Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Itunes, Kobo--they're ever changing landscapes. In the span of less than a year, KDP select went from boom to losing its luster. Amazon has removed the tagging feature, the liking feature, changed their algorithms twice, and changed the terms of their affiliate program with free book sites. Who knows what the future holds? But while there's no way to tell what Amazon is going to do, there is a way to build a self sustaining career. And that is through a mailing list.
You see, a mailing list lets you keep in contact with your readers regardless of what changes any ebook website makes. If you have a big enough list, a rabid enough fan base, you can sell your writing on your own website if need be. It's the kind of security blanket that every artist dreams of. But it has other benefits.
The first thirty days of a books release are crucial. That's your chance to become a hot new release. When you can gain a foothold in a genre bestseller list, or even crack the Top 100 overall. And that's all possible through a mailing list. Say you have a hundred people on your list, or a thousand, or ten thousand. You release your latest book and let your list know about it. If even half of those hundred, or thousand buy your book, you're most likely going to be a hot new release for your category or maybe even make the front page of your genres bestseller list. And if your list is big enough, you can even crack the Top 100. In rare instances, I've seen it happen. On the more modest scale, even a meager amount of sales will give your book the exposure it needs to get in front of new readers. Your also boughts will get filled in, leading Amazon's recommendation engine to start helping you out.
So just how do you build a mailing list? The easiest way is through a giveaway. People love freebies. You can give away any number of things, from a Kindle itself to t-shirts, key chains, or bookmarks. But the most effective giveaway is a piece of your work. You can offer up a free story to those who sign up for your list. Either a short story or a copy of one of your full length books. Trust me, it's worth it to get that readers all important email address. Also, by giving away a piece of your writing, you ensure that you get the right kind of subscribers.
Quality matters so much more than quantity when it comes to email lists. You're much better off having a hundred fans that are rabid about your writing than a thousand lukewarm freebie hounds that will ignore your newsletters without opening them.
Now that you have something to entice potential readers, you need to get the word out about your freebie. You can set up your mailing list for free at a site like www.mailchimp.com. They offer free services until you reach two thousand subscribers. When you get your account set up, you can choose how you want to give away your free book.
Note: Mailchimp and other services require a multiple step process to sign up for a mailing list. This includes a please confirm email from Mailchimp, followed by a final confirmation email. You can include a Smashwords Free coupon code for your free book with the confirmation email. Or, you can copy and paste the text of your free book into the body of the confirmation email.
Next, take the url for your sign up form and post it everywhere you can think of--your blog, facebook profile, twitter profile, the signature line of your outgoing emails, Amazon author page. You can even write in your profile something along the lines of "Get a Free copy of X when you sign up for my mailing list." Most importantly, there should be a link to the sign up form of your mailing list at the end of your book.
The most effective way to get subscribers is through free runs. That includes both for perma free books and KDP select free runs. You can usually count on five to ten subscribers to your list per KDP free run--sometimes even more--depending on the number of copies you give away. Also, if you're giving away review copies through Goodreads or Librarything, you can include a link to your sign up form when you send out the congratulations email to the winners.