SELLING BOOKS BY EMAIL By Richard Hoy

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Okay…so if you’ve been reading my columns so far, you understand how to define your market, how to value your book, and the economics of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. This week, let’s start getting into the practical aspects of selling your book.

The first step you should take is to create an email newsletter, like the one you are reading right now. Creating an email newsletter allows you to start aggregating, in one place, the people who might be interested in your book.

I can’t stress enough the value of owning your own list. What it means, in essence, is that you can talk to a group of prospective customers whenever you want. Because the cost of running a list is fixed (that is, it costs the same whether you send a message to one subscriber or 1,000 subscribers), it is the most inexpensive way to market your books online. This is especially true once you have a sizable subscriber base.

Managing the List

Creating an email newsletter list of any size requires some sort of list hosting solution. This solution controls the messages sent to the list members, as well as the subscribe and unsubscribe requests. List hosting solutions come in two flavors.

If you are particularly technically savvy, you can get list hosting software and install it on your computer. An excellent solution that can run right on your desktop computer is a product called PostCast. Be warned, though, you need to have knowledge of computers, Internet connections and installing software.

If you are like 99% of the population, getting your hands dirty with technology is not something you want to do. So the other solution for list hosting is to use a service. There are two major free services for hosting lists – Topica and YahooGroups. If I had to pick one, I’d say Topica is the better solution.

In addition, many Web hosting companies have some sort of list hosting solution available to their customers. If you have your own Web site, check with your hosting company. It may be something that is included free in your monthly fee.

Creating the Content

For an email newsletter list to draw subscribers, you need to provide content people want to read. And it should be content that would be of interest to your target audience. A good example of this is wrapped around this article.

It is no accident that the WritersWeekly.com newsletter has valuable content for writers, combined with products and services of interest to writers. Another great example of this marriage of content and commerce via email is Chris Pirillo’s Lockergome Newsletter. Chris’ newsletter covers all aspects of the Windows operating system and the software that runs on it. He’s built a whole set of products for Lockergome subscribers. He’s also written an excellent book on the subject of email newsletters, which I’ll provide a link to later in this article.

Avoiding Trouble

The big thing with email newsletters it to assure that your messages are only going to people who have asked to receive them. Anything else is know as unsolicited commercial email, or SPAM. SPAM can get you in trouble. It is quasi-illegal (official laws against the practice are multiple and conflicting). But more important than what the authorities may or may not do to you is that your Internet Service Providers will kick you off their service if you are caught spamming. If your Web site is gone, you can’t do business online.

To avoid this pitfall, you’d be wise to read up on the definition of SPAM at ftp://ftp.isi.edu/in-notes/rfc3098.txt, as well as read the MAPS (Mail Abuse Prevention System) guidelines for running an email list at:

Other Resources

I can recommend a few other more detailed resources on the subject.

1.) How to Publish and Promote Online has a chapter on the topic. Since I’m sleeping with one of the authors of this book, I’ve arranged for you to get that chapter free via email by going here:

2.) Angela has written another book on this specific topic called Profitable Email Publishing. You can get your copy here: http://www.booklocker.com/ww/products.html#profit

3.) Chris Pirillo has written an excellent book, Poor Richard’s E-mail Publishing, that covers this subject extensively. You can order a copy of it here: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0966103254/thewritemarket00A

Type at you on July 11th. (See Angela’s notes about our trip in The Publisher’s Desk above.)

Richard Hoy is the co-owner of Booklocker.com, the most author-friendly epublisher online offering up to 70% royalties on ebooks, 35% royalties on print on demand books (the highest in the industry), and non-exclusive contracts. Booklocker.com strives to help authors make money by combining epublishing with Internet marketing.