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Standards for More Effective Email

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The Internet has to be the most effective information and marketing vehicle ever created, so it’s worth investing time to develop standards for the messages you send people who have shown interest in the subject or genre of your work, knowing in advance that a 100 percent nonspam goal is unrealistic. No matter how hard you try to be nonintrusive, you are bound to irritate some recipients, even when you restrict your messages to those who have demonstrated interest in what you have to say.

In general, communications over the Internet are not strictly regulated, but federal and state laws affecting spam are on the rise. Most people seem to favor controls, so it appears likely that changes in Internet operations, more robust consumer software, and new legal regulation will produce more control in the near future.

This article is a summary of concepts I believe worthy of consideration when attempting to design effective, nonintrusive email. No safe harbor exists, but the safest way to preserve a professional image and remain effective may be by giving away something of tangible value and/or presenting pertinent and important information to recipients screened for interest in your subject matter.

Besides that standard, I’ve outlined some form elements, drafting suggestions, and examples below that may help you create effective email messages that will escape the spam label.

Think business communications, not promotions; think helping, not selling.

Text format. Keep it simple: no gizm ){
C no colors, no unusual symbols, no unorthodox spacing, no images, and no attachments. I suggest using text format; but if you use rich text format (RTF) you can insert hyperlinks, use colored fonts, add backgrounds, and utilize variable paragraph formatting. If recipients are limited to receiving plain text, conversion of rich text messages to text should still be readable.

Identify the sender. If you employ management software–Outlook, for example–and you have your own Web site, you do this by going to Tools and Accounts and filling in the Name of the individual under User Information for each of your accounts. I suggest setting up several email accounts, each for a specialty activity–for instance:

newsletter@[yourbusinesswebsite]

authors@[yourbusinesswebsite]

publishers@[yourbusinesswebsite]

staff@[yourbusinesswebsite]

info@[yourbusinesswebsite]

workshops@[yourbusinesswebsite]

consulting@[yourbusinesswebsite]

speaking@[yourbusinesswebsite]

Identify the recipient. Go the extra mile to identify the specific person you want to reach with any business communication–the book review editor, the CEO of an organization, an individual who reads books in your subject/genre, etc.

Create a strong subject line. The accounts offered by email service providers (including Web-based accounts such as those available at Yahoo) and management software like Outlook show the subject lines of received messages; so it’s critical to create short subject lines that focus on the substantial value or pertinent information you are offering. The sole purpose is to capture the recipient’s interest. Consider these examples:

Complimentary Teen-Controls Article, by [author name, credentials]

Complimentary Cave-Exploring Newsletter, by [author name, credentials]

Complimentary Copy of [title of a multipurposed article from your book], by [author name, credentials]

Complimentary Quilting Workshop in [location], facilitated by [name, credentials]

Galley Review Invitation: [title], by [author name, credentials]

XYZ Mystery Club T-shirts Are Here: Complimentary for the First 10 Member Sign-ups

Seniors in Action: 84-Year-Old Author Releases Exciting Novel

Make your first three lines enticing.

Many email service providers and message-management software programs allow you to set the Inbox so the first three lines of the message are displayed under the heading information; for example in Outlook, go to View and select Auto View. Many people apply this feature, so it’s imperative to use those first lines effectively to maximize chances a message will be opened.

In the first line, address recipients directly. Use their actual names if you have them. If you don’t, use a title and/or interest descriptor–or tie them both together. For example:

Dear

Howard Daniels, EFG Editor

Fiction-Book Review Editor

Mystery Reader

XYZ Club Member

Helen Jones, Acquisition Librarian

Workshop Coordinator

Quilting Group Newsletter Editor

In the second and third lines, convince recipients to take action with respect to the complimentary value or important knowledge you are offering. For example:

To acquire your complimentary PDF e-book, please go to www.businesswebsite/pagexxx to fill out the request form. Offer ends [date]. Mary Smith’s new book is [Title]. A draft story about Mary and the book, along with her media kit, can be downloaded at the Media Room on her Web site, http://www.businesswebsite/pagexxx. A review-book order form is also provided.

Don Jones, director of the XYZ Library, said in a [date] communication to me [us], “This book should be on the shelf of every library in the country.” Please visit the Library Room to peruse the book presentation at http://www.businesswebsite/pagexxx.

Mary Smith, author of [Title], offers libraries free Cave Exploring Seminars. Please visit the Library Room at her Web site for information at http://www.businesswebsite/pagexxx.

For a subscription to the free Cave Enthusiast Monthly Newsletter, edited by Mary Smith, please go to www.businesswebsite/pagexxx.

Make the body of the email persuasive. Another feature that many email service providers and message-management software programs offer allows you to set the Inbox so that when a message is highlighted, the first 10 lines or so are displayed at the bottom of the Inbox screen. In Outlook, go to View and select Preview Pane. The size of the pane can be adjusted, and recipients can scroll the message (and copy) without opening it.

Ideally, you will tactfully, sincerely, and concisely present a message no more than 10 lines long that continues to explain the valuable giveaway or important information, sends recipients to your Web site for fulfillment, or generates a “reply” email for you to fulfill. For example:

I just finished an article on its way to syndication entitled [Title], derived from my book, [Title]. I’ve placed it at the special page on my Web site below for you [with “you” being individuals, discussion group members, club or organization members, list members, newsletter members, etc.] to download until [date]. It’s at http://www. businesswebsite/pagexxx. I hope it helps you, and I’d appreciate any comments you’d care to share.

If your group is interested in this offer, please click on Reply and I’ll send you email authorization, an expiration date, and the special page URL interested members can use to complete the request form.

Select a suitable signoff.

Closings are important, so choose one that’s appropriate to the recipients and/or the purpose of the message: Respectfully submitted, Cheers, Regards, Best regards, Happy hunting, Good luck, Sincerely, or Sincerely yours.

I use a standard signature for my name, typing it in a font that looks like a real signature, such as Brush Script MT. On the next line I type my working title–Author, Publisher, Speaker–in the font used for the email, but two points smaller.

Add a double space after your closing and signature, then insert a three- to six-line attribution using fonts two points smaller than that in the message. To draft alternative attributions for different purposes (often called signatures in message-management software or sigs in common parlance), see the Help tab at your email account on the Internet and/or check out this capability in your message-management software.

Offer an out. Directly after your attribution, cite a specific action for the recipient to take to avoid getting more email from you; for example:

To be removed from contact, please click on Reply, type “Remove” on the first line or in the subject line, and send the email.

Cite current law.

Present a summary of current applicable spam law at the bottom of messages, and include a statement about your compliance. For example:

It is our intention to comply with current laws [perhaps more detail here] and go the extra mile to maintain professional decorum in our communications. Please send constructive criticism or suggestions to: KeyPerson@businesswebsite.

To keep current, examine the endings of email advertisements you receive from credible organizations for changes in disclaimer terminology, summaries of applicable law, and ideas about courtesy.

Marshall Chamberlain offers writing and self-publishing workshops to libraries, bookstores, colleges, and writers and arts organizations and sells his books via www.atlasbooks.com/marktplc/01123.htm and at 800/247-6553. To download his Media Kit and read chapters from his Ancestor Series, visit www.gracepublishing.org. To reach him, email author@gracepublishing.org.

 

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