Yes, Your Mailing List Is Important

You’ve Got Mail. © Warner Bros.

I have what you’d call a fairly robust online platform: 3,324 Twitter followers, 1,129 Tumblr followers, and—wait for it—14,900 Medium followers. (This last one is probably because I do the majority of my writing and publishing as a Senior Editor at The Billfold.)

My articles have gotten hundreds of thousands of likes on Facebook. I spend part of every day replying to comments, @-replying to tweets, interacting and communicating with people on social media.

So when it came time to launch the pre-order for my novel The Biographies of Ordinary People, I expected my fans—and my sales—to derive from this social, online platform I had spent years developing.

That wasn’t what happened.

Well, it was sort of what happened. But I was missing one key element of my marketing strategy.

Before I decided to self-publish The Biographies of Ordinary People—and it was a conscious decision to step away from the trad publishing path and towards the self-publishing one—I did a lot of research into what it would take to market and promote my novel without the help of a publishing company.

Having a platform is important, the experts explained, but your most valuable tool is your mailing list.

Right, I thought. Email. The tool that’s so last century.

I wasn’t fully sold on the “start a mailing list” plan until I took a self-pub class with Beth Jusino, whose book The Author’s Guide to Marketing was one of my most valuable reference tools during the self-pub research process.

Before that class, I was pretty sure I could skip the mailing list and do just fine. I had nearly fifteen thousand Medium followers. If just 10 percent bought my book… well, we’ve all done that kind of math, right?

After taking the class and talking with Beth, I begrudgingly set up a TinyLetter. It was totally last-minute, the kind of thing I should have put together months earlier when I first started drafting my novel on Patreon. It shouldn’t have worked, because I wasn’t expecting it to work and I was putting in the minimum amount of effort.

But I filled in all the fields, gave my TinyLetter a title, and then I tweeted about it. Dropped a couple links on my socials. Mentioned it on the sites I write for regularly.

To my absolute surprise, people—often the very same people who already followed me on other parts of the internet—started subscribing.

I am the kind of person who doesn’t like redundancy in her processes. Why sign up for an email newsletter if I’m going to get the same information on the socials? Most of us tweet our TinyLetters as soon as we’ve mailed them, so what’s the advantage of having a whole separate thing to tell people about our upcoming projects?

I discovered the advantage after I launched my pre-order.

According to the data I got from Pronoun and the clickthrough stats I got from TinyLetter, a huge chunk of traffic to my book page and its sales portals came from two sources:

  1. My mailing list.
  2. My website,

This is how it works, as it turns out: following me on Twitter or Tumblr or Medium means you like me. Signing up for my TinyLetter means you want to know more about my book.

There’s a difference, and it’s important. Maybe 13,000 of my 14,900 Medium followers are only in it for my personal finance writing at The Billfold. Maybe half of my Twitter friends are still following me because I used to do stuff like live-tweet The Poseidon Adventure. (The original. Obviously.)

But my TinyLetter subscribers are interested in The Biographies of Ordinary People. They’re my core team. They’ve agreed to get more emails in their inbox—something nobody wants—because they support this book and are excited to read it.

So yes, the experts were right. Your mailing list may be your most valuable tool. Yes, it helps to have a large platform from which to get that initial group of mailing list subscribers—because you’re not going to build a very large mailing list from 50 Twitter followers—but once they’re signed up, they’re going to be some of your greatest assets.

If you’ve got a TinyLetter or a mailing list you want to share, put your links in the comments and I’ll check ’em out! Here’s my TinyLetter again, if you want to subscribe. ❤

Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer, a senior editor at The Billfold, and a columnist at The Write Life. The Biographies of Ordinary People is her debut novel.



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Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker

Freelance writer at Vox, Bankrate, Haven Life, & more. Author of The Biographies of Ordinary People.