Your mailing list is a key part of your business as an author. It's arguably the simplest way to connect with readers, as well as one of the most effective and cost-effective book promotion tools out there. But there is a skill involved in operating a good mailing list. You have to know how to get new subscribers, and then you have to know how to keep them interested.
Here are ten common ways writers accidentally drive readers and subscribers away from their lists. Check them out below and see if your mailing list needs any improving.
1. Mailing Too Often
If you don't email people often enough, they'll forget about you. Or at least that's what they say. To be honest, though, readers won't easily forget a writer they fall in love with. Even if you only send out an email once every few months, people will be excited to hear from you, and they won't unsubscribe from you because they forgot about you. It's far more likely that the opposite will happen, and that people will unsubscribe from you because you email them too often.
Moral of the story: don't obsess over sending out a new email every three days. Take your time and send emails out only when you have something really exciting to share.
2. No Calls to Action
The act of sending an email out to subscribers is called a campaign, and that's not a coincidence. A campaign is a rallying point. It's a call to action. If you're sending out emails regularly without any call to action, you're missing out.
A “call to action” does not need to be asking people to buy your new book. Actually, that should be a relatively infrequent request, only if you have books released. However, you can always ask people to meet with you on social media, to take your latest poll, or interact with you in some other way. This is a great way to bond with readers and keep them interested in what you have to say.
3. No Branding
Branding is important as an author, and it's especially important when you're emailing your readers. Make sure that your emails echo your writer's voice, style, and the overall appearance and feel of your books. Pay attention to what words and graphics you can use, what fonts are available, and how long your sentences are. The more continuity you have, the better.
4. Too Formal
When you craft an email for your audience, it's easy to get wrapped up in the content and your call to action. That's the important part, after all. But have you ever thought to take a step back? Emails are inherently informal, and it's fine if you want to relax and share some details about your life and family. Readers usually love these tidbits about their favorite writers, and throwing in a casual behind-the-scenes detail every now and then can really liven up an otherwise forgettable update.
5. Not Giving Anything Away
You don't need to give away a free book with every email (though some writers do). Nor do you need to host weekly giveaways, offer merchandise, or any other goodies. But a good email should always offer something. Sometimes snippets of writing are good treats. Other times you can offer readers a flash sale on one of your books or a limited promotion.
If you have nothing else to give away, you can always share some fun behind-the-scenes moments or screenshots of what you're writing. Giving readers a tiny taste of what you're doing brings them onto the scene all the more, and makes them more excited for your next release.
You don't need to beg to sell books. You never need to beg to sell books, and you never should. But sometimes, when you're really desperate to make a sale, the begging tone comes out. “Buy my book!” “Make sure you buy my book!” “And leave a review too while you’re at it!”
Any of that sound familiar? When you write an email to your readers, keep your voice confident, upbeat, and natural. Don't focus on selling but on reinforcing a relationship and sharing things with them that they want to see. If they're interested in you as a writer, they'll be interested in your books.
7. Bad Subject Lines
Now it's time to get technical. How do you title your emails? What subject lines do you use? Some words and phrases work better than others. A good rule of thumb is not to be too sensational, not to capitalize every letter of every word, and not to include too many emojis. Readers like simple email subjects about topics that excite them.
Subject lines that work might include details and phrases like “Free Book,” “Cover Reveal,” or “Exclusive Preview.” Say what your email is about, as exactly as concisely as you can. That way, no one will be disappointed.
8. No Segmenting
This is a more advanced email tactic. If your email list is very small or if you're just getting started, you likely don't need to worry about segmenting. Segmenting is when you split your list up into multiple smaller lists based on actions subscribers have taken. For example, people who signed up to your list because of your recent giveaway might go to a different segment than the people who signed up because of your social media accounts, or the people who signed up after reading your first book.
When you segment your list, you can have an idea of who has already read your books and who you're still trying to win over. Then you can write different emails to both, while keeping your emails both effective and targeted.
9. Visually Unappealing
Taking a look at your email itself, you need to make sure that it's readable. I'm not talking about the words or your content, but about the appearance. Are your emails mostly one long block of text? That's overwhelming.
While your emails shouldn't be overrun with fancy fonts, colorful images, and bold headers, you should use small paragraphs and (again) a degree of branding as you work. To save yourself time, it's easy to design a template that you can use over and over again when designing new campaigns.
10. No Topic
Calls to action aside, all of your emails need to have a topic. Why are you writing to your readers? What news do you have to share? Maybe you have an upcoming promotion you want to get everyone on board with. Maybe you just want to share all the writing that you were able to do over spring break.
Again, this doesn't necessarily connect with your CTA. If you just keep in mind one stable call to action throughout your email, you'll have an easier time pulling readers in and connecting with them.
Before you release your next email, send yourself a test with your own email address. Mailers typically include this option. Reading your email from a reader’s perspective might show you any number of things you would miss simply by looking it over on the site. This is the fastest and easiest way to learn what you need to fix.