One author’s email marketing campaign is another author’s spam. So what’s the difference?
A single email, whether a book announcement or sales letter, that is sent unsolicited to a long string of email addresses with a single click of a mouse is quick, and unfortunately, dirty. That is spam. Not only is it a violation of all that is good and decent about email but it is also woefully ineffective since most email programs these days will flag mass mailings and shuttle the messages off to the trash bin.
Email marketing involves creating sign-up forms, building an address list, sending only targeted messages and maintaining and updating the list. If that sounds like time and work, it is. And that is why many authors opt to skip it. But companies have evolved to streamline the process for hard-working writers. And isn’t it more effective mailing offers to people who have chosen to hear from you rather than someone who has no idea who you are or what your book is about? Don’t answer that – it is a rhetorical question.
How to get started
Dozens of internet companies have evolved to orchestrate email marketing campaigns. A few you may have heard of include iContact, Constant Contact and Mail Chimp. The good news for authors sending out a limited number of messages is that many of these services can be sampled and used for free. Most services charge by the number of subscribers on your list and you won’t incur fees until the list grows into the many hundreds. Even accessing their full range of services will generally cost only around $10 a month. What do you get for your money?
- Signup Forms – These forms are inserted into your webpage and transmit information into your mailing list. There will also be an opt-in mechanism to verify the new contact.
- Mailing List Management – Email marketing services store your email database and allow you access for deleting names and also for sort selecting of addresses for special mailings.
- Email templates – All email marketing companies offer a range of professional looking templates to dress up your message – in both text and html.
- Traffic analysis – After each mailing you have access to such critical information as undeliverable rate, the open rate and the time the email was opened. This data will teach you about the quality of your list and the effectiveness of your message so you can tweak your book campaign moving forward.
- Expert assistance – Once on board companies want to keep you as a customer and have resources to help make your email marketing efforts a success.
How to get sign ups
Somehow you are going to have to convince people whose lives are already being suffocated by their email inboxes that they, in fact, want to hear from you. Some tips include:
- Give them something FREE. Everyone wants something free. Even if it does not seem like much, something for signing up to your email list is better than nothing. As a book writer you have an advantage – ready made written material. You can give away sample chapters of your book but don’t call it “Chapter 3” – rebrand it with a catchy title before creating a PDF. Or cobble together a small give-away of insider information from your book.
- Hold a contest. While your free giveaway is likely going to be free to you to produce a contest for an item of value (hello, book) can also build your email list.
- Make the email list important. Make signing up for your email list a priority. Of course there is a signup button on every page of your website and all your social media sites. But is there a dedicated page on the website for just the email list? More than just a sentence or two? Amp up the excitement for the mailing list and show people how they will benefit from your emails.
- Promote the email list. Include a link to your website on your email signature, in the back of your book, and at speaking engagements.
Contacting your list
- What to send? Popular items include newsletters, special book appearance announcements, personal stories from your book adventure – and of course, special sales for email subscribers only. And make sure those offers are the best you have and do not appear anywhere else.
- How often? You know your audience and how they react to your content. Don’t bombard them with messages every day. Start with a few times per month. As a general rule, if you have something they should know about or will be interested in, send it. With that being said, do not abuse a reader’s invitation to engage with them. And do not worry about strict adherence to an emailing schedule. No one on your list is going,”It’s June 18 already and Sally’s newsletter should have been here by now.”
- Save your best writing for the headline. Here are some sobering numbers which quantify what you already surely know about email: 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy but only 2 out of 10 will open the email and read all the wonderful things you have written inside. Cast a hook into your email headline that will demand this message be read.
- Put the autoresponder on hold. When a new contact signs on to a list a short welcoming message is sent by autoresponder. That is a nice courtesy but is all but ignored. The sad truth is that this will be the last time many subscribers to your email list will read anything from you. Seize the moment.
Go the extra mile, especially when your list is young, and reach out with a personal email to new subscribers. Thank them personally. Ask if there is anything in particular they are looking for from this new relationship. Maybe offer a little extra freebie. Invite them to tell their friends.
Why email marketing?
Social media is a great place to build your brand and create rapport with readers. Email marketing is where you want them reaching for their wallets. These are your core fans who want to hear more of what you say. Email is an author’s best mortar in building an on-going writing career. Your email list is where you will find pre-sales for your next book and your biggest cheerleaders for word-of-mouth promotion. Now wasn’t that worth the effort?
And one more thing…
There is another way to conduct email marketing. It is not spam and it is not opt-in mailings. You can promote your book directly via email.
Start by defining a narrow target audience for your book. Say you have written a book on model railroading. Your market is clearly defined. You can find email addresses of model railroad clubs online and craft a letter introducing your book and perhaps a special offer for club members. Personalize each email and send them out one at a time. That is just old-fashioned direct marketing in the digital age.