"Raymond’s eye for telling detail is very fine, as one expects of an accomplished writer, but to this she adds the informing eye of a natural historian of place.”
— John Keeble, author of Nocturnal America
Midge Raymond
Midge's blog about writing . . . reading . . . and everything in between

Category — On Writing

Book Promo 101: Email marketing for authors

The idea of email marketing may seem a little overly sales-y, but having a mailing list is a great way to keep friends, family, and colleagues in the loop — not to mention new readers and anyone you meet who may be interested in your book. The nice thing about a mailing list is that it’s one more way to reach out; for example, you likely have some Facebook friends who go months without logging in, but you’ll still want to make sure they know about a book giveaway or an upcoming event.

To create your mailing list, you’ll begin with family and close friends; then, begin to ask colleagues and more casual acquaintances whether you may add them to your mailing list. And, whenever you do a reading or any other event, pass around a guest book or a simple sign-up sheet so that readers can sign up to receive your mailings.

Among those who should be included on your mailing list are (and note that you should always get permission from the recipient before adding anyone to your list):

  • close friends
  • immediate and extended family
  • classmates and former classmates, from grade school through grad school
  • writer friends or members of your writers’ group
  • parents of your kids’ friends and friends of family who may be interested
  • colleagues, past and present

If your list is long, you’ll want to be sure to send out emails in small batches (twenty recipients or so) to avoid being targeted for spamming. As your list grows, you should consider signing up for an email service (I like Mail Chimp, which has free options and plenty of easy-to-use templates; Mad Mimi and Campaign Monitor are also popular). These programs allow you to design nice announcements about your book launch and other events; you can also do more lengthy e-newsletters if you have a lot to share.
A few pointers for email marketing:

  • Be clear about what you’ll be sending. When people sign up for something, they like to know what it is, so don’t hide the fact that you’ll be sending out updates on your book; even if it sounds promotional, you need to manage expectations (and see below for how to do more than simply promote yourself). Also, be sure to let subscribers know that you won’t be sharing their email addresses with anyone else; maintaining the privacy of those who trust you with their email addresses is important.
  • Don’t send e-mails too frequently. If, for example, you’re a teacher and hold frequent events, you might send out a regular e-newsletter, as long as the information is relevant to its recipients. But if you’re simply sending out announcements about the occasional event or new review, be a little more restrained; if you send out too many e-mails with too little content (or content that is simply self-promotional), people may stop reading them or they may unsubscribe. Also, these email campaigns take valuable time to create, so you’ll want to use this time wisely. I recommend sending out monthly emails if you have a lot of news to share; otherwise, I recommend quarterly updates (or even fewer). Either way, try to be consistent, so that no one hears from you too often but so they don’t think you’ve dropped off the face of the earth, either.
  • Create different lists. This can take a lot of time initially, but it’s very valuable in the end. For example, if you’re a New York City writer with an email list of 1,000 recipients all over the country, and you’re doing a series of events in New York, not everyone needs to receive an email about these events. When you pass out a guest book or sign-up sheet, ask people to add their locations so that you can better target your audience.
  • Offer a little more than promotion. While the purpose of the email may be to promote your book, offer a little something more as well — recipients may tire of the content if it’s always the same and always about you. For my own newsletter for writers (which I send out four to six times a year), I include a writing tip and a writing prompt, so that among any promotional stuff there will always be something for writers in there. I also try to add things that may be helpful for writers, from writerly resources I like to writing software I’ve discovered. You can also include links to other writers, blogs, and websites that you think your audience will enjoy — and consider offering book giveaways or other bonuses to your subscribers.
  • Be friendly and personal. One mistake I made when I first started sending out e-newsletters was aiming to sound extremely professional. Then I noticed, having received a number of such emails myself, that this is a little boring and impersonal. So now I try to be casual and accessible, and I keep mailings short and to the point. You should always show how readers can unsubscribe if they’d like to, and it’s a great idea to invite feedback and comments. And always proofread your email before sending it. Typos happen, but I usually create a campaign at least a week in advance so I can look at it again with fresh eyes before scheduling it.
  • Use pictures. Visuals are great for email campaigns; no one wants to wade through a ton of text, and most people simply skim through email announcements or newsletters anyway, so you’ll want a mix of text and images to help keep readers’ attention. You must, of course, own the rights to any photo you use — an exception is your book cover, which you’ll be allowed to use for marketing purposes, so you might consider having a banner highlighting the title and/or some of the cover design; think of it as your logo. (If you have more than one book, you can use the most recent one, or use something from your website that will familiarize readers with you as an author.) Choose a template that is easy on the eyes, with plenty of white space to make it skimmable and reader friendly.
  • Don’t over-design. While you want to be visually appealing, don’t make the mistake of going crazy with too many images (which could be distracting) or fancy fonts (which could be hard to read). Strive for simple and engaging.
  • Make use of the tools. If you use an email marketing service, check out the tools it offers for tracking who opens your emails, which links are most popular, etc. You can also experiment with sending your news out at different times of day and different times of the week to see what the best results are. Nowadays, email services allow you to connect your campaigns with social media, so you can link your enews with Twitter or Facebook if you’d like. It’s worth spending a little time on these to gauge the effects of your marketing efforts.
  • Don’t worry about the “unsubscribes.” One thing I love about Mail Chimp is the little line that comes along with a notification that someone has just unsubscribed from my list; it reads: “Maybe they’re just not into you?” This always makes me smile, which is important when someone has just unsubscribed from my list. I find myself worrying about all sorts of things: Was my email too boring? Was it something I said? Did they read my book and hate it? The fact is, people are overwhelmed with email and it’s likely not personal (and if it is, there’s not much you can do about it anyway, so it’s best not to fret over it). Most often, I suspect, people unsubscribe for reasons having more to do with their own lives than with the content of your email.

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March 31, 2015   No Comments

Weekly Writing: Quickies

Write for one minute about each of the following: lemon, chalk, waterfall, fork, silver.

 

underwood

March 30, 2015   No Comments

Weekly Writing: News

    Choose one word from the morning’s news and write for five minutes.

 

underwood

March 23, 2015   No Comments

Weekly Writing: Selfie

Describe the most unusual part of you. Start with the physical and then move on to the psychological/emotional.

 

underwood

March 16, 2015   No Comments

Weekly Writing: Roommates

Describe your worst roommate. This could be a sibling, a roommate from school, a bunkmate from camp, your spouse.

 

underwood

March 9, 2015   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Fences

Write about a fence. Think not only about the physical object itself but what it represents: who’s being fenced in, or kept out?

 

underwood

March 2, 2015   1 Comment

Weekly Writing: Quickies

It’s been too long since I’ve offered Quickies, which of course means you have no excuse not to write this week. “Quickies” are prompts that can be done in five minutes or fewer, though of course you can also take your time and write for as long as you wish. Enjoy!

Write for one minute about each of the following: kale, volcano, ferret, lamp, ocean.

 

underwood

February 23, 2015   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: President’s Day

It’s President’s Day, one of those holidays that we don’t often think much about, except perhaps to rejoice if we get a day off work, or to be annoyed if we find the bank or post office closed when we really need them.

But, let’s celebrate it this year with a fun writing prompt. Write about five things you would do/change if you were president of your home country.

underwood

February 16, 2015   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Secrets

By now, you probably are familiar with the community art project Post Secret … and do you know new secrets are still posted each Sunday? They make great writing prompts. Visit the page and bookmark it for a time you need some inspiration.

Next, write about a secret you’ve never told anyone. (Maybe you’ll even want to send it in to Post Secret.)

underwood

February 9, 2015   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Groundhog Day

It’s Groundhog Day … which of course means some little creature will supposedly tell us how many more weeks of winter we must endure. It was also a hilarious 1990s film about a snarky guy who had to relive the same day over and over and over…

Write about a day you wish you could experience all over again.

underwood

February 2, 2015   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Windows

Look out the window of the room you spend the most time in. Describe what you see.

Next, write about a view you miss.

underwood

January 26, 2015   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Memory

The other day my husband said to me, “Your extra memory should be here next week.”

It took me a long moment to realize he was talking about the additional memory he’d ordered for my computer, which had been very slow; apparently you can just buy more memory if you run low. (For your computer, that is.)

But I did, for a moment, love the idea of having extra memory, or more space for memories, in my brain rather than just on my computer.

Write about a time you wish you could remember, or remember more vividly.

underwood

January 19, 2015   Comments Off

How important is your book’s title?

Does your book title have a chance at being a bestseller? According to Lulu Titlescorer, Forgetting English has a 79.6 percent chance of becoming a bestseller. (I’m still waiting.) And apparently Everyday Writing has a 35.9 percent chance of becoming a bestseller, and Everyday Book Marketing a 31.7 percent chance. Interesting.

So how do writers know whether a title will help a book sell?

The truth is, we never really know. We simply choose the title that we think best fits our book, and then we send it out. But beware of becoming become too attached to a title: Your editor and/or publisher will likely have suggestions for changing it — and this is usually a good thing. Your editor/publisher is in the business of marketing books, and he or she not only has the background and experience most writers lack but also the necessary emotional distance from the book. Often we writers fall head over heels in love with a title, for any number of reasons, without realizing that something about it may hinder a book’s marketability. And, if publishing your book is your goal, you’ll have to be open-minded about changing your title.

I’ve always loved the title Forgetting English, and fortunately neither of its two publishers, Eastern Washington University Press and Press 53, ever suggested changing it. But, having worked in publishing for many years and having sat through plenty of long meetings in which editors, copywriters, publishers, and sales staff discussed titles, I’d braced myself for the possibility of change. And even now, I’m careful not to fall too much in love with any title I come up with, whatever the project. Even when I publish a short story, an editor will occasionally want to change or tweak the title, which so far has always been fine with me.

If you come up with the perfect title for your novel and there’s already another book out there with the same title, don’t worry; titles can’t be copyrighted. That’s not the only consideration, however — you want to avoid having the same title as another book coming out around the same time (not that this is unprecedented, but it’s certainly not ideal), and you also want to avoid replicating very famous titles. Be sure to do a thorough search before finalizing your title.

Most of all, know that titles can and do change throughout the writing and publishing process — the key to happiness with your title is being open and flexible. After all, imagine the literary world today had Fitzgerald stuck with his original title for The Great Gatsby (The High-Bouncing Lover), or if Carson McCullers had gone with her original title, The Mute, instead of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

I’m not sure whether Lulu Titlescorer is a great predictor of your book’s potential success, but I’d suggest checking it out for fun, as well as for what it does offer: a chance for you to analyze your book’s title in a way you may not have already. It’ll ask you to note the grammar, the language, whether you’ve named your book after a character, whether your title is literal or figurative. All of these things are worth considering and playing with to discover the best possible fit for your book.

January 14, 2015   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: The dark

Write about your relationship to the dark: Do you like it or fear it? Where did this attitude come from? Write about your earliest memory of darkness, and then write about a more recent one. How do these two memories compare?

underwood

January 12, 2015   Comments Off

Weekly Writing: Products gone awry

One year, when I was heading from the east coast to Southern California during the winter, I decided to try a self-tanner I’d discovered in my bathroom cupboard. Instead of giving me a healthy, sun-kissed glow, it turned my entire body the bright orange of a clementine.

Write about a time you used a product that achieved quite the opposite effect you were hoping for.

underwood

January 5, 2015   Comments Off