by Gail Z. Martin
Think of your book as the ice breaker for an ongoing conversation between the author and the reader. If the book has made an impact on the reader, it’s only natural for him or her to want to continue the conversation, ask follow-up questions, or go deeper. That’s why it’s important for your site to give readers something they won’t find anywhere else—extra value.
“Value” can take many different forms. You could have a forum area where readers can post questions and you can respond, or where readers can discuss the book with each other. You could post extra material that didn’t fit in the book, or updated information that became available after the book went to press. You can add your voice and personality through blogging, audio and video so that readers who can’t see you in person at an event still have the feeling that they’ve met you. Most of all, you can extend what it was that they really liked about the book by giving them more of it.
For a non-fiction author, this can include posting new tips, links to additional resources, quizzes or research results. For a fiction author, it might mean creating new content not available elsewhere, or posting content first on your own site to reward faithful readers. Authors who have a new book in the works definitely want to let readers, reporters and reviewers know, and readers who enjoyed the first book will find it valuable to know that there’s more good stuff to come.
One way to provide this value is through free downloads and an email newsletter. A free download could be a bonus chapter, brand-new article or report, but anything that can be delivered via a web link or email is a possibility, so long as the reader would consider it to be valuable. If you ask visitors who want to receive the free download to enter an email address, you are now building a permission-based mailing list (otherwise known as an opt-in list).
It’s important to have permission before sending out group emails (such as announcements or newsletters) because you can get in a lot of trouble if your emails aren’t wanted and get reported as “spam.” The Internet community takes a very dim view of unwanted emails, and if your emails generate too many complaints, you may find your site taken down or your email disabled.
When visitors choose to enter their email address in order to get a free downloadable bonus, they are giving you permission to use that email to stay in touch. You are also making an implicit promise not to bombard them with sales pitches and junk. Email announcements and newsletters should give readers the option to unsubscribe easily.
Your opt-in list is a valuable tool for staying in touch with readers, and your website helps you to build your list and deliver the downloadable bonus items. Once you have a growing opt-in list, you can use your email newsletter to remind readers of upcoming live and online events, new books, related products, classes and speaking engagements. Treat your opt-in list like a precious treasure and only send information that readers will find valuable.