In my last few posts, I’ve been talking about reader outreach, the goal of which is to grow your email list, not sell books. Why? Because an email subscriber is far more valuable to you than a single book sale. If you can maintain a long term connection with your readers through email, you can sell future books, request reviews or find beta readers, and if you have plans to create courses or other products, you can sell those too.
However, while the rewards can be great, you’ll only reap them if you nurture your subscribers and build your relationship with them. Fortunately, it isn’t as difficult as you may think and in this post, I’m going to give you my top tips for setting up an effective welcome sequence and what to include in your regular emails.
Email Marketing Works
If you’re under the illusion that ‘platform’ means building a social media following and you have no interest in email, you may want to have a rethink, for three reasons.
1 - You can never ‘own’ your social following. That means if Facebook changes its rules or algorithms (which it often does), you can lose access to your following overnight. If your mailing provider changes its rules (as MailChimp recently did), you can take your list and move it to a new provider if you wish.
2 - The engagement rate on social platforms is tiny compared to email. According to lead generation software company OptinMonster, “For the ‘Big 3’ of social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), the engagement rate isn’t even 0.6%.” If you consider that the average email open rate is 22.86%, (and for small lists it’s often much higher) you realize that you need to have a social following many times larger than an email list to reach the same number of people.
With that out of the way, I’m going to assume that from here on we’re all agreed that an email list is important to have.
Two Common Author Stumbling Blocks
That said, there are two problems authors have with email that I hear a lot.
1 - You don’t want to bother people, so you only email when you have something to say, which in reality means you usually only email when you have a new book to sell.
2 - You don’t have a book out yet, so you don’t know what to email about.
The questions here are essentially the same—what do you email about when you’re not promoting your book? I’ll make some suggestions for that later in this post but first, if you don’t want to come across as a spammy salesperson, you should be emailing your list things other than ‘buy my book’. The same rules apply here as on social media.
Don’t worry about bothering people. We all know what we’re getting into when we hand over our email addresses, particularly these days with GDPR and other privacy rules. So now more than ever, if someone gifts you their email address, they are saying they are happy to receive emails from you, so don’t be afraid to send them. If they later decide they’re not interested, they can unsubscribe and you can wish them well on their way, as you don’t want or need uninterested people on your list.
What you do want is engaged, loyal subscribers, and you only get those if you take the time to build a relationship. That means sending emails they want to receive and encouraging responses.
How to Welcome New Subscribers Into Your World
The best way to start is to craft a welcome sequence of emails that sends automatically when someone subscribes to your list. These emails will let new subscribers know what to expect and allow them to get to know you better. This is particularly important when doing outreach because if someone has only just heard you on a podcast for the first time and signed up for your free reader magnet, you want to quickly establish a relationship before they forget how or why they signed up. Here are some ideas for what to include:
How to Forge Subscriber Relationships
Give, give, give to your list before making an ask. You probably already know about reader magnets—offering something free in exchange for an email address. It’s rare for anyone to feel incentivized enough to ‘sign up for updates’ alone, so it’s usual to give something of value to encourage opt-ins. Fellow BookWorks expert Chris Well has some great ideas for reader magnets. But don’t stop there, consider other ways to regularly give to your subscribers, as a way of saying thank you for their attention; it could be as simple as sharing a useful or entertaining blog post.
Show an interest in them. Ask new subscribers to tell you something about themselves or, for nonfiction authors, what you can help them with. It’s important to encourage engagement early on, so subscribers know there’s a real person sending the emails (even if the sequence is automated). When they do reply, make sure you email back! Asking why they signed up or what they are looking for can also help you get to know your subscribers, and therefore your target readers, better.
Tell them about yourself. Marketing is all about know, like and trust, and you can let new subscribers get to know, like and trust you by sharing your personal story - why you write and what brought you to where you are today, for example. As an author, you should already know the power of stories and sharing yours can help you build a strong connection with your subscribers.
Introduce readers to your world. You can also allow subscribers to get to know you better by sharing your best guest posts and podcast interviews in your welcome series. These will not only allow subscribers to build trust with you, but they will also appreciate the value you’re sharing.
Tell them about your work. You should absolutely let subscribers know about any books you have available to purchase. This isn’t being pushy or sales-y, you’re just letting someone who has shown an interest in what you do know what you have to offer. If you don’t have anything available to buy yet, let them know about the projects you’re working on and places where they can follow you to find out more.
Regular Emails and Newsletters
So what’s next? After your welcome series, which can send over a few days or a few weeks, your subscribers will then want to receive regular broadcast emails from you. These emails can take many forms and you need to find what works best for you. Some authors like to send a short piece of writing, others send news stories, tips, facts or jokes, while some send a roundup of their recent reading, or research for their writing, blog updates or outreach activity. Whatever you choose to include in your regular emails, here are my top tips to keep in mind:
Top Tips for Effective Email Marketing
Email consistently—find a routine you can stick to, no less than once a month.
Write your email with one person in mind—your reader avatar. Think about what they want to hear from you.
Make your emails value-based—always ask what’s the recipient going to get out of this? Why does this email deserve to be opened and read?
Include a link to your website if possible—this will encourage more traffic to your website, which will help your Google ranking.
Always include a call to action—what do you want subscribers to do after reading your email? You may want them to read your new blog post, leave a book review, comment on your latest guest post or share something on Instagram. Try to encourage engagement every time.
Do you have an email list? If so, how are you nurturing your subscribers? I’d love to know, so please share in the comments!
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