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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Clemmer

5 Occasions to Cull Your Mailing List

Culling your mailing list is a controversial topic among anyone who has a list worth culling. You worked hard to win the trust of those who signed up for your email–why would you ever turn them away? Usually, culling your list should come as a last resort. It’s what you have to turn to if nothing else is going to work out. That being said, you’ll almost never need to wonder if culling is a good idea because by asking that question, the answer is “no” by default. Let’s look at some of the few occasions when you do want to cut addresses out of your inbox:

Some services, like Mailchimp, will charge more for bigger lists, so keeping yours trim could save you money. Of course, this doesn’t apply if you’re intentionally expanding your list and expecting a lot of growth. At some point, if your career as an author is really taking off, you’ll need to be willing to invest in a service that can handle a large list–but if you’re adding only one new email address here and there, you can probably trim a few when you grow close to that threshold.

This condition does not apply if you only started collecting emails within the past five years or so, but if you’ve been growing your list since the mid-2000s, it’s time for an overhaul! Some of your early subscribers might be the most passionate, but others haven’t opened your letters in the past decade. In that case, it’s time for a trim!

If your list isn’t segmented, you’ll reach a point where you can’t send the same message to everyone. If you want to get people excited about your newsletters, you might need to segment your list to customize it. Unfortunately, you’ll have a hard time reading and interpreting your list states if your list is filled with people who don’t respond.

Sooner or later, this is the inevitable death of every list. As time goes on and more readers jump on board your list, some of them will lose interest. Others will switch to a new email address or might have entered their address wrong by mistake. The combination of a low open rate and a high bounce rate tells spam filters that your emails aren’t worth preserving–and you’ll start disappearing from other inboxes before you have a chance to say otherwise. If you notice a spike in bounce rates or unopened emails, take a look at your list and see if any of your subscribers need to go.

Maybe you switched genres. Maybe you’re looking to overhaul the way you write newsletters or use the list you’ve created for a different purpose. Some subscribers will lose interest if you’re changing anything, so make an announcement before you switch and give those subscribers a chance to unsubscribe. That will save you the pain of cutting them out while letting your readers know that things are going to be different beyond this point. If your reason for culling falls outside of this list, you should consider whether you seriously want to cull at all. While culling can give you a cleaner set of email addresses to work with, it could turn out that segmenting your list and putting in more effort to organize it is a better move. For more tips on segmenting, you can check out my post here. Have you culled your list, or can you think of a time when that’s an especially good or bad idea? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or join my group for self-publishing fiction writers for further discussion.


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