An author’s mailing list is as close to magic as there is in our modern world. It’s also a tool that can be used strategically to boost sales and keep your work front of mind to readers who have many other books piling up on their TBRs.
You might be thinking: email marketing, that’s so early-2000’s. But let’s take a look at the data.
- The publishing industry had an email open rate of 22.17% in 2021.
- There are projected to be 4.6 billion email users by 2025 (with 4.3 billion in 2022).
- 50.7% of users report buying from marketing emails once a month (self-reported).
Here are 20 email marketing tips for authors you’ll want to keep in mind to get the most from your mailing list.
Tip 1: Understand Your Email Marketing Service Options
Your email marketing service (not to be confused with an email service provider like Gmail) is a platform that allows you to conduct email marketing activities. There is a large and growing list of options for email marketing platforms but there are a few that stand above the rest.
Common email marketing platforms include:
- Constant Contact
Among authors, MailerLite has been a long-standing golden standard due to its pricing model. However, you’ll want to look at your unique situation and the offerings each email marketing service provides. Everyone’s situation is unique and you may even have experience with a specific email marketing service due to your job that will sway you to one brand over another.
I would be more likely to look at Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or Get Response because of used their platform and I know my way around.
Factors to keep in mind when selecting your email marketing service are:
- Cost per contacts
- Free plan features (if offered)
- Statistics provided
- Autoresponder and workflow capabilities
Tip 2: Don’t Spam, Don’t Be Slimy
As a marketing professional myself, I know the ick that can come with (bad) marketing. It should go without saying that you don’t want to spam your subscribers. This will only lead to your subscribers associating you with that obnoxious author who is in their inbox every single day.
Beyond the typical advice to not be clickbaity or sneaky with your marketing tactics, you should also keep your emails at a respectable level. It’s rare cases that multiple emails in a week are necessary.
One email a month is a good place to start and you can flex this up or down depending upon how your subscribers react. If you have a ton of people unsubscribing after your sent out weekly emails for a month it may be time to pare it down a bit.
Tip: Many email service providers do allow you to see the reason why people unsubscribed if provided by the user. Check these occasionally, just prepare to potentially have your feelings hurt.
Beyond a monthly newsletter, you may find you have additional timely information you want your subscribers to know about. When delivered in a non-spammy way (not 7 days in a week of notifications), letting people know about releases when they’re about to happen for those sweet pre-release sales and the day they go live is a-okay.
Tip 3: Set up a Welcome Sequence
You’ll have subscribers popping up at various points in the year and in your career. Perhaps they subscribe in a month where you have very little going on and don’t even send out your usual monthly email. This is where the welcome sequence comes in handy.
Having a welcome sequence allows your new subscriber to get to know you better and to have more immediate interaction with you around the time they subscribed. There’s a chance they are a long-time lover of your books but perhaps they only came across a short in an anthology. You want to introduce them to your back catalog and get them acquainted with who you are. The welcome sequence is the place to do it.
Your welcome sequence should be a series of automated email messages that go out to new subscribers to your list. While there’s no exact science to welcome sequences, you should include between three and five on average over a series of days or weeks.
In your welcome sequence, you should thank them for subscribing, introduce yourself and who you are as a person, give them something (a book, a short story, etc.), and then invite them to connect to you further.
Tip 4: Provide Value First Before Asking for Favors
The general rule of thumb is to provide 80% content and only 20% promotion. You should be building a relationship and providing your subscribers with value more than you’re asking them to buy, buy, buy. Nobody wants to stay subscribed to a list where the author nags you every day about purchasing a book.
Value for your subscribers might look like:
- Sneak peeks
- Bonus chapters or scenes
Tip 5: Write a Darn Good Email Header
The motto you should keep in mind when writing your email subject lines is: make it personal, make it urgent, make it punchy.
When you can, you should incorporate your subscriber’s name into the header. This can be done using the magic of email marketing platforms that will insert the name based on the conditional formatting you submit.
You should give your subscriber a reason why they want to open the email now. Maybe there’s a sale going on for a limited time, maybe you’re going live on Twitter to answer questions until 5 p.m., or maybe your latest book’s cover is revealed inside.
Lastly, add a bit of punch to make it interesting. You’re a writer after all and you want your personal brand to bleed through into everything you do.
Tip 6: Spellcheck!
You can never spellcheck too many times. Okay… twenty times might be a wee bit excessive. Use Grammarly or Hemingway to check your email for errors. Better yet, have your spouse, your bestie, your child, your nosy neighbor, or anyone who will agree to it, look over your email before you send it. More eyes mean more possibility for catching embarrassing errors that will have you sending out an email of shame to note any major corrections.
Tip 7: Build Your List With a Landing Page and Form
You need a place for people to sign up for your email list, they won’t just materialize on your mailing list, unfortunately. There are two major places I recommend setting up a landing page and form for email signups: on your website and linked in your social bios.
Tip 8: Segment Your List When Possible
If you write paranormal and fantasy, there’s a good chance that some of your subscribers won’t like both. If you send emails with life updates and also emails that are just new release announcements, then you’ll probably have people who only want one of the two.
Try to segment your list in whatever way makes the most sense (without getting too complicated), so you can avoid sending people stuff they aren’t interested in. Because you know what subscribers who receive things they aren’t interested in become? Unsubscribers. Faster than you’d like, unfortunately.
Tip 9: Be Consistent
If anything, be consistent. People like excitement, sure. But you know what people really love? Consistency. It’s like a warm cup of hot chocolate on the first day of winter. Comforting.
If your peeps know you’ll be in your inbox the last Thursday of every month with a monthly newsletter with all the sweet deets they wanna know about, then you bet they’ll be checking their inbox until you make your grand entrance. And if you don’t? They might even reach out to you on social media to check on you.
Be consistent. And better yet, carry that advice into your publishing schedule as much as possible as well. You’ll thank yourself later.
Tip 10: Personalize Wherever Possible
The magic ability to customize emails to include people’s names is such a blessing. I highly recommend you use it in all the opportunistic areas: the subject line, the greeting, and potentially somewhere in the body that addresses the reader directly.
Tip 11: Lay the Groundwork to Get People Signed Up
If you build it they will come doesn’t work with email lists. You have to do a bit of traffic directing to get people to your signup form otherwise you’ll be screaming into the void forever.
Adding gated content is one way to accomplish this. Gated content is content readers can’t access unless they sign up for your email list. This could be a bonus scene from a fan-favorite book or it could be an entirely free novella. Well, free with the low, low cost of their email address.
You can also push people to sign up by adding the information in your backmatter. People have completed a book by you since they’re back there so there’s a decent chance they might be willing to hear more about your work and new releases. Shoot your shot in the backmatter every time.
Giveaways are another way to get people signed up for your email list. This really only works, however, if you already have an established social following.
Tip 12: Add Your Name to the “From” Field
Make sure your pen name is in the “From” field and it isn’t just your email address or something else entirely. This will be seen more easily by those scanning through their inbox and making snap decisions on what’s worth opening. You want to give yourself every opportunity to stand out.
Tip 13: Open the Floor to Two-Way Communication With Questions
Open the floor by inviting your subscribers to respond to your email. Ask questions that are interesting and that your readers are likely to want to share their answers with you. You can also ask users to fill out surveys to get them involved and invite them to connect with you on social media.
Tip 14: Always Send a Test Email First
Test emails will save you at some point. Always send a test email before you send your campaign so you can see what it will look like in your inbox. Sometimes seeing the email in a new format will also help you identify spelling errors or other problems you missed while working on the email platform.
Tip 15: Check Your Stats After Every Campaign
You wanna see what you’re doing wrong and what you’re doing right. Check your stats after every campaign to identify if you have a higher open rate than usual or possibly more subscribers after the email campaign went out. Consider why any stat outliers might be. If they’re positive movements, aim to replicate them. If they’re negative, try not to.
Tip 16: Clean Out Those Who Don’t Open
Every six months to a year, do a cleanout of your subscribers. Subscribers cost money and when you have a lot of them who don’t open your emails that is money walking out the door and into someone’s inbox to be lost to time forever.
Depending upon y our email marketing platform, you may have different capabilities. Previously, I have gone in a purged subscribers every six months, removing those who didn’t open any emails in those six months. I might first start with an email campaign targeting these subscribers to see if there’s potential to earn back their attention. Otherwise, it’s time to cut the cord and cut monetary losses.
Tip 17: Be Yourself, Be Authentic
Your readers have subscribed because they are interested in you. What goes on behind the scenes to make their beloved books a reality. Give them a peek behind the curtain and let your personality shine through in your emails. Your readers will love you for it. (Unless your personality is grouchy and mean. Then maybe tone it down or something.)
Tip 18: Don’t Overcomplicate Things
There are people who do email marketing for a living. These people have the time to get into the weeds of email marketing. They can create complex segmented lists and sequences.
You’re an author first and a marketer second. Don’t make things too complicated. And certainly don’t overcomplicate your email marketing to the point that you are overwhelmed. It’s best to start with a simple monthly email newsletter and potentially a welcome sequence once you’re comfortable. Rome wasn’t built overnight and your email marketing strategy won’t be either.
Tip 19: Make Your Subscribers Feel Like VIP Insiders
You want your subscribers to feel special. Making your email subscribers list your VIPs will give them a good reason to stick around. You can do this by giving them behind-the-scenes looks at upcoming releases, giving them email-exclusive teasers, and announcing covers and book releases to your email list first.
Your subscribers tend to be your most passionate readers. Treat them as such!
Tip 20: Sign Up for Other Author’s Mailing Lists
If you haven’t already, search out your competitors and those top-performing authors who seem to have godly capabilities you only wish you could develop. These are the people you want to email-stalk. Sign up for their mailing lists and take all the notes.
- How frequently do they send emails?
- What type of emails are they sending?
- What do they include in their emails?
- How do they layout their emails?
- Do they use lots of pictures?
- What do their call-to-actions look like?
Learning from those who are already successful is maybe the single most valuable way you can spend your time besides writing more words.
Author Email FAQs
What Should My Author Email Be?
Preferably, your author email should be linked to your website’s domain name and will be something along the lines of [yourname]@[yourwebsite].com. If your website’s URL is your name then you could do the alternative of [email protected][yourwebsite].com.
How Long Should a Reader Magnet Be?
Your reader magnet should be a completed story that showcases the type of writing you have in your backlog. It shouldn’t have a cliffhanger and it should leave readers feeling satisfied. If you leave them off annoyed or with a story that just isn’t quite polished it’s unlikely they’ll then want to invest money into buying your other works. Your reader magnet should hit somewhere between 5,000 words and 20,000 words with the sweet spot being roughly 1,000 words.
The length should be determined by how many words are needed to provide a complete, satisfying story. However, you likely don’t want to write an entire 100,000-word novel and give it away for free (unless you’re promoting a freebie as the first in a series).
Do Authors Need a Mailing List?
Authors don’t technically need a mailing list. However, it is one of the strongest forms of marketing authors have at their fingertips. While it takes some work to build up, a mailing list is a powerful tool. It delivers updates on your sales, new releases, and other marketable information directly into the inboxes of those who genuinely care.