Research shows that email marketing is still one of the most effective forms of marketing in the digital age.
A good newsletter and a strong mailing list are powerful tools for any writer, but how do you get started and what tools should you use? CompletelyNovel’s Anna Lewis, and author and journalist Suw Charman-Anderson presented this talk at The Writing Platform event at Rich Mix yesterday, which we’ve summarised in this article.
Why have a newsletter?
Newsletters are a very under-rated method of communication, but can be significantly more effective than social media. A survey by one of the top email marketing consultancies, found that those who do this for a living (known as ‘Multi-Channel Digital Marketers’) rated email as one of the best channels of communication from a ‘return on investment’ perspective.
When you get someone’s email address, you then have the opportunity to contact them about important things (such as details of your book, upcoming events you have organised or are involved in, and articles you have written) and hopefully turn them into book buyers/fans.
Other advantages to having an email-based newsletter include:
It’s low cost
It’s fast to deploy
Emails are easy to track. If someone responds – you can see this immediately.
It’s relatively easy to personalise e.g. by name.
What tools should you use?
Mailchimp – Very easy and fun to use. It’s free to sign-up and you won’t need to pay until you get over 2,000 subscribers (a good problem to have!).
Aweber – Very similar to Mailchimp, but costs $19 per calendar month.
A sign-up form – You should choose a mailing list provider that creates sign-up forms for you to embed on your website or blog. Such forms allow people to subscribe directly to your newsletter without you having to do anything.
Face-to-face networking – When you exchange business cards with someone, you could either ask them at the time or in a follow-up later, if they would like to receive your email.
The subject line of your email needs to be good – it’s the first thing your customer will see. Make sure you keep it simple, be accurate about what they are going to get, and avoid anything that sounds ‘spammy’. Some words that a study on newsletters found to be helpful in your subject line include: ‘secrets’, ‘awesome’, ‘skills’, ‘improve’, ‘information’, ‘video’, ‘eBook’, ‘posts’, ‘digest’, ‘newsletter’.
Pay attention to how your email looks:
Put your logo/something recognisable in top left corner.
Don’t overcomplicate it – use simple font and colours.
Include a clear ‘call to action’ (eg: Get your copy, now!). Avoid phrases like ‘click here’.
Never send emails that contain only images, because they will not display in many email tools, and will not be readable on a mobile device.
Your email should be easily scannable, so use subheadings.
Make sure your email design that is ‘responsive’, i.e., adapts to the device it’s opened on. Your emails must work on a mobile phone, tablet or other device, and that you have a text-only version for people who don’t like HTML emails.
It’s important to have a clear direction to your newsletter – why should people sign up? For information? For industry updates?
Whatever your direction, make sure your content is relevant and interesting. You can include updates about your book, but you should give readers more than just news. Can you offer some extra stories? Some advice or tips on what to read?
Make full use of the top few inches of the email, as this is what they will see in their email previews. Also, ensure all images and text are clickable links to more information wherever possible.
Only send emails when you have something to say, but try and keep it fairly predictable. If you can, do a monthly email and set a deadline, e.g. 15th of every month. This won’t just help you make sure you make the effort, it will also give you deadlines to get interesting things done by, so that you have something to say.
Important extras to include
An ‘unsubscribe’ link
Many companies add their address at the bottom (mandatory in many jurisdictions)
Links to your social media channels (also consider doing short sign-up drives on social media prior to a new newsletter going out)
A reminder to people of who you are and why they signed up – people do forget!
Make sure that you understand the different anti-spam laws, especially the American CAN-SPAM law (by which American mailing list providers must abide) and in the UK, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive. Most important aspects of these include:
Do not sign people up to your newsletter without their consent
People must opt-in to receiving your newsletter, do not run an opt-out list
Do not buy lists
Include your business address
Respect requests to unsubscribe (tools like Mailchimp do this automatically)
A/B Testing & Analytics
A/B Testing helps refine your emails, by splitting your readership into two and testing different aspects, such as working and use of keywords, to see which ones work best (find out more here). Mailchimp provides three types of A/B testing:
Subject line: Test out different subject lines with a subset of your newsletter subscribers, and after a set period of time, the winning subject line is sent to everyone else
Day and time of sending
Also, make liberal use of analytics, so you can see which campaigns get the best response: where your users are, where the people who actually open and click on links are. This does take some time and effort, but it can help you to refine your email offering.
What do you do if you have a young adult book and a non-fiction book? Perhaps you might want to segment your mailing list, so that you only send relevant news to each group. That stops you having to run two mailing lists at once and means that it’s easier to share general news to everyone.
Remember: Don’t worry if your mailing lists starts small to begin with, as it always takes time to build a list, and every list has to start with its first subscriber!
For more advice on how to market your book, make sure you check out our extensive advice pages.
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We’d also recommend you find out more about Suw’s latest book ‘A Passion for Science’ and visit her blog Chocolate and Vodka where you can sign up to her newsletter too!
Suw Charman-Anderson is a journalist and pioneer in the field of social media. Follow her on Twitter: @suw