For years you’ve been developing a community of dedicated fans and followers who you’ve convinced to sign up for your newsletter or blog. Yet whenever you send a newsletter, your email marketing provider reports that the percentage of subscribers who actually open your emails is in the single digits. What’s going on?
You’d think that any author with a well-curated mailing list would have close to a 100 percent open rate, but the truth is far different. Email marketing software services like MailChimp keep statistics on average open rates for different industries. For the category of arts and artists, a 27 percent open rate is average. For the media and publishing industry, open rates hover around 22 percent.
If your open rates match these, you’re doing well. But it never hurts to do better. A higher open rate means more folks will see your information and perhaps do whatever you’re asking of them—like click through to buy your newly launched or newly discounted book. Here’s how to improve your email open rate:
Develop A Strong, Targeted Mailing List
Open rates can be affected by several factors, but one of the most important is the strength of your list. Some writers may brag about having a mailing list of thousands, but if those thousands were gathered willy-nilly rather than by thoughtful, cherry-picking methods that target true-blue fans and followers, then fewer of those email subscribers are likely to open up unsolicited emails.
A clean, smaller, curated list is always more valuable than a scattershot one—and not just because of higher open rates. Unfocused lists tend to have higher unsubscribe rates, which can trigger spam warnings from your email subscription service.
Three tips on how to clean up your mailing list:
- If your list has emails but not first and last names, take a hard look at how you’re collecting data from your fans and followers. Subscribers are more likely to open an email if it’s personally addressed to them.
- If you have one master list that gathers emails from several different sources, such as from different pen names writing in different genres, consider segmenting the list. Separating your horror fans from your sci-fi fans allows you to send emails laser targeted to the individual audience, which can increase open rates.
- Consider using the “double” or “confirmed” opt-in option for signing up new subscribers. This email marketing option requires new fans and followers to confirm their email before they’re added to your email list. Jumping through that second hoop means your new subscriber is a dedicated one.
Use Intriguing Email Subject Lines That Boost Open Rates
Open rates are all about the subject line. You can write the most amazing email, but your email subscribers won’t even see it if they’re not first intrigued by your subject line. You’ve got to hook your reader in fifty amazing characters—or about five to seven words. Here’s how to write an eye-catching subject line:
- Avoid screaming all-caps and multiple consecutive exclamation points. They look desperate and spammy.
- Short and sweet subject lines will better catch the eye of a harried subscriber swiftly scanning through email.
- A ticking clock is a powerful motivator. If your offer is time-sensitive, reveal it in the subject line.
- A provocative question is a great way to tempt a fan or follower into clicking open your email.
- Lists are powerful click-bait. If the content of your newsletter is about the five best YA novels for the summer, use your title.
- Make a subject line into a call to action, using command words like “Bring a friend!” “Order now!” “Ready, Set, Go!”
- Alliteration is always awesome.
- Know your fans and followers and be creative. If your audience enjoys humor, draw them in with a pun, a joke, or a play on words. If your readers love mysteries, intrigue them. If your followers are fact fanatics, give them a statistic so unexpected, they have to open the email to read more.
- Make use of the subject line tools provided by your email marketing software provider, such as the spam checker from Constant Contact and MailChimp’s subject line researcher and tester.
A mailing list is a powerful, effective way to connect with your fans and followers. While you continue to work smart to build your list, make sure you also engage those fans through your newsletters and announcements. The better you know them, the better they’ll come to know you and your work.
Question: How often do you like to hear from your favorite authors? Once a week, a month, a year?