If I’ve learned anything sending out email author newsletters over the last 20 years, it’s this.
If a subscriber doesn’t open them, there’s no reason for me to continue sending them.
How Do We Know You’re Not Opening Our Author Newsletter Emails?
There’s a small single pixel image enclosed in the email. If this pixel isn’t loaded and the code for it loading returned to the email server, the system says “not opened.”
Is It Possible The System Makes An Error?
Absolutely. Some folks read their emails in a preview window and never do open them. So there’s a system I use to identify those folks as well.
Here’s How I Keep An Active Author Newsletter
If a reader doesn’t open any of the last five emails or respond in any way, they are put on a “cold list” and enrolled in an autoresponder sequence. This is a three email series that is sent automatically at various times and days to try to penetrate the inbox.
- The first two emails are clear that if you want to remain on the list, you must click a link. This triggers both the image pixel and a link on my website.
- The third email targets those who read in the preview pane, and don’t trigger the pixel. The subject line – they will see this – tells them they must open this email if they want to stay on the list.
If none of these three emails triggers a “view” and the email address remains unresponsive, I delete the email from my list.
How Often Do I Clean Out My List.
At the moment, I’m cleaning them out every month.
Don’t You Lose Subscribers?
Well, yes. But if they’re not opening the emails, how likely are they to purchase ebooks? If they don’t open emails, then …
A small responsive list that opens and reads your email is far better than a larger list that ignores you.
Why I Do This
Email is no longer an inexpensive proposition. It’s one of my bigger ongoing costs and the larger the list, the more it costs.
So if I send out my author newsletter (and spend money) to folks who don’t open the email, it’s as if I’m simply tossing that money away.
My Experience With The Gardening List
Before I started cleaning lists, the gardening email list grew to somewhere around 20,000 subscribers.
My first learning efforts to clean a list brought it down to 10,000.
And then I got serious about it. Tracked the open rates with the above system and brought it down to around 2500.
These were 2500 readers who opened almost every newsletter.
And Then I Took It To The Next Level
Let me be honest. No author pays to send out a newsletter out of the goodness of their heart. It’s a business decision – part of the advertising budget – and if readers aren’t purchasing books, then the costs to run the newsletter are not being covered.
I ran tests on the gardening newsletter and with the level of technology I had then, I discovered that readers may have been coming to my website but they weren’t using the links in the newsletter to purchase ebooks (yeah, another of those tracking systems)
So I could get readers to the website to read a free article but not to Amazon to buy an ebook.
The next analysis was to evaluate advertising dollars on the days the newsletter went out. Yes, they went up but they didn’t cover the costs of sending out the newsletter.
And This Meant
It wasn’t selling ebooks nor was it boosting advertising income. It was providing a free notification system to readers about when I posted new articles. And it was costing me money to do this.
Now, the free Google Feedburner system operates as an email notification system for my garden and blog readers. I don’t care whether folks open or read or toss it directly into the trash. There’s no cost to me.
Update: January/19: I decided to discontinue the Feedburner system and have switched to the native WordPress update system.
What If Feedburner Shuts Down?
There are always rumours about Feedburner. As the somewhat garbled translation says, “I’ll jump off that bridge when I come to the river.”
The Fiction Readers
However, the fiction reader notifications are being handled by ConvertKit and there’s a serious cold-subscriber system in place that’s run monthly.
Within the next six months, there will be another system in place to reward book buyers. I’ll say more about that in the future when it’s up and running. But again, bottom line is if you’re not buying books and you’ve proven you’re only there for the freebies, I can no longer afford to do that.
So The Bottom Line:
For me, it’s a use it or lose it proposition.
I don’t mind sending out stories or how-to articles to readers who return the favor by supporting me in some way. But when that creative flow is one-way outbound, the balance for things is wrong and it’s not economically or emotionally sustainable.
And that my friends is my current thinking on an author newsletter.