A well-branded email is essential for writers. As the queen of unsubscribing, I am a study in the art of thinning out my inbox.
And let me tell you: If I don’t recognize an email within thirty seconds, I’m not sticking around to sleuth it out. I have too many other value-packed newsletters to read.
My scan-shake-head-delete habit follows a distressing trend I’ve noticed among writers to send out poorly branded emails. These bland and forgettable emails are some of the first to go when I’m on an (utterly fruitless) zero inbox mission.
But here’s a secret: I don’t want to unsubscribe from other authors! I want to support them. (I’m a reader! Tell me about your books!) And I want to see how they’re promoting themselves. (My inner marketer coming out.)
Here’s another secret: I’m not alone in this mission to clear the clutter. In fact, I’m hardly the most aggressive unsubscriber.
So what can we as writers do to make sure our emails are resounding with our readers?
I’m so glad you asked! Buckle up. This is going to be a longer than usual post, but packed with value.
This is the biggest thing you can do, so I’m going to spend some time on this point. There is a lot of bad advice out there that tells you to just start sending newsletters and worry about branding later.
Dear Reader, they are wrong. If your subscribers cannot recognize who you are by your “From: Address” and subject line (yikes!) then they definitely need to KNOW who you are the instant they open that email.
Does an unformatted block of text do that?
Now I’m not knocking a chatty email! My emails are chatty! But your brand as an author is your voice, your face (sometimes), your logo, and the colors you use across your website and social media. Incorporate those into your email to create strong visual cues for your readers.
Most email service providers allow you to create templates. Use this to your advantage to create some flexible newsletters that include a header with your logo (and preferably including a photo of yourself), your fonts and colors preset, and slots for pictures of yourself and your books.
Templates only take a couple of hours to set up on the front end and will not only save you time, they keep your author brand’s look seamless across your email, website, and social media.
I like having templates that work with a standard text-heavy newsletter, one specifically designed for linked cross-promotions, another for videos, and one more for linking to a list of blog posts. You don’t have to go this far, but having one solid template with your logo/headshot and colors and fonts preset will go far.
To take this up a notch, set up a welcome email for subscribers. This introduces them to your brand’s look and tells them what to expect. The next time they open an email from you, they will be much more likely to recognize it.
Welcome emails are crucial for authors who only email once a month or less since your subscribers might not have heard from you otherwise in quite a while (or at all.)
Name And Link What You’re Talking About
Ok, so this is a pet peeve, but I have seen this particular mistake cropping up more and more.
Give a name (and a backlink where possible) to what you are talking about within your newsletter. You don’t know how long any of your subscribers have been with you or from which platform they subscribed. Don’t assume they are familiar with all your works and follow you on all your other platforms.
If you are talking about “my recent release,” name the book or hotlink the words.
If you go into detail about your work in progress, give it a Code Name so you can use that within your emails and posts so your readers don’t feel left in the dark.
If you encourage people to join your Facebook “community,” give the name of the group and link to it.
And etc. You see the point.
The key here is don’t make your readers do any work to take the action you want them to take. If you want them to check out your book, link directly to it. If you want them to download a short story, ditto. If you want them to join a group or watch a video, again, name and link.
Make it painless for them.
Identify The Value
Ok, so I like to send chatty emails and I like to read chatty emails. Chatty emails are great. So are emails that get straight to the point.
But I’ve noticed a trend among the best emails that I keep in my inbox. They all identify what the value will be upfront. Usually in the subject line.
This is fabulous. It tells me as a reader there is something worth sticking around for, and I get to enjoy whatever funny little story my person is tying into the newsletter without getting irritated.
We all know (and avoid) that one person at parties who talks and talks without ever having a point. Don’t be that person at the email party.
So, you have something valuable to send out in your newsletter. Great! And you want to have a little chat about life with your reader. Great! Tell them pretty quick where you’re going to go with your story. (In school we’d call this the thesis.)
As an author, you have all sorts of value to offer: an update on your WIP, a glimpse into your writing process, a cool blog post like this one, a new book, a special offer for a book from your back list, a short story. When you’re really short on content, you can always send out a “what I’m currently reading” recommendation- your list is full of readers after all!
I like to send any reader magnets that I create out to my email list as thank yous. Maybe you like to create videos or write poems. Whatever your thing(s) are, have fun and weave it into your branded emails.