Yes, E-mail Still Works for Book Marketing

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After last Friday’s post, 4 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Book Marketing Efforts, I received a few responses questioning the effectiveness of e-mail.

Or, in other words, isn’t e-mail dead? Who reads e-mail any more?

Regardless of what the biased Mark Zuckerberg says, e-mail is alive and well. (Here’s a bit of research that compares e-mail usage versus other types of messaging.)

Why do some authors, like Barry Eisler, decide to strike deals with Amazon? Partly due to their e-mail marketing power. Read his full explanation here. When I was publisher of Writer’s Digest, our direct marketing relied predominantly on e-mail. Each e-mail sent could be tied to a specific amount of revenue it brought in, and each campaign was only as good as the open rate and click rate.

So, in Friday’s post, when I advised authors to brainstorm a list of people to e-mail, note the stipulation I used: People you can count on to read your e-mails. 

That is a fabulous rule of thumb when deciding who to contact. If you don’t know if your e-mail will be read, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t send, but consider yourself lucky if your message is acted upon.

But, you might say, won’t people see your calls to action via social media? Wouldn’t people who would read your e-mail also see your social media updates?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It may seem paradoxical, but the closer someone is to you, the more they may not respond to social media efforts because it’s not as personal, or it gets mixed in with a lot of other social media noise.

Gatekeepers especially may favor a more structured or formal approach when a favor is being asked. (Speaking for myself, I prefer being contacted directly via e-mail rather than via Facebook or Twitter. But I still respond across mediums—and ask people to e-mail me directly when needed!)

Here are a couple scenarios I experienced in the past month alone:

  • A former colleague was seeking monetary support for a charity run. I vaguely remember seeing his posts, but it didn’t tie into what I normally see him posting about, so it never registered. When I received an e-mail from him, explaining what he was doing and why my support mattered, I immediately gave a donation.
  • Jeanne Bowerman recently raised more than $15,000 via Kickstarter to support the production of a film she’s written. I’m sure I must’ve seen her posts about the film via Twitter, but I had never slowed down enough to understand what was going on. When I received an e-mail from her, with specifics on how I could help, I immediately did so.

Caveat: Everyone operates differently. Mileage may vary. Etc.

But if you have someone’s e-mail address, and you’ve corresponded before on a personal level, there’s an excellent chance you’ll get a [more] favorable response from a direct approach.

What has your experience been? If you’ve used personalized e-mails as a marketing tool, how successful were you?

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Posted in Marketing & Promotion.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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