As writers, we’re constantly trying to get our names out there, to get someone other than our parents to read our stories. We like to say we’re just in it to entertain or amuse people, which is all well and good, but what we really want to know is how to sell books.
The #1 Way to Sell Books
Self-publishing is on the rise, but places like Amazon aren’t marketing platforms; they’re sales platforms. You can’t just upload your book and think it’ll sell. You have to do the heavy lifting to get the word out.
Email marketing is the number one way to connect with your audience, which means it’s the number one way to sell books.
With the constantly changing algorithms of social media, you can’t guarantee your mom will see a new release announcement from you, let alone someone you don’t personally know.
(You need to have a website set up before you can get moving on that email list. For tips on how to do that, check this out.)
How to Sell Books Using Email Marketing
It’s all well and good to say that email marketing sells books. But how? What emails should you send, and when should you send them?
Here’s an email marketing plan to get you started selling books (yes, even if you haven’t written a book yet!).
Great, you have a handful of subscribers. Now what?
First, there should be a welcome email when they confirm their subscription. You can set this up with your email service to automatically send as soon as someone signs up. No muss, no fuss.
There are a couple options for your welcome email. You could go with a standard introduction, where you describe what you’ll be sending them, or you could send them a free story, excerpt, etc. Or a combination of both.
After the welcome
You’ve sent the welcome email, but you can’t just leave your potential customers out in the cold after that. You have to keep up the line of communication. Here are a couple ways you can communicate with them:
1. Send scheduled emails
What you do here depends on what your goal is.
If you haven’t released a book yet, or you’re a short story writer with multiple releases a month, or you blog consistently, I recommend doing a “roundup” email. You can do this weekly or monthly. What this normally looks like is a list of posts and/or news releases that give a taste of what is in the article, then asks you to click to continue reading.
If you have released a book, or several, I recommend setting up a series of emails for new subscribers. This would be automatic after a certain time frame.
For example, say I signed up to your site. I first get the welcome email, then a second email maybe a week later announcing your book, and maybe a third in another week.
The benefit of this is all your subscribers get the same emails and no one misses what you really want them to see: your book!
Both of these options can be set up to be automatic and scheduled in advance. They allow you to build a steady relationship with your audience and allow them to get used to seeing your name in their inbox.
2. Send unscheduled emails
These are announcements and are sent whenever you need to speak straight to your fans. These are a great way to announce releases and events or offer freebies and giveaways.
Remember, new subscribers won’t get announcement emails you’ve sent in the past, as they go out simultaneously to the subscribers you have at that time.
If you feel like you don’t have enough announcements to send these emails on a regular basis, this may not be the way to go for you. Your subscribers are less likely to open your emails if they haven’t heard from you in months.
What to Write to Sell Books
The most important thing to remember when selling anything, especially books, is that your customers must feel invested in the product. It needs to feel personal to them.
With books, people become attached to characters. But you haven’t sold them any books yet, remember? So if they can’t be attached to your characters, who should they be attached to?
You need to build a rapport with your audience. You need to give them something and in return, you’ll sell books.
If you’re anything like me, you kind of loathe the idea of doing any of this emailing stuff. It takes time and what do you really have to say anyway?
But the thing is, if you want to sell books, you need to actually get out there and sell them.
Here are a few ideas for things to send that will help you to connect with your readers and get them to buy your books:
News about your writing
This would be the bulk of the email. Start a countdown to release day, announce new releases, give details about book signings or appearances, etc. Anything you want them to know, really.
You have a million notes on character development, side stories you’ve cut from the book, and other random scribblings that may be of interest to fans. Polish those things up and offer them for free in your emails.
This is like a teaser trailer (by the way, you can make one of those for your book and send it along, as well), not only getting your readers hooked, but allowing them to begin to form a connection with your characters.
Giveaways and incentives
Everyone loves a giveaway. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what’s being given away; if it’s free, people want it.
Some of the more obvious giveaways include a signed copy of your book, a free copy of your book or short story, access to exclusive content, an invitation to your next event, a chance to interview you for their blog … the list goes on. Get creative.
Giveaways are one of the best ways to not only nab your audience’s attention, but also to get them to interact and share your work.
Final Notes for Email Marketing Mastery
Make sure your emails are professional and edited. You’re supposed to be selling books and no one is going to buy them if you have typos in your emails.
You’ll also want to focus on staying “on brand” when you email. In other words, make sure the look and tone of every email matches what you’ve sent so far. If you want to get fancy with the design of your emails, I recommend designing an email header that will be used in each email, taking time to write a compelling signature, and making sure your colors, fonts, etc. always match. You want consistency so people will recognize you.
Finally, find some other writers and hop on their email lists! Not only does this open up a line of communication in the writing community, but you can also get ideas for your own emails from what others are putting out there. Remember, though: As with anything, turn old ideas into new ones. Don’t steal outright.
Have any other ideas of what to email to your readers? Let me know in the comments!
For your fifteen-minute practice today, you’re going to write an email to your subscriber list — yes, even if you don’t have a subscriber list yet.
If you don’t have a list yet, write a welcome email. What’s the first thing you want to say to your potential readers when they sign up to hear from you? Do you have any stories you can send them for free?
If you do have an email list, and have been emailing for some time, write your next email. What announcements and updates will you share with your readers? How will you connect with them and stay “on brand”?
When you’re done, share your email in the comments. Don’t forget to give feedback!