Social media has become an essential tool when it comes to marketing what we write. After all, just over half of the total time we spend on our smartphones is now reserved for social media apps, meaning that’s where your readers are spending their time, too.
However, if you’ve been having your head turned by reels and TikTok, you might be ignoring one of the most effective book marketing methods there is – the traditional email newsletter.
Yes, it’s been around a while and, yes, people keep trying to argue that email marketing is dead. But communicating with your potential audience in this way actually continues to be one of the most effective and personalized ways of engaging with readers.
Research shows that 46% of smartphone users prefer to receive communications from businesses via email, while 77% of marketers reported an increase in email engagement last year.
It isn’t just for older readers, either: 73% of Millennials identify email as their preferred means of business communication.
Simply put, regular email contact can help to make a good impression on people who might be in the market for a book. And, if your name is at the forefront of their mind because of a series of great newsletters, that book could be one of yours.
But just how can you create great newsletters? Here are a few pointers:
Make your subject line strong
It doesn’t matter if your content is great. Without a strong subject line, no one is going to even open your newsletter. Almost half of email recipients open emails based on the subject line, and 69% will use it to decide if a message is spam, according to recent figures.
To get those click-throughs, you need an invitation that sparks reader curiosity while staying on-brand, and not resorting to click-bait. Avoid starting with ‘Newsletter’ and instead take your time crafting something that is going to appeal to your audience – just as you would with your books. Drafting multiples before committing is a good idea.
Don’t be tempted to use all caps or exclamation points to stand out either, as nobody likes to be shouted at in their inbox. And, keep it under 50 characters if you want to stay mobile-friendly. Using exclamation points in the subject line of your email newsletter can actually cause spam filters to eat your email.
Design is everything
Once you’ve encouraged a reader to open your newsletter, you need to persuade them to stay, not just with excellent content, but also with a presentable layout. A cluttered mess or a dense block of text won’t do much to endear you to your recipients, so make the most of short paragraphs, sub-headings and columns to create an aesthetically pleasing message.
It’s a good idea to think about branding from the outset, too, as consistency will help your name stick in readers’ minds. That means choosing a color for your template and logo, and staying with it, as well as ensuring stock images are a good fit (Unsplash and Pixabay are ideal places to look for these).
You might also want to consider color psychology when selecting your palette, as research suggests different colors can strongly impact how buyers perceive brands.
Think carefully about frequency
There’s a fine balance to strike between consistent and spammy when it comes to emails, so getting it right is crucial to avoid annoying would-be readers, and having them unsubscribe. According to one survey the most popular frequency is at least monthly (86%), so this might a good newsletter schedule to aim for.
However, if you are providing valuable information in your newsletter on a consistent basis, you can get away with a more frequent schedule. When WritersWeekly.com (previously called WritersMarkets.com back in the late 90’s) switched from a monthly to a weekly schedule, their sales quadrupled.
Experimenting with open rates on different days of the week may be worth your while, too, as one study found Friday was best while another showed recipients favored Mondays (perhaps as they try to avoid their work-related emails).
Seek balance with your content
It’s tempting if your goal is more sales to yell ‘BUY MY BOOK!’ at every opportunity, but being too pushy is something you must resist to prevent readers from unsubscribing. Play a long game instead, and aim for engagement first and foremost because this is what will eventually translate into brand loyalty and increased sales.
Actually, 90% of your content in a newsletter should be made up of topics that add value for your audience, such as lists of books you’ve read, other authors you love, behind-the-scenes peeks and personal updates, leaving an occasional 10% for updates like new releases and price promotions.
Doing this will help readers to feel as if they know you and (hopefully) like you, rather than remembering you as ‘that desperate author again.’
Copy your favorites
Okay, don’t literally copy other authors, but you can take a look at some of the newsletters you most admire, and see what they’re doing right for future reference.
Similarly, examine those in your inbox that you aren’t enjoying and work out what doesn’t appeal to you as this can be equally valuable when it comes to newsletter construction.
Some of the best I’ve ever received include:
Marian Keyes (not regularly updated these days, but there are some gems in her archives
Sian Mendes-Williams’ Freelance Writing Jobs (for writers not readers, but packed FULL of resources)
Nora Roberts (111,000 subscribers!). Type your email address into the box at the very bottom of that page.
Clare Mackintosh (run like a book club for stealthy engagement). Type your info. into the boxes on the bottom of that page.
Email newsletters might not be new and glitzy, but they can be hugely effective – and, as you can see, it’s easier than you might think to get them right. Give it a go and see if you can boost your sales.
Verity is a freelance writer and author who has written about everything from touchscreen kiosks and gold bars to women’s hosiery. She is based in England’s beautiful High Peak, where she enjoys walking, reading and true crime. Her Major Incidents Division thriller series is now available on Amazon.