Email Marketing Tips: How to Get Your List to Buy Your Book

Email Marketing Tips: How to Get Your List to Buy Your Book

This month we’re going to look at how authors can mobilize their email subscribers to sell books.

But first things first: I’ve got my sales report for the first quarter of 2017.

I sold 60 copies of my books between January and March — 45 of my debut novel and 15 of the prequel novella (the one I actually give away for free to my email subscribers and don’t promote).

Compared to the previous two quarters, I improved my sales rate: In Q3 I sold 25 books, and Q4, over the holidays, I sold 39.

How’d I do it? Some of it is simply having more books available for sale. But I also tested out my ability to mobilize my email subscribers — and it worked.

Email sales conversions

For the most part, your email outreach should be about strengthening a relationship with your readers. But on occasion, mobilize those readers to generate sales — that is the end game, after all.

So when my book’s publication anniversary came around in mid-March, it felt like the perfect time to test out my ability to turn my list into sales.  

I worked with my publisher to do a $.99 cent sale for a week, and then got to work to create an email push around it.

In my opinion, the key elements of any good email campaign are:

  • Intimacy: You are your brand. Readers don’t just buy books, they buy authors. Sharing your personality in your emails builds a personal connection.
  • Exclusivity: Offer something to your subscribers that they can’t get anywhere else. Make them feel like an insider, whether it’s for-your-eyes-only weekly emails or simply an early sneak peek.
  • Repetition: The mechanics of marketing matter, too. A persistent, frequent pattern of outreach plays an important role in mobilizing your audience. It’s just plain science that most people need to hear a call to action multiple times before the act.

The breakdown

I created an eight-part email series where I shared a “secret” about my upcoming sequel novel every day for a full week. That was one short daily email the week of my book’s release, plus a wrap-up email at the end recapping the full week’s content and giving readers one last chance to take advantage of the sale.

To keep these emails open-able and engaging, I kept them short — a few sentences of intro, less than 100 words to explain the “secret,” and then a concluding call to action that reminded them about and linked to the sale.

These secrets were only available to my email subscribers until after the campaign was over. I posted about the campaign beforehand so non-subscribers had a chance to join–and I did see a small uptick in new subscribers as a result. Then, I shared the secrets all together in a blog post after the campaign was over, again telling readers that they can be the first to know about these things if they join my email list.

The results

How’d it go? I refer you to my increase in quarterly sales.

It wasn’t a wild, over-the-moon blockbuster, but there was a definite increase in sales. My Amazon ranking increased the first day of the campaign, went up again the next day and hovered at about that point through the end of the campaign.

Would I do it again? Heck yes. In fact I may use this campaign as a model to start from as I prepare for book #2’s release, as one of several tactics in a larger push.

As an author, your email list is one of your most valuable assets — it’s a direct line to your biggest fans. But, this only translates to real value if you know how to motivate them to take action on your behalf. Follow these three principles as a foundation, experiment, and keep an eye on those analytics to see what works.

How do you mobilize your email list? Do your subscribers make the leap to buy from you?

Filed Under: Marketing
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17 comments

  • Love your business model, Emily, and I love your blue/purple hair. Great branding! 😎
    I myself love purple and use it for my fiction brand, Gloria Silk.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences so frankly.
    Warmly Tanya Freedman WA Gloria Silk

  • Love your business model, Emily, and I love your blue/purple hair. Great branding! 😎
    I myself love purple and use it for my fiction brand, Gloria Silk.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences so frankly. This business or I should say passion is very complex, but when it works it’s magic!
    Warmly Tanya Freedman WA Gloria Silk

  • This article is a great illustration of the reality that every author’s definition of “success” is different, and that it’s important to know yours before embarking on the journey. The fact that you have shared actual numbers of sales is likely to help a lot of aspiring novelists start the process of defining that term for themselves, and determining the best strategy for them to achieve it.

    There are two additional numbers that I would have liked to find and that I read the article three times to make sure I had not missed:
    1) How many of the sixty books sold in the quarter were during the sale week, at the bargain basement price of 99¢?
    2) At that price, how much were you as the author actually paid? You refer to a “publisher,” so I take it you are not self-published in the full sense of running your own publishing company, in which the entire price, less any listing fees for the selling venue or any payment processing fees, is yours.

    Just as every author must find his or her own definition of success, every author must determine his or her own statistic for measuring it. For some, the “end game” is how many people read the book, hence, the number of units sold or even given away. For others (and this would include any who see it as a business venture), it is revenue. For the latter group, “sales” is not measured in books, but in dollars (or cents, as the case may be).

    I wish you and all the authors here success by whatever definition is meaningful to you!

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources
    epiclesisconsulting.com

    • WriteX says:

      Nothing like trying to sell your wares under the guise of commenting.

      • Not a “guise.” It’s a real comment.

        I do leave a signature every time I post. I don’t comment here anonymously.

        Trish O’Connor
        Epiclesis Consulting LLC
        Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources
        epiclesisconsulting.com

    • Thank you Trish, some great points. I’m not quite comfortable going into specific dollar earnings, but I’m definitely not at a point where I’m making profits on my sales. You’re absolutely right, success is subjective and it’s important to know what matters to you. Would I like to make real profits from my books? Definitely. But the hard truth is, for most authors, that takes time. And a lot of book releases (typically, I hear, 8-10). So I’m focused on building an audience and getting my next release out!

      • I think the fact that you have a realistic goal in mind for this book and a focus on a longer journey beyond it has been a real asset for you as an author. It has allowed you to celebrate success by a definition that makes sense at this point in the journey.

        I wonder how many authors become discouraged when their first book doesn’t sell like hotcakes, and have a hard time bringing themselves to write a second one.

        I wish you success with the next step in your journey, too!

        Trish O’Connor
        Epiclesis Consulting LLC
        epiclesisconsulting.com

        • I’d really like to know your thoughts on how to build the email list. Discoverability is really difficult in any arena…. Thnx again.
          Tanya Freedman w/a Gloria Silk

          • What’s your area? For me in fantasy fiction, I use a free novella to entice new readers to subscribe, and I’ve had my best luck with very targeted Facebook ads. More recently I’ve been experimenting with email swap giveaways — went in skeptical, but I’m warming up to it! A comparison fo the two approaches is going to be the focus of the next column 🙂

            I also get a fair number of new subscribers every time I do an event, but promoting my giveaway novella and providing a signup sheet.

          • Thnx Emily, I write romance and romantic women’s fiction. But I believe the same. Marketing strategies work well across the genres. I appreciate your honesty and will continue to stay on the path consistently. Good luck with your books. Thnx again for sharing and updating is.
            Tanya Freedman WA Gloria Silk, USA Today Bestselling Author

      • Not sure what hiccup put that post up repeatedly!

  • Saira says:

    It’s always nice to hear these kinds of insight on how to promote something. How did you manage to give enough info for 8 days – intriguing but not fully disclosing the main idea? It seems so hard from where I stand 🙂
    And some more functional questions – what kind of email service provider do you use? I have heard that for authors there are few nice ones, but only one I can find is Mailerlite (https://www.mailerlite.com/authors ). I have tried Mailchimp, but for some reason I find it too complex for my taste, so I’m actively looking for new services and others experiences to make the change. But I’d love to have service that has authors in mind and not just “selling spinners” or something 🙂

    • Saira — I focused on a different aspect of the book on each day, and gave just a little bit of hints and information about where things start out. Some of these were about specific characters, or the world, or new creatures about to emerge, etc. And right now I use Mailchimp, but I’ve been seriously considering a switch to Mailerlite. Both seem like very good tools for a professional just starting out, to me.

  • mike johnson says:

    It can be tough to get your list to buy your book, as an author I realize that I am a brand of my own and in being a brand I had to step up my book marketing. Book trailers was the way to go for me. I would email my book trailer to my list, and that got me more sales. The site I used was http://www.yourbooktrailers.com

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