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Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1-#6 here.

 

So, on to Principle #7… Good website design is critical.

 

Two subpoints to this principle:

 

1.   Content draws people and keeps them coming back. These days, the web is literally clogged with people who have something to say. Or nothing to say, but using cyberspace to do it! How do you have a website that is more than just another page among many? One word: content.

 

Sit with yourself awhile and brainstorm about everything connected with your books that you could offer on your website as additional content. Go deeper into your topics, write a few articles. Maybe a few short stories, or “extra” chapters the way DVDs have deleted scenes. What have you dug up in the course of your research that you can pass along? Your website should be more than one big advertisement for you and your work. It should offer something of value. How about some writing expertise? Recommended books?

 

Fill up your site with content and people will start finding you online in more ways than your web address in the back of your books. They’ll find you through search engines, and your site will begin to rise above the cacophony that is the Web.

 

2.   In site design, sophistication prevails.  Gone are the days when you could upload a template website, plug in some information, and look like a professional. Unless you are a truly a graphic designer, you need to get some outside help here. Today’s web surfer expects quality, and if your website says “amateur” it reflects on your writing. Do some exploring yourself, through the websites of other authors you know, and start to compile a list of designers whose work you like. Make some contacts and get price quotes. You don’t have to spend a fortune. But your website is your calling card to the world these days. I’ll say it again: it needs to look professional.

 

 

There are so many opinions on what works and what doesn’t work in book marketing. No one can really say for sure what causes a book to take off. But a nice-looking, content-rich website is a non-negotiable. Just as you would never show up at a speaking engagement dressed in your sweatpants, you shouldn’t settle for a website that looks sloppy, either.

 

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Arches headshot CAN

Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1-#5 here.

 

So, on to Principle #6… Learn how to use email effectively.

 

Did you know that there are basic principles that, when followed, will greatly increase the chances that your email gets opened, read, clicked on, and acted upon? Do you know what they are?

Various studies show that anywhere from 45-60% of people make a decision about whether to open an email based on the subject line alone. And the wording and set up of your email itself can greatly influence people’s response to it. Last month we talked about making a good offer, but it’s equally important to word that offer in the best way possible, to gain the best response.

There are other principles at work for emails, e-newsletters, and e-zines as well, that will greatly affect whether your carefully-crafted message ends up in your readers’ Junk folder, or screened out as spam. Do you know what they are? For example, we talked last month about offering something free to your readers. But did you know that creating a subject line that begins or ends with the word “free” is very likely to get the message filtered to spam/junk? Much better to reword it to something like “Get a free…”

These principled aren’t complicated, and it pays to learn them. You’ll also find that lots of creative ideas for connecting with your readers will spring out of the research you do to discover the best practices for email marketing.

To get you started, I’m including a few links to some email guides you can download for free, from companies I respect. You will need to offer your email address in order to download these guides, but be assured that I have never been hassled in any way by these companies, and if you find yourself getting email from them that you do not wish to receive, unsubscribing is simple.

 

Mail Chimp’s Guide

 

Lyris Guide #1

 

Lyris Guide #2

The following is not a link to a downloadable guide, but a link to a website that is absolutely outstanding in the free content it offers, as well as e-books for purchase. I cannot say enough good things about Ralph Wilson’s site. I highly recommend signing up for his newsletter if you are interested in marketing online. I read every single issue that comes to me, and almost always click on a link within it to read more. The link below will take you directly into the section of articles on Email Marketing.

 

Wilson Web

 

Email marketing is effective, powerful, and cheap. Learn how to use it well, and you’ll see an increase in the actions you’d like readers to take.

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Arches headshot CAN

Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction.

So, on to Principle #5…  People will act if you make them a good offer.So, on to Principle #5…  People will act if you make them a good offer.


For the past six years, as I’ve run a For the past six years, as I’ve run a retail internet businessretail internet business and experimented with various kinds of marketing, the one thing that has consistently been true is this – if the offer is good, interested people will take action. 


You already have interested people – on your website, on your mailing list, reading your newsletter. If you craft an offer that is good, these people will take the action you’re looking for. 


Perhaps you’d like a newsletter subscriber to purchase one or more of your books, or perhaps the desired action is to have a website visitor sign up for your newsletter. Tie these actions to incentives that are desirable, and people will act.

What incentives? you ask.



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Arches headshot CAN

Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1 through #3 here.

So, on to Principle #4…  Repeated contact through social networks drives sales.

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Arches headshot CANHi all, 

Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I mentioned last month, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1 and #2 here.

So, on to Principle #3…  Repeated contact drives sales.

In building our online retail business (you can see our product lines here if you’re interested), I have found over the years that our most valuable asset has been our email list of customers. Last month we talked about the importance of building a list of readers, and ideas for doing that. But once you’ve got a list, now what?

Repeated contact, with benefits and value always offered.

For our retail craft sites, we send out weekly emails with coupons, sales, and discounts.  Is a weekly email too much for an author to send to his/her list? Probably. But I’ll bet your readers would enjoy email from you more often than you’re sending it.  We started out sending monthly emails to our retail customers, then increased to twice per month, and finally weekly.  As we did this, we saw no increase in the amount of opt-outs (unsubscribes), and only an increase in sales.  How often are you contacting your list?  When they get an email from you, do they say “Who?” 

You’re probably thinking, “it’s hard enough to keep writing my books. Now I have to write emails, too?” But you might be surprised at how little time it can take to reach out to readers. Sign up for a service that sends out bulk emails (like Constant Contact), and take the time to modify one of their templates for your own use. You can use it again and again, simply plugging in a new message and graphics. Use it to announce contests and new releases, to give snippets of reviews, to let readers in on the writing process. Depending on your “brand” you may want to get more personal – offering news and information about your life.  I use my newsletter to talk about the travel I do while researching my historical novels. Brainstorm for a few minutes about what you might offer, then spread it out over the course of a year. The key is repeated contact!

Now, I’ve said that Principle #3 is that “Repeated contact drives sales.”  So how does a newsletter result in sales?  Here again, I’ll refer to my personal retail experience. Besides the craft supply sites I run, I also have another site, Signed by the Author.com, where readers can order autographed copies of their favorite author’s books. The traffic to this site comes primarily from the participating authors’ own sites. They have links on their sites that say “buy a signed copy here” and refer their readers to us.  But I can tell you this – I always know when an author has put out a newsletter. We see a surge in the sale of that author’s books that week. And those are only the sales we see. It’s likely that readers are ordering elsewhere, too.  Will you sell a thousand books every time you put out a newsletter? No. But if there is a spike in sales, there is a spike in interest, right? Repeated contact works, slow and steady, over time. You become a familiar name in that readers’ life, and when you have a new release to promote, they are much more likely to purchase it and spread the word.

If you’re already sending out newsletters, I’d encourage you to think about increasing the frequency. This is what I’m planning for this year, and I’ll let you know how it goes. One interesting statistic I can report on right now: our retail craft site emails average an open rate (the number of people who open the email from us) of 16%, which isn’t bad.  But my newsletter to readers averages an open rate of 53%!  Readers like to get email from authors.

If you’re not already sending out emails to readers, search out some of your favorite authors and get on their mailing lists. Their newsletters may inspire you with creative ideas of your own.

I’d love for us to share ideas about items to include in our contact with readers!

Coming up next month… using Social Marketing for repeated contact 

 

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