Best Practices for Author Email Marketing

Author Email Marketing

Did you know email marketing remains one of the most effective tactics for driving book sales?

If you are shaking your head and wondering how, read on.

Email marketing is exactly what it sounds like: marketing a product to a reader via email. As an author, there are two ways that you can utilise email marketing:

  1. By creating your own subscriber list
  2. By paying to access other people’s lists

In both situations you are getting your books directly into readers’ inboxes. Email marketing has always been a highly effective way to access readers, and with social media reach declining across most platforms, email marketing is even more important than ever.

A Common Misconception

Email sometimes gets a bad reputation for being spammy. The term ‘spam’ originated based on the overuse and unlawful use of email marketing. Email marketing is not spammy if you are a responsible email sender and provide your readers with valuable information. If your favourite author published a new book, you’d want to know about it, right? In fact, it might be annoying to not get an email about anticipated new releases. Email Marketing done right leads to readers wanting to get your emails. In this article we’ll highlight the best practices to making email a valid, effective, way to reach readers.

To collect email addresses, you will need a sign up form on a landing page which offers potential subscribers a valuable download in return for their email.  Don’t try to elicit too much information on your form. Aim to get one or two personal pieces of information (first name and email) and that’s it. Make it easy on the reader.

Once you have an Email Service Provider (ESP) and a live landing page with a sign-up form, there are a variety of tactics that you can use to prompt readers to join your list. Authors have an advantage over most other marketers as you already have content (your books) that you can leverage to build your email list. Will you offer sneak peeks, free books, prizes, exclusive sales?

List Building Ideas
  1. Offer a free story or free chapters in return for an email address
    • To do this, add a link to a free download of one of your books in the welcome email that readers receive after subscribing to your list. This way, as soon as a subscriber confirms their email address, they will receive the link to the free content.
  2. Include a link in the back matter of your books
    • At the end of your eBooks it is optimal to always include a link to your mailing list signup form.
    • Sample text: Thank you for reading *Title*! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe to my mailing list to hear about future books!
  3. Run giveaways
    • You can run giveaways for either eBooks or physical copies of your titles, with the primary entry option being submitting an email address. Rafflecopter has an integration with Mailchimp that makes this very easy by automatically adding giveaway entrants directly to your list.
  4. Post a request to your social media followers
    • Letting your social followers know that they can be even more “in the know” by signing up for your mailing list will always drive subscribes.
    • You should do this immediately after setting up your ESP, but, as long as you’re gaining new fans, it makes sense to post email sign up links to your social followers every month or so. You can also pin an email signup link to the top of your Facebook and Twitter profiles to act as constant reminders for new fans.
  5. Implement a popup on your website
    • You will want to have a page dedicated to your signup form, however, implementing a pop-up that prompts readers to sign up after they have been on your site for a given amount of time (recommended 10-15 seconds) will allow you to catch more readers. Popups, like email, sometimes get a bad rap for being ‘spammy’, but as long as you don’t use too many exclamation points, and are direct and honest in your popup, you will be fine.
  6. Dive into paid advertising
    • You can use Facebook and Instagram ads to find new subscribers for your mailing list. We recommend budgeting for a cost of 50c – $3.00 per subscriber.

There are some strategies that we absolutely do not recommend using to grow a list.

  1. Never Buy lists
    • The most active and engaged subscribers will be the ones that personally opted in to your emails. Prioritise your time and money on acquiring readers who care.
  2. Never send to people who haven’t given you permission
    • Sending emails to people who haven’t opted in to your list is a sure fire way to get flagged as spam, and generate complaints.
So, I have subscribers… what next?

Now that you have subscribers, you need to communicate with them. We recommend setting a schedule for when your emails will go out and what you will include in each email. You don’t have to email your readers constantly to be effective. Start with monthly emails that highlight the following sorts of topics:

  • New book releases
  • Upcoming releases
  • Tours
  • Blog posts
  • Share your writing journey, make it personal
  • Special sales and promotions
  • Instagram pics of things that are inspiring you as a writer

Don’t forget to ensure your campaigns look good on mobile devices.

Click Rate

Click Rate = subscribers who click a link in your email ÷ subscribers who receive your email

For example: You send your email to 100 subscribers, 45 subscribers open your email and 5 subscribers click a link in your email, your click rate = 5 ÷ 100 = 5% click rate

Your click rate is an indication of how engaging your content is to your readers. Generally, you will be asking readers to click on buy links, or links to your social media pages.

These are some benchmark click rates by industry according to Mailchimp:

Media and Publishing: 4.66%

Marketing: 1.99%

eCommerce: 2.45%

Conversion Rate

Conversion Rate = subscribers who take an action (purchase, download, complete form etc) ÷ subscribers who click the action-oriented link.

For example, 5 subscribers click an Amazon buy link in your email. That day you sell 1 book on Amazon. Your conversion rate = 1 purchase ÷ 5 subscribers that clicked the buy link = 20%

Another example, 5 subscribers click a “Review my book” link. Within 48 hours you get 2 new reviews on Amazon. Your conversion rate = 2 reviews ÷ 5 subscribers that clicked the review link

When you do not have access to customer data at the store in which you are selling your books, it is difficult to calculate a perfect conversion rate as you cannot measure the action directly from email to purchase. The best you can do is extrapolate the activity based on the time frame of sending an email and the activity you see at the retailer.

A typical retail conversion rate is 3%. So for every 100 people who click a Purchase link on a site or in an email, only 3 people will actually purchase that item.

The key takeaway from the metrics above is that marketing works like a funnel, with only a small percentage of the people who make it in at the top, finding their way to the bottom of the funnel. So, the key to building an email list that is effective in large numbers is to continually invest in growing the number of people on your email list. As you fill the top of the funnel, you will see more actions being taken at the bottom of the funnel.

Conclusion

If there’s one thing to takeaway from this article, it’s that email marketing for authors is a valuable tool in any author’s marketing toolkit. It does not replace any of your other marketing activities, like running price promotions, or managing social media, but it is another effective tool available to you to promote your work. To recap:

  1. Email Marketing is the best way to reach your readers, because you own your email list.
  2. Setting up an email list is hard work, and has a learning curve, but if you can stick to it, you will be rewarded.
  3. Acquiring new subscribers requires a variety of techniques such as social media marketing, paid marketing, effective use of eBook backmatter, and giveaways.
  4. Your emails should have short subject lines, clear subheadings and only a few images.
  5. Your emails must be mobile-friendly
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  6. Measure success by the quality of your list, not the quantity of subscribers. You measure quality by assessing the open rates, click rates and conversion rates of your subscribers.
  7. Email marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Plan to invest time, money and resources into building and engaging your list.

If you want some help grab a cuppa and give us a call. We love talking to authors! Book a free Author Platform Review to receive specific recommendations on how to improve your sales.

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