This blog post is compliments of our sponsor, Lulu. Originally posted on the Lulu blog.
As an independent creator or author, email marketing is the most important part of your long-term marketing plan. As you develop your plans to market yourself and your book, you have to keep email front and center. Be present on social media. Create engaging videos. Write amazing blogs. Each has a place in your marketing strategy. But none have the reach of email marketing.
Sending emails is one of the best ways to earn money too. Effective email marketing is a valuable investment for your wallet and your brand.
What Is Email Marketing?
Email marketing is the practice of sending emails to your group of subscribers to market your brand, your content, and your products.
Email marketing is a unique proposition for the marketer (or authorpreneur if you like made-up words). Anyone searching the web can find your social media and author website. Having access to someone’s inbox is a privilege. That person has found you online and decided to give you their email address.
Following someone on social media isn’t much of an investment. But when someone gives you their email address, they’re saying “I trust you to send me things I want.”
Why Authors Need Email Marketing
Connecting with your audience through email offers two important benefits:
- You own that audience
- You choose what to share
Of course, there are other benefits. Like the control you have over the design, frequency, and content of your emails. And the fact that you can use a platform to manage your mailing list without losing any followers.
But these two create a marketing channel unlike any other.
Email marketing is unlike other common ways of connecting with an audience. Social media channels, while a very popular way to find and grow an audience, is ultimately at the mercy of the platform. What if the social media platform you’ve used to build your following gets bought by an unhinged billionaire and the audience you fostered runs to a new platform?
That can’t happen with email marketing. You own your mailing list. The people on your list have a direct connection to you that no social media platform can interrupt.
When someone puts their email address into a form on your site, they’re saying to you “Please share with me.” This is an unprecedented opportunity. There’s no third party (like a social media platform) between you and your reader.
Building Your Author Email List
Before you can start sending emails, you need to build a list of subscribers. There are a few important strategies you’ll use, like building dedicated landing pages and making it easy for your current fans to recommend your content to their friends.
You need to build an email list that consists of your best and most dedicated fans—these are the people who will buy everything you sell because they cannot get enough of you.
There are a few common ways to build your email list. You can offer free content, such as excerpts or chapters from your books, in exchange for your fans’ email addresses. A dedicated form to sign up for your emails is key too. You’ll want to promote signing up at events, on your website, or through social media.
Just collecting users’ emails is not enough! Send regular emails that are informative, entertaining, and relevant to your readers’ interests. You can also use your email list to promote your books, announce upcoming events, and gather feedback from your readers.
Sign Up Landing Pages
We won’t go in-depth here, as this article covers this topic thoroughly. But it is critical for your email subscriber growth that you create at least one landing page to capture email sign-ups.
This landing page can be built on your own website or, often, through your email marketing platform. The page doesn’t need a lot of content, but some text explaining what they’ll get when they sign up is important.
Include a form to allow users to provide their name and email address so you can add them to your marketing list. Here’s an example of Lulu’s own email sign-up page, https://subscribe.lulu.com/ :
Anatomy Of An Email
Before you send any emails, you need to create email templates. This means developing a design—will it be a single column or two columns? What about a header graphic or thumbnails? And be certain to build a nice footer that explains how they can unsubscribe and links to your social profiles.
The unsubscribe link is crucial—while it might seem counterintuitive to make it easy for someone to stop getting your emails, you have to give everyone the option to opt-out.
Here’s what our standard footer looks like:
Now, for the email itself, you’ll need to write the copy as well as a subject line and teaser. And you’ll want to incorporate images and video when appropriate.
Again, you really need to think about what your subscribers want and how the email will likely appear when they open it.
In particular, you have to be conscious of mobile devices. A lot of people read emails on their mobile devices; even more than on their computers! You need to be aware of what a subject line and teaser will look like on phones so you ensure your subscribers are seeing your emails.
- The subject line is the text shown in your inbox next to the sender’s information.
- The teaser usually appears just beside or below the subject, generally in italic text.
The subject should be short, to the point, and trendy. New strategies are evolving daily to help you write effective subject lines. There is no one right way here, but a good idea is to be direct, and clear, and use language that gets the reader excited to read the rest of the email.
Kinds Of Email Content
If your inbox is anything like mine, you get a lot of emails every day. Some are just ads or promotions for a discount from companies you follow or have purchased from in the past. Some will be from a business, but not explicitly aimed at selling you something. And of course, some will be personal notes from friends or invites to upcoming events.
For your purposes, you can think about the emails you’ll be sending your fans as either product-based emails or content-based emails. Let’s review both and look at some examples.
These emails are intended to highlight your products or possibly a promotion you’re running. You likely get dozens of these kinds of emails a day with catchy subject lines like:
- Shop NOW and Save 15%
- Check Out What’s New!
- Book Release TODAY!
Product-based emails are most important when you have a new product to share. Like a just-published book, a new series of journals, or any kind of merch you might want to sell.
Since you (probably) aren’t releasing new books weekly, you will likely do some product campaigns to help promote your older titles. Be smart—use the data from direct sales to send promotional emails to your followers you know haven’t bought a product yet!
Product emails should focus on a single product or promotion. You need these emails to be short and concise. Take a few lines to sell your followers on the offer, then provide a link to easily purchase. But be wary of much more than that—these emails have a specific and valuable goal: to make you money.]
You’re a content creator—one of the primary reasons for building your email list is to send that content directly to your fans. While you need to promote your products to earn revenue, the most important emails you send are the content ones.
The range of content you can use for your emails is too vast to cover here. Instead, let’s look at a few examples from my own inbox.
Lulu Direct Email
This first example is a Lulu email meant to raise awareness about our Lulu Direct ecommerce integrations. I start with this one because it’s pretty close to being a product email—while this email still has valuable information for our audience, the goal is to drive an action (in this case, clicking a button to learn more about Lulu Direct).
Content marketing is all about delivering valuable information while advertising and promoting your own products or services. You shouldn’t always include product offerings in your content emails, but blurring those lines occasionally is the perfect way to introduce your products to readers who love your content.
Here’s a different kind of content email. From Steady, a Susbtack publication run by well-known journalist Dan Rather. It’s a write-up on the late author Cormac McCarthy, which you can find on their website as well.
The email I received looked almost identical to the page the article lives on. That’s right, Steady sends the entire article in an email. This is a relatively new way of sending content; sharing the entire article or essay, rather than looking for your readers to click through to your site.
In fact, that’s the business model for all of Substack. They provide a place to host your content and a way for readers to subscribe—at free and various paid levels. When you publish something new, an email goes to your fans. The primary goal of Substack and other content marketing email platforms is to deliver content directly to your readers and fans, rather than teasing them in the email and forcing them to come to your site to get all the content.
Steal Club Email
One of my favorite marketing emails, Steal Club, is a blog by Alex Llull. He analyzes effective marketing and writes emails to his followers about how to emulate other creators’ success. Just like Steady, Llull’s newsletter brings an entire blog post to your inbox.
Craftsman Creative Email
Next, we have Daren Smith’s email Craftsman Creative. Daren is a coach and author who relies on the relationships he builds to propel his content business.
His emails are in-depth looks at content marketing—these are unique pieces of content you only get by joining his mailing list. He creates a ton of other content too. But his emails are a personal message for his followers.
Daren is using ConvertKit, a marketing platform for delivering newsletters. Much like Substack, ConvertKit helps you build your email list while providing a location online for your content to live.
The Tilt Email
The final example on our list today is from The Tilt, a twice-weekly newsletter from Joe Pulizzi.
Using years of marketing experience from running the Content Marketing Institute, Joe and his team bring the best marketing advice, insights, and examples to educate and inspire. These emails follow a common structure for content-rich newsletters—the email includes most or all of a few articles, offers quick insights into current events, and focuses on giving their readers everything they want in their inbox.
A transactional email is an automated email you send to a user based on an action they take. If you’re selling directly to your followers on your website, your ecommerce service will send transactional emails like order receipts and shipping notifications for you. Be sure to take the time to customize those emails within your ecommerce platform.
Aside from those truly transactional emails, there are others you’ll want to create within your email marketing platform (I’ll cover a few of those next). These transactional emails can include:
When a new user joins your mailing list, it’s a very good idea to send them at least one email to welcome them to your community. Outline what you offer, describe what they can expect from you in the future, and share a little about yourself.
Here’s an example from Daren Smith:
Note how simple and direct this email is. Daren is introducing himself, setting expectations, and sharing a link to the most recent email newsletter he sent. This is a great model for your own welcome emails.
If you’ve got a lot of information to share, you might send two or three welcome emails. Space them out by a day or more and be sure the emails follow a natural progression so your new followers are confused.
Here’s one more example from Lulu:
Cropped out of this image are the headline (Thank You For Choosing Lulu!) and a couple of additional links to our pricing calculator, email preferences, and our bookstore. The email offers new users the most important links they’ll need to start exploring Lulu’s products and services.
Both the Craftsman Creative and the Lulu welcome emails are the first in a series. Daren sends a total of five emails in a week, while we send a total of four. You should try to keep your own welcome series as short as possible, but be sure to include everything your new follower needs.
Cart Abandonment Emails
A cart abandonment email is another kind of transactional email you can send to anyone on your email list who adds something to their cart on your site but doesn’t check out. These are very specific, targeted emails that sometimes take a little work to set up properly.
Here’s an example of Lulu’s cart abandonment email:
The rest of the email includes the thumbnail of the book in your cart and a button to get you right back into the checkout process. Your cart abandonment emails don’t need to be elaborate or complicated. Just a simple reminder that they left before buying is usually enough to convince some of your followers to complete their transaction.
Email Marketing Strategy
Email is personal. The strategy you develop to connect with the fans on your mailing list will naturally need to be curated specifically for them.
You can work in levels of personalization with an email. For example, you might narrow your mailing list to email addresses that have previously placed an order. Now you can send a personalized email to anyone who has purchased one of your books. You can thank them for buying. Use specific language like “If you liked my first book, you will love my upcoming release.”
And email is pervasive. 92% of adults who have access to the internet use email daily. That’s a staggering percentage of people who not only use email but use it every day. Getting into someone’s inbox gives you a powerful opportunity to be seen. Social posts can be scrolled past or might never even find their way to a user’s feed!
Email is also a valuable means of earning income. Industry studies show that for every $1 you invest in email marketing can show up to $40 in earnings. Email is far and away the most potentially profitable channel you can use.
You don’t want to be sending emails to your fans directly from your inbox. Yes, that’s next-level personalization. But you don’t want to be too personal. There are lots of good free options, like ConvertKit’s free account.
What you need from your email service is marketing automation. That means you can automate processes, such as creating an email to send to a group of subscribers. And with a platform, you can track all kinds of data:
- Open Rates – The number of people who opened the email
- Click Through Rate – The number of people who opened your email AND clicked a link
- Unsubscribes – When a user decides to opt out of your emails
- Shares/Referrals – The number of times your followers share or promote your emails within their network
Plus your platform will manage your list so you don’t risk emailing someone who has asked to be unsubscribed. Consistent emails to the right followers with the right message are vital to maintaining a healthy and engaged audience of subscribers.
Here are three of the best options for creators to build their email marketing strategy. Each of these email platforms has free and paid options. Be sure to carefully evaluate what you’ll get for your money and select a platform that fits your audience size and the number of emails you need to send. Also, be aware of scaling—how you’ll grow your business and your content as you gain more fans and followers.
First up is ConvertKit. I’m a big fan of ConvertKit for creators who are just starting out as well as veteran creators who are ready to grow their audience.
The most important thing to note about ConvertKit is that they are more than just an email marketing platform. Offering an array of tools, from podcast marketing to emails to paid promotion and subscription services, ConvertKit is a holistic marketing option.
That alone is a huge win, as you can focus on learning one platform, rather than stitching two or three or more together to build your tech stack.
The other unique feature that helps set ConvertKit apart is the Creator Network. By participating in the network, you can recommend other creators to your audience when they subscribe to your emails. Likewise, other creators will recommend you to their new followers, helping your network grow.
ConvertKit’s pricing is based on the number of emails you’ll send, with no restrictions on the number of followers. This is great, as you can start small with a free plan of up to 1,000 emails per month. That might seem like a lot, but as you grow your audience, you’ll likely need even more sends. ConvertKit makes it easy to increase your numbers by upgrading to their paid tiers.
One of the most well-known email marketing platforms, Mailchimp has a long history of providing affordable email marketing tools. Over the years, Mailchimp has expanded to offer a lot more, including:
- Landing Pages
- Social Media Marketing
- Digital Ads
- Marketing Analytics
With all these tools, Mailchimp can be a holistic marketing platform for reaching your audience through a variety of media. Not all creators want or need to go wide with their marketing efforts though. Sometimes picking one or two channels to focus on is more beneficial than trying to be present everywhere.
As for pricing, Mailchimp builds its model on the number of subscribers, rather than the number of email sends. That makes sense, as Mailchimp has so many products and services to offer. If you’ve got fewer than 500 subscribers, you can use Mailchimp for free. Be very careful as you review additional services included with their plans: some crucial options like email scheduling are not included in the free plan.
Brevo (formerly SendInBlue)
Finally, we have Brevo (formerly known as SendInBlue). While not as widely known as Mailchimp or ConvertKit, Brevo has some unique offerings worth considering.
To begin with, they provide similar email services to their competitors.
Brevo also separates marketing and transactional emails, allowing you to control your costs better if you only need one email service. You’ll also have the option to use Brevo’s chat tool for direct conversations with your fans on your own website.
Unlike other email marketing platforms, Brevo allows you to pick the services you need and purchase a la carte. Their free plan for email provides 300 emails per day with unlimited subscribers—this is a great deal for new content creators with an established audience. While not as robust as ConvertKit or as massive as Mailchimp, if you need to send emails regularly to an average-size, segmented audience (~2,000 subscribers), Brevo is a terrific choice.
Effective Email Marketing
Personalization and automation are the pillars of email marketing. This allows you to speak to a captive audience; sharing your content and reminding them to buy your products.
The basic idea behind email marketing is that simple. They get content; you get an audience, and the relationship is sustained based on your ability to offer content regularly. However, achieving an effective email strategy takes a little more work.
You’ve got the tools and the understanding of what email marketing should involve. The trick is to build an audience of interested followers and consistently send them emails they’ll love. That’s no easy task, but it’s a tried and true path to earning income and growing your author brand.
This blog post is compliments of our sponsor, Lulu.
Lulu is dedicated to making the world a better place, one book at a time, through sustainable practices, innovative print-on-demand products and a commitment to excellent service. Since 2002, Lulu has powered the knowledge sharing economy by enabling authors in more than 225 countries and territories to publish nearly two million books and eBooks. Our industry-leading tools and global community help authors tell their story, publish it in printed or eBook format, then sell them in online bookstores around the world. At Lulu, authors are in control, owning the rights to their works, setting their own price and keeping up to 90 percent of their book profits. Learn more about Lulu here.