How many emails do you think you get a day? Dozens? Hundreds? Looking at your inbox can be overwhelming. Despite the sheer volume of emails sent a day, using email to reach customers is a tried and true method. Email is still the best sales channel. Email marketing for authors is an absolute must.
The “noise” of social media can make it hard to appreciate, but there are nearly three times as many email accounts active as Facebook and Twitter account combined. An email will continue to be the most important way you connect with your readers and convert potential readers into customers. Now, before we get into the nuts and bolts of email marketing, remember that no one strategy is perfect or the only answer. Even if you finish this article and have a new urge to emphasize email marketing, you cannot eschew other marketing efforts. Social media might reach fewer users individually, but the exposure from social media means you still have to engage with your audience on platforms like Facebook.
Email has a very specific and potent use in your marketing scheme: email is where you can make a personal case for your book, where you can “get in the door” and get an individual’s attention, even if it’s only for seconds.
How do you use email to market your book? Let’s explore email and learn a few basics for email marketing.
Unlike other methods for reaching your audience, email is personalized. You could go so far as to write each individual email for your mailing list! But more likely, you’ll write a script and send it to your list using an email service like MailChimp. These tools allow you to control how emails and are sent and to whom. We’ll look more at two services options for software later. For the moment, the important takeaway is that email marketing can be personal despite automation.
Email personalization matters
You can work in levels of personalization with an email that won’t ring true for other mediums. For example, you might narrow your mailing list to email addresses that have previously placed an order. Now you can send a personalized email to anyone who has purchased one of your books. You can thank them for buying. Use specific language like “if you liked my first book, my second one is coming out soon.”
The message is only slightly different from something you might offer on a public post on Facebook. But the subtle personalization gives the reader the feeling that you are talking directly to them and not putting a statement in a public space. With an email, it is just you and the recipient speaking directly. Don’t underestimate the value of that connection.
Personalizing emails begins with gathering data. All marketing these days looks to use the tremendous potential data offers to target their buyers. You should do the same. Any piece of information that allows you to broadly define groups is helpful. For example, segmenting your mailing list by those who provided an email address versus those who signed up while placing an order is a valuable distinction. The first group might be more receptive to an email telling them why your work is worth purchasing. And an email to your established buyers could be a pointed and a notification that your new book is available. The goal of these emails is the same (to sell more books) but the method is informed by the segment data you’ve gathered. This is targeted email marketing, and it thrives on personalization.
Invitation into the inbox
It may not be clear, but when someone gives you their email address, they’re inviting you into their life. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but connecting with someone through email will always be more personal than public social media posting. The emails they receive are in their personal inbox, to be viewed by that individual alone. You should take this into account and treat that user’s personal information well.
Importantly, you should be upfront and clear when you capture their email address. A reader on your website might be interested in what they see, but an email capture box that just says “Sign up” may put them off. Sign up for what? If I put my email address in this box, will you be selling my information? Bombarding me with spammy advertising? What is my incentive to give my information that makes it worth the risk?
Clear, concise, direct
Being clear about what they are signing up for ensures you’ll get more people signing up because they are honestly interested, and it creates anticipation from that reader because they know what you’re offering and by signing up, they’re showing they want it! For example, if you plan to send coupons and sales request emails, put something like this on your email sign up box: “sign up now for the latest deals and offers.”
Alongside the personalization, you’ll build into the emails you send, be sure you offer users a means to control the content they get, either with a dashboard on your site to let them select what they receive, or a very clear statement about what you send and how often you send it. Be sure the links to access this information is in the footer of each email, along with a link to unsubscribe. It might seem counter-intuitive to make it easy for people to unsubscribe, but if they no longer want your emails, it’s best to let them go than to risk angering users and having them share that experience.
Offering a new user some incentive for signing up is a great way to capture their email. Share a teaser of your new book, an unpublished short story, or a condensed version of your knowledge-based content. The giveaway for inbox access is common and many users will gladly sign up for a free piece of content.
Since you’re an author, content should be readily available. Make use of your work to tantalize your readers and draw in new customers.
Giving away freebies can be a delicate balance. A free download or snippet of your newest book is a great way to stir interest, but if you continually give away content, you risk creating an expectation. Instead, use a download or free offer to entice users to drop their email into your list, then use that information to contact them with real offers – discounts, news about your next book, an invitation to a signing. Use the freely given items sparingly. The goal of the incentive is to capture their address. Once you have it, the incentive to stay connected will be the trickle of content you provide.
Email Marketing for authors is list building
Now that you have their email on your list, I like offering a nice balance of content, news about your book, and some industry news. You need not send emails daily, but try to find and stick to a schedule to get emails out regularly. Do you blog? Use that mailing list to get your blog out there. A blog is a great way to build up your email following. With the blog, your content is already aimed at maintaining interest in your author brand; a natural fit for your email marketing efforts. Each new blog post is a new email blast with a great content offering.
Your content becomes the incentive for readers to stay connected with you.
Incentivizing readers for making the first step in connecting (providing their email address) is a potent and relatively easy way to promote your author brand. And if your content is great (which it is) you’re building the perfect follower. They’ve gotten a taste of what you write with the download, they’ll get regular updates with blog posts in their inbox (featuring more of that great content), and when you’re new book is ready for the market, this kind of follower will see the value in purchasing your book because you’ve already shown them that your work is worth it.
One reason email marketing is even possible for individual authors is thanks to automation. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as well versed in the automated end of email marketing, so my advice to you in this area has to come as theory rather than practice and experience. That said, I did some experimenting with MailChimp’s free account to get a feeling for what automation can do for you, and I have to say I’m impressed.
I’ll use MailChimp as my example since I played with their platform a little, but that not should translate to an endorsement. I encourage everyone to take advantage of free access email marketing tools offer and consider the different platforms before deciding about which one to use. The important thing is that you are attempting to get into the reader’s inboxes.
using your email tools
What a tool like MailChimp offers are consistency and versatility. It is possible that an individual could write out each email and send those completely personal letters from your own email address. If you have the time to go about reaching your readers through email with this level of personal touch, by all means, please do so. For the rest of us, online platforms allow you to craft emails from simple templates, prepare them with test emails, and schedule them to send based on the calendar or conditions. Want to send a quick thank you email when a new user subscribes to your mailing list? MailChimp automates this, sending prefabricated emails with your text when it detects a new sign up.
And if you capture a name with the sign-up box (a bit of HTML MailChimp can help with as well), you can further personalize the email by assigning the name they entered. All of this can be prepared ahead of time so that a new user can sign up and receive the thank you note without you needing to take any action. Automation.
A platform for organizing and mailing to your email contacts will allow you to easily and quickly reach your followers. MailChimp is nice because it offers free (though limited) access, along with templates and some starter advice for creating an email campaign. If you’re just getting into email marketing, I would try MailChimp because of it’s free to use options. You may find you need additional features or options as your mailing list and email campaigns grow.
Effective Email Marketing
Personalization, Incentivisation, and Automation are the three pillars of email marketing. You’re offering something unique, through a private (email) conversation, you’re giving the user something free and valuable as a reward for connecting, and you’re controlling it all through automated software so that the actual work you do is minimal.
The basic idea behind email marketing is that simple. They get content; you get an audience, and the relationship is sustained based on your ability to offer content regularly. Now achieving an effective email strategy is a little more difficult.
You’ve got the tools and the understanding of what email marketing should involve. The next step is crafting the email itself. Your incentive offering is separate from this. I’m talking about the actual email.
Anatomy of an Email
When you create your email, you’ll need to write the actual text along with the subject line and teaser. The subject line is the text shown in your inbox next to the sender information. The teaser usually appears just beside or below the subject, generally in italic text. The subject should be short, to the point, and should utilize any current market strategies surrounding subject line use. There are literally new strategies evolving daily to help you write effective subject lines. There is no one right way here, but a good idea is to be direct, clear, and use language that gets the reader excited to read the rest of the email.
The teaser can be a little longer and should provide a little detail about the contents of the email, but is not as crucial as the subject line since not all email services display the teaser.
The subject needs to be the hook that catches their attention, the teaser should give just a little more of a taste of the content. Finally, the body needs to incorporate some imagery to keep the reader’s attention. Don’t write long lines in the body, rather stick to the details with direct and clear language. Think about how many emails you open and read, versus the number you delete. Your goal is to get as many recipients as possible to open and read your email. When they do open your emails, reward them with concise, effective content that delivers on the promise your subject line establishes.
If you’re new to marketing your book and looking for some great advice and clear information, I strongly encourage you to check out Hubspot.com. In particular, their blog offers consistently valuable advice and ideas about how to improve your marketing experience. This article, in particular, goes into detail about how to break down and build emails for your marketing campaign.
Components that Sell
Email marketing is the biggest opportunity you must connect with new readers while offering a consistent means of providing new content, announcements, and future marketing efforts. The trick to email marketing is to keep sending, but not to spam, to offer quality free content via email, but not to overdo it, and throughout all of this, to catch a reader’s attention with snappy subject lines, well-placed graphics, and content the reader craves.
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, writing weekly blog posts and helping guide content for the company’s marketing. When he’s not deeply entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person, but considers himself cat tolerant.