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?

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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I contacted those who were interested in my writing about my blog and it gave me some  mild anonymous interest. Some will read though not necessarily comment, but they’ll talk directly about it to me later. I appreciate that of them just as much as I appreciate comments directly to the blog. It wasn’t email so to speak, but it was an inbox on facebook, which to me and my friends is much the same thing; private and direct, giving that little red notification over the little blue envelope which tells me friends READ ME! 

Greg Graham

One thing I can tell you for certain: Five to ten years ago I could send an email to all my students and 95% of them would read it THAT DAY. The last couple of years, email has become an undependable medium for communicating with my students. It’s disappointing, because the only medium I can get that 95% result from today is text message, which is cumbersome to use with students.

Greg Graham

I teach first-year writing. If you teach upper level, that could explain the difference. Most of my colleagues do not use cell phone text messaging because they don’t want their students to have that kind of access to them. 

I think it speaks to social media’s “soft” connections, literally and as it relates to volume, plus (as in your first example), one of focus. On Twitter, ~80% of what I post is publishing-related, so the occasional personal tweet can seemingly come out of left field and likely be missed. A personal email to someone you have a relationship with is always going to be more effective, as long as it’s used selectively. And for marketing in general, Godin’s “permission marketing” is still one of the most relevant concepts people need to understand, and one of Amazon’s major strengths. Email… Read more »

[…] background-position: 50% 0px ; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } – Today, 8:18 […]

[…] Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) tells us why she believes, Yes, E-mail Still Works for Book Marketing. […]

Colleen Walsh Fong

There are so many avenues for reaching people today, I don’t see how it can hurt to use them all. I do. Especially when trying to reach across age and demographics.

Loren Paulsson

In my limited experience, the diversity of how people interact—or not—with social media makes e-mail one of the few generally consistent ways of communicating across workplaces, particularly where there’s an expectation that people will receive information that way. 

Your examples make me curious, however. Do you think the earlier social media messages influenced your “readiness” to respond to an e-mail?

Turndog Millionaire

Totally agree, jane Email is the modern day letter. I suppose what actual letters were when email first came out (Social Media now taking over as the new email. if that makes sense 🙁 Anyway, I always send an email when i can, especially if it’s asking for something. The key is to make it personal, and I feel it’s the calls to action, promo emails that are dying. Rehashed offers and adverts clog up our inbox, but a plain text email that means something, says something, and is somewhat engaging, well, they are quite rare these days Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

R. E. Hunter

I can’t comment on using mail for marketing, but I can say that it’s my preferred channel to receive things. There are a number of technical mailing lists I used to be on and when some of them converted to online forums, I stopped following them, because it required me to take action to go there and login and search for new posts, whereas an email just arrives on its own. For general news and such I prefer RSS, but otherwise email’s the best. But then I’m a bit old school in a lot of things.

Laura Austin

We send out bi-weekly emails and track them carefully. At the moment we average 40% opening rate and 12% click through. If it were much less than this I would be cynical about it – but that is enough proof to keep going. As you mention, it does take about 7 times of seeing the same message for people to act on something … so an email, Linkedin post, Twitter, Facebook, phone call … and you might start to see some results!

Ronald Sieber

I use LinkedIn to contact colleagues in my writing niche directly. I get a very high response rate because I make it personal. In the same manner, I use gmail to follow up after I have made initial contact. However, I always insert something personal about me or the recipient. This is not a marketing technique, it is just what I do. however, it does get read and responded to. I think of it more as a karmic paying forward than anything else, an act of friendship. I agree to some extent with Matt Turner regarding email being the modern… Read more »

Ernie Zelinski

The best proof that e-mail still works for marketing a book is Brendon Burchard’s campaign last week in which he got his new book “The  Charge” to appear briefly in the Number 1 position on Amazon. In the last year Brendon has also used email campaigns to sell over 50,000 copies of his book “The Millionaire Messenger” and get it on the “New York Times” bestseller list. In fact, people such as as Brendon  Burchard, Eben Pagan, John Reese, and Steve Pavlina who get amazing marketing results seldom use social media. Moreover, John Reese and Steve Pavlina (author of “Personal… Read more »

Adrienne Lacava

I’m impressed by the Infographic stats. Thanks for that link and this timely reminder.

Brian Grove

Hi Jane,

I like your site, you have some interesting posts. My site  compliments yours, consisting of interesting articles from a published author, and a free writers yearbook with over 1000 book publishers currently accepting submissions. Keep up the good work.

Regards, Brian

Brian Grove

 Added to say you can find me here –  My Perfect Pitch

Edward Smith

Thanks Jane it is good to reminded that we still have some good tools like E-mail that were are not using as much as we could.  Edward Smith. 

[…] Are you marketing a book? Jane Friedman gives us 4 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Book Marketing Efforts. She also writes that, yes, old-fashioned E-mail Still Works for Book Marketing. […]

Peter Turner

One other thought to add is that social media may be used to deliver some value/benefit in exchange for email subscriptions. Social media is the outer rim of the marketing funnel, email down near the spout.

[…] And her follow up post called Yes, E-mail Still Works For Book Marketing. […]

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[…] Yes, E-mail Still Works for Book Marketing by Jane Friedman […]