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Email Marketing

Email Marketing: 5 Lessons Learned from Signing up to 20+ Author Newsletters

I recently undertook a marketing research exercise—I signed up to the mailing lists of around twenty Christian authors through a multi-author online giveaway to find out what makes a good email. The emails I received from the participating authors ranged in quality and effectiveness from great to illegal.

Here are the five key lessons I learned reading emails from over twenty authors:

1. Use a Mailing List Provider

Email marketing in the USA is controlled by the CAN-SPAM Act (that’s the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act. Isn’t it great that marketing is placed on the same level as porn?). Yes, the CAN-SPAM Act is American and I’m not. It still applies to anyone with Americans on their email list.

The Act has several requirements, including:

  • You must have your full name and physical address in the email
  • You must provide a clear method to unsubscribe
  • You can only email people who have consented to receiving your emails
  • You must not share personal data such as email addresses with other people without permission

One author emailed me and 218 other people using CC. I now have their personal email addresses … and they have mine. This clearly contravenes the CAN-SPAM Act (the giveaway promoter assures me the offending author will be getting an email to “discuss” this).

Using a reputable mailing list provider will help ensure you don’t break the law by requiring you to include necessary information such as a name and address, and an unsubscribe option. It will also help your mail delivery rates, as mail from a personal Gmail or Yahoo account is more likely to end up in the recipient’s spam folder).

Note that even if you use a mailing list provider you still can’t add people to your mailing list without their permission (as has also happened to me this week, and as I have seen recommended by a self-proclaimed marketing “expert”). Most recommend a double opt-in, which both complies with the law, and helps ensure your mailing list isn’t filled with spam bots.

2. Introduce Yourself

The best emails started with an introduction to the author by name, and a reminder of how I subscribed to their email list (through the giveaway, in case I’d forgotten). This is good email list practice, as it helps cut down on spam complaints. It’s also good business practice, because you want subscribers to learn to recognise your name over time and get into the habit of opening your emails.

I got a couple of emails where I couldn’t work out who sent them. The sender was an email list provider, they didn’t introduce themselves, and the signoff at the bottom of the email was from a nickname (e.g. Kath), not from the author name. How can you convert subscribers into buyers if they don’t know who you are?

3. Keep the Presentation Professional

Some of the emails I received were plain text. These were plain and functional, but there was nothing wrong with them. Most used customised templates with branded headers and other images. I like pretty things and I’m interested in visual branding, so I liked these branded newsletters both for the content and for professional delivery.

But some emails were a horrible mix of plain text and colours straight out of the 1980’s. Why use plain black text when there is red and green and blue? In consecutive paragraphs? It looked like the newsletter equivalent of the recent job advertisement for a Graphic Designer for the City of Los Angeles.

Advertisement for Graphic Designer

4. Give Permission to Unsubscribe

You have to offer the option to unsubscribe, but don’t hide it at the bottom of the email. Offer the option in the middle of the email—or even at the top, right under the introduction. Not everyone who signed up for your email list actually wants to be on it. They may have signed up to all the lists because they thought it increased their chances of winning (it doesn’t). They may not have intended to sign up to all the lists. Or they may be conducting marketing research into email list best practice …

While most mailing list providers are free to begin with, you will have to start paying at some point. You don’t want to be paying for people who actually don’t want to be on your mailing list, so it’s better to say goodbye gracefully.

5. Offer a Subscriber Incentive

The better authors offered some kind of free downloadable gift in their introductory email. In fact, after getting a dozen or so emails with a free offer, the few that didn’t offer anything stood out in the wrong way.

Why offer a gift that appeals to your target readers?

  • It helps readers decide whether they like you as an author
  • It leverages the principle of reciprocity
  • It’s not asking for a sale

Some authors offer a free download of the opening chapters of their books. This sounds nice, but it’s not really an incentive—I can get that from Amazon or other online retailer. I’m also not a fan of gifts that don’t relate to your books. A pretty booklet with Bible verse memes is more appropriate for a devotional or inspirational non-fiction author than a fiction author.

Further Information

If you’re looking for further information on email lists, I recommend you read Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers by Kristen Oliphant. It’s excellent, because it’s realistic, not the get-rich-quick-quick-quick some experts seem to sell. She also has a free downloadable workbook to help you work through some of the major decisions.

Note that since Email Lists Made Easy was published, MailChimp has added autoresponders to their free plan (MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month). Also, she doesn’t mention MailerLite an email provider. I know several authors who use and recommend MailerLite for the cheaper prices, ease of use, and excellent customer service.

Those are my five lessons learned from reading several dozen emails from over twenty authors. What tips do you have to add?

Best of the Blogs

Christian Editing Services | Best of the Blogs | 4 November 2017

The best of the blogs: must-read posts on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your books, featuring Anne Greenwood Brown, Parul MacDonald, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lisa Hall-Wilson, and Kristen Oliphant

Writing

Point of View

Anne Greenwood Brown visits Writers Digest with an excellent post on point of view, author intrusion, and the importance of showing the story through your character’s eyes.

Subtext

Lisa Hall-Wilson visits Jami Gold’s blog to share about The Hidden Messages in Deep Point of View and Subtext. This is important: as a reader, subtext is what differentiates a so-so novel from a great novel.

Publishing

Choosing a Publishers

Writer Unboxed have a fascinating post from editor Parul MacDonald on the relative advantages and disadvantages of working with small publisher vs a big publisher. What interests me most is how much of a book’s success rests on the marketing, and how even the “experts” can get things wrong when making decisions outside their area of expertise.

Copyright

One day they’ll invent calorie-free chocolate, ice cream, and fried food. On that day, Kristine Kathryn Rusch will be able to stop blogging, because we’ll be living in some kind of fantasy utopia where nothing ever goes wrong. Until then, KKR will be writing and publishing blog posts on the myriad ways agents, publishers, and others find to rip authors off.

This week, it’s unethical companies or studios offering an option on your book then registering the copyright. This creates confusion over who owns the copyright … and who can therefore benefit from sales of the book (or movie or TV series).

Long story short: don’t sign an option agreement until you’ve read ALL KKR’s blog posts on copyright, and until a competent entertainment lawyer has read the contract.

Marketing

MailChimp

If you use MailChimp as your email provider, you need to check out this post from Kristen Oliphant, then get on over to MailChimp to change your settings back to double opt in. There should be a notification from MailChimp when you log in.

Social Media

Litsy

Social media is about connecting with readers, not selling to them. One new(ish) app for booklovers is Litsy—think of it as Instagram meets Goodreads. I’ve been on Litsy for a while, but haven’t really worked it out. Fortunately, Raimey Gallant has a great post this week with 33 Pro Litsy Tips from Fellow Bookworms.

If you sign up, you can find me at @iolagoulton. Yes, I follow back! Do you have to be on Litsy? Of course not. But you might want to sign up using your Twitter/Instagram name just so you have the same user name on all three platforms.

That’s all for this week! What’s the best or most interesting post you’ve read this week?