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How To Write Emails That Sell Books, With Nick Stephenson — Self-Publishing Conference Highlight

How to Write Emails That Sell Books, With Nick Stephenson — Self-Publishing Conference Highlight

In this Self-Publishing Conference Highlight, Nick Stephenson discusses how to write emails that sell books. Nick will breakdown the four essential elements of every successful marketing email, including how to come up with topics and ideas (even if you have no idea what to write about), the “missing link” to launch campaigns that can double your sales, and how to integrate your sales message in a fun and interesting way without being “pushy.”

By the end of this session, you will:

  • have an actionable framework to make email marketing and book launches fun for you and your readers.
  • be able to craft effective sales emails in 30 minutes or less – even if you're a complete beginner.

This is a post from SelfPubCon (The Self-Publishing Advice Conference), an online author event, run free twice-yearly, in association with the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.

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Listen to Nick Stephenson: Write Emails That Sell Books

On our Self-Publishing Advice Conference Highlight, @Nick_Stephenson discusses how to write emails that sell books, breaking down the four essential elements of every successful marketing email. Click To Tweet

Read the Transcript for Nick Stephenson: Write Emails That Sell Books

Nick Stephenson: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to today's session. This is Email Marketing 101 for authors, or how to use effective and fun email campaigns to sell more books and make your readers love you, without getting stressed.

So, what we're covering today. We're going to talk a little bit about why your email list is the most important asset your business can have, how to use your email list effectively to grow your sales and audience, and a simple process to come up with ideas and write emails that convert, regardless of your genre. And then we'll look at a simple launch plan using email marketing that could double your sales for your next launch or promotion.

And I've got a ton more for you over at www.yourfirst10kreaders.com, including a free course all about how to go from $0 to a thousand dollars a month in book sales. So, if you want to learn more, click on that link and visit yourfirst10kreaders.com and sign up there.

So, for those of you who haven't met me before, hello, my name is Nick Stephenson. I am a fiction and non-fiction author. I've been doing this for quite a while now, and over the years I've seen my business grow and my family grow, with a ridiculous number of children now, at number four, cats, dogs, horses, and yes, now ducks as well, just because I wasn't stressed enough to begin with. We are now officially duck people.

A quick intro to my story, then. My first novel came out in 2013, which is when I sent my first sales email and yes, it was a complete disaster.

So, I imagine most people watching this video, the thought of sending a sales email out probably brings you out in cold sweats. Don't worry, it's completely normal. And that's what we're going to fix today, because this is what happened to me back in the day, and I enjoyed a grand total of zero sales from this email, which I'll show you now, because it's hardly surprising.

So, I'd spent about nine months or so building up an audience of around a thousand readers, and this was the first time I'd ever sent them anything about my book. So, that's mistake number one, I'd never emailed them anything for like nine months, and then just out of the blue, sent them an email saying, hey, this book is ready, why don't you go and buy it? And I used this awful template that they had over at Mailchimp at the time, which was supposed to make your book look sort of more official, an Amazon-y, kind of template. It's just awful. It basically just said, the book's ready, go buy it. And nobody did. Not a single person bought the book from that email.

So, I'd kind of done okay at list-building, but a complete failure at using it properly. And this was the point where a lot of authors see an email not getting results and they go, oh, email marketing doesn't work, I'm going to go do something else. But it's doing it in the right way that gets results and makes it fun for you and for the people reading them too, which is what we're going to look at today.

So, thankfully I learned from these mistakes and spent many, many years on trial and error, making expensive mistakes along the way, which hopefully you won't. And over time though, following stuff that actually works, and paying attention to stuff that's actually moving the needle, I figured out what to do, which is what we're going to be sharing with you today.

So, now I've launched seven novels into the top 100 on Amazon, hit the USA Today bestseller list, grown two courses’ businesses with nearly 200,000 email subscribers between them, started a software company, generated $5 million plus of sales across multiple platforms, all from focusing on what we're learning about today; growing an audience of targeted people, an email list, and then learning how to use it in a sustainable and fun way. And now I actually enjoy writing emails and my readers enjoy reading them, which is the whole point, really.

So, I got here by making a lot of mistakes, but paying attention to what actually worked and then doing more of that. So, today we're going to look at the strategies that stood the test of time.

So, no sort of loopholes or hacks or flash in the pan tactics, we're going to look at stuff that works and works in the long term so that you can get measurable results. So, like the people I've helped, like Joanna Penn, who had some amazing results implementing an email marketing strategy, Russell Blake, as well, and we're going to look at a little case study from him later on as well, and tens of thousands of other authors who have seen some results by putting into practice what we're going to look at today. Including Simon McCleave here who says, “Just a quick message to say a huge thank you. This time last year, I was an exhausted secondary school teacher. This year, I've launched five books all into the top 40, sold a hundred thousand books and 25 million KU page reads. I took your training and listened to it on the way to and from work, so I thought you'd like to know how turned out.”

So, Simon started from scratch, as I'm sure a lot of people watching this video will be as well. So, just remember when you put this into practice, you can see results. So, with that being said, let's jump straight in.

So, I want to start off with a few author marketing myths, and let's do some myth-busting. So, in your head, think back to the times where you've heard somebody give you advice like this, maybe it was on an author forum, or Facebook, or in-person, but these seem to be the three main things that people sort of spurt out as marketing advice. The first one being, just write more books and then, you know, success will magically happen if you just keep writing. But the hit and hope approach is not really something I'm a massive fan of. I mean, who's going to read the books if there's no one there to buy them, right. So, you need the audience to read all of those books that you're writing, otherwise you're just kind of performing to an empty theatre.

A lot of people will say, oh, it's fine, just run some ads. The problem with that is it's very difficult to make that work, especially at scale, unless you have a long series, and everything is optimized to the nth degree. So, most people who are getting all the success with advertising don't tend to make a profit until they hit book seven. So, in a lot of cases, the first six books are sold at a loss, and it's only from book seven onwards that they actually start making profit. That might be something that you can do right now, maybe not, but just bear that in mind.

And then there's the age-old advice which is, do everything you possibly can to get noticed, do it all, all the time. Okay. So, you know, we know we need to do something, but trying everything isn't the way to go when the vast majority of it doesn't work, and all those shiny red balls giving you distractions are not helpful. And this is where burnout comes in and frustration, because you're trying to do a little bit of everything and not sticking to the stuff that works.

So, what do we do then? So, what we're going to do instead is focus on growing an audience that we control. So, that we can influence the results, control the message that we're sending to people, and build up your brand. And this all starts with growing an email list and then knowing what to do with.

Now in today's session we're going to talk about what to do with your email list. If you want to learn about the list building process itself, you can check out my book, Reader Magnets. It's free at yourfirst10kreaders.com/download-reader-magnets-new. The link is on the screen, or just Google ‘Reader Magnets', and you will find it. And for a more in-depth look at the strategies we're talking about today, I have a free author marketing course for you at yourfirst10kreaders.com. So, take a look at that if you'd like to dive deep, deep into the numbers and the figures and find out exactly what to do.

But what we're focusing on in today's session is what to do with your email list once you start growing one, and this is a big problem for a lot of authors who suddenly come down with a case of writer's block when it comes to writing a 500-word email, which is not surprising, and we'll talk about why that is.

So, what do we do with our list then? So, there's not much point in growing an email list if, like me, you just sit on it for nine months and do nothing with it. All right. So, your email list is essential when you're launching a new title, because that's your built-in audience to get your book off the ground. Promoting your backlist as well, so all those other books you might have in your catalogue, how are you going to show those to people? Show them to your email list. Getting reviews, these people on your list like you, otherwise they wouldn't be on your list, so they're much more likely to leave you a positive review. And lots of other benefits as well, like getting access to larger promotion opportunities. So, the more kind of marketing clout you have, the more people are going to want to team up with you to do cool stuff. But these are the main things, and promoting your backlist and getting reviews is something that can be automated. You can set up emails in advance to go out to people at certain times to get these things done. So, that's scalable growth with no headaches.

So, email marketing 101, then. Why do we want to look at email, why is this the focus? So, email is still the number one way of reaching people today. It's not surprising. I mean, advertising, you know, it's expensive. If you think about Amazon ads or Facebook ads, or other ad platforms, you can only reach somebody once and then you have to go and reach them again and pay again, and again each time they see your ad or they click on your ad, and you don't know who these people are or how to get in touch with them. So, you're kind of just hoping that the right person is seeing your ads, and you're paying each and every time. Social media, then. So, going on Twitter and Facebook and posting stuff on there has almost zero reach. Unless you're posting cat videos, no one's going to see them. The reach on Facebook is something like 2% right now. So, if you have a hundred thousand people following you on Facebook, you'd be lucky to get 2000 people even seeing your posts, especially if you're linking to stuff outside of Facebook or Twitter.

Organic reach as well, it can be very powerful, but it's very difficult to measure. It's very difficult to get as well. If you have a website that's ranking on the first page, at the top of the first page on Google for certain keywords, brilliant, but getting there takes years. So, in the meantime, email is going to be your number one marketing asset. And you own your own list. So, when Facebook and Apple and Google and Amazon change the rules around what you can and can't do, if you have an email list of built-in customers and readers and fans, you're protected from that, and you can take your email list with you wherever you go and whatever you do.

Now, how this all works then. So, what are we doing with our emails? And it's a similar principle to reader magnets. We're kind of offering something valuable in exchange for an action that we want. So, with the reader magnet, we're offering somebody a free book in exchange for them joining our newsletter. In an email we need to offer something as well, and we need to make it a no-brainer for people to want to take you up on that offer. So, you need to present your offer, which might be a book sale, or it might be something else, or getting a review, but the offer needs to be presented in a way that influences your reader.

So, like my previous email, the complete failure that just said, buy my book, that doesn't work, because it's not compelling. Okay. We have to get people excited about what it is we're offering, and deal with what I call barriers to sale, which we'll talk about today as well. And above all, we need to make sure our readers actually enjoy the emails that we send out. Okay, so your emails are going to have offers in them. Okay. But readers are more than happy to consider your offer if the email it's contained in is interesting, or fun, or inspirational or educational, or something that's going to brighten their day for a minute or two. Okay. If your email is mostly one of these things, so it's mostly fun, mostly inspirational, mostly educational or interesting, you're going to see much better results.

All right. So, in other words, if you take your email and then you remove the sales pitch or the offer from it, does the email still stand on its own? Is it still worth reading? If the answer is yes, then you are onto a winner. Okay. So, the emails we send out need to be focused on something that's interesting to our readers, not on selling a book or getting reviews. Okay. We can ask for those things, but we have to kind of play the game a little bit and give people something interesting first.

So, what do you write about in these emails then? So, it's fairly easy if you write non-fiction, especially self-help books, because if you're writing a book about how to build a house, you could send out an email about laying foundations, and then you could send a different email out about choosing windows, and a different email about interior decorating, et cetera, et cetera, pretty easy to choose a topic. It's a little bit different for fiction, but the principles are the same. Writing about something interesting or educational or fun or inspirational, that's relevant to your genre isn't as hard as you think.

Now, before I give you the kind of keys to the kingdom on this one, think about what genre you write in and think about what kind of topics you might include in your email. It's going to be trickier if you write fiction, but I'll show you in a minute how to make this really, really easy. Okay. So, here's an example. If you write crime fiction, maybe you send out an email talking about history's biggest unsolved murders. So, the example here is Jack the Ripper, of course, the most famous one. Everybody's interested in Jack the Ripper, and it's relevant to your books. Okay. So, we could have an email that's all about catching Jack the Ripper, 150 years later.

Romance, you know, we could talk about famous stories of unrequited love, maybe a real-life Romeo and Juliet, or Hollywood's most unexpected couples, or doomed romances through the ages, or something like that.

Science fiction, that's quite an easy one because there's stuff in the news all the time about new scientific discoveries, technological advances. You could even talk about, and this is a popular one on YouTube, where they bring in a physics expert to talk about all the mistakes they made in the most recent sci-fi film that came out, they're quite fun. People like reading them, and you could do that in an email.

Non-fiction again, educate and inform around your topic. Pick a specific aspect of what you teach and write an email about that. Something else entirely, you know, it doesn't matter what genre it is, but find a topic that people can relate to that's relevant to your audience and your genre. So, look at the news. Look at Hollywood. Debunking stuff, popular culture. There's always something that's relevant to the genre you write in, and then your email, it can then be about this. And plus, you are an author at the end of the day, which by default makes you far more interesting than most people. So, you can even sprinkle in a little behind the scenes process as well, you know, how do you get your writing done, where do you write, what's your desk like, how often does your cat walk across the keyboard, and that kind of thing.

So, we can choose a topic relatively easily, but then we have to think about, well, what are we actually going to write about this topic? Okay. So, I like to start off by thinking about what's the purpose of the email. So, why am I sending this out? Am I selling a book? Am I trying to get people excited about an upcoming book? Am I trying to get reviews? Or am I trying to do something else? Whatever it might be, the purpose of the email is going to dictate your call to action. In other words, what you're asking people to do, and your offer. And at the end of the day, you know, we're not just emailing people for the fun of it, we want to get something out of it that we can measure, that's going to help us grow our business. So, with the topic and purpose figured out, it's time to plan out what you're going to write.

Okay. Now, I have a very simple process for this, and just like with books, if you've ever sat down and thought, I've got a great idea for a novel, and you've sat down and started off chapter one, and then maybe you've got a couple of pages in and then you just completely run out of steam and have no idea where you're going.

So, most authors will at least have some sort of plan about what's going to happen in the book, and that could be anything from a few bullet points about what's going to happen at different stages, or it could be a full-on outline with chapter headings and bullet points for each scene. It could be anything, but there's always some sort of plan.

And it's the same for emails as well. This is why people get stressed about writing emails because they don't sit down with a plan. Okay. And it's just as stressful to write an email without a plan, as it is to write a book without a plan. So, this is how I plan out an email. I start with the hook. Okay. So, we have our topic, Jack the Ripper. The hook is what's interesting about this.

The transition comes next. How can we move from talking about the topic, about Jack the Ripper, to your pitch? So, how can we go from talking about historical murders to then talking about my book in a way that feels organic? Then there's the offer. Then we can talk about what are people going to get, why would they want it, why is it interesting?

And then the call to action, what do people need to do? And this is what I call the HTOC process. HTOC. Hook, transition, offer, and call to action, and I use this for every email I ever write.

So, let's have an example then. So, let's pretend with that crime author, and we're going to do history's biggest unsolved murders. Okay. I've got a book coming out soon, I want to get people excited about the book before I ask them to buy it, which we'll talk about later as well. Here's what I would plan out. So, topic: history's biggest unsolved murders. Purpose: get people to read a sample chapter ahead of the launch to get them all excited. The hook, okay, this is where we take the topic and turn it into a headline. So, have they finally caught Jack the Ripper? Could be one, and then we write about some modern theories about who he might have been and how they came close to catching him, and things this. And you might spend a hundred words, 200 words on this, 300 words, as much, or as little, as you like to make it interesting.

And then we need to transition. So, we need to go from talking about Jack the Ripper to our book. So, perhaps you'd say, in the transition, we're all fascinated by famous grisly murders, especially when there's a story behind it. But what would it feel like to live through the experience? In my new book, et cetera, et cetera. It's a nice organic transition. It doesn't feel weird or forced, and people are already quite interested by this point because they've read all your stuff about Jack the Ripper.

Next is the offer. So, you talked about the book and how it's relevant to what you've been talking about so far. In the offer you say, I'll invite you to experience first-hand the terror of being stalked through the streets of London. In this sample chapter, you'll read about et cetera, et cetera.

And then the call to action, click the link and read the preview chapter. Then email me back and tell me what you think. If you shoot me a reply, I'll send you chapter two. The new book is coming out on, x date. And that's an example call to action. Maybe the call to action is applying for a review copy, maybe you want people to join a review team to get a full copy of the book in exchange for a review on launch day. It's totally up to you. But by asking people to click and then read it, people are more likely to. If you just say here's chapter one, take a look if you fancy it, fewer people are going to click. If you say, click this link now and read the preview chapter, more people will actually do it, because you're giving a clear instruction. And bonus points for getting people to email back, because that will improve your open rates in future as well, because you're establishing that conversation, and it's always nice to hear back from people as well.

So, there's an example. So, the topic, the purpose, the hook, transition, offer, and call to action. It's all there, you just need to fill in the gaps. So, it's not too tricky. So, bearing in mind, you've just written a full book that's many, many times longer and more complicated than that email, but so many authors get stressed about it because they don't sit down with a plan.

So, if you have a plan and a purpose, it can be very easy. All right. So, coming up with a fun topic and then following that HTOC structure, you'll find that you can put together very good emails in about 20 to 30 minutes, tops. And the best part is when readers reply and tell you how much they like them, it's going to make everybody feel good. So, even the sales emails are going to get positive replies from people because you're making them interesting. Okay. People want to read them, even though there's a sales pitch in them, because people aren't scared of sales pitches, people just get annoyed when people don't put any effort into it. Okay. That's the thing.

So, the upshot is your send emails that readers actually enjoy, you know, that they actually enjoy reading them, which is going to mean stronger open rates, more clicks, more sales for you. Okay.

So, let's see how this works for a book launch. How can we put this into practice for an upcoming book launch? Now your launch is split into three parts. The pre-launch, the launch, and the post-launch. So, what happens before, during, and after the book has launched.

Now, the pre-launch is probably the most important part. Okay. Remember my previous email, the complete failure from earlier. I made zero effort to get people excited, zero effort to warm them up, zero effort with anything really. And as a result, it fell flat. Now, there's several barriers to sale that are subconsciously stopping people from actually following through and buying things, and this is what my audience went through when I sent that awful email out. The first one being ambivalence, the not in the slightest bit excited, because they hadn't heard from me for nine months and I'd made no effort to get them all excited about it. Okay, and then procrastination is another big one as well. So, maybe you've done all the hard work and they want to buy the book, but they think, I'll get it later and then they never do.

Okay. So, there's ways to get around this and we're going to use the pre-launch phase to overcome these barriers and drive maximum results. So, the whole point of this is to build excitement, get people into a frenzy so that they can't wait for your book to come out. And to do this, we're going to send two or three pre-launch emails at least a week ahead of the book going live.

Now, if you're doing pre-orders, and you're doing a long pre-order phase, you might want to add a few more in there, but generally speaking two or three is a good mix. You're going to choose an interesting topic for your launch emails, and bonus points if you can make all of the emails around the same topic, so you're almost creating a story that carries through the entire process. And then if your book is going to be sort of a subsequent book in a series, maybe it's book four in your series, you'll also want to remind people what's happened so far. Like they do the TV shows, you know, previously on, that's what you need to do as well. You want to do a cover reveal, and you want to send out a sample chapter. And if you're using a review team or getting people onto an advanced reader copy group, you might want to include some positive comments from those guys in the pre-launch phase as well. So, like pre-reviews almost.

And then you're going to repeatedly remind people that the book's going live on a specific date and how they can get it. And bonus points, if you are using social media, you can post similar things up on there as well and take any screenshots of any positive comments to include in your emails as well. So, like the one on the right. I posted up in Facebook, my book's coming out, how exciting, and everyone else posted these things, I took a screenshot and included it in the email. Okay. So, that's getting people excited.

We also want to beat procrastination. So, probably the biggest killer of online sales is when you have something available, but there's no reason for somebody to buy it now. They'll often put it off until later. How many times have you seen something on the internet that you kind of want to buy, but you think, ah, I'll get it tomorrow or I'll get it later, or it's like, I don't really need it right now, and then you just never buy it. It's the same thing with books. I mean, it's not heart medicine, is it? I mean, people don't need it to survive, it's something that they enjoy. So, we need to give them a compelling reason to buy it now, otherwise they'll forget. And we do this by using price discounts, bonuses, or both. If you think about, you know, the times that you've been on a store and you're seeing something that you want and you thought, oh, I'll get it tomorrow, and then you've noticed there's a countdown timer saying, this deal is ending in five hours and you can save 20%, chances are you buy it then and there. That's a similar sort of thing we're going to be doing as well.

Okay, so incentives, then. That's what we call an incentive to buy. And there's a reason why sites like BookBub, the advertiser, get such great results because they highlight limited time offers. So, when you get a featured deal with BookBub, your book has to be discounted by at least 50%, and it has to be available at that discount for a short period of time. So, usually a couple of days, meaning people will act on it and grab the deal. So, if you don't give people a reason to act now, they often won't. So, they need that nudge to get there.

So, running a launch discount, so maybe it's half price when you launch, is a great and easy way of doing this. So is offering a bonus. So, if you have a short story, or a bonus chapter, or an audio version, or videos, or anything really, that you can include as a little bonus, you can put a link in the back of the book that people can grab it when they buy it. So, there's a bonus or a price drop, or you can do both. It's 50% off. Plus, I'll give you this free extra book if you buy in the first week that the book's available. That's very, very compelling. And the key thing is to offer something of value with a deadline. Value + deadline, that's the key part. And then making sure everybody knows exactly what to do.

So, here's a launch campaign example here. So, all of your emails are going to have a topic, like I said before. You can use the same theme for every email, if you like. So, unsolved murders throughout history could be the topic of every single email and you just cover a different one each time. If anything, those tend to work a little bit better because it's like an ongoing serial. It's quite interesting for people. But it doesn't have to be. But the main thing is that each email has a topic of some kind that's relevant to your books, and each email has a specific purpose, all right, and I'm going to tell you what the purpose is here to make life easier.

So, we're going to do a historical romance example, but again, it doesn't matter what genre you write in, this is just for example purposes. But in the prelaunch phase, we're going to do three emails. The first email we're going to send out maybe a week to 10 days ahead of time of the book launch, and the purpose of email one is to get people's attention. So, to make them aware of what's happening and to get them engaged. So, we're going to pose the question, as our topic, would your relationship survive this? And then we talk about, the book's historical context. So, for example, maybe it's a forbidden love between a princess and a stable boy, or something. It's a cliched example, I know, but let's say, and then you could say, would your relationship survive if you and your partner were in this position? That could be something interesting to write about as your topic as your hook, okay. And then you can transition into talking about your upcoming release, talk about the bonuses or price deal that you're offering, the incentive, and then talk about, you know, I'm going to share some cover reveal with you, I'm going to share a chapter with you, here's what's coming up next. So, email one is getting attention.

Email two is starting to build interest and build excitement. Okay. So, we're going to do another historical example of lovers in jeopardy, that was our example from before, and then we'll reveal the cover, tease a bit more info on the characters that are in the story. If it's part of a series, we'll talk about what's happened so far, maybe talk about the research you did to make it historically accurate, and then we can talk a bit about launch day bonuses. So, if you're offering some deleted scenes or extra short stories, that's when you start talking about those.

Then email three, we're getting people really excited now. This is usually the day before the book goes live. We're doing basically the same thing again, you know, sharing an interesting story that's relevant to our book. Talking about what research has gone into it, behind the scenes, talking about the character, maybe sharing some early review feedback, and then repeating, here's what the bonuses are going to be, here's the incentive, make sure you buy it before the end of the week. And then we can link out to chapters as well. The main point is to make sure people understand what they need to do to get the incentive, which might be a price drop or a bonus, and making it fun for them.

And then during the launch phase, this is where it's quite easy, because all the work is done in the pre-launch phase. So, email four comes out on launch day, and all we want to do here is get as many clicks as possible to that sales page, all right, because we've done all the hard work. We've got people excited, we've told them about all the bonuses and exciting stuff we've got for them, so now we're just announcing that the book is live. So, you might want to introduce the topic again, lovers in jeopardy, but you're spending, maybe just a couple of sentences talking about that here, because you've already given people a good story. So, we want to get into it as quickly as possible and say the book is now live.

Recap those bonuses, have that strong call to action; buy now and get the bonuses delivered to you instantly, is a good example. Remind people of the reviews, hint at another story coming up next time but with a sad ending, or with a happy ending, whichever way you want to go, something with a bit of a cliff-hanger to end your email on.

And then email five, again, more clicks to the sales page. Tell the story we teased about in the previous email. Now, in the launch email, we jumped straight into it because we'd spent a lot of time telling stories already. Now, we're going to tell some more stories to carry us through to the end of launch week. So again, we're just repeating what we've already done, choosing a topic, telling a little story and transitioning to your book and reminding people of the deadline and the bonuses.

And then email six is on the last day of the launch period, usually on day seven, you want to again, drive as many clicks as possible, and just briefly remind people that the deadline is going to be tonight, this is the last chance to get the incentives, and here's another story. And you can add in an animated countdown timer if you like as well, which are quite fun, and they do drive more clicks.

Now, you don't necessarily have to send six emails, but I strongly recommend at least two pre-launch emails and at least two launch emails, the first one on launch day, and then the last email on the last day that people can get the bonuses, and that works incredibly well.

So, all we're doing is choosing a topic, telling a little story and then transitioning into what our offer is for each email, using that HTOC process.

Now, results for this then. So, here's a little experiment I did, I split my email list into two. On the left-hand side, that graph, and you'll see the first peak is where I just emailed out to people saying, my book's available. And then the second peak is where I did a three-email pre-launch phase, and you can see more than doubled the results.

Similar results from Emmanuel here who says, “I want to share something with you. Past weekend I've published my fifth book, a romance short story, and I offered a bonus, a free book from a different author.” So, he'd actually teamed up with another author to offer that author's book as a bonus. So, he didn't even have to write something himself. “My sales more than doubled in comparison compared to the other books that I launched without a bonus. It's really important what we do with the 80% of our list that aren't our superfans, as instructed in the course.”

Absolutely does work, and your emails are fun to read too.

So, there's post-launch as well. This just kind of optional, but during post-launch, it's really just a case of, obviously delivering any bonuses that you promised, you can put a link in the back of the book for those. But then also looking back and seeing what worked, what didn't work, you could even send out a questionnaire asking people what they thought about the email campaign and what they might like to see next time.

All right now, ninja tip. If you are offering a bonus, ask people to sign up for it first, okay. Enter their email address to get the bonus on a landing page, and then you'll know who your buyers are, which is very, very useful. So, how does this work in practice then?

So, we're going to look at a launch example from New York Times Bestseller, Russell Blake. Russell wanted to launch a new series in the adventure genre, kind of Indiana Jones style. He'd predominantly been writing, sort of, assassins and spy thrillers until this point, and this was a bit of a different direction for him. So, the goal for us was to build an audience of email subscribers ahead of the launch, and then use email marketing to get people excited, and then maximize sales volume at $7.99 launch price.

Now, the process was, we set up the reader magnets process. So, as I said at the beginning, Google reader magnets and you'll find me on there. But we put that into place to get people on his list by offering a free book in one of his series as an incentive to get people on his email list. So, either from the jet series or the assassin series, okay.

Now, we made sure, you know, these series had the first book free, it was Permafree, so it was getting quite a lot of traffic through, and a lot of people were seeing this offer to get a free book. So, a lot of people were joining his list. And then we scheduled a joint promotion with another author to really boost those numbers.

So, by the time we get close to the launch, we've got a few thousand people on an email list, which is incredibly interesting. And again, check out the free course yourfirst10kreaders.com for more detail on how to do all of that. So ahead of the launch, with about 60 days gone, we'd tripled Russell's list, and we ran a pre-launch email campaign as launch week approached.

Now, we couldn't offer a price discount, because the $7.99 launch price was already set, but we could offer bonuses. So, we decided that we would offer either a free book in the Jet series or the Assassin series for free, as a bonus if people bought during the first week. So, anyone who bought the new book, Ramsay's Gold, during launch week, could then download a free Jet or Assassin's book, completely free.

And all we did was put a link in the back of the book, where people could grab the file. Now, we made this clear in the emails. We did a cover reveal. We did a sample chapter. We got people excited, we followed that HTOC process to tell some stories and get people really whipped up into a frenzy, and we had some amazing results.

The new book launched into the top 150 on Amazon, and bearing in mind this was an $8, as well. So, it's not like a 99-cent volume here, it's $7.99. And more importantly, it stayed there all week and for quite a while afterwards as well, selling thousands of copies. It stayed high for quite a while afterwards, and Russell's email list kept on growing, meaning that we've got this process in place to use again and again. Meaning, a big sales volume came at a high price, and we've got an email list that can be used again and again. And the total cost for this was absolutely nothing. Zero. No ad spend whatsoever, it was all done using free strategies. That's the key point.

So, Russell says, you know, what does he say? He says, “the first three days of the big launch were eye-opening, with thousands of copies of Ramsey's moved across all platforms, and thus far delighted reviews, including one by Lawrence Block, which made my Saturday pretty special.”

And then he says, “I believe this launch was considerably more successful due to using”, what we've talked about today. “I was extremely sceptical at first, but now I'm a believer.” So, this does absolutely work.

Now, I know Russell has dozens of books that he can use as bonuses, but as we saw from Emmanuelle, you don't have to offer a full book as a bonus, it could be a short story. You could team up with another author and offer that authors book as a bonus, which is good for them as well, because then they get people signing up to their email list to get that bonus. So, it's like you're helping each other out there. So, he did have the advantage of a large backlist, so it was really easy for him to offer bonuses, but it's easy for you as well. You just don't have to do full books. Short stories, cheat sheets, audio versions, deleted chapters, other authors books. The key points is offering something valuable with a deadline. So, taking what we've looked at today and refining it to your circumstances.

Another example was a USA Today Bestseller campaign. I teamed up with eight other authors and released my first ever sci-fi novel in a box set. Now, the difference this time was there was a long pre-order phase, a few months ahead of launch week, and we scheduled the book to launch on a Tuesday, which kind of fits in the USA Today reporting window, and all the pre-launch sales were counted during that launch week. Okay. So, we applied the same process we talked about before, and with Russell. And, of course, those authors involved who had been using reader magnets had a big email list. Okay. So, we just applied the same principles; emailed people ahead of time to get them excited and offered some bonuses.

Now, the main driver here is a massive discount. So, a box set would normally be $9.99, but it was on sale for 99 cents, as long as people bought it before the end of the first week. So, we didn't really need bonuses because there was so much in there already, and the price drop was big enough on its own.

Another tweak as well, we sent out some advanced reader copies to get some early reviews as well. But again, that was all done via email, so using the same principles we've talked about earlier. Okay, and we used the same layout, you know, with three emails before launch week, three emails during launch week, and a deadline.

And the results were brilliant. We hit number 92 on the USA Today Bestseller charts, 8,000 copies sold, and the best part was that, on the sales that we could track, using Amazon associates’ links, we found that 97% of our sales came from email, and only 3% came from advertising. And the conversion rate from emails was five times higher than advertising as well, and bearing in mind, we're not paying anything for these email clicks either. So, not half bad.

So, the summary then. Obviously, we want to make sure our books are positioned for the best organic reach, we've chosen the right keywords and categories, got the right cover, got the right description, it's been edited, formatted, everything's looking great. Also making sure we have reader magnets in place to get people on our email list. Using an email marketing provider, like Mailchimp or MailerLite, to do all this for us. And then we have some traffic strategies, like Permafree, or joint promotions, or contests, or magnet swaps to drive traffic.

And if you don't know where these things are, check out the free course at yourfirst10kreaders.com. I will demystify the whole process for you.

But the main point is, once we have that email is growing, we're using it in an effective way to launch new books, promote our old ones, and get reviews. So, that's what we focused on today.

And then automate. So, going back and looking back at the emails you've sent, which ones did well. Take those best emails, copy them into an automated sequence in your email provider and then let them run. So, every time someone joins your list for the first time, they'll get these invitations to look at your other books. And again, free software can do this, like MailerLite and Mailchimp, so it doesn't cost you a penny. You're getting email addresses, people signing up for free, people are clicking, you're not paying for the clicks, it's all happening automatically behind the scenes.

So, imagine knowing that you're going to hit the top 100 when you launch a new book, knowing that you don't have to rely on Amazon promoting you to get ahead, being able to focus on fun stuff instead of obsessing about all the day-to-day marketing stuff, having a dedicated review team that's always going to leave you four and five-star reviews when your book comes out. Okay. Having that control is what happens when you build out an email marketing system, all right, this is what you get.

And if there's one thing to take away it's that I've cracked the code to building an audience of raving fans and developing an effective marketing and selling system for books. It's very much a replicable system that, you know, if you've got this far in the video, I believe that you have this in you as well, as proven by my students, and other authors applying these strategies. You know, they weren't born with an email list or the knowledge of how to do this, but we all learn together. Okay. So, putting this into practice is going to be the most important thing you do.

So, the next steps then. So, start using this HTOC process. The next time you want to send an email out, think about what's an interesting hook that I can write about, what topic can I choose that's interesting and relevant to my books. How can I make this email fun? And then how do I transition into talking about my books? What's the offer and what do I ask people to do in the call to action?

Having a couple of bullet points under each of those HTOC headings will just take you a couple of minutes to map something out. And then when you sit down, you'll be able to just write, it'll take you 10-20 minutes, max. And again, if you want more information on how all of this fits together, visit yourfirst10kreaders.com for a full free course on how to start growing your audience and how to get to a thousand dollars a month in book sales consistently.

The most important part is to make your emails fun, not just for your readers, but for you as well, so that you enjoy writing them, people enjoy reading them, and people will reply and tell you as much. And it's the best feeling in the world.

So, I hope you've enjoyed today's session. And again, if you'd like to learn more, visit me at yourfirst10kreaders.com, but for now, thank you very much for listening and happy email writing.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is a novelist, nonfiction author, developmental book editor, and journalist. He is also the news and podcast producer for the Alliance of Independent Authors. You can learn more about him at https://howardlovy.com/


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