header with part of your book cover. Get creative! Use those to create a simple format, like letterhead, that you use for all your emails.
Find or create some cool artwork, pictures, or even memes. But make sure there is something to keep your readers attention, without overwhelming them – or their data limits. A lot of people do read their email on their phones.