Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Marketing and Aiming for Amazon Part IV - Using Newsletters

Content and entertainment seem to be the two driving forces on the internet.  People either want information or they want to waste time and be entertained. I do not write fiction nor do I think I would be good at it either, so I have focused my self-publishing efforts on non-fiction and followed the age old adage write about what you know, in my case that has been coaching and basketball and as of late, sharing my knowledge I have gained about self-publishing.

Blogs and websites are a passive means to provide readers content. An e-newsletter is a method of sharing or providing content that allows the author to reach out to potential customers,  making an e-newsletter a valuable tool in building an author platform. The e-newsletters I subscribe to have been valuable sources of information for me and I subscribe to about a dozen. I look forward to seeing the e-newsletters arrive in my in box.

Before you start an e-newsletter to share content with your readers, there are several things you must know.  Federal law prohibits spam.  You cannot simply round up a couple of thousand e-mail addresses, create an e-mail list, and start sending the owners of the e-mail addresses your newsletter. Besides violating anti-spam laws, most people have filters that will recognize the e-mail as spam and block it. Another segment of your list will simply look at the subject heading, not recognize who the e-mail is from and hit the delete key without ever opening the e-newsletter.  You could be giving away money and it would not matter.

Right off the bat there are several things you can do to comply with federal anti-spam laws and to encourage individuals to open your e-mail and read it.  Use a double opt-in sign-up feature for individuals to subscribe to your e-mail list and with each e-mail you send to your list, provide a means for the recipient to unsubscribe. 

For those of you who are tech savvy, you can probably create your own double opt-in sign-up feature on your website and/or blog. I use iContact, an e-mail service that charges a monthly fee based on the total number of e-mails on your assorted e-mail lists.  The advantage of this, to me, a non-tech savvy individual, is that iContact manages the lists for me, tracks how many e-mails bounce, are opened, ask to be removed, etc.  iContact also provided the code for my opt-in feature and the company makes sure  all federal laws are complied with. 

An e-newsletter list needs to be as large as possible or it will not serve the purpose for which you intend it, to share valuable content establishing you as an expert and thus making your book a valuable item to purchase. Having an opt-in feature on your website and blog is necessary, but it is only a start.

You have to promote your e-newsletter just like you would your book. More people will take advantage of the e-newsletter than the book because it is free.  Offer incentives to sign-up and for individuals to forward your e-newsletter to others who might be interested. Have a means in your e-newsletter to either direct people to your on-line sign-up or to be able to actually sign-up via the e-newsletter.

If you speak to groups, have them sign-up at the event. Be sure to mention both your website, blog and e-newsletter. Include a link to the sign-up in your e-mail signature for all e-mail you send related to your book, business or publishing ventures.

The newsletter itself must have valuable content.  If it does not, you will find a lot of your subscribers will either opt out of the subscription or will never open the newsletter and simply hit the delete key.

Be consistent both with a publishing schedule and quality content. You want your subscribers to look forward to receiving the newsletter.

Don't use the newsletter as just a promotional tool. Make sure it is content driven. Give so much valuable content away that after 12 to 18 months you could edit your newsletters together and have another book ready for publishing. If all you do is promote your product or book, your readers will soon grow weary of the newsletter and unsubscribe or just hit the delete key.

Some e-mail formats will even allow you to insert code for a product link to your book's product page on Amazon.  If so, simply insert this link and often it might be the only promotion for your book you want to include in your newsletter.

How you want to promote your book in your newsletter is a matter of salesmanship and that is an entirely different subject. Book promotion aside, always remember to provide content and show your readers you are an expert on the topic you write about. Build trust in your expertise and in time that trust will translate into sales.