Back in the day, picking an email marketing company was easy. Pretty much every author used MailChimp and MailChimp was the best pick for almost everyone. Sadly, those days are over.
MailChimp is not the platform it used to be. It has become expensive, hard to use, and it lacks the features that authors most need to send the kind of emails readers want to open. Not only has MailChimp gotten worse but its competitors have gotten much better.
In this episode of Novel Marketing you are going to learn some amazing email marketing tips as well as about the amazing alternatives to MailChimp. If MailChimp is the only email marketing service you have ever used, I am about to introduce you to a beautiful new world.
In this episode I will teach you an email strategy and then how to implement that strategy on the top email platforms. Even if you are happy with your email provider I imagine there are some tips to glean from this episode.
I am Thomas Umstattd Jr. CEO of Author Media and this is Novel Marketing, the longest-running book marketing podcast in the world. This is the show for writers who want to build their platform, sell more books, and change the world with writing worth talking about.
Why not just use outlook to build your email list?
Before we get to the advanced list building strategies, I need to answer a question new authors ask. ‘Why can’t I just use Outlook or gmail to send my newsletters?”
This is a bad idea for five reasons:
- No way for people to automatically subscribe and unsubscribe
- Incredibly time consuming.
- No way to track if people open your emails.
- BCC Emails annoy your friends.
- Potentially illegal
MailChimp vs MailerLite vs ConvertKit
With that out of the way, lets talk about the big three email platforms that most authors use.
This is the platform most authors start with. A lot of authors start here because they let you have up to 2000 subscribers for free. But as of last year, MailChimp has crippled their free plan making it less than ideal for most authors.
I was on the fence about MailChimp when these changes first went through. Since then, I worked more closely with some of the alternatives and not only did they have better free plans, they were easier to use.
While MailerLite doesn’t give you as many free subscribers as MailChimp, it has a fully featured free plan. It is also about half the price of MailChimp once you need to start paying.
ConvertKit is special because it is a platform built specifically for bloggers and authors. MailChimp and MailerLite were both built with small businesses in mind which makes them harder to use than they need to be.
Since ConvertKit is made specifically for you, it has exactly the features you want and none of the complications you don’t want. It is more expensive, but for many authors that added expense is well with the cost due to the ease of use.
So now that you know the players, I am going to go over several email marketing strategies and talk about how each platform relates to each strategy. Even if you use a different email platform, my hope is that knowing these strategies will still be beneficial.
List Growing Strategies
Reader Magnet Delivery
One of the best ways to build your email list is to give away a reader magnet. This is a free short story, tip sheet, or something else that is immediately interesting and valuable to your readers.
While it is technically possible to give away reader magnets with MailerLite and MailChimp, it is so hard that most authors don’t ever figure out how to do it. Many that do give away reader magnets are forced to use a third party service like BookFunnel or StoryOrigin to do it for them.
While ConvertKit integrates with BookFunnel and StoryOrigin, you don’t need them to easily give away a reader magnet. If all you want to do is give away a pdf, ConvertKit makes this super easy to do right in the app.
To learn more about making Reader magnets see episode 145 How to Create a Reader (Lead) Magnet.
Landing Page Builder
Landing pages are web pages specifically designed to get people to sign up for your newsletter. All three platforms offer a built in landing page builder. Landing pages work best when they are carefully tailored for the audience you are targeting.
For example, let’s say you are doing a podcast interview. You will get more newsletter subscribers if you create a special reader magnet connected to the topic of your interview and create a special landing page for the listeners of that podcast.
MailChimp and MailerLite have powerful drag and drop editors that give you a lot of control over the look of the page. This is good if you want to make a complicated landing page. The thing is simple landing pages tend to get more subscribers. So that power is a temptation to make your landing page less effective.
MailChimp and MailerLite make adding a reader magnet to the landing page is a complicated process.
ConvertKit, on the other hand, has a simpler landing page builder where you can add the reader magnet right there on the landing page. It is easy enough where I can create a landing page specifically for a speaking even or podcast interview in about five minutes. Sometimes I do this right before speaking.
If you want to learn more about landing pages listen to Episode 202 How to Create a Landing Page.
3rd Party Integrations
ConvertKit has special Teachable and Podia integrations that make it the best pick if you ever plan to make courses.
MailChimp has a slightly deeper integration with MyBookTable and MyBookProgress. That said, you can still connect MyBookTable and MyBookProgress to MailerLite or ConvertKit. You just need to make a landing page first.
Winner: ConvertKit (for nonfiction)
ConvertKit wins all the rounds regarding growing your list, but let’s talk about engaging your list. Which platform is best for connecting with and thrilling your subscribers?
List Engagement Strategies
When someone first joins your list, they tend to have a lot of questions about you. This is a great opportunity for several emails to drip out to that person letting them know about you, your books, and your writing.
Authors with onboarding sequences have a stronger connection to their readers than authors without an onboarding sequence.
So how do our three platforms measure up?
We have a clear loser and that is MailChimp. If you have 500 subscribers, MailChimp charges $50/mo to be able to customize and send onboarding sequences. And just because you are paying that kind of money doesn’t mean you have an onboarding sequence.
Of the dozens and dozens of authors I have worked with and talk to about email, I can think of only one who has an onboarding sequence with MailChimp and it was because she hired someone to set it up for her. That is how hard it is to work with.
The cost for an author with 500 subscribers using MailerLite to have an onboarding sequence is $0. That is right MailerLite lets users of the free plan create onboarding sequences. This gives MailerLite the crown for the best free plan.
While ConvertKit doesn’t have onboarding sequences in their free plan, they do have the easiest to use interface for creating sequences.
Winner (more than 1000 subscribers): ConvertKit
Winner (less than 1000 subscribers): MailerLite
Sometimes people abandon email addresses. Email fills the inbox with no human to read them. These abandoned email addresses not only cost you money, they make you more likely to go to promotions or to spam.
So what should you do? The answer is to clean your list.
List cleaning is when you gather together all the emails addresses that are not opening emails, you send them a few emails to see if they want to stay on your list and if you hear nothing you remove them from your list. Keeping your list clean of these abandoned email addresses is like keeping your house free from bugs. It will save you money and make the people who do want to get your emails more likely to get them.
ConvertKit and MailerLite both have good ways to clean your list. MailChimp does not. MailChimp wants you to keep paying for all the old abandoned email addresses no one checks. So if you are using MailChimp, expect to have a lower delivery rate than if you were using MailerLite or ConvertKit.
As an author, you have one advantage over Amazon and it is a big one. You are a human being. While Amazon is a faceless corporation, you are a real human person with a face, name, and personality.
There is a belief in some author circles where authors think the path to success is to set aside that one advantage and try to look as corporate as possible. These authors get logos designed and they want fancy email templates with graphical banners and lots of pretty colors.
This is a tragedy.
If these authors were measuring their marketing they would find that simple “human” emails get more opens, clicks, and replies. I have read the research and done the tests myself. Simple emails do better.
You want your emails to feel like they are coming from a trusted friend, not a faceless company.
If you subscribe to the Author Media newsletter you will see that every email feels like it comes from a real person and not from a corporation. I don’t use fancy graphics because I know those don’t work.
MailChimp and MailerLite were built for businesses that can’t help but look corporate. The result is they have a lot of fancy templates that work great for restaurants but terrible for authors.
ConvertKit, on the other hand, has human style templates built right into the interface. As a result the emails are friendlier and more human.
The final consideration is pricing and MailerLite is the clear winner. They have the best free plan and at every price point they are half the price of MailChimp and ConvertKit. One the surface MailChimp and ConvertKit look to be about the same price but ConvertKits ends up being a bit cheaper since they let you clean your list. The older your list is, the more of a difference this will make.
Is it easy to move?
It takes about 15 minutes to switch email providers. Often it is just a matter of typing in your login info and everything imports automatically. There is no reason to use an email platform you are not in love with. Your subscribers may not even notice the difference.
I use ConvertKit and, if you can afford it, it’s the best pick. If you write nonfiction and are thinking about creating a course to go along with your book, spending the extra money for ConvertKit will more than pay for itself.
MailerLite comes in as a close second and if you are on a tight budget it may be the best pick for you. A lot of novelists like MailerLite due to the lower price. If you are willing to put in the extra work to figure it out you can save a lot of money with MailerLite.
MailChimp still makes sense if you are a college student with no money and between 1000 and 2000 subscribers. If that is not you then MailChimp is likely not the best pick. I don’t see any reason to pay for MailChimp.
Time is running out for Ethan Freeman, an ex-Special Forces Ranger, to stop a conspiracy to free The Destroyer and his horde of Fallen Angels.
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We are growing out of our house! The house that seemed so big as newly weds is now bursting at the seams with babies and a home office. A pandemic seems to be a crazy time to get into the housing market but my wife and I have started the process of house shopping. If any of you have any tips on buying or selling homes feel free to shoot me an email.