Aweber did a great post a couple of weeks ago called Get Started with Email Automation in 6 Easy Steps. Be sure to visit their post as my article below is a compliment to theirs. Though they have really great tips, I'm going to augment their article by putting a spin on it for fiction authors. If you haven't noticed already, a lot of email marketing articles and information on the web is geared toward people who are selling products, services or non-fiction authors. Sales approaches for this industry tend to lean toward solving a problem for people and how-to stuff.
The sales approach for fiction authors is totally different! Our stories are entertainment. The only problem we solve is giving people an escape from their daily lives. As authors, we have to find creative ways to reach our readers and the usual email marketing techniques don't work for us! So here's my spin on Aweber's article…
1. Start Collecting Subscribers
As many of you know, I'm a big advocate of building a mailing list. So if you aren't doing this by now, be sure to read my article on how you can get this started quickly!! I know many authors ask how effective a mailing list really is. The answer to that is: Your mailing list is the most important marketing tool you have! This article explains why, but as of this post, just finished switching over from MailChimp to ActiveCampaign and I had to shut off my drip campaign for an entire month while I was organizing my data. During the time I turned off my reader club newsletters, which go out weekly automatically in my drip campaign, my website traffic dropped by 75% and my sales dropped by over 50%! How effective is my mailing list?? VERY!
I also know many authors don't have a mailing list because they say they don't know what to do with one. Read my mailing list series on how to create a reader club and a bunch of other tips. I literally give you an ENDLESS SUPPLY of ideas for newsletter and drip campaign content. I promise, you will NOT have this problem anymore!
2. Send Relevant Emails with Segmentation
The examples they give in the Aweber article are a little obscure for fiction authors. But they also don't tell you how you can gather information on your own mailing list in order to create segments. So here's the quick skinny on this concept: If you have a niche within your niche, you can capitalize on that by using tags (most mailing list systems are using this now, like ActiveCampaign & Aweber) or groups (MailChimp and MailerLite) or separating your subscribers out by separate lists…as long as your service allows overlapping of subscribers. Mad Mimi and ActiveCampaign allow your subscribers to be on more than one list without counting them twice, like MailChimp does. I'm going to have to write another article about what your options are with more examples and tools you can use. It's too much to cover here. But explore the options you have with your mailing list service and do some research on segmentation or groups for mailing lists. You might get some ideas there.
For example: I plan on writing male/male romance, menage, fantasy romance, fantasy non-romance and paranormal mysteries. Wouldn't it be great to reach out to those people who are interested in those genres? Well, when I was using MailChimp, I added a GROUP called “Genre Preferences” and asked my subscribers to update their profile to let me know what they like to read. When I moved to ActiveCampaign, I created a custom field with checkboxes to gather the same information. Now that I'm gathering that information, I have it at the ready for when I release a new book in any of those genres. You an be sure those people will be getting special treatment with themed freebies and promo giveaways.
Another example: ActiveCampaign allows you to attach tags to your subscribers based on their activity. So if I include a link to my Wattpad account in my drip campaign, anyone who clicks on that link gets the tag “Potential Wattpad user”. Now I have a select audience I can reach out to whenever I start a new story on Wattpad, asking my interested subscribers if they would please add my story to their list and share my story on social media. Use these tools to your advantage! This is just the tip of the iceberg!!
3. Embrace Personalization
One of the best examples I have for this is my Birthday club! I invite subscribers to update their profile all the time and encourage them to let me know their birthday. I then have a lovely drip campaign in ActiveCampaign that has three years of birthday greetings lined up to send to my subscribers on their special day. They LOVE it! Visit this page to see the comments I'm exchanging with my subscribers (almost 400 of them as of this post). You can use their name in the message: “Dear %FIRSTNAME%” or get more creative and use their name throughout the message. Personalization is something you can use in the subject line, too: “Hey, %FIRSTNAME%! I have a gift for you!” as the subject line gets a ton of opens!
Of course it only works with people who have included that information. This is where an A/B split campaign is ideal. Write a single message, but use a different subject line for two groups – Group A could be to those people who have given you their fist name when they signed up, and include that personalized subject line as well as the “Dear _____” and other moments you use their name in the message; then Group B would have a more generic subject line and content without their name. You'll see! I'm confident more people will open the messages with their names in the subject line!
4. Engage New Subscribers with a Welcome Email Series
This is the whole foundation on which I've built my reader club and what I teach authors. When readers sign up for your mailing list, having a series of messages that not only welcome them to your list, but also introduce your ENTIRE backlist to them over several weeks is the key to selling books with your mailing list. The sooner you contact your subscribers, the more you will stick in their minds. I recommend sending WEEKLY emails. If that sounds daunting to you, then you need to read my Mailing List Series of articles. I promise, even though it is hard work and requires a lot of preparation, coming up with ideas won't be a problem and it will be well worth your time!! Your bank account will thank you for the effort!
5. Send Subscribers Valuable Content for Free
ANOTHER main element of my reader club is creating freebies for my subscribers that cost me no more than one or two dollars per freebie! Canva is your friend!! Make desktop wallpapers and smartphone backgrounds with scenes related to your books. I'll be doing some video tutorials on this before the end of the year, so be sure to subscribe to my list to be notified. But my Mailing List series gives a ton of ideas about how to create freebies for free or very little money.
6. Link Campaigns Together to Increase your ROI
This idea is PERFECT for authors who have multiple series! You could create a drip campaign for each series, featuring Book 1 for 4 weeks, then Book 2 for 4 weeks, etc. Then feed that first series to your readers as your welcome series. At the end of that series of books, you could give readers a choice of joining the drip campaigns for your other series. In ActiveCampaign, you could create a link that when the subscriber clicks on it, it will add a tag to their profile and that tag could be the trigger for another drip campaign. If you have several series and you use this idea, I would recommend setting the campaign up to go out on a different day of the week. So, here's an example of a schedule for separate drip campaigns for different series AND if you let them know how often they're going out, they can pick and choose what they want. At the end of each series, include the same choices. Here's the sample schedule…
- Your series #1 – Weekly on Tuesdays
- Your series #2 – Weekly on Thursdays
- Your series #3 – Weekly on Saturdays
- Your series #4 – Bi-weekly on the 1st & 15th
And let's say Series #4 only has 4 books in it, so if you spend 4 messages per book, that would 16 messages over 8 months. Nice! A great way to keep in front of readers and if they get excited and join all those freebie campaigns, they won't be getting a message EVERY SINGLE DAY. They should get messages on different days. As long as you're giving readers free stuff (like some of the goodies I recommend in my articles or mentioned above), readers will love and even look forward to the frequent messages. I personally have only one series right now with five books and I spend at least 22 weeks sending out newsletters automatically on Tuesdays. I have had readers complain at the end of the series that they aren't getting any more freebies!! These are my biggest fans and the ones who will pay anything to buy my books.
And THAT'S the point of the drip campaign and automations! To build that strong fan base of devoted readers, or what Kevin Kelly calls your 1000 True Fans.
As I said at the beginning of this article, this post only compliments the article Aweber published on their blog, so be sure to READ IT HERE. And I'll include the final section of their article to sum up why this is so important. I quote…
Work smarter, not harder.
Email automation is a small investment that could have a serious impact on your business. When used properly, email automation can create a deeper, more personalized relationship with subscribers, save you time and increase conversions.
I hope you found this useful! Do YOU have ideas on how Fiction Authors can reach out to their readers? Do YOU have low-cost freebies you send to your subscribers? Please share in the comments below.
That's my two pence…