Writers at the beginning of their journey face lots of challenges beyond producing a great book. The business of writing is difficult, but your tech shouldn’t be. So I decided to put my many years of experience designing and building software to use. I created this blog so I can discuss the issues facing writers and the software that is out there to make your life easier and hopefully help you on your way to becoming a successful author. So with that out of the way…
Welcome to the AuthorTech blog post.
Today’s topic: Email Marketing Services.
In the first in the series of AuthorTech posts, we’re going to review what Email Marketing Services are, why (or if) you need one, show a few examples of what they offer as well as the ones that I feel will help you get started.
So what the heck is an Email Marketing Service?
Email Marketing Service (or EMS from now on) are companies that offer a way to manage your email marketing campaigns. These can be your newsletter, book announcements, ads or whatever else you want to send to your readers.
So why do I need an EMS?
There are many avenues for promoting a book. Facebook, Google, or Amazon ads, running print advertisements, blog tours and on and on it goes. By far the best conversion rate you’ll see is with your direct marketing campaigns. By collecting and maintaining a list of readers and engaging with them, you will build an audience that will want to buy your next book or see you at the convention near them. I’m not going to go into the how and whys of building the audience but I do want to discuss the software that can make this task much easier.
Email Provider (i.e. Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo etc.)
Everybody has an email account. Creating a new one is simple and cheap and easy to use. I use Gmail for all of my author contacts. Can you run your email marketing campaign from one of these providers. Of course, but is it the best way?
If you attend conventions and sign up readers on paper, you can easily add them to your contact list and start sending emails. That is, assuming you can read their writing, don’t lose the sheet on your way to the car etc.
What you’re missing from this method is information to make your campaigns better. Without the metrics, you are just firing emails out into the void, never knowing if people are getting them, opening them or just deleting. Just because your mom gets it and loves it doesn’t count as audience feedback.
You also don’t have a way to manage your list. How are you handling unsubscribe requests? Are you GDPR compliant?
- Cheap (free)
- No learning curve
- No feedback on your audience
- No tools to manage your audience
- No way to handle regulations (GDPR)
So I’m telling you this isn’t the easiest way to accomplish your direct marketing, but what are your other options? I’m going to sidestep that question for the moment to give a quick overview of some of the features of an EMS, so you can see why it’s worth using.
In the interest of transparency, I use MailChimp and like it a lot. Other authors at Falstaff Books, where I’m published, use other EMS platforms and like them just as much. These are a small subset of features that make your tasks easier.
So you decide you don’t want to have a sheet of paper with illegible writing covering it. So how do you get readers on your mailer list? The sign-up form!
You’ve seen these before, but I want to point out that all of the EMS platforms offer the GDPR standard. What is GDPR? It stands for General Data Protection Regulation, a rule that was implemented in Europe to protect user’s data privacy. If you are asking for a reader’s information you’ll want to make sure you enable them.
The form allows you to collect all sorts of information. I stick with the basics but you can ask for more to further customize your audience interactions, such as sending out birthday emails to your list. Once a user is on the list you can customize an onboarding process that sends predefined emails out to those new readers. If you have a tablet, MailChimp offers a remote sign-up form that updates your list for when you’re onsite for an event.
This is the link to my sign-up sheet, if you’re interested in seeing it or signing up for my newsletter.
So you’ve set up a list and a reader signs up for it. Great! You can follow who is on your list and start getting data on if they open your emails or do they bounce due to a bad address. So below is my Darkest Storm list. These are readers that enjoy the series. I send out an email a month with updates. So at this point, I had 31 active subscribers and one unsubscribe. When I send out an email 50% of my list opens them. Pretty good. I can also track link clicks so I can see what people are using in any given email. This gives me insight at what links they are using so I can tailor what I include in these emails. I get fairly good click through on books I recommend but not as much on links to articles I’ve linked (so I don’t include them anymore).
Since the list is small, I’m still under the free portion of MailChimp’s service, so I don’t purge my list. If your list gets to the size where you are paying for sends, being able to see that 50% of your list hasn’t opened any emails is an easy way to eliminate the added expense.
Anytime you schedule an email to be sent is called a campaign. By separating out each email, you can get a better idea of the performance of each one, which let’s you test out new ideas and see how the readers respond to them.
Every month I start a new campaign to send out my new newsletter. Once it leaves the mother ship, I can track an extensive amount of data on where it goes, who opens it, click through, forwards etc. It can become a time sink going through all this data but in the end, it will help build your audience. My favorite data point is where the emails are opened. The below graphic shows an earlier email campaign and where people opened the email. It is amazing to see people around the world are reading my email.
There are a lot of other features that come with an EMS. So how do you decide? I really liked the features that MailChimp provided, but other EMS offer similar features so look around. Price is the other determining factor.
|Service||Free Subscribers||Free Emails|
|Constant Contact||0 (60 day free trial)||Unlimited|
EMS offer a lot in the way of flexibility to assist you in building a mailing list, managing it and use it effectively to help grow your writing career. I’ve laid out the basics to help get you started, but all of the EMS listed offer free accounts so you can go in and see what they offer. You want to make the best decision you can now so that you aren’t needing to move services later (which is a pain). Whichever EMS you choose will make your the direct marketing potion of your author’s job much easier.
For a great resource on what your Newsletters should contain and how to build a list etc. I recommend Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque .
Thank you for reading. If there are topics you’d like to see covered by AuthorTech, please drop them in the comments.