After coaching over 450 authors, I routinely get asked, “What is the single best book marketing tactic?” There are good arguments for all kinds of options. But, based on my experience, only one book marketing tool consistently stands out – email newsletters for authors.
Sure, you might be wondering, “Email? Isn’t that outdated?! I thought Facebook was the best way to sell more books.”
I can understand your confusion. Social media tends to get most of the trendy headlines. However, I’m not here to tell you what’s cool. I’m here to tell you what works. Repeated studies have shown email soundly trumps social media. For example:
- A 2016 Custora e-commerce study found email is 12X times more powerful than Facebook and Twitter at acquiring online orders.
- Recently, I helped an author who had over 500,000 fans on Facebook launch a new book. We tracked the results and found less than 1% of Facebook followers made a purchase.
If you want to sell more books, social media will deceive you. Instead, you should build an email list. Here are five logical reasons why email is superior:
- People check email several times a day, and they receive what you send them.
- Facebook hides your own messages from up to 85% of your fans…unless you pay for sponsored posts or buy advertising.
- Email open rates are 17 – 25%. Facebook recipient rates are 5 – 15%…if you’re lucky.
- You have no control over Facebook, and they could easily get hacked. But, you always have control over your email list.
- Email requires only 2 – 4 sends per month. Social media requires 1 – 2 posts per day…per platform. That’s a lot of extra work.
However, many authors worry that email newsletters will take too much work. I’ve had clients complain about finding the time to write regular articles. Others express concern over figuring out how to use an email service provider. Worse, I hear the misguided pushback, “I don’t want to send too many emails and risk offend my audience.”
Let me set the record straight about email marketing: If you send emails that offer value to the reader, you can NEVER over-communicate and risk offending people. For example, I worked with a client who sends daily emails to over 800,000 people. Those subscribers aren’t offended. They find a lot of value in the daily emails.
The problem is not over-communicating. The real problem is not communicating enough and becoming obscure. Yet, too many authors get caught up in analysis-paralysis and fail to connect with their own audience. So, let’s look at six elements any author (fiction and non-fiction) can use to send successful emails on a regular basis. The following techniques can be combined together or used individually to keep readers engaged:
EMAIL NEWSLETTERS FOR AUTHORS:
SIX ELEMENTS FOR SUCCESS
1. Weekly Tips
You probably expect me to practice what I preach. So, let’s start with an email newsletter element that I use on a regular basis – “the weekly tip.” This approach calls for writing a short instructional or inspirational article around 300 – 500 words. You can create ideas for content by asking yourself:
- What are the most common questions that I get from my readers?
- What are the most common problems that my audience wrestles with?
- What have I learned in the past month that would benefit my readers?
I recommend weekly tips for email newsletters because it takes less than an hour of your time to create and forces you to write concisely. Also, people tend to prefer bite-sized pieces of content when reading email messages.
In addition, the weekly tip technique allows you to take a big idea and break it down into several smaller nuggets. This gives you the ability to create several newsletter issues based on one central topic, which also saves time. For example, if you’re under a tight deadline to finish your next book, use short weekly tips to stay on schedule and stay connected with your readers.
2. Feature Articles
In many cases, you may have content to share that goes beyond a short weekly tip. I call this longer form type of newsletter element a “feature article.” Typically, the length might be 750 – 2,000 words. Obviously, that’s too much material to paste into a compact email template and expect people to read it all. However, this element creates a helpful benefit.
Ultimately, you want your audience to spend time on your author website, rather than just reading your emails. People can’t purchase anything in an email. But, they can buy products from your website. How do you drive people to your website?
Use the opening part of a feature article in your email newsletter to send people to your website blog. Insert the first 3 – 4 paragraphs of your feature into your email template. Make the last sentence end with a provocative teaser to keep reading. Then, display a link to your blog to read the article in its entirety. On your blog post, you can display links at the end of your feature article to buy your books.
When developing ideas for feature articles, look no further than past manuscripts or research conducted for your books. If you write non-fiction, use excerpts from your books that give people advice or inspiration to deal with conflict, relationships, finances, organize daily priorities, work more efficiently, etc.
If you write fiction, create feature articles based on research from your novels. For instance, if you write mysteries or thrillers, you could provide information on home security tips, law enforcement procedures, or real-life details about the locations for your stories. Use feature articles to display your expertise and provide value to your audience.
3. Scenes from Behind the Scenes
I’ll confess that I’m an old soul in a middle-aged body. I tend to be a private person who can’t relate to millennials displaying the minutiae of everyday life online. However, I coach numerous authors who enjoy showing fans behind-the-scenes glimpses of their work and home activities. Those personal moments can make great elements to put into email newsletters.
Examples might include posting pictures of interesting people you’ve met. Locations you’ve visited during research for a recent book. When pull back the curtain of your writing life, intriguing elements can exist for interesting emails. For example:
- Embed a short video from your office with updates about your next book.
- Show images enjoying your favorite hobbies or non-profit activities.
- Insert behind-the-scenes pictures from your personal writing cave.
Most of your email subscribers are not writers. Therefore, they are fascinated by someone who can create a book or write a novel. Give people glimpses into your real life as an author.
4. Personal Recommendations
Another effective element for email newsletters is sharing helpful links, articles, or online tools that you find on the Internet. Regardless of your genre, you can pass along interesting articles, humor, short stories, books, and software apps.
It’s a safe bet that many of your email subscribers share your same interests or points of view. Thus, recommending things that you like is usually received with appreciation. For instance, you can offer a list of:
- Your favorite books of the past month or year
- Your favorite apps on your smartphone
- Your favorite websites, blogs, or podcasts you frequent
- Your favorite voices on political, spiritual, or business topics
- Your favorite music or bands that provide inspiration
Your readers want to know what you enjoy. Plus, a side benefit to spreading word of mouth about other products is those authors or organizations may return the favor and tell their audience about you and your books.
5. Guest Posts
If you hit writer’s block trying create effective email newsletters, don’t forget this backup plan. Recruit other authors to provide a “guest post.” Letting other people contribute content is a great way to save time and spice up your regular emails.
Many people would love the exposure gained by providing material to your audience. And, your audience won’t care if the material doesn’t come from you – as long as it’s considered helpful information.
However, be sure to maintain control over the content and tone of any guest posts. You want the outside contributor to feel like a natural fit for your readers. Clarify the type of articles and topics that you prefer for your email newsletters. Review all submissions beforehand before sending them out to your subscribers.
You may find it easier to create a list of article topics that guest writers can use as a guide. Then, put out a call for submissions whenever you need fresh content and are pressed for time, such as working on your next manuscript.
6. Featured Products
Never forget that email is ultimately about selling books, not giving away all of your content. The purpose of free material is to build goodwill and stay connected to your audience. But, the primary goal is to generate sales. So, I always recommend including this element in your author newsletter – a “featured product.”
Pulling content from your book into a feature article is a good idea. But, you can’t rely on content alone to capture the sale. Instead, you want part of your newsletter to feature a picture of your book cover, a brief description, and a clear call-to-action to buy the book.
Here’s a secret most authors overlook: You will increase sales whenever you create a sense of urgency in the reader’s mind. People will remain on the fence and wait to buy unless you offer exclusive incentives within a short timeframe. For example, you could say:
- Order in the next 48 hours, and get a 30% discount!
- Buy now and get this bonus item for free!
- Only 50 units left – get while supplies last!
- Your only chance to get an autographed copy!
Using the power of incentives and language that creates a sense of scarcity will encourage people to take action.
When it comes to email newsletters for authors, these six simple elements are the keys to success. Feel free to vary each issue, and go for a mix of sending weekly tips, feature articles, behind-the-scenes info, personal recommendations, and guest posts. Be sure to include a featured product with a call-to-action in every issue and you’ll get good results. If you want to sell books like wildfire, email newsletters should be a regular part of your book marketing plan.
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