Why Email Marketing Doesn’t Work for Authors

Why Email Marketing Doesn’t Work for Authors

Author marketing Hell.

A wasteland, but not a desert one. No, author marketing hell is full of too much stuff. In fact, it’s saturated with deafening and dissonant noise.

Your subscribers feel the same way, too.


Conventional wisdom says the power is in the list, and this holds true across industries, not just for indie publishing. If you’re an indie author who’s been in the game for more than five minutes, you’re probably familiar with the idea of building an email list.

Likewise, if you’ve been around indie publishing longer than ten minutes, you’ve probably got a list already that you’ve been sending campaigns to. And if you’re like most authors, you’re probably hearing crickets.

So, whether you’re completely new to email marketing for authors or you’re seasoned at sending email campaigns, this article will help you improve your open and click rates, and therefore, conversions. If you’re in a completely different industry than publishing, the suggestions in this article will work for you, too.

Let’s get started.

First, we need to identify the problem, and the problem is (mostly) that no one is opening your emails. If no one opens, no one clicks. If no one clicks, then no one buys. Getting the subscriber to open the email absolutely has to happen before you can deem your email campaign a success or a failure.

So, how do you get the subscriber to open your email?

If you’ve been doing any email marketing homework, you’ve probably come across numerous articles saying you need a stellar headline to compel an open. This is partially true, but it’s a bit glib, and I’ll explain why.

Consider this, email open rates are down across industries, and the reason for it is because there’s far too much noise in readers’ inboxes. That’s why email marketing for authors doesn’t work. BUT, and it’s a big but –

mix a lot big butts
I like big buts and I cannot lie

80% of retail professionals indicate email marketing as the single biggest driver of customer retention. Plus, email subscribers will spend an average of 128% more on products than customers who do not receive emails from a business. And if you’re really looking for exposure, email subscribers are 3X more likely to share content on social media than people who are not on your email list.

So, despite the fact that email open rates are down and most authors are feeling the pinch, email is still king. It still converts subscribers. And by its very nature, it’s one of the most secure ways to maintain a direct line to your fan base.

As a business owner, which is what an indie author is, you need a way to grow your fan base, build trust, and have a direct line to qualified leads that will buy your products. Conducting engaging email campaigns is a sure-fire way to do this, but I’m sure you already know that.

Instead, you need to think about how you can cut through your subscriber’s inbox noise and gain their trust. They need to see you as not another boring author who just wants to hock their own eBooks. Essentially, you need to brand yourself.

I’m subscribed to several author email newsletter lists. Guess what – they’re all the same. I don’t mean they all write in the same genre or anything like that. Every. Single. One sounds, looks, and feels the same.


Because they aren’t differentiating.

They’re all using the same static content that everybody else is using and has used for years now.

This isn’t going to cut it anymore. Consumers, which is what your email subscribers are, are more sophisticated now. Their expectations are much higher, and the content they expect to consume needs to reflect this, or they aren’t going to open your emails or interact with your brand.

Answer: consumers (subscribers) want interactive marketing.

Let’s familiarize ourselves with the terms in question.

Static content is regular old words on a page. This article you’re reading is static content. If your email newsletters are just that, letters, they are static.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with static content. In fact, static content will remain the go-to medium for online content. However, it’s ability to convert qualified leads is down, and the reason why is because there are new and shiny ways of consuming content available in 2018. Interactive marketing is the progressive and modern way to grow your author brand, and I’ll explain why once we define interactive marketing.

Interactive marketing includes the following:

  • Polls and surveys
  • Quizzes
  • Videos
  • Calculators and graders
  • Infographics
  • Contests
  • Messenger bots

Basically, interactive marketing gives your viewer something to interact with. It’s also personalized. Obviously you can’t put a messenger bot in your email, so that’s a bit beyond the scope of this article. But let’s look at some numbers regarding the forms of interactive marketing you can incorporate into your email campaigns.

79% of customers prefer watching a video about a product compared to reading about a product.

By 2020, 80% of content consumed online will be in the form of videos. It’s what your viewers are going to expect in the near future.

Companies that experiment with interactive content marketing strategies see their conversions improve up to 28% within a mere two weeks.

Interactive marketing has a much higher chance of going viral than static content. If you remember from earlier in the article, email subscribers are more likely to socially share content than people who aren’t on your list.

If you’ve got an engaging piece of interactive content, and ask your subscribers to share with a compelling call-to-action, you can potentially get in front of thousands of people in a short amount of time.


Think about asking your subs to share a contest. Those who share get extra points.

Furthermore, your interactive content can be highly personalized, especially with a quiz or survey. Self-disclosure is actually a neurologically satisfying experience for the average human being.

If you can conduct a relevant poll or survey, not only will your subscribers enjoy the experience, you’ve managed to garner accurate data on your target customer. And you’ve made it fun for them to give you this information.

Here are some ideas and free or low costs sites that can help you formulate your interactive content:

  • Quizzes

Do you write about supernatural creatures? Create a fun quiz where your subscriber can find out which dark creature of the night they are.

Write crime thrillers? Quiz: How Likely are You to Become a Serial Killer?

How about horror? Quiz: How does the Creepy Clown Eat you in my Next Book?

Surveymonkey, Typeform, and Onlinequizcreator are all free sites you can use to create quizzes and tests for your subscribers.

  • Contests


“Enter your name for a chance to win a cameo in my next book! Share on your Twitter and Facebook account for two more slots!”

  • Video

You could literally put subscribers names in a hat, and do a Facebook live event where you pick a lucky subscriber’s name from the hat and they win your contest prize.

It’s also free to start a Youtube channel. You can post book trailers or do readings of your books. If you’re shy but also whimsical, you could do a puppet show.

  • Polls and Surveys

With these, you can ask your subs how they found your books, how often they like to receive emails, what kind of content they like, how much they are willing to pay for a book, etc. The list goes on.

You can potentially accrue an awful lot of data on your audience with a poll or survey. Unsure of which way to take your next book? Ask your subs in a poll. Now you know exactly what the audience wants.

Take another look at Surveymonkey. All polls or surveys under ten questions are free.

  • Infographics

If you’ve an artistic bent, you can easily create themed infographics. Think maps of fantasy worlds you’ve created, or character boards. You could do timelines or family trees for your characters.

Because interactive content is personalized, it will help you build a relationship with your subscribers. In addition, most other authors are not employing an interactive marketing strategy. This will set you apart from your competitors; it’s an excellent way to differentiate yourself.

One last parting stat for you:

Welcome emails get over 320% more revenue attributed to them than regular promotional emails. Think about that when you’re crafting or tweaking your sales funnel.

Don’t bore your subs. Give them personalized, engaging interactive content they’ll remember. If you open with something interesting and unique in your welcome email, you’re going to set the stage for them that your author brand is different.

Good luck!

Need more info on why and how to start an email list? Check out my post on email lists for authors. 

Want someone to show you how to craft an interactive content marketing strategy? Shoot me an email about your ideas and we’ll see what direction we can take things so you can build your brand and increase your conversions.

Have you used any interactive content for your emails? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Hey!

    I’d also like to share one platform that REALLY REALLY helped me to easier overcome all the things you mention in your article – MailerLite. From all the communities I participate in, I know it’s very popular among authors. Probably because it takes so little time to set-up, it’s super intuitive, it easily integrates with many useful tools as well.

    Maybe you had a chance to try it out as well? This is just one example of so many authors writing about it – https://startupindieauthor.com/mailerlite-vs-mailchimp-a-comparison-for-authors-and-other-artists/

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