Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways for publishers to engage readers, drive conversions, and grow their business. However, few publishers utilize its full potential or have an optimized email strategy.
This article provides 11 powerful yet practical tips that publishers of all sizes can implement to get more out of their email campaigns and exponentially increase subscribers, traffic, and revenue.
Whether you’re just starting or looking to improve an existing email program, these proven techniques (and a powerful email marketing platform) will help you 3x your business with email marketing.
Why Publishers Should Use Email Marketing
Email marketing is pivotal for publishers looking to build meaningful relationships with readers, drive website traffic, increase conversions, and ultimately boost revenue. Studies show that email converts at 40 times the rate of other marketing channels.
For publishers specifically, email subscribers have been found to spend 2x more time on their site and generate 3x higher conversion rates compared to non-subscribers.
Beyond increased sales, email helps publishers keep readers engaged during content gaps, promote new releases or content to a targeted audience, and create a communication channel where they can share updates, solicit feedback, and strengthen loyalty.
With the average email campaign ROI being $40 for every $1 spent, having a solid email marketing strategy pays dividends for publishers of books, blogs, newspapers, courses, videos, and all other media.
The high deliverability, segmentation, automation, and analytics make it one of the most trackable and efficient channels for increasing reader engagement and financial success.
1. Offer Free Previews for Subscribers
One of the best ways for publishers to grow their email lists is to offer free previews of upcoming releases exclusively to subscribers.
This content can take many forms – the first chapter of a new book, sneak peeks at characters/scenes, author Q&As, protagonist sketches or maps, and even soundtrack song recommendations. Time the preview emails around major releases and promotions to maximize signups.
Sprinkle the previews throughout your automated emails as well so current subscribers feel rewarded with insider info. Just make sure the preview content leaves readers hanging and hungry for more. You want them to anticipate the full book release enough to purchase it.
The key is finding the balance where they get a satisfying yet incomplete taste. Done right, free previews encourage signups, build buzz, and prime your audience for new releases.
2. Promote New Releases and Bestsellers
Email is the perfect medium for publishers to notify subscribers about new releases and bestselling titles. You can create emails dedicated to promoting new releases in different genres/categories so readers only get alerts tailored to their interests.
Include the book cover, title, author, release date, genres/categories, a brief enticing description, and links to purchase. Having sign-up forms and pre-order links right in the email makes it easy for intrigued readers to order.
Similarly, alerts about current bestselling titles let readers know about hot trending reads. People love recommendations and these emails can boost impulse purchases. Just make sure to only highlight books you publish and tailor suggestions to reader preferences for the best response.
Promoting new and popular books to engaged subscribers translates to direct awareness and sales.
3. Spotlight Bundled Deals
Publishers can spur purchases among email subscribers by spotlighting special limited-time bundled deals. These can package 3-5 books around a central theme, author, or series into a box set or bundle that’s deeply discounted compared to buying individually.
Some ideas are holiday bundles, gift bundles tied to occasions, genre bundles around topics like mystery or romance, and author bundles with 3-5 books from one writer or multi-book series bundles.
Publishers should promote these deals through dedicated email blasts that alert readers to the unique bundled offering, include eye-catching images showcasing the various covers bundled, clearly state the special discounted multi-book pricing, use scarcity pressure with countdown timers or limited quantity claims, and embed user-friendly e-commerce links to buy straight from the email.
Limited-time bundles incentivize readers to purchase more books than they may initially intend and let publishers boost sales through creative packaging and discounting existing inventory.
4. Share Author News and Updates
Readers who purchase books become invested in the authors behind the stories. Publishers can leverage email to share compelling author news and updates that nurture reader relationships and connections.
For example, you can profile new or rising authors through Q&A spotlights and interview links that offer background on their writing journeys.
For established writers releasing new books, you can share details on upcoming signing tour events and dates so local readers can meet them in person. Any local events like readings or workshops can also be promoted to nearby subscribers. Publishers can even use email to organize Kickstarter campaigns that fund author signing tours.
Other great email content ideas include announcing awards or nominations earned by your writers so subscriber audiences can congratulate their success. And any human interest bits like authors supporting important causes or overcoming obstacles can make strong email content.
By consistently spotlighting the creatives behind the stories through interviews, events, causes, and accomplishments, publishers strengthen bonds between their writers and readers – which ultimately benefits book sales, publicity, and loyalty. Just be sure to find the right balance so you’re sending emails with the ideal frequency.
5. Give Downloadable Extras
In addition to free content previews, publishers can entice email sign-ups by offering exclusive literary extras available only to subscribers. These digital freebies add value and give readers more ways to engage with books they love.
Some great ideas are downloadable reading/book club discussion guides, book and author-themed desktop wallpapers, bookplates (visual bookmarks to personalize books), themed frames for Facebook profile pics, printable coloring sheets featuring book characters/scenes, read-along samplers that combine text excerpts with audio narration, and even playlists or custom ringtones related to popular books.
The options for free downloadable extras are vast – tap reader enthusiasm and feed their fandoms! Time the release of these email-exclusive extras around major releases, promotions, or holidays to boost sign-ups. Offer new bundles around different books or themes each month to encourage return visits.
And always require an email address to access the downloads. Free extras engage and reward subscribers while allowing publishers to collect more customer data and promote their latest books.
6. Cultivate Preorder Supporters
Publishers can tap their most dedicated readers to become preorder supporters and advocates for upcoming releases. As soon as pre-orders open for your most popular authors’ new books, send an exclusive email blast to their past purchasers announcing the titles can now be reserved in advance of publication.
Remind fans of the author’s previous books they’ve enjoyed and explain pre-orders help push new releases up bestseller lists which leads to more publicity. Share free previews to re-engage their interest.
By mobilizing loyal readers from an author’s backlist and encouraging them to preorder the latest title early, you prime the new release for a fast, visible launch that builds quick momentum.
Offer pre-order perks like gifts, entries into giveaways, signed bookplates, early access to chapters, or exclusive author Q&As. Generating pre-release buzz via engaged fans helps ensure successful first-day and first-week sales. Email is the driver for amassing immediate preorder support and multiplier effects from influencer readers.
7. Promote Contests and Giveaways
Contests, giveaways, and sweepstakes make great email content that engages readers while rapidly growing publisher email lists.
Some prize ideas are signed advance reader copies where fans can read new releases before general publication, Skype sessions for readers to video chat one-on-one with their favorite authors, and early access passes to pre-ordered books enabling readers to receive titles days before the official launch.
Promote your contests via attention-grabbing emails detailing the prizes, entry methods, deadline dates, and official rules. Require readers to provide their name, email, and occasionally shipping address to enter and gain new qualified leads for future communications. Pair giveaways with new releases, pre-order campaigns, or big announcements to capitalize on existing buzz.
Increase entry volume by allowing multiple submissions per person for daily and weekly chances to win rather than just one-time drawings. Announce winners in emails to keep the anticipation going while reminding losers to participate next time.
Contests are the perfect vehicle for subscriber acquisition, building book/author hype, and capturing reader data.
8. Curate Custom Recommendations
Publishers sit on extensive data about their readers’ buying behavior and preferences that can inform highly tailored recommendations. The most effective email programs use purchase history, browsing habits, and ratings/reviews to curate custom suggestions for each subscriber aligned to their tastes.
For example, profile readers who purchase many science fiction books as sci-fi lovers. Later when you release a new sci-fi thriller, email those subscribers recommending it with a free first chapter sample based on their prior interest. You can program automation that triggers these personalized suggestion emails each time a reader buys something within a certain genre or category.
Take this microtargeting further by making book suggestions around holidays based on personas. Such as Christmas-themed cozy mysteries for older women who purchase a lot of general cozy mysteries.
Tie promotions into life events like suggesting summer reads for teachers during June. Laser-focused recommendations convert because they provide genuine value to customers by understanding subtleties within their preferences. Just ensure to only promote titles you publish rather than third-party recommendations.
9. Reward Loyalty
Loyalty should be rewarded. Publishers can recognize and incentivize high-value long-term email subscribers by granting free bonuses as they hit yearly milestones. For example, after 1 year they offer an eBook short story, at 2 years a bundled eBook duo from their favorite genre, and at 3 years a limited-edition print release or exclusive swag item.
Alternatively, provide increasing lifetime percentage coupon codes on future purchases instead of gifts – 5% off for 1-year subscribers, 10% off for 2-year subs, 15% off for 3-year subscribers, etc. Readers appreciate acknowledgment almost as much as gifts and discounts.
Bond your most devoted followers even closer through special thank-you emails commemorating their ongoing support and highlighting the exclusive subscriber-only milestone benefits they’ve unlocked for joining your email family.
It’s an opportunity to celebrate treasured readers while supplying more VIP perks to entice them to remain subscribed long-term. Consider adding milestone rewards each year to continually sweeten the loyalty pot.
10. Share Multimedia Extensions
While email marketing is great for straight-text promotions, publishers should also showcase multimedia content that brings their books to life while showcasing platform diversity. Some ideas are gifting email subscribers with download codes for audiobook editions to demonstrate the audio format and narrator’s talent.
You can provide links to author podcast interviews that reveal fun backstories and writing journeys in their voices. Creating and embedding dynamic book trailers, especially for new releases, helps readers visually envision characters, settings, and plots pre-purchase.
Even behind-the-scenes videos giving sneak peeks into production, cover design choices, editing processes, and your publishing house happenings make lively email additions. Give quick video or audio previews then link to your site, YouTube, and podcast platforms for full media.
Multimedia engages readers across formats and gives glimpses into books beyond the written page to spur purchases. Enable subscribers to experience releases on multiple levels.
11. Continuously Test and Optimize
The most successful email programs constantly experiment through A/B split testing to optimize every campaign for higher open rates, click-throughs, and conversions. Publishers should regularly test sending different email content, formats, designs, timing/days, list segmentation, subject lines, preview text, calls to action, etc.
For instance A/B tests short vs. long subject lines, personalized vs. general greetings, celebrity author endorsements vs. expert critic reviews in previews, Saturday vs. Sunday delivery times, long-form editorial vs. quick tips, video trailers vs. contest giveaways, emoji headers vs. plain text, and so on. Set up testing schedules where you check 1-2 variables per email campaign.
Then double down on what variant performs best for future emails. Over time, continuous incremental testing and refinement add up to greater reader engagement, lower unsubscribe rates, and significantly higher sales returns across all campaigns.
Even slight optimizations compound dramatic results long-term. Use tools like ClickMeter or Mailchimp’s A/B testing to benchmark and determine winning variations.
Implementing even a few of these 11 email marketing tips can exponentially grow your publishing business. As an essential channel for building reader relationships, promoting books, driving website traffic, and generating sales, a strategic email program pays dividends.
With the techniques above for optimizing sign-up incentives, release promotions, engagement campaigns, loyalty rewards, and testing, publishers can triple their email return on investment.