Used and Abused
How email has become authors’ most useful—and most abused—marketing tool
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It’s hard to overstate the importance and effectiveness of email for book sales and marketing. Unfortunately, now that the secret is largely out about email, it’s becoming the most increasingly abused sales tool. That’s mainly because authors (and publishers, too) don’t take time to
customize and target their messages appropriately.
First, as part of each marketing plan, authors need to determine
which emails will be sent to their large-scale newsletter lists
versus which will be sent one-on-one or to more select and
One-on-One Outreach Emails
Prior to book launch (ideally), each author should make a list of
two types of people who should receive personalized emails
about the book launch:
1. Influencers (people in positions to spread the word about the
book) with whom they have existing relationships
2. Influencers with whom they do not have relationships
Develop an email template that smartly summarizes the book
and then personalize the opening for each person. You want to
identify the one thing that this influencer could do in connection
with your book launch. It’s critical that you outline an action
step that is specific to what this person does. If a person is big
on Twitter, then you may ask them to tweet a link to the book
on the day of launch or during a preorder period. There’s no
harm in giving him or her exact language to use; this respects
the person’s time. Whatever you do, don’t be open-ended about
your request. Make it as easy as possible for the influencer to say
yes or no—don’t make it a prolonged discussion.
For the influencers you don’t know, make the email as brief
as possible, and make the pitch as relevant to their interests and
audience as possible. Again, this respects their time; don’t make
them play a guessing game as to why they care.
The above work is actually publicity rather than email marketing, but too many authors send identical emails to hundreds
or thousands of people asking for things that are really publicity
requests. You should distinguish between the two when outlining what emails you’ll be sending, and to whom. Publicity
requests always;get better response rates when personalized.
Large-Scale Email Newsletters
Mass emails—particularly those sent through services such as
MailChimp, Constant Contact, and similar providers—are best
reserved for your existing fans or
readership, even if that readership
consists only of family and friends.
There are many types of campaigns
you can run, but here are three
1. The prelaunch appeal: If you do
preorders, be sure to send an
announcement that includes key details about where the book
is available. Also, it’s common for authors to offer bonuses for
people who buy the book on a particular day or under
particular conditions. If this is part of your plan, then you’ll
likely be sending multiple messages as part of the appeal as
the deadline to buy approaches.
2. The launch-day announcement: On the day of your book’s
release, send an announcement that the book is on sale.
Usually by launch day you have some blurbs, reviews, or
other coverage to use to make the book sound irresistible.
3. The postlaunch appeal: Follow up with readers by discussing
media coverage or interesting interviews that have appeared
about the book, any discounts or sales that are running (be
sure to include links to buy), and any upcoming events,
signings, or readings you’re doing.
I do not recommend sending the above appeals to your list of
influencers—those people should have a free copy of your book
anyway. Don’t barrage them with marketing sends; do send a
personalized thank you if they follow up on what they promised
to do for your book.
If you have a large email newsletter list, and/or you’ve collected
a lot of data about the people on your list and what they like or
don’t like, then it’s worth the time to do more targeted newsletter
sends. For example, you can limit sends to people who have
opened specific earlier messages or who you know have purchased
your books. Also, you may want to cultivate a separate list for
beta readers and superfans who receive early free copies of your
work. The requests you make of this loyal audience may be dif-
ferent from the average reader on your marketing list.
Publishers use very sophisticated targeting for every email
campaign they send, often using customer relationship manage-
ment systems to send emails only to the people who are likely
buyers. As your career grows, you can do the same through
services such as MailChimp. That’s the point at which email
marketing becomes among the most valuable and profitable
marketing tools, where you can tie specific sales goals to each
email you send out. ;