Part of the Indie Authors Series
So far in this Indie Publishing Paths series, we first focused on how to decide which path will work best for us. We figured out our goals and priorities so that when we’re ready to put our book up for sale, we could decide on:
- the where (such as whether we use a distributor or we sell direct through a retailer or go exclusive with Amazon’s KDP Select),
- the when (whether we delay, use a preorder, or go for immediate sales), and
- the how much (whether we price high, in the middle, or low, whether our pricing strategy is a good match for what we want to accomplish, and whether a freebie is a good idea for our situation).
The second phase of our indie publishing journey is to figure out how best to hold onto our readers from book to book. So far, we’ve covered our options for…:
- keeping our readers (such as leading them to our next book or to our newsletter)
- using buy links and how to create non-expiring buy links (to lead readers to our next book)
- including an excerpt or offering extras on our website to engage our readers
A couple of months ago, we started digging deeper into the first bullet item above for how to keep our readers. One of the most effective methods for keeping readers is to use a newsletter, so we’ve been exploring our newsletter options.
So far, we’ve discussed:
- why newsletters are so important and what best practices we should follow
- how to grow our newsletter list (and deciding if our goal is quality or quantity)
- how we can encourage our subscribers to open our email
Today we’re going to continue that exploration by thinking about our subscriber engagement strategy…
What’s a Subscriber Engagement Strategy?
As we mentioned last time, more than anything else, we want our newsletter to be opened by subscribers. Nothing else matters—not the size of our list or the content of our newsletters—if our subscribers delete our emails or never open them.
We talked last time about some of the sending strategies we can use to “train” our subscribers to open our newsletters. But once they open our emails, we then want them to take action.
We want them to click on a link to:
- buy our new book,
- share our work with others,
- promote us or our work,
- review our books, etc.
Of course, those actions are asking subscribers to do even more “work” than simply opening an email. So just as we “train” subscribers to open our email with those sending strategies we talked about last time, we might need to “train” our subscribers to take action with our email. That’s where a subscriber engagement strategy comes into play.
A subscriber engagement strategy looks at: How will we encourage our subscribers to take action?
The word “engagement” can mean many things, but here we’re talking about how our subscribers interact with us and our messages and might be willing to do work in exchange. Let’s take a look at some of the techniques we can use to train readers to engage with our newsletter content…
Include Links to Bonus or Exclusive Content
We can get subscribers used to clicking on links in our newsletter by including links to special goodies. These goodies could be just about anything that might entice our readers to click.
For example, we could include:
- a snippet of our book, with a link to read the rest of the excerpt on our website
- links to bonus content on our website
- a link to an exclusive cover reveal
- an excerpt of an exclusive slice-of-life scene/short story for our characters, with a link to the rest on our site
- links to download free content (graphics, printable bookplates, etc.)
Readers trained to click links in our newsletters might be more likely to click buy links or share buttons, etc.
Include Questions to Readers
We can get subscribers used to interacting with our newsletter content by including questions to our readers. Again, these questions could be just about anything that might encourage our readers to engage with us and our books.
For example, we could include questions about:
- what we should name a character or pet in our next book
- what book we should write next
- what books they love enough to recommend
- what makes their favorite books a favorite
- what bonus content they’d love to see from us
- what characters they’d love to see a slice-of-life scene for
One issue to keep in mind with this technique is that if readers expect us to reply, we might set ourselves up for a lot of time and energy in continuing those conversations. Alternatively, subscribers could be directed to answer in a poll type of format rather than a direct email reply to our newsletter.
Readers trained to interact with us might be more likely to review our books and/or help us promote our work, etc.
Include an Invitation to Unsubscribe
Now this one might seem counterintuitive, so I’m going to explain the psychology behind it a bit more. *smile*
To avoid spam issues, we should always include an unsubscribe link with every newsletter email we send, but we’re talking about something slightly different here. An invitation to unsubscribe is a paragraph of content in the newsletter itself, giving people a guilt-free excuse to part ways.
This invitation isn’t necessarily something that we’d include on a regular basis (or in our normal newsletters at all). But if we run a special promotion that might have attracted a lot of freebie seekers or contest junkies, we can save money in subscription costs to let go those who aren’t actually interested, as most newsletter services charge based on the number of subscribers.
When we make it easy for our readers to unsubscribe from our newsletter, a couple of things might happen:
1. Those who signed up just for a freebie or giveaway—but never cared about us or our work specifically—might unsubscribe. At first, this might seem like a bad thing, but only if we’re focused only on subscriber numbers and not on results. Contest junkies who don’t care aren’t likely to engage with our content, such as buying our next book or helping us promote, and it’s not a bad thing to lose the dead weight that’s only going to cost us money.
2. At the same time, our call to unsubscribe can include enticements to stick around. *grin* We can remind readers of how to find the unsubscribe link…but we have this exciting news coming up soon, so they might not want to miss out.
3. When the opportunity to unsubscribe is pointed out, if they choose to stick around, they’re consciously deciding that they’re committed to us. When they don’t click that link, their internal thoughts are reinforcing that they like us and our work. That’s a good thing.
(Note: Many newsletter services punish authors (and may even delete an author’s account) if too many readers unsubscribe at once. So we need to be careful about using the invitation technique with too many readers at once.)
Readers who consciously choose to remain subscribed might be more likely to take action that matches their perception of commitment to us.
Depending on what else we’re doing to communicate with our readers, some techniques might be duplicated with our other efforts, such as a Facebook street team/reader group, and we’d have to decide if that redundancy was a problem or a benefit for our readers. The point is for us to think up options for how we can form stronger connections with our readers so they’ll be more likely to help us when we need it. *smile* We’ll talk next time about how to fix a broken list, but until then, let me know if you have any questions in the comments!
Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.
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