Shocking newsDid you check your mail yesterday? Stop and think about that for a moment. What was it like when you checked your email inbox? Did you delete one email after another without opening it? That’s what most people do these days; they’re slammed with emails they didn’t ask for—spam—and even the lists they signed up for often clog their inboxes to the point where, either from desperation or from habit (borne of desperation) they delete all but the most important emails.

What was it like when you checked your physical mail box? The vast majority of junk mail you used to receive is probably long gone, the retailers having switched from the high cost of snail mail to free email distribution. The occasional catalog you still receive is probably looked upon as a treat these days. What happens when you receive a postcard? Do you stop and read it, often standing just inches away from the mail box before you move on?

Both of these scenarios describe typical behavior patterns. With the glut of emails clogging inboxes, it’s harder to stand out—but it’s easy to stand out through snail mail.

Compiling Your List

Most readers purchase books from third party retailers. Unfortunately, it means the online retailers are the ones that own the address list. For brick-and-mortar stores, it’s doubtful they even have that unless the customer voluntarily subscribes to a rewards program. What’s an author to do?

  1. Be very careful about purchasing lists because the mail the customer didn’t sign up for could easily be considered junk mail and despite what vendors may tell you, you don’t know for certain that those customers are within your target market. You can easily waste your money.
  2. Instead, compile addresses from people who have already displayed interest in your writing. During physical appearances, for example, always ask readers to join your mailing list.
  3. If you accept checks during physical appearances, enter the name and address from the check into a database, a spreadsheet or document.
  4. If you fulfill an order from your author website, enter the name and address into a database, spreadsheet or document. If the shipping address is different, enter both the billing and the shipping addresses.
  5. Promote a contest. You can give away something such as an autographed book, autographed framed photograph pertaining to a scene in your book, gift cards or other goodies (I’m partial to Celtic jewelry that ties into my Celtic series). You can also select a random reader whose name will appear in an upcoming book. Several authors have successfully added a family pet to a book that is based on a winner’s pet. Advertise it on social media, your blog and your website—with links to a website landing page that is designed for the visitor to enter their name and physical mailing address as well as their email address. Use a plug-in to prevent bots from providing masses of fake names, and limit the contest to your country.
  6. Add a link to your email signature that sends users to your mailing list landing page.
  7. If you have written nonfiction how-to books, create a white paper that can be downloaded for free once the visitor has entered their name and mailing address.
  8. Add a call-to-action button to your website or a discreet pop-up box, both of which request the visitor’s name and address.
  9. Add call-to-action buttons on social media—in YouTube videos/Book trailers, Facebook author pages, Twitter profiles, Pinterest boards, etc.
  10. Add a sign-up to your Google+ profile.
  11. Always preface your form with a note that states you will not sell their information and you’ll only use it to send them periodic information that will interest them.
  12. If you allow guest bloggers on your website blog, require their mailing address.
  13. When writing articles, add the URL to your landing page so people can easily join your mailing list.
  14. Try joining with other authors of similar genres for a large contest and share the email addresses each of you receives.
  15. Enter all of the addresses into a database, spreadsheet or document that can be used to generate mailing labels.


sales funnelUsing the List

  1. Mail postcards. Postcards are an inexpensive form of advertising that can yield big results. Because you’ve obtained the names and addresses from people who have previously purchased your books or expressed interest in them, they have already entered the top of your Sales Funnel. Keep them interested by mailing out a postcard with a full color picture of your latest book along with the best blurb you can possibly write. Use the back side for more information, including your website URL for direct sales or encourage them to purchase at amazon, other online retailers or request your book at their favorite brick-and-mortar store. (Less than 1% of all published books are carried on book store shelves.)
  2. Create a catalog. The catalog doesn’t have to be voluminous; if you have more than one book, you can create a tri-fold brochure that becomes your book catalog. If it folds into a business-sized envelope, postage is a first-class stamp. Include an order form and direct them to your website. These are particularly effective if you run a promotion in which you’ll autograph copies for free or provide free shipping. Best time is the holiday season (between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day) and during the summer months.
  3. Mail a bookmark. If you are sending anything in an envelope such as the catalog/brochure mentioned above, always include a bookmark advertising your latest book. Readers are usually in need of bookmarks (unless they use eReaders) and it will serve to remind them of your writing.
  4. Send a card. At the time you’ve asked for their name and mailing address, make their birthday (MM/DD) an optional field. Send a personal card with a coupon for free shipping or a discounted price. Surveys show these are particularly effective as they are unexpected. Include an expiration date so the special offer is good for the month of their birthday. You can also send holiday cards to your entire address list and include a discount, special offer or free shipping as well as a bookmark.
  5. Keep them informed. Periodically mail a letter or card letting them know of awards won, special events you’ve participated in or interesting media exposure about you or your book.
  6. Tell them about a contest. Consider running an annual contest; all they have to do to participate is verify their mailing address online. This allows you to keep track of those who have moved and will prevent you from mailing announcements to those that have lost interest.
  7. When mailing, always include ‘OR CURRENT RESIDENT’ under the name. Otherwise, your mailing could wind up in a dead letter box.


Assessing the Effectiveness

Even if you publicize your website URL or landing page in your mailings, there will always be:

  1. Readers who don’t act right away;
  2. Readers who prefer to purchase from an online, third-party retailer;
  3. Readers who prefer to purchase at a brick-and-mortar store;
  4. Readers who will pass along your information.

Don’t expect instant results. If you are traditionally published, it could be six months before you see the bump in your royalties from your direct mail campaign. If you are self-published, you might not see results for three months—particularly if someone requests a special order at a physical book store and knowledge of the order must wind its way through the wholesaler and distributor.

sales funnelClick and Brick

There will also be people who visit your website and don’t purchase from you. This could be the result of Click and Brick—a term used for people who click onto a website to read more information (reviews, view your book trailer, read an excerpt or sample) and then purchase your book at a later date from a brick-and-mortar store.

At this point, your readers are in the middle-of-the-funnel (expecting interesting information from you) and you’re guiding them toward the bottom-of-the-funnel (a purchase).

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p.m.terrell is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than 21 books in several genres. Her first book was published in 1984 and she became a full-time writer in 2002. She has mentored authors for more than 15 years and is the co-founder of The Book ‘Em Foundation and the founder of the Book ‘Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair. For more information, visit