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For Authors: Email Marketing Etiquette Tip

Angry-Mob-Playset_2479-l[1]A few months back I posted a rant about why I don’t follow authors on Twitter anymore. I was generally tired of the handful of authors who spammed all their connections, whether by using bots to automatically harass new followers or by sending DMs with faux queries on whether they had read one of the author’s books. (I’m even getting the occasional tweet from authors I do not know and am not connected to.)

My post wasn’t terribly popular among the authors who don’t spam people, but that didn’t change the fact that some authors are using unsolicited contacts to try to generate sales. This rarely works, and as Mark explains in the following post it is guaranteed to annoy at least some of the recipients.

I was working on the post about Smashwords Direct this morning when I happened upon the following commentary by Mark Coker of Smashwords. He’s seeing much the same spam as I have complained about, and it annoys him too.

On a sidenote, this type of spam marketing doesn’t work in the read world, either.

Today, I received a plea from a gentleman who used LinkedIn’s messaging system to spam his closest however-many-hundred-closest-friends.  He says he needs me to buy his book at Amazon, and wants me spread the word to as many people as possible, because he’s gotten himself $800,000 in debt due to falling prey to a scam that originated in the Middle East (I assume it’s one of those scams offering you a big cut of a $20 million ill-gotten fortune from a corrupt politician, if only you’ll front a few hundred thousand dollars in goodwill money).

He said if he can sell 500,000 copies, it’ll get him out of his mess.  Seriously.  Yeah, okay.  We’ve all made mistakes in the past, but that doesn’t give us permission to make a bigger marketing mistake, which is to send out unsolicited bulk emails.  Unless someone has given you permission to send them a bulk email (such as them requesting to be added to your mailing list for fans), don’t send the email.

Your immediate family and closest true friends will put up with an unsolicited bulk email, but the rest of the world will not.  Almost every day I receive bulk email solitications from authors, simply because I’m in their address book because I responded to an email months or years ago, or I agreed to connect to them on LinkedIn or Facebook.  When I receive these bulk solicitations, I unfriend these people from my connections, or I’ll politely ask them to remove me from all future communications.

It saddens me to see such emails, especially the case of the man above we’ll call Mr. Pickle. I’m going to remember him and his book for the wrong reasons.  The author is the brand, and this type of email is not good brand-building.  I’ve noticed a marked increase in such emails originating from my connections on LinkedIn.

If you face the same issue, LinkedIn makes it easy to remove these people from your connections.  Here’s how:  Log into LinkedIn, click connections, then click the link at right that says "remove connections," then click the checkbox of the user and click remove.  If someone’s spamming you on Facebook, like tagging you in posts for which you have no connection, or posting spam on your wall, it’s easy to unfriend them.  Click to their Facebook page, and float your mouse over the box that shows a checkmark and the word "Friends," and then click the "unfriend" option that pops up below.

Speaking of spam, almost every day I receive spam emails offering to sell me access to huge mailing lists of hundreds of thousands of people, sometimes over a million people, for as little as a couple hundred dollars, or less.  All these emails claim they’re "100%-opt in," but 99.99999% of the time, they’re not.

They’re spam lists.  They’re scams.  I’ve seen multiple authors fall for these scams in the past. Please don’t. Some have even complained to us, "I sent out a million emails, I got 900 page views at Smashwords, but not a single sample download or sale.  What’s wrong?"

Spam doesn’t work. It’s a sucker’s bet. There are no easy shortcuts to book selling.  It’s incredibly tough, hard work.  Realize that most books don’t sell well.  Focus your attention on your craft, and on producing books that are as good or better than what the big NY publishers are putting out.  Give readers great, professional-looking book covers.  Price your books competitively.  Study the best practices in The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. Then get to work writing the next book.  The best marketing you can do for you book is to write a book that markets itself on the wings of reader word of mouth.

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Robert Nagle December 30, 2012 um 2:22 pm

Nate, you sound like someone who has never written a book 🙂 It is a bit simplistic to think that the ONLY thing you need to do is to write more books and rely on word of mouth. You need to do a little more than that. 95% of my author friends are accomplished and interesting, and yet nobody has heard of them. By definition, most publicity is unsolicited. I don’t really have a problem with unsolicited email as long as it’s occasional and semi-targeted to my interests.

I think many self-promotion attempts seem clumsy and ineffective because DIY authors don’t know what the hell they are doing. But they are trying new and different things to get their titles out there.

I really love Mark Coker’s marketing book, but even that does not hold the answers for every single author and every different kind of book.

Let me ask a different question: when do you want to be notified about anything? Would you want to be notified if your favorite band has released a new album? Or if someone from your university has published a book?

Nate Hoffelder December 30, 2012 um 2:53 pm

The point I think you’re missing is the degree of unsolicitation. Mark is complaining about any random person sending an email blast to their entire address book or LinkedIn network, no matter the reason for the original contact.

But to answer your question, I have no problem with getting emails which are relevant to me or the relationship I have with the sender. Thanks to my job as a blogger I get many thousands of emails from marketing people every month, and I am not at all bothered by them – not even the ones which are way outside my interests. Similarly, a book blogger probably does not mind unsolicited offers of free recently released books – so long as the title in question fits the genre the blogger writes about. An agent might feel the same way about manuscripts, or a music blog about mp3s.

It’s all about context and relevance. The emails, blog comments, and messages which annoy me are the ones which are not relevant to me. They are sent out en masse, blindly, to no one in particular.

Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg January 5, 2013 um 7:15 pm

Mark, Being new to social media, I am seeing what you wrote about in this post. I joined Twitter and at first felt excited when authors began to follow me, so I followed them back, thinking we would be connecting in a networking sort of way. Before I knew it, I was getting tweets to buy their book or use their service etc. Then I began reading about bots right about the same time I was getting all the "Thank you for following" messages. Same with LinkedIn. As a naive newby, it felt great to get asked to Link Up with some author and then realized it’s just people out there trying to get numbers, not to get to know other like-minded people. Kinda ruins it. On the other hand, I have made some cool connections on Twitter that really add to my life, and I try to give others a shout out when I believe that person is being authentic as well.

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