Email marketing is the most important part of your marketing plan. As you develop your plans to market yourself and your book, you have to keep email front and center. Be present on social media. Create engaging videos. Write amazing blogs. Each has a place in your marketing strategy. But none have the reach of email marketing.
Sending emails is one of the best ways to earn money too. Effective email marketing is a valuable investment short term (for your wallet) and long term (for building your brand).
So how do you step up your marketing game to sell more books and connect with more readers?
What Is Email Marketing?
Email marketing is the practice of sending emails to your group of subscribers to market your brand, your content, and your products.
Email marketing for authors is a unique proposition for the marketer (or authorpreneur if you like made-up words). Anyone searching the web can find your social media, and author website. Having access to someone’s inbox is a privilege. That person has found you online and decided to give you their email address.
Following someone on social media isn’t much of an investment. But when someone gives you their email address, they’re saying “I trust you to send me things I want.”
First Steps: Building Your Author Email List
Before you can start sending emails, you need to build a list of subscribers to send those emails to. We’re not going to focus on building your email lists today, but you can read this post that goes into detail about growing an email list.
Anatomy Of An Email
Before you send any emails, you need to create email templates. This means developing a design—will it be a single column or two columns? What about a header graphic or thumbnails? And be certain to build a nice footer that explains how they can unsubscribe as well as linking to your social profiles.
Here’s what our standard footer looks like:
Now, for the email itself, you’ll need to write the body copy as well as a subject line and teaser. Again, you really need to think about what your subscribers want and how the email will likely appear when they open it.
In particular, you have to be conscious of mobile devices. A lot of people are reading emails on their mobile devices; even more than on their computer! You need to be aware of what a subject line and teaser will look like on phones so you ensure your subscribers are seeing your emails.
- The subject line is the text shown in your inbox next to the sender’s information.
- The teaser usually appears just beside or below the subject, generally in italic text.
The subject should be short, to the point, and trendy. 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.
Email Marketing For Authors Strategy
Okay, so as you work on building up a list of email subscribers, you need to plan what you’ll send them. Will you start new subscribers with a series of emails (often called a ‘welcome series’) or will you do a weekly/monthly author newsletter? And that’s just content-based emails. You’ll also need to plan around things like book releases, sales, or any events (like hosting a webinar) you’ll want to share with your followers.
Now take a moment to think about your own inbox. How many emails do you get every day? Dozens? I know I do. That doesn’t change the fact that we tend to pay attention to our inbox. That’s why it’s vital to your strategy that you make your emails personal.
Email Personalization Matters
Unlike other methods for reaching your audience, email is personalized. In theory, you could send a completely unique, personalized email to each individual on your mailing list. That would be hyper-personal—and would take you way too much time. But more likely, your email marketing work will focus on developing a templated email so personalized elements can be added.
You can work in levels of personalization with an email. 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.”
Personalizing emails begins with gathering data. You can segment your mailing list by those who provided an email address versus those who signed up while placing an order: now you’ve got one group interested in your content and another interested in your products. Now you’ll know who to email when you publish a new blog post and who to email when you put a new book or other product up for sale on your site!
Content-Based Email Campaigns
Marketing automation (more on that below) in an email platform are called campaigns. Essentially, this is an email template that you’ll reuse to send similar kinds of emails to segments of your subscribers.
Content campaigns are a good example of a heavily-templated kind of email. Think about emails you get from blogs you’ve subscribed to; this is a content-based campaign. The email platform Substack is built around helping you send content campaigns to your followers—and it builds a subscription model to monetize that content!
Product-Based Email Campaigns
These emails are intended to highlight your products or possibly a sale. Think about the emails you’ll send when you’ve got a new book dropping; that’s a product campaign! These are the kinds of emails that can get annoying—you don’t want to be bombarded with emails constantly asking you to buy something, so don’t do it to your subscribers.
Send product emails when you’ve got a new product to share. Like a newly released book, a new series of journals, or any kind of merch you might want to sell. You can also layer this with coupons or discounts to incentivize your fans to check out a new product.
I’m a big fan of newsletters. Think of your author newsletter as an extended content-based email. It’s your chance to highlight a variety of content, share news you think your fans will enjoy, and share personal anecdotes.
Look at your own inbox and think about how you’d classify a variety of emails you’ve received. Is it mostly products or content? Does it seem like the sender knows you based on what they’ve put in the email, or is the email generic?
Email Marketing Automation
You don’t want to be sending emails to your fans directly from your inbox. Yes, that’s next-level personalization. But you don’t want to be that personal. There are lots of good free options, like MailChimp’s free account.
What you need from your email service is marketing automation. That means you can automate processes; such as creating an email to send to a group of subscribers. And with a platform, you can track all kinds of data:
- Open Rates – The number of people who opened the email
- Click Through Rate – The number of people who opened your email AND clicked a link
Plus your platform will manage your list so you don’t risk emailing someone who has asked to be unsubscribed.
Effective Email Marketing
Personalization and automation are the pillars of email marketing. This allows you to speak to a captive audience; sharing your content and reminding them to buy your products.
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. However, 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 trick is to build an audience of interested followers and consistently send them emails they’ll love. That’s no easy task, but it’s a tried and true path to earning income and growing your author brand.
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not 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.