Marketing Lessons from the World of Retail

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, 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 



Marketing Lessons from the World of Retail

Arches headshot CAN Hi 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 missed last month’s post, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, as well as Principle #1, you can find that post here.


So on to Principle #2:  Build a List.


As promised, I’m going to continue to give you real numbers and stats from my experience…


I believe this second principle has been the greatest factor in building our online craft and hobby supply retail business. When we started with our first website five years ago,, we were diligent in capturing the names and email addresses of people who visited the site, both those who became customers and even those who did not. Our primary means of collecting names was through a monthly contest in which we gave away free products.  From that beginning, the mailing list for that particular website has grown to over 28,000 names.  (We currently run four different websites, with a total of over 78,000 names in our database.)  Later we began offering customers an “instant coupon” when they signed up for our mailing list – an autoresponder email set up to send them a coupon code immediately.


Building a list is becoming increasingly critical in the “social marketing” world in which we now live.  People want to be involved with the companies, products, and people they follow in new and creative ways. The idea of a building a following, a “tribe,” is spreading through the marketing world, and is especially conducive to writers. Why? Because tribes are about ideas. They are about people connecting to each other because of a shared interest or cause. And writers are fabulous at explaining ideas and getting people passionate about interests and causes! People are looking for information, and we’ve got it.


So, how am I applying my own advice this month?  I looked back at my statistics of list-building through the months of March to August of this year.  In that six-month period, on my website related to my writing, I collected 120 names for my mailing list. These are people who came to my website and gave me their email address because they wanted to be on my list.  That’s an average of about 20 names per month.  I have no idea where that number ranks in relation to the rest of you. No doubt some of you get many more, and some less. But in the month of September, I applied my own list-building principles.  The result?  95 names added to my mailing list during the month of September.


Here are the multiple ways I’m currently building my list through sign-ups:

1.   Running a contest

To promote my new release, Guardian of the Flame, which features the Lighthouse of Alexandria, I’m having a contest for a lighthouse wall hanging.  (To see the contest I am running, simply visit my website and an entry form will appear. Feel free to enter!) 

2.   New Release Reminders

My website includes a simple form people can fill out – First Name and Email Address – to receive a reminder when I have a new release.

3.   Mailing List Sign Up with incentive

I also have a direct sign-up for my mailing list, and have it set up with an autoresponder that contains a free short story.  This is a short story I wrote some time ago, still retain the rights to, and can offer as an incentive to join my mailing list.  It was easy to set up, and is the most effective tool I have used thus far.

4.   Enter a book drawing when you give input

I am currently writing the Seven Wonders Novels, and have a page on my site inviting readers to cast their vote about which of the Seven Wonders they’d like to read about next.  This gives me valuable input, but also helps readers to feel they are part of what I’m doing.

5.   Referencing my website everywhere I can

I spoke to a group of church librarians this month, and I was sure to give them a chance to sign up for mailing list, which would also enter them into my current contest.

I also mention my website in any interviews and blog tours I do, and in the backs of my books. I have tried to fill my website with interesting and entertaining content, which gives readers a reason to come looking.

The key is to give readers a reason to come to your website, and once they have come, give them lots of reasons to sign up for your mailing list.

A word about Facebook:

Facebook is a terrific social marketing tool, and you can use it effectively to build your tribe. But one word of caution:  There’s a good chance that Facebook will eventually go the way of MySpace and all the other sites we can’t remember.  Something cooler will come along, and people will begin jumping ship to join the next new thing. Make sure that you are getting the email addresses of the fans you are amassing on Facebook. Find a way to get permission to add them to your email mailing list. If and when Facebook becomes passé, you won’t know that you’ve lost contact with those readers. They will simply fade away, stopping checking their Facebook page.  While email addresses can change, at least you have a shot of continued contact with people, after the fad of Facebook has moved to something else.

To conclude, here’s an article I read recently on some ways to add to your mailing list. Perhaps it will jumpstart your creativity. 

Remember, come up with as many creative ways as you can to capture the visitors you receive on your website, and build that list!

I’d love to hear comments about the great ways all of you are building your tribes!

Coming up next month: I’m building a list. Now what do I with it?


Marketing to Libraries, by Sharon K. Souza

Sharon Souza - small Hello, fellow CANners. This is my second year as a member of CAN, but I admit I've kept a low profile up till now. This is my first post on We CAN promote our books! I hope you find it helpful.

Some months ago I attended a workshop by our own incredible Judy Gann about marketing to libraries. I'd heard Judy speak about this before, but the point was driven home last spring when I heard her share once again about what an untapped source our libraries are. I came home from that conference determined to complete my list and get a mailer sent to every library on it.


Marketing Lessons from the World of Retail

Arches headshot 1

Hello all,


T.L. (Tracy) Higley here, with my very first CAN blog post! I’ll be posting on the first Wednesday of every month, and for the next twelve months I’m inviting you on a journey, through an experimental year for me, and one that I hope will prove helpful for you as well.


Before we get to the experiment, a bit of background:  Currently, I am writing historical suspense for B&H Books. The third book in my Seven Wonders series, Guardian of the Flame, releases in a month.


But as with most of you, I’m sure, the majority of my income comes from elsewhere. For me, that income is generated from a retail business I started about five years ago, selling craft and hobby supplies online. The business started as sort of a fluke, but as I learned more about retail, it grew, and within two years was doing well enough to be our family’s sole source of support. We have continued to grow in the three years since then, and I feel very blessed by the success there, as it has allowed me to pursue writing with more freedom.



Tips from the Pros: Cheri Cowell + Creating Book Tours/Data bases

Aloha from Karen,
    I'm interviewing Cheri Cowell, a dear friend and someone who worked haHeadshot glassesrd to           create great sales for her first book. She planned her own               tri-state book tour and build an incrdible database of churches.

    Welcome Cheri. Let's find out more about you and what you did     to market your books.