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Marketing Savvy: The 4 Email Marketing Essentials

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Chris Syme

Nothing sells as many books as an effective email marketing system.

Of the big three marketing necessities for authors (website, email, and a Facebook Author Page), none has evolved more in the last five years than email marketing. Direct email has evolved from a tool just for chatty newsletters to a sophisticated selling machine capable of growing audiences, selling boatloads of books, and deepening reader loyalty better than any marketing tool out there. To see data about the efficacy of email marketing, click here.

If there is one tool every author needs to build right now, even if you haven’t published a book yet, it’s an email list. Here are the email marketing essentials:

  • An email provider
  • A plan for the emails you’re going to send that includes type and frequency
  • A variety of lead magnets to entice people to sign up for your list
  • A follow-up sequence (automated emails that go out on a schedule) that will “warm up” your new subscribers so they recognize you as a friendly, value-adding person from whom they want to hear

1. Get an Email Provider

An email provider is a company that will assist you in collecting email addresses by providing customized signup forms, give you the ability to manage multiple lists, and has a number of email templates you can use to email your followers. There are many out there, but they are not all created equal. I am going to recommend three email providers at this juncture: two for fiction authors, and one for nonfiction authors with webinars, classes, or other products they sell in addition to books.

Mail Chimp

Mail Chimp is a popular provider with many authors because they offer a free account for beginners. As long as you have 2,000 or fewer subscribers total in your account, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month without paying. There are some drawbacks to this free account, however. You do not have access to a follow-up sequence mechanism, which is one of the most powerful email strategies on the planet. Mail Chimp also offers fee-based services, which include automated follow-up sequences. They do not, however, have the ability to weed out multiple addresses on any given email that is sent to multiple lists.


AWeber is the company I recommend most often. They do not have a free option. They have a free 30-day trial, but then you have to pay $19 for 500 subscribers and $29 for up to 2,500.

Convert Kit

Convert Kit is a high-functioning business email service for those who sell products, teach classes, sell nonfiction business books, and those who have products to sell on their website. The current price on their entry level is $29 for 1,000 subscribers.

Other providers

There are many other email marketing services, including Emma, Hatchbuck, Constant Contact, Vertical Response, Mad Mimi, and more.

2. Start with a Plan

Before you put up your first signup form and start collecting email addresses, you need a plan. Decide what kind of emails you are going to send out and how often. There are five basic types of emails you can send:

Broadcast: This is a one-topic email that can have multiple uses. This is typically the type of email you send out to announce a new book.

Newsletter: This is typically a multi-topic email. Some prefer a more newspaper look with images and call-to-action buttons, and many just use a drag-and-drop template that mirrors the look of a regular email.

Campaign emails: When you are launching a book, inviting people to an event, running a backlist discount, or running a contest, you may want to send out scheduled emails in a short-term campaign. For instance, with a book launch, you may send out multiple emails over the course of six weeks (I don’t recommend more than four). They should not be verbatim duplicates yelling buy this book; rather, each one should have a little different twist. Maybe number one is a pre-order and cover reveal. Number two might be announcing a one-week price discount starting on launch day. Number three might come out the day of the book launch with all the buy links, and number four might come out on day four of the book launch as a reminder of the discount and date when the book will be full price.

Special lists: You may have an advance reader team, street team, or publicity list that you use on a schedule.

Automated follow-up sequences: This is a sequence of transactional emails (asking readers to take action) that are triggered by initial signup.

3. The Lead Magnet

The lead magnet, or the free offer you use to entice people to hand over their email, gets you off on the right foot with fans. You want to establish that you value their time and their inbox. Contrary to popular belief, your magnet does not have to be a free book to make an impact. I recommend rotating the email lead magnets from time to time. I also recommend offering new lead magnets to your existing subscribers in your next email as a gesture of thanks.

Make sure that your offer spells out that the lead magnet is contingent on a subscription to your email list. Place that reminder on your signup form and your confirmation email. Also, do not give your lead magnet away in your confirmation email. You don’t want to give people the goods before they confirm their subscription.

4. The Follow-up Sequence

Automated email sequences are by far the most effective marketing tool to emerge in the last five years. They perform myriad tactics, including warming up your audience with valuable follow-ups to establish a culture of generosity, getting subscribers used to hearing from you, and the ability to “sell through” to more of your books.

Follow-up sequences operate on a schedule based on the day the subscriber signs up for your list. Scheduled emails go out on subsequent days on a schedule you set. Make sure to have your follow-up sequence done before you publish your signup form.

Typically, these sequences are four emails sent out once a week for a month. A sequence might look like this:

  • Welcome email (sent after confirmation) with a friendly welcome message, link to the free offer, another confirmation of how you are going to use their email, how often they will hear from you, and an invitation to reply to the email to ask any questions.
  • Invitation (with links) to connect with you on social media and a link to your website. Tell them there is something special coming soon.
  • If you have an upsell (next book in series or other series to start), this should go here. If you don’t have another book in a series, ask them if they would be willing to review the free book you sent them if they liked the book.
  • Give them an exclusive invitation to a fan group. This could be an advance reader team, a social media street team, or a closed Facebook group.

Chris Syme is a principal at CKSyme Media Group. This article was excerpted from her book Sell More Books with Less Social Media. Visit her blog at cksyme.com/blog.


Email by the Numbers
  • Automated email messages, such as those sent in a follow-up sequence, average 70 percent higher open rates and 152 percent higher click-through rates than “business as usual” marketing messages. (Epsilon Email Institute)
  • Email subscribers are three times more likely to share your content via social media than visitors from other sources. (Quick Sprout)
  • You are six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than you are from a tweet. (Campaign Monitor)

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