Seven Tips to Grow Your Mailing List

Reprinted from my guest post on the Blue Rose Girls blog
In my last guest post for the BRG I talked about all the different things I do in my career as a writer and illustrator and how I balance them. I know a lot of people who read like that just shut down, overwhelmed by everything that could be done. Either that or their heads spontaneously exploded. So let’s pick just one thing you can do to promote yourself and your career.
Let’s get you a mailing list. You are going to grow your audience and then stay connected. (No, that is NOT two things. I promise. Besides, after you’ve collected a mailing list you will want to stay connected and it won’t even feel like a second whole thing. Think of it as part two of the first thing. It’s the psychology of just doing ONE thing.)
Here are tips to grow your list:
1 – Every time you make an appearance as an author, bring your guest book. Whether it’s on your iPad or in a spiral notebook, ask people to sign up. I’ve brought my guest book to school visits, book festivals, conference appearances …wherever people are gathering to celebrate their love of children’s literature, I bring it. Ask only for their name and email address. Make sure they know you won’t share that list, and, though this seems obvious, ask them to print clearly.
2 – When at professional functions, ask for people’s business card and then ask them if it’s okay to add them to your mailing list. At ALA I collected almost 100 cards and only one person told me he didn’t want me to add him. I separated that card from the rest and wrote myself a gigantic note on the card so I wouldn’t include it by accident.
3- Sign up on your site. Make it easy to find, right at the top of your home page (I’m in the midst of a huge overhaul of my site and I’m definitely doing this one!)
4- Don’t abuse your list. Send out things of interest that isn’t just about you and your books. Write articles, include info about other books, or include lesson plans.
5- Give to get…

  • Elizabeth O. Dulemba grew her list by establishing “Coloring Page Tuesday” which is when she posts a new downloadable coloring page. She has over 2,500 subscribers and over 1.5 million page views of her site last year. That doesn’t even include RSS subbers, facebook followers, etc.
  • Dianne de las Casas sends a monthly newsletter that includes activities that link to her books, but also suggestions about things to do with kids, her tour schedule, interviews with reviewers and sometimes even a recipe or two!
  • My own newsletter (click here for a sample) has book recommendations and unique information from authors about their books, links to my podcast interviews with other authors and experts, videos and occasional tips. On my new site I plan to have a weekly drawing for all new subscribers.
  • On your site include a “Tips for …(writing non-fiction for kids/making friends on Twitter/whatever you are good at!” or “Secrets to…” article to download. The key to get the download is your visitor’s email address.

I contacted one of the most successful and well-known children’s literature bloggers, Cynthia Leitich Smith, creator of Cynsations to ask how she increased her mailing list. She actually doesn’t have one, because as she told me, “Email addresses change.” However, I’m not sure at her level she needs a mailing list. After all, she gets 80,000 views per month. She can put her message out on her blog and basically, a bazillion people will see it.
She also told me, “While nailing down specific reasons is about as effective for me as reading tea leaves, I suspect the following are factors: (1) the blog is hosted and mirrored (reproduced) at more than one location for greater outreach and subscription options; (2) I tweet links to the posts and feature them on my facebook author page; (3) I’ve been blogging for a long time–since 2004–which has allowed ample opportunity to build both an audience and create back links that continue to attract traffic; (4) Cynsations builds on the success of my already popular children’s-YA writer and literature resource site, a portal to the world of creating, reading, marketing, and publishing books for young readers; (5) the content is of consistent quality, offered on a regular basis, and features notable voices and visions from throughout the field.
Building on the last point, the content is not only regular and substantive, it’s consistently positive, with a focus on inspiring and informing the youth literature community, especially writers. While I may highlight, say, links about supporting library financing, I don’t share the particulars of my own political beliefs or otherwise delve into matters beyond the world of books. Consequently, my blog readers know what to expect. At the same time, I do personalize it a bit. While I don’t, for example, go into any detail about my Valentine’s Day plans, I will be sharing a photo of the flowers I received. It creates a (hopefully) warm and inviting online destination, offering real value to visitors.”
6- Put your signup link in your email signature.
7- Freebies! It’s always nice to offer something for an email address. How about a weekly drawing? I met a guy on Twitter who actually gives a tee shirt for every email address he gets. That’s a big expense if you’re getting a lot of sign ups! Just giving a signed copy of your book would be a huge prize, and would get your book out there. Other great prizes would be, if you are an established writer, to offer a critique to any unpublished writers who sign up.
This isn’t brain surgery, I’m not saying anything new, and if you google “how to increase your mailing list” I’m sure you’ll find even more ideas. The thing is to do something. And my most important tip of all, which should have it’s very own category: once you start building that list, use it for good, never for evil.

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