A few years ago I attended a seminar on starting a small business, and each of the six or seven speakers I heard that day emphasized how important it is to build the list! At the time I remember thinking that was the one thing they all had in common. Now I am also thinking something else: they were right.
Building a mailing list takes time and effort, but it can be a valuable marketing tool, perhaps your most valuable marketing tool. Whether it's through regular email or a newsletter program such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact (I use Mailchimp), a mailing list allows you to keep in touch with the people who want to hear from you.
I always recommend a newsletter program over email, so people can opt in. Yes, they can also unsubscribe, and yes, it will sting when they do. But that shaking out is part of the process of getting a true list, which is what you want. With email, if someone doesn't want to hear from you, it's unlikely that she is going to reply and ask you to take her off your list. (Full disclosure: that happened to me once years ago when I was first starting out, and I will never forget it. Ouch!) A newsletter program also allows you to see how many people are opening your messages, which isn't possible with email.
The best way to build your list is to add a "join the mailing list" button to your website. (Yet another reason to have a website!) Another way is to ask people you meet--and who show a genuine interest in your writing--for their business cards or email addresses. And if anyone emails you about your book, that's also an opportunity.
Note: I strongly recommend asking before adding anyone to your list. The last thing you want to do is annoy potential readers, right? In my opinion, a little courtesy goes a long way.
Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.