An email newsletter is an author’s most effective tool to engage with and develop audience. Many authors struggle with putting together a successful newsletter, though. Here are seven common mistakes to avoid.
- No Experimentation
As you develop your email newsletter, it’s important to try new things. For example, we learned early on through our email promotions that featured books were clicked more often when we didn’t share a book’s genre. This discovery was counter-intuitive for us, and we only found out by doing what’s called an A/B test: sending two versions of the newsletter in order to see which one does better. Most email marketing solutions like MailChimp have simple ways to run an A/B test. Try experimenting with different subject lines, or play around with formatting your newsletter to get a better response from readers. You’ll learn a lot about your audience by not sending everyone the same thing.
- Lack of Compelling Content
In email promotions, you’re looking for subscribers to respond by clicking on a link. Through our own promotions, we’ve learned that featured books were clicked more often when we shortened our books’ descriptions and added a “read more” link. Email marketers call this type of linked text a “call-to-action.” In other words: Don’t try to pack all the interesting content into one email. Your goal should be to generate some initial interest and get people to respond to your call-to-action, e.g. “click here for your free copy.” Expect people to respond to your newsletter by giving a compelling reason to act.
- Spamming People
It’s vital you don’t spam people with your newsletter.
The first step is to get people’s permission to send promotions. When someone subscribes through your website, giveaway, or Facebook page, you should make it a habit of following up soon after. Preferably, the first followup message is asking for a double opt-in, which confirms their interest. This is considered best practice in email marketing.
If you don’t give people a quick way to unsubscribe, they’ll take their next available option: marking you as spam.
And while letting your readers opt-in is important, you need to maintain a simple way for subscribers to opt out—most email marketing solutions like MailChimp already have this built into their templates. If you don’t give people a quick way to unsubscribe, they’ll take their next available option: marking you as spam.
- Not Checking Spam
Even if you’ve avoided all of the previously mentioned missteps, some email services might still consider your newsletter spam. This is why spam checking is essential for authors.
Being marked as spam can happen without warning. Having one of the major email service providers—like Gmail—mark your newsletter as spam can dramatically effect the view and open rates. Most spam-checking services are not free, although you can usually find a free trial on sites like Litmus or Email on Acid.
When your newsletter template clears the different email service providers, you can opt to continue using a spam checking service, or run future tests through email accounts you sign up for. In case you were wondering, our mailing list’s top four email service providers are (in order): Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL.
- False Starts
Newsletter false starts are a mistake many authors—and marketers in general—make. Authors begin emailing newsletter subscribers before preparing to keep a consistent schedule of communication. Keeping up with a newsletter can be challenging, and it takes some discipline.
You don’t have to send a newsletter every day or even every week.
There’s good news, though: you don’t have to send a newsletter every day or even every week. Try keeping it simple and sending a monthly update to your audience. This way, you’ll only have to commit to twelve email updates in your editorial calendar each year. Sending less frequently is much better then sending a bunch of content in the beginning, only to stop after you’ve burned out on the process.
- No teamwork
As an author, you don’t have to exclusively talk about your content. You should be taking the time to read other people’s work and participating in the conversations around their work. Incorporating this activity into your newsletter is an effective way to develop a better profile for your audience.
Watching how subscribers respond to your recommendations and reviews will give you insight about your mailing list. You can learn so much about your readers’ specific interests, likes, and dislikes. You’ll get the additional benefit of having more content worth sharing in your updates. Building relationships and goodwill with other authors you’re highlighting is always a good thing, too.
- Missing the View
Your email newsletter will be read on various devices including phones, tablets, and computers, so don’t forget to check its appearance on each device. You’ll want to check for text going in weird places, or for images that look out of place. It’s going to take some experimentation and time to get this right—fixing one thing often breaks something else. There will likely be some formatting issues that can’t completely be fixed for all devices and apps, so it’s okay to compromise the perfect for the good.
Remember that simple is better when it comes to email newsletters, and you don’t have to be sending all the time for your newsletter to have impact.