Did you notice a swarm of “We’ve updated our Terms of Service” emails in your inbox last month? What the hey, amirite?
Some really cool legislation came into effect in the European Union called GDPR. You don’t really need to know the ins and outs of it. GDPR only affects businesses whose customers include citizens of the European Union. However, you should still be following the the core virtues of the legislation.
GDPR is all about the consent of gathering and sharing information.
And consent is just damn good manners.
As an author with a strong sense of morals, you’ll find that following it is logical, easy, and makes you feel good.
1/ ASK your readers to sign up for your newsletter list.
Build trust right from the get-go. When they sign up willingly, they are actually telling you 1) that you have something they want and 2) they trust you.
Isn’t it amazing to think that someone out there wants to hear from you?
Start all your relationships with your subscribers with this permission. From the very beginning, you are building trust. Trust leads to loyalty. Loyal fans will stick with you, even if the 4th book kinda sucked or you write slower than George R.R. Martin.
2/ Get to know your subscribers.
Gathering information about your followers is not intrinsically bad. In fact, it’s really helpful to have the right kind of information. So what should you get from them?
Here’s what you need: An email address.
No seriously, at the most basic level, this is your primary objective. If they give you their email, you can let them know when your next book comes out, tell them about sales, and… you can create a relationship through email to create and maintain their loyalty.
But more information can be amazingly useful! What else could you collect?
- First Name – Personalized emails get more eyeballs. The moment you see your name anywhere, you’re drawn to it.
- Location – If you travel for book events, you might want to offer to email them when you’re in town. Even if they love you, your readers might miss that one short note in your lovely newsletter about visiting Milwaukee next month. If you know they’re in the area, you can personally(ish) invite them!
- Interests – Beyond reading your incredible books, what are they interested in? Do you have a following of wannabe writers? Do they want to peek behind the curtain to read cut scenes from earlier drafts at or do they only want the canon? Would they like to hear about your in person book events or just online ones?
There is a lot of information you can collect from your readers that can help you to write more directly to them. The better you know them, the stronger relationship you can create. However, make sure you build up their trust a little before you start asking for extra info. Start with the basics like their name and email and give them time to get to know you a little better. Later, you can survey them to learn more like their interests.
That said, don’t collect unnecessary information. Unless you plan to email every single individual on your list on their birthday, you don’t need to know it.
3/ Unsubscribes are permanent (but they aren’t bad!)
First of all, an unsubscribe is final. If someone unsubscribes from your list you may not re-add them without their explicit permission.
But, don’t worry about your unsubscribe rate! People will unsubscribe.
The best way to look at unsubscribes is that the people leaving your email list are not your true fans. They aren’t likely to keep opening your emails, buy your books, or attend your events. For whatever reason, they signed up and realized that you’re not for them. That’s okay.
You’re paying for every email address on your list (via the pricing tiers of your email service provider). When they remove themselves from the list, they’re really just saving space another reader who is interested and invested in your books.
When to pay attention: Are your click rates low, and unsubscribes high? If you feel like too many people are either not reading (opening) your emails, not clicking on your CTAs (calls-to-action), or are unsubscribing, take some time to improve your newsletter. Read how with Guidelines for a Badass Author Email.
4/ Don’t rent, buy, or even accept for free any email lists.
Have you ever signed up to receive a newsletter or discount from say Sassy’s Sassafras Tea Emporium, and then received spam emails from random other business like HulaHoops4All and Coconut, Inc. for the next couple of weeks? It’s so irritating! You consented to correspondence with Sassy’s Sassafras—not any of these other companies! Not only do you now distrust all of these other businesses, you also distrust Sassy’s. They sold you out by selling your info to others.
Which leads to…
5/ Don’t share your fans’ information and email addresses.
Who owns that information? You? Eh. No.
Any information that you have collected about your fans and followers doesn’t really belong to you. By giving you their information—whether it is their email address or an opinion on what to name your next character—they have given you permission to use that information to better serve them. Not to share with anyone else, including other authors or businesses (not even your critique partners!).
In the end, you just need to respect your subscribers. Treat them like the friends they are. When you build a feeling of trust, they become the amazingly loyal readers who write 5 star reviews and gush about you to their cousin’s neighbor’s great aunt.