Email MIGHT be as cool and cutting-edge as an NCIS marathon, but learning how to market a book with email won't just help you sell more books. (It'll give you the foundation for a steady stream of passive (and wonderful) income.
So, here's my Ultimate Email Marketing Checklist for Authors:
How to Market a Book With Email Must-Have Item #1: A Halfway Decent Freebie
Back in the Mesozoic era - or what the kids call "2002" - you could throw up a "Subscribe to my Newsletter" widget on your website and get email subscribers.
But these days you have to offer something valuable in exchange for an email address.
If you write non-fiction, this will be some kind of cheat sheet, reference guide, special report, free ebook thing-y related to a major pain point or problem area for your readers. Anything that feels like a shortcut, quick start guide - anything that will save your readers time - is good here.
If you write fiction, things like unreleased short stories, sample chapters, supplemental material (like "The Silmarillion," only interesting)...anything that takes your readers on a whole new journey they can't find anywhere else will work. I've got a friend who created a cool email "narrative" spread out over 10 or so emails. (His readers loved it...and directly boosted sales.)
Whatever kind of cheese you come up with, try to make it as specific and focused as you can. (Not "Marketing resource guide" but "12 Facebook Ad Templates"...)
And once ya got your freebie...
How to Market a Book With Email Must-Have #2: An Automated Email Solution
So I've got to get tech-y for a second. (I know, I'm an English major. This is gonna hurt me as much as it hurts you.)
But in order to successfully market your books using email you need to invest in something called an autoresponder.
Though it sounds like something Spock handled on the deck of the enterprise, it's actually a tool that lets you capture email addresses, store those email addresses in a database, and send pre-written automated messages (and spur of the moment broadcast messages) to those contacts at intervals of your choosing....
...while you sleep. (Pretty ninja, book marketing awesomeness, if you ask me.)
So, which should you get? Well, here's a super quick breakdown on some of the leading contenders:
- Aweber ($20/month) My personal choice. They're one of the cheapest. They're easy-to-use. And their deliverablity is awesome. (Head over to SelfPubNation.com/Aweber for a $1/30-day trial.)
- MailChimp ($20/month) Another good affordable option. Lots of good reviews on this one, though haven't used them personally.
- InfusionSoft ($297/month) Very, very robust offering that includes a full CRM (Customer relations management) suite as well as shopping cart and tagging options. Great for those who sell BIG ticket items. (Not ideal if you're just making money off your books alone.)
Whatever you do, just choose one. You need it. Because you're about to boost your readership 1000% with...
How to Market a Book With Email Must-Have #3: A Pretty Email Sign-Up Form
Before we start placing our email sign-up code ALL around the world. we need to make sure we're getting the most marketing bang from our email sign-up buck. Here's what I've learned making a few hundred of these over the years:
- Choose colors that contrast with your website. (Not blend in. Blending in is bad.)
- Include a picture of the free thing-y you're giving away (Really helps boost opt-in rates)
- Make sure headline copy has the word "FREE" (As in "free webinar reveals" or "Grab your free cheat sheet...")
- Be very clear about the thing-a-majiggy they're getting. Not just "free writing seminar" but "free seminar reveals the secrets to creating a romance novel outline (in just 10 minutes)"Not just sample chapter ...but Free Never-Before-Seen Unreleased Chapter in My TechMonkey series..."
include bullets - hit on all the benefits of your free thing-y you're giving away...
- Create two versions (one vertical, for the sidebar) and one horizontal (for your homepage and any future uses)
And that's it! Don't worry, I'm the most graphically-challenged person on the planet. So, if I can do this...you can do this!
How to Market a Book With Email Must-Have #4: Your Trinity of Email Sign-Up Awesomeness
One of the big advantages of an autoresponder is the email opt-in code they'll generate for ya, that you can then put anywhere you want.
And there are 3 KEY PLACES to put your lucrative email opt-in boxes:
- Your website homepage
- Your website sidebar
- A dedicated email opt-in page.
On Your Website
Let's start with the first two, your home page and website sidebar. I'm gonna assume you have an author website. If you don't - and you're enjoying things there back in 2002 - I encourage you to check out my step-by-step guide "How to Create Author Websites That Don't Suck."
But at a bare minimum you wanna have an email opt-in form in:
- Top left quadrant of your home page - this is where studies have shown people's eyes go first
- In right vertical sidebar that accompanies each of your blog posts and pages.
Inserting the code will depend on how your website set up. Involves weird things, like widgets. (If the tech overwhelms you, just head over to fiverr and have somebody handle it for a whopping five bucks.)
On a Dedicated Landing Page
The real secret sauce to your email marketing is a dedicated email sign-up landing page. I know hearing the term "landing page" makes those right-brain, non Internet-marketing hairs on the back of your neck go up...
...but really it's just a webpage you send traffic to which has ONE job...get human beings to opt into your email list.
How do we create one? Well, ya got three choices:
- Throw your email opt-in code into a page on your website. (Two big problems with this one - your opt in will look like shit and it won't get you many opt-ins.)
- Have a Designer Create a landing page for ya (Great, if you know exactly what you want. If not, total waste of time and money.)
- Use a Landing Page template software such as LeadPages and Instapage. (Best of both worlds. Simple, plug-and-play option - but it will also look awesome and get you some great results.)
I use LeadPages. Their templates look awesome, are responsive (meaning they work on cell phones), and they get me awesome opt-in rates. results. (They even keep track of conversion rates - so I don't have to deal with analytics.) But you could also use other tools such as Instapage or Optimize Press.
Once you've got your dedicated landing page, put a link to it in the about me section of all your social media profiles. (Even your email signature.) And then you'll be ready for...
How to Market a Book With Stupid, Old Email Key #5: 3 Emails of BookSelling Awesomeness
So, once you've got your flood of email opt-ins coming in it's time to sell some books and make some money.
And we do that by writing the three MOST IMPORTANT EMAILS of your life...the three pre-written emails new subscribers receive the moment they opt in to your email list.
Email #1 - The "Here's the Free Thing You Requested" Email
This is the email that's sent out IMMEDIATELY after they opt in. And more people will open this email - about 75% - than any other email you send out.
And this email has two functions.
- Gives them a link to the free thing-y they signed up for. ("Hey, Twilight fans, here's a link to that '7 Secrets to being a pale moody vampire,' I promised ya.")
- Gets them to read your next email by including a "Did You See This?" P.S. (This includes a link to a video, blog post, image, news item...that you'll talk about in email #2.)
The item you link to can be informative. funny. shocking. inspiring. It however shouold be something you didn't create. (No need for overt self-promotion, we're building trust.)
I link to link to videos, as in "Did you see this cool video of Quentin Tarantino at ComicCon talking about creativity " or "Did you see this inspiring video of Brene Brown talking about the need to be vulnerable..."
...and then I follow up that with a "In tomorrow's email I'll tell you why its message is SO important."
And that's it! Don't sell your books. Don't give them a link to 248 of your best blog posts. Or reviews of your new Amish zombie epic. Just a link to some cool video or blog post...and then it's time to write...
Email #2 - The "Here's Where I Blow Your Mind" Email - (sent 1 day later)
Okay, so you've sent out the free thing'y email. Now it's time to alter their world. Seriously. Here's where you give them two pieces of crucial information:
- Why the content you shared resonated with YOU
- How that content can improve/energize your subscriber's life.
What you say, will obviously depend on what your genre is. But here's a hint - ya want to give your subscriber a glimpse into a whole NEW WAY of seeing the world.
Maybe it's Brene Brown's TED talk and her message of how being vulnerable sucks (especially when internet trolls make fun of your physical imperfections) - but it's also the only way to be a happy and connect with other people. (And more importantly CREATE something worthwhile!)
Or maybe it's a riff on why the steampunk fantasy genre isn't just entertaining, but it's so DAMN RELEVANT in these smartphone times when we all struggle to find balance between the shiny and artificial technology we use everyday...
...and the homemade, handcrafted, DIY values values we all yearn for.
And before you wrap up this email -- in the P.S. -- hint at a way for them to step into this whole new world for good.
Something like "By the way, I might have discovered a surprising take on the thriller genre/way to conquer fear/strategy to write a great screenplay...more on that next time!"
And then once you've done that, it's time for...
Email #3 - The "Here's the Key to Your New World" Email (Sent two days after email #2)
This one is pretty simple. You've given give them a glimpse of this whole new world - kinda like the "Matrix," without the horrible acting and black leather - and then you offer them the solution.
Which is...wait for it...your book!
That's right. You've opened their eyes to a whole new way of seeing the world...and then you hand them their very own yellow brick road they can take to the magical solution/experience/narrative you promised last time.
Why would we space things out like this?
Because no other author does this. Everybody else just hammers their new subscribers with links and offers or the most boring newsletters on the face of the earth. But instead you're gonna tell a story. Add cliffhangers. Entertain your subscriber before you ask for a single dollar.
And most importantly you'll have trained them to look forward to your emails. And even if they don't end up buying something from you now. They will open your emails. And they will read your stuff. and eventually they'll buy your book.