A Complete Guide to Email Marketing for Romance Authors
I see a lot of questions from new authors in groups asking about the best ways to market their books. Experienced authors tend to respond with the same tips:
- Email list
- Social media
But budget-conscious new authors often put off the first two. Especially for indie authors who have already spent money on a cover and editing, forking over more money for email marketing isn’t something they want to do.
While there are free options for marketing, I’m like the other authors in advocating for a website and email list. You need an author home or hub that you own (website), and you need a reliable effective way to stay in touch with readers (email). While there is a place for social media, it can’t replace email.
Why build an email list?
Many people seem to think that the effectiveness of a social media following is the same as having an email list. In fact, some might think social media is better. Five thousand followers to your author page must be better than 1000 email subscribers, right?
Actually, that’s wrong. Here’s why:
👉First, it’s easy to click follow since there’s no real commitment on the follower’s side. All that a follow says is that a person is willing to have your posts show up on their feed.
But someone who gives you their email is giving you something much more valuable than a follow. They only do that if they truly want to hear from you.
👉Second, the number of followers that will see your posts is minuscule. On an author page, a tiny percent of people who liked your page will see your post on their feed. You have to boost (pay) to have a bigger percentage of people to see it, the operative word being a percentage. Even a boost doesn’t guarantee that all your page fans will have your post on their feed.
Email, on the other hand, lands in your readers’ email box. The chances of them seeing it rise greatly. According to Hootsuite, only about 5.2% of your fans will see your post. If you have 3,ooo fans, that means 159 of your followers might see your page post.
The average click-through rate on Facebook (people who click on the link in your post) is declining according to Smart Insights, and is currently about 1.1 %. That means you might get 33 clicks on your post.
Email open rates vary depending on the quality of your subject lines and emails, as well as the quality of your subscriber. The average open rate is 17% to 18%. If you have 1,000 subscribers and 18% open your email, that’s 180 people who have not only raised their hand and asked to hear from you by giving you their email address, but also who open it to see what you have to say.
Campaign Monitor reports the average click-through rate in the email (click on the link in the email) is 2.6%. That means 26 people will click through. Now, I know what you’re thinking, 33 (FB) is more than 26, but what this doesn’t consider is the quality of the click.
Optin Monster reports that social media has a conversion rate (percentage of people who buy) of 1.9% whereas email has 6.05%. Using our numbers above, out of the 33 Facebook clicks .63 people will buy from you, but nearly 2 (1.6) of the 26 will buy from email. If we use the larger numbers, 3,000 followers versus 1,000 subscribers, the conversion would be 57 purchases from social media versus 60 in email.
You may decide that 57 is enough, but what if you could have both, 127 sales? That only happens if you have both, social and email.
👉Third, like a website, your email list is something you own. You might be fine with your social media results, but what happens when the platform changes the algorithm or a bot starts blocking your content (which happens)? Even paid ads are seeing a decrease in results based on changes at Facebook and Apple.
With email, you own your list and you can email as much or as little as you want. There’s no algorithm to impact who gets your email.
So now that you see how important email marketing us, let’s cover ways to create and grow your author email list:
Setting Up Your Author Email List
First, you have to set up your email list, if you haven’t (if you have a list, skip down to getting subscribers):
- Sign up for a list management service. I’ve used Aweber since 2004 and have always been happy with it. I can have more than one list (i.e. if you write in different genres), run campaigns, segment my list, and more. Aweber now offers the option to host a landing page, so if you didn’t have a website, you could still have a page with your email sign up on it. The Write a Romance in 30 Days Challenge uses an Aweber landing page. I’ve looked at other email services such as MailChimp and Convertkit, but I’ve found that in the long run, as my lists grew, Aweber was still a better deal. You can get a free trial of Aweber here.
- Offer people something in exchange for their name and email. Unless a reader has already read your book and loved it enough to hunt you down and sign up, you’re going to have to give potential readers something more than just “Sign up for updates.” The ideal giveaway is the first book in your series or a related story or prequel to your existing book. The idea is that you’re giving readers a taste of what you offer in your books so hopefully, they’ll buy your other books. Some authors giveaway chapters of a book, but a complete book will be more enticing. To deliver your book, you can host it on your own website server or use Bookfunnel.
- Have an onboarding series of emails. My author welcome series is 5 emails delivered over 10 days. The first one welcomes the subscriber and delivers the book. It gives a couple of factoids about me and then asks something about them (I want them to engage with me). In the second email, I tell them about how my series came to be and offer them a special deal on the complete box set (I also sell directly from my website), then I ask them another question. The later emails offer them ways to follow me such as on Facebook or Bookbub and the last one tells them about my other books and ends with another question.
- Set up an email schedule. This is where many authors struggle as they have a hard time being consistent. Staying on a consistent schedule has been my biggest challenge. I like to email once a week, which can be hard. Many authors email only once a month. When I email, I try to share an interesting or funny anecdote. Recently I shared my pet peeves in reading romance and other time shared my thoughts on how Wednesday should be a midweek off day. Avoid sending only “buy my book” type emails. Many author emails I get are only about writing and publishing, but I want to build a relationship with my readers, so while I give book writing or release updates, I also talk about other things and ask them their thoughts, opinions, and feedback. I want my subscribers to feel like they know me. When I look at my open rates, the emails that mention freebies or fun topics do much better than those that are focused on my books. You can see some of my past emails here: Jenna Harte’s Email Archive
- Have an email sign up for your freebie on all pages of your website. I have a special page that I promote, but the sign-up is also in the sidebar of all the other pages on my site. When you come into the home page, the free book offer is the first thing people see.
- Be clear on what you’re giving away. Have a cover made for your freebie book and include it with your sign-up form.
- Consider a pop-up of your sign-up form. Many people hate these, but the truth is, they’re effective.
- I recently started using ConversioBot to welcome site visitors and offer them my free book. It sits in the corner and asked if the visitor needs help, then offers the free book.
- Start with your current sphere of influence. Maybe your friends and family don’t read your books, but perhaps they know people who will and would be willing to share your book(s) with them.
- Include your freebie book in the signature line of your email.
- Ask your current email subscribers to forward your email and/or share your freebie book with their sphere of influence.
- Share your landing page on social media regularly. Don’t overdo it, but also, don’t share only once.
- Ask your social media followers to share the social post of your freebie offer.
- Participate in giveaways. Bookfunnel and Prolific Works both offer giveaway opportunities. You include your book in the giveaway along with books from other authors. All authors share the giveaway with their followers and email subscribers expanding your exposure. I did this for about a year and gained a ton of subscribers.
- Run a contest. I use KingSumo (the lifetime offer through Appsumo) but there are other options such as Gleam.io or ViralSweep. With Kingsumo, I can set up the contest and how people earn points (i.e. share, email signup etc). Kingsumo collects the email addresses of the people who join in, and at the end of the contest, it randomly picks the winner or winners.
Be sure to maximize the thank you page your subscribers see after they signup. Aweber has a generic one, but I’d recommend having a thank you page on your website that thanks them for getting your book, and then let them know about your other book(s).