What is email marketing for writers?

Email marketing for writers is the act of sending emails for the purpose of building relationships, author loyalty, and/or selling books, products, or services to a group of readers or potential readers. Done well, it can increase revenue by enticing new readers to buy your books and related items and turn current readers into your biggest fans.

Why is email marketing so important?

Email marketing is a crucial piece of your marketing platform for many reasons. The first and perhaps most important reason is that you own your email contact list. Social media companies control your followers and can shut you down or change their algorithms at the click of a mouse. Your email list is yours regardless of the platform you use or the genre, product, or service you sell.

For example, Facebook is currently showing content on your Facebook page to less than five percent of your followers. On a list of 2500 followers, the average eyes on your content will reach less than 80 eyes. On the other hand, the same content in an email has the potential to reach 100% of those who wish to read it. Anyone who has been a victim of the shifts in social media will attest to the value of owning access to your followers by way of your email contact list.

While social media has a place in your marketing arsenal, this direct connection to your readers allows you to deepen connections and build enthusiasts and evangelists. Your list will likely become your first readers, first reviewers, and first to recommend your book to others. You can offer your email subscribers previews, bonus chapters, research notes, or character sketches to help them feel valued and part of your success.

It is also a great place to announce your book launch, book signings, and ask for reviews. Test ideas, endings, or book cover designs with the people who love the type of book you’re writing. You can make your subscribers feel special and valued by offering access to bonuses or early releases. In doing so, you reinforce your connection.

Whether you are selling a book or selling other products or services, email marketing outsells social media by a significant margin, as outlined by Jacinda Santora on Optinmonster.com. This isn’t to suggest that social media is a bad use of time or less valuable. It just illustrates that there is no replacing a thriving email list.

Email marketing software and why Gmail won’t do

When we talk about building an email contact list, there are a few things to consider: your email marketing providers and permission marketing. We’ll discuss the providers in a bit. First, we’ll touch on what permission marketing is all about.

Stay off the spam list

If you ever received spam email, and who hasn’t, you know you don’t want to be perceived as someone who spams their readers. In fact, it’s a great way to get your email service to shut you down. Besides, who likes spammers? Right. No one.

Thanks to the CAN-Spam Act, there are rules to follow as an email marketer. As someone who is writing emails to potential buyers of your books, etc., that’s you. At the top of the must-do list is permission marketing. Someone MUST opt-in to the list and have a way of unsubscribing to get off of your list if they choose to do so.

Because Gmail and other personal email services don’t offer an easy way to opt-out of your list, it makes it difficult to follow CAN-Spam compliance. But there are other reasons Gmail is a bad idea for growing your list.

Segment your list

Email marketing platforms allow you to segment your list by any number of categories that you might choose. Some categories may include location, book series, or other product or service categories you may select. Segmenting your list allows you to send emails targeted to just people interested in a specific type of email. For instance, if you are an author who also provides editing services, you may choose to have readers on one list and writers on another.

Email marketing platforms allow you to check open rates and click rates within the email on emails you send. That information is helpful for knowing which headlines and content generate the most interest. You’ll create more or different content based on what your subscribers do or don’t do.

Email automation

Finally, email marketing platforms enable you to automate some of your most-used emails. A welcome message is a perfect use of an automated email. When someone subscribes to your email list, the platform automatically sends an email to welcome them to the list. The email may also give some information about you, your books, or your other products or services. It can invite them to join your Facebook group or simply explain what to expect from you in the weeks and months ahead.

There are other ways to use an automated email series. You might provide a 5-part learning series, a 10-email series leading to the sale of your online course, or a 7-part series leading to the launch of your next book. You can create an email series and use it over and over with your new subscribers without having to do any additional work. That saves lots of time!

Email marketing software providers

When it comes to email marketing software providers, your choices are plentiful. MailChimp might be the most recognizable of this group. With a free starter subscription for up to 2,000 subscribers, it’s a popular choice among those starting out. Some find it a bit clunky to navigate. If that’s the case, MailerLite is another popular free platform.

If you need a more robust program to handle your growing needs, other providers include Constant Contact, Active Campaign, Aweber, Squarespace, among dozens of others. Look for email marketing reviews of the continually changing list when it comes to ease of use, support, and pricing as your list grows.

As you move up the ladder from the most simple applications to the most complex, the higher-end platforms can do complicated if-then calculations to get more sales with higher profits. These platforms come at a steeper cost and a sharper learning curve. While platforms like LeadPages and ClickFunnels aren’t email marketing platforms, they do specialize in creating landing pages and capturing leads.

How do you grow an email list of engaged readers?

There are many ways to grow your email list, some more complicated than others. Assuming you’ve set up your email marketing account, let’s start with the most basic ways to add people to your list.

If you have an author website for your author business, your webmaster can add a subscribe button to the footer of the website. You can also add a pop-up to the website asking readers to subscribe. Although many people don’t love pop-ups, they are effective in list building.

If you don’t currently have a website, you can still get readers to opt-in to your email list by using built-in landing pages from your email marketing service provider. It acts like a mini-website without a lot of features or functionality. In this instance, its purpose is to get people onto your email list.

But, unfortunately, most people won’t sign up to get more emails just because you ask them to do so. So how do you encourage more people to take a leap of faith and give you their precious email? They’ll gladly give it to you when you offer a lead magnet.

What is a lead magnet?

A lead magnet is something you offer of value to your reader. Lead magnets can vary depending on the type of book you write and your imagination. First, think of what your readers value. If it were you, what would you give up your email to get?

If you write fiction, you can offer the first chapter, the first book (if it is part of a series), a character interview, deleted scenes, an audio version of an exciting scene, a travelogue of your researched places, etc. If you write nonfiction, you can offer 5 tips for doing something or a review of 3 tools to achieve their desired result. You could also offer a user’s guide, case study, white paper, or a short ebook on a similar topic as your full-priced offering, etc.

Your goal is not just to get your potential reader’s email address but to create value for the reader. You’re beginning to build a relationship, and a lead magnet might be the reader’s first interaction with you. Make sure you make a good first impression. A quality lead magnet is a great start.

Once you set up the landing page or use the website features we discussed earlier, many email marketing platforms will automatically send your lead magnet after your new subscriber signs up. Although you can manually send the lead magnets, you want to automate as many tasks to free your time for other marketing tasks or write more books. Why do it yourself when it can be done for you?

How do you drive potential readers to your landing page?

There are as many ways to drive readers to your landing page as there are to your website. Social media is a great start. Use engaging photos or videos along with a link to your landing page. If you do live events, you can include a link or a QR code in the program or webinar. If you blog and focus energy on SEO (search engine optimization), Google will guide readers to your most popular posts. If you are about to publish a book or can update it easily, add the link in the back of your book.

Of course, you can buy targeted ads to drive traffic to your landing page or sign up form for better results. Facebook, Google, and YouTube are good places to start. But before you start dumping money into ads, create an author marketing plan and budget to make sure the numbers work for you in the short and long run.

What to say in an email to your subscribers?

Let’s say you went to a party and stood next to “Joe.” If after you exchanged pleasantries, Joe proceeded to talk all about his book and asked you to buy his book several times over the course of your conversation. He continued without thinking about what you wanted to talk about or asking your thoughts about anything. You’d probably find the first excuse, any excuse to get away from him. The same is true in emails you send. Don’t drive readers away with an all-sales approach.

Be curious

What does your reader want to know more about? What does your reader need or want?

If you write fiction, you can use a poll to ask questions about book cover designs or how many books they read at once. You can review other books in the genre, interview other authors, deliver tips on the writing craft, and offer insights about your research or other aspects of the writing process.

If your book is nonfiction, give them news they can use. Solve their problem. Write helpful how-to tips, give them inspiration or motivation to move forward. Help them know they aren’t alone. Give them a community to know they belong.

Automated series

In addition to one-off emails, you can also create an automated email series to continue to add value or sell your books, products, or services. As mentioned earlier, you can send 1-10 emails in the auto-series to everyone who signs up for your list. It gets everyone to the same point of knowledge or understanding.

The possibilities are wide and varied based on the type of book you’ve written or are writing. Experiment with various types of emails or ask your readers what they want from you. As a great rule of thumb, send something of value to the reader 80% of the time, and 20% of your emails can contain promotional materials. When in doubt, you can never be too helpful.

How often should I email my readers?

The most important part of building your email list is consistency. Whether you email once a day, once a week, or once a month, be faithful to the schedule. If you deliver value, your readers will look forward to your email and then open and read it.

Start slow or fast, but start early. When possible, build your email before your book release date. It’s easier to sell excitement and anticipation than a book. When you build a relationship first, it’s more likely that people will buy from you. They’ll buy from someone they know, like, and trust to deliver a great book to solve their problem. Even if their problem is needing the next book to set on their night table.

If you missed the book launch, it’s not too late. Start from where you are and continue to work each month to add readers to your list. By the time you launch your next book, you’ll be ready. And so will your readers.

This blog post contains affiliate links. I earn a few dollars when you sign up for participating products. I thought you should know.


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