Email marketing mastery for authors (get more subscribers, increase open rates, decrease unsubscribes, and build an army of loyal fans)

Email marketing mastery for authors (get more subscribers, increase open rates, decrease unsubscribes, and build an army of loyal fans)

Picture it like this: you’re a poor orphan on a ship with a spoiled princess. Lightning strikes, the ship is going down. You spot another ship not far away. You have to convince the princess to trust you and jump together off the boat. YOU know this is the only way to save her, but she’s not convinced. That’s email marketing. 

If you can save her, there might be a reward (or even a romance!) down the road, but right now, all that matters is saving the princess by helping her get from A to B and avoid the immediate danger.

I’ve gotten really good at building email lists, but recently learned a ton of surprising information after binge watching YouTube videos. I discovered I’ve been doing a lot of things wrong, and it’s been damaging to my business… 

So I made a 2 HOUR discussion of all the tips and lessons I’d learned – it’s also kind of a personal business plan, laying out the exact strategies I’ll use to grow my business in 2018 and beyond. I don’t expect everyone to watch all of it, and honestly it’s more advanced than most authors will need. Down below I’ll summarize the biggest takeaway tips to help you with your email marketing now.



Getting more subscribers

This is something I’m getting better at but it’s still a struggle. Basically, you need an attractive offer, and you need to put it in front of the right readers. This could be an optin offer at the back of your books, a free book on Instafreebie or BookFunnel, or an offer on your site (you can drive traffic with organic traffic by writing about things your readers are searching for, or use paid advertising).

But you need to increase optin conversion.

My email optin boxes are no Mailerlite forms, and they convert pretty well – about 30%.

But that’s only 30% of the people who land on my page and click the button for the offer.

I get about 600 people a day and only about 30 optins, so most people aren’t even clicking.

That’s tricky, because you can either have a page that’s content optimized (useful and awesome for people) or something that’s conversion focused (boost subscribers). On the one hand, having lots of great, free content will get more shares and backlinks, and ultimately more traffic. I tried this recently but changing my pages to “100% free video training” with a button to sign up for the videos and templates.

It didn’t work.

Probably because, people don’t want to watch a bunch of videos, they just want the free templates.

So I’m redoing things again, but basically, you want real content/ a blog or website, that links to a squeeze page (very specific, targeted offer with obvious benefits).

You can boost conversion with casual credibility boosters (reviews, logos, trust seals) but if you try TOO hard to convince people to sign up, it can backfire (I do that a lot!). You don’t want a big “sales page” looking thing to overcome all their objections or reservations. You just want a simple, light form with benefits + sign up to get the thing.

Immediately boost open rates

Something I haven’t been doing well, and is super important, is what happens immediately after people sign up for your list.

Hopefully you can take them straight to a thank you or welcome page.

This is your BEST opportunity to build relationship, because most people will never even open your emails. While you’ve got their attention, stress that you’re going to be sending them amazing content, and that you’ve sent them a surprise bonus gift, but they have to go find your email to open it.

Make them look for that email and open it. You can also build trust and relationship with a welcome video, cool photo, a little more about you – not much though. Just a cool/unexpected thank you page that stands out and is FUN can go a long way.

Single or double optin: double optin means only people who really WANT to be on your newsletter will get in… but let’s be honest, nobody WANTS to join a newsletter. They do it because they want free stuff. They don’t plan on becoming fans or supporters. The trick is having such great content and emails that you get them to pay attention anyway. I use single optin.

GDPR: Right now authors are concerned about “General Data Protection Regulation” – the EU made some changes that kick into effect in 2018, I don’t totally understand everything and am not a lawyer, but my opinion:

  1. You’re not allowed to download and save email lists. But you should still be able to download if you need to add them to your email provider or change providers, as long as you delete the lists after.
  2. If you’re a US based business, I’m not sure if you need to follow EU internet laws…

Your welcome email

This one email is going to have more opens than anything else. If possible, include a free book or gift, some surprise extras, and an email PLAN or activity (a 5 day challenge, or something). For nonfiction, you let them know all the amazing useful topics you’re going to share. For fiction it’s harder, but it might be your most interesting stories, “That one time JK Rowling stole my coffee.” / “Stephen King invited me to lunch, want to come?”

Of course you shouldn’t lie or make things up, but you need to get their attention with stories.

Ideally, you’ll also ask for commitment. I’m going to send you all this great stuff, make sure you keep your eye out for it. In the next email I’m going to talk about…

Include some fun pictures or images or gifs that attract your audience. They can be a mix of fun/crazy stuff, build the dream (this is what your audience wants, subliminal messaging) or personal pics (a mix of credibility boosting and empathy building, showing your inner geek or embarrassing moments, being vulnerable).

You also want to get them engaged right away, by replying to your email – a cool trick I learned was a simple survey. Rather than “what are you reading right now?” You can say “just so I make sure I only send things you like, please reply and just type 1, 2 or 3.

1. dystopian
2. urban fantasy
3. paranormal romance

You CAN use this to segment readers into different lists… which is a good idea, however since the 3 above aren’t that dissimilar and I write about those genres, I’ll actually keep everyone on the same list. The point is getting them to respond and engage, but making it really easy for them.


Your autoresponder series

Done well, a personal thank you page and a structured first email should drastically boost open rates, but you still need to think of email subjects – you also need to be careful not to use words that could get your email sent to spam (free book, free giveaway, etc…). However, the more success you’ve had at getting people to open and respond to your first email, the less likely future emails will go to spam.

Email subjects: Generally, you want to keep things very descriptive and let people know exactly what’s inside. BUT, if you’re an author and all your emails are “free book! free giveaway! new book” etc, they’re going to start tuning you out fast.

Also, as I mention in my 1000 subscribers course, you can’t assume that people on your list have read your books. They may have downloaded something and never read it. So you need to keep trying to encourage them to start reading, for example by sharing your favorite reviews, or talking about your writing experience for that book, or setting up a contest/quiz with a big prize to get them reading.

But also, I would balance attention grabbing, story-based emails with more practical, specific stuff (for more on story-based marketing, read this post: how to sell stuff online when you hate talking to people.)

You also don’t want to capitalize words, you want to keep things brief and casual, ideally 3 words or less in the email subject. Get them to OPEN first, then hook with story or a teaser, then bring them towards the content or message.


Bonus giveaway

I’ll probably add several bonus giveaways in my series, to get people to A) share your content with friends and B) get them to follow you on social media. The truth is, even though email is effective, a lot of people don’t pay close attention (or they just don’t like using emails). A giveaway with a big prize using KingSumo or something can get people to follow you for more entries. If they follow you on multiple platforms it’s more likely they’ll see your message when you have a new release.


The hour glass funnel

This is something new and really important I learned: most people think in terms of getting people on a list and then selling them something. But they’re losing a huge opportunity. If you can surprise, delight and overdeliver, by focusing on THEM and letting them share and talk about themselves, basically focus on the RELATIONSHIP first, not the selling, they’ll be much more likely to become fans. And fans are powerful, because they’ll share your content with more people, with means = extra visibility and reach for free.

Longer, more often

A final point: you should have an autoresponder set up to go out once or twice a week, for at least 3 months.

That’s only 12~24 emails. Don’t worry about being annoying – if your emails provide value and are fun to read, which they should be, readers won’t be annoyed. Some will unsubscribe, that’s normal. Don’t worry about it. But a long term autoresponder with stories, rather than random “buy my book” emails, is an EASY way to stand out and produce massive results for you – especially because almost NOBODY is doing it well.

What do you think?

If you learned something in this video or article, please comment or share! I’d also love to hear any case studies if you’ve tried some of these things.



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