Key Idea: Book deals come and go. Fans are forever.
I was looking at my email stats today to see how many people joined my newsletter list last week. Why do I care so much about my email list? Email is a way to communicate with people who are interested in what I have to share about urban farming with no middle-man in between. It is not dependent upon where Facebook decides to make my post visible, or timing posts on Twitter for the most viewership. More importantly, it is not dependent upon the marketing team at 5m Publishing. It is direct messaging, straight from me to my fans and followers.
Direct communication with fans and followers is critical to an author's success.
I am extremely excited about City Farming and the marketing that 5m Publishing will do for me. But I am also aware that books tend to have limited time spans in which they are popular. It is during this popular phase that a decent income can be earned.
But eventually, a new book will come along and bump City Farming down in search results. New buyers will be less likely to find the book or will prefer to buy the latest book available. Buyers who already purchased the book are not likely to purchase it again.
In order to make a living as an author, one cannot depend upon a single book deal.
Authors need to keep writing. What if 5m Publishing does not offer me another book deal? How will I make a living, considering that I have put a lot of other projects aside in order to write City Farming?
The answer is that I will keep writing and creating educational products for urban farmers. Whether or not 5m wants to work with me again (and I hope it does,) I am developing my own platform on which to sell future books and products. The platform consists of an email list and social media followers who like what I do, and may purchase other items from me.
In order to make a living as an author, one must be trusted as an authority on their subject matter.
How am I establishing my authority on the topic of urban farming and building a following at the same time? By giving away free content in exchange for an email address.
This is how it works, in a nutshell:
1. Start an email list (either a free one, like MailChimp, or a paid service.)
2. Create something to give away. This could be an informational PDF, and e-book, an email course or a video. The giveaway item should teach the recipient something of interest to them, which also ties in specifically with the books or products that you are developing for sale. In my case, I gave away a free e-book called Garden Now! How to Start Growing Food Today. This ties in with a course that I am developing on container gardening that will be for sale shortly.
3. Ask for an email address in exchange for the giveaway. Create an email signup form to collect email addresses. In your email program, you should be able to create a redirect that sends subscribers to a page delivering the free product. On KariSpencer.com, subscribers are redirected to a thank-you page that contains a link to the file. Files are housed on Google Drive, and anyone who has the link can view and download the file.
4. If you email service allows it, tag subscribers so that you know which file they downloaded. For instance, I offer a free compost ebook, a list of online garden tools, a list of resources for plant problem diagnosis, and the Garden Now file that I mentioned previously. Depending upon which file or files that a subscriber downloads, they receive a tag in my email program that indicates their interest in those topics. In the future, I will be able to send more composting resources to those people who expressed interest in composting by virtual of downloading the compost e-book.
5. Communicate regularly with subscribers. Don't wait until you have something to sell before you start sending emails to your list. Send them tips, event notices, updates and anything else that you believe will be of interest to subscribers them, reserving sales emails for the rare occasion.
The only way for most authors to make a living is to build an audience of followers who like and trust them enough to buy books and products from them. So start building your audience today!