Earlier this year, I posted a list of my personal 7 Rules for good email etiquette. Those are the 'rules' that apply to anyone using emails responsibly, whether writers or not.
For the next few weeks, I'd like to focus on a topic that applies specifically to authors: a list of what NOT to do when you're about to launch a new book.
Since each of these 'rules' requires a little explanation, including all six in one blog post would make this the most epic blog post of all time. For your sanity (and mine) I'll look at each of these rules in an individual blog post.
My apologies in advance if this series seems to be full of negatives rather than positives, but I can't emphasise enough how important it is to give careful consideration to these 'rules' before promoting your book. Because these marketing mistakes can cost you a LOT more than the sale of a book.
Rule # 1 - Spamming your friends and family to buy your book
You are very excited that your new book is releasing. You want everyone in the world to know your exciting news, and to share in this champagne-worthy moment. But before you send an excited email to everyone in your contacts list, I want you to stop and take a deep breath. Because the one thing you do not want to do is become a spammer.
What is spam? Spam is unsolicited email. Very simply, this is email the receiver did not ask for and does not want.
We all have email inboxes overflowing with ads and newsletters we didn't ask for. Most of those 'buy my cheap viagra' ads fortunately go straight to my spam folder where I never have to see them, but if the sender is in my contacts list, or is someone I once replied to, chances are their 'buy my book' email is likely to appear in my inbox right where I can see it.
You might be thinking "but that's a good thing, isn't it? At least you saw my email."
No, it's not a good thing!
I don't know about you, but I get a very negative and annoyed gut reaction every time I have to delete a 'buy my cheap viagra' email, or worse, go through the rigmarole of unsubscribing from a mailing list I never signed up for in the first place (like that bathroom company I once asked to quote on a certain floor tile which I then chose not to buy, but they added me to their marketing list anyway)
"But hold on!" you're probably thinking. "That's a bit extreme. I'm not a bathroom company selling tiles. I'm someone you know releasing my precious book baby into teh big wide world."
Before you get all defensive, I want you to take a step back and ask yourself objectively:
If the answer to either of those is 'no', then your email is likely to be viewed as spam.
And what is the usual gut reaction to spam? Annoyance.
Annoyance is not an emotion that drives people to run out and buy the product that's on sale. It's the emotion that is far more likely to have the recipient mark your email address as spam.
So how do you know who you should email with the exciting news of your new book release, and who you shouldn't?
The simplest way to figure this out is to imagine the news you're sharing is more personal, say your engagement, or the announcement that you're having a baby. Who would you email that news to? Those are the people you email about your new book baby. Those are the people who will be excited to support your book release.
(Though if they're really your closest friends and family, chances are you'd be phoning them, or telling them in person, right? Chances are, you wouldn't be emailing them.)
Next, imagine the product you're selling isn't the book you've laboured over and loved. Imagine that instead of emailing this person about your book, you're emailing them about Tupperware. How happy would they then be to receive your 'buy my book' advert? (And yes, an email that says "Happy news! Today my debut novel goes on sale, and you can download it here" is considered a 'buy my book' advert.)
Because to the receptionist at your dentist's office, to your child's teachers, to that person you once met at a conference, to the author you contacted a year ago looking for advice, or to your cousin who doesn't actually read books, your book falls in the same category as Tupperware. Yes, that's a bitter pill to swallow, but it's true.
Finally, I'd like you to imagine that this same person emailed you to ask you to buy their Tupperware. How would you feel? Enthusiastic, or annoyed?
You're a writer. You have a vivid imagination. If you can imagine yourself in any of the above scenarios and still feel this recipient would like to receive your 'buy my book' email, then go ahead and send it.
But if you've imagined any of those above scenarios and thought "if I received an email like this from that particular person, I'd consider it spam" DO NOT EMAIL THEM.
Instead of making a sale, you'll be setting up that person's back and losing their good will, possibly forever. It's not worth the risk for $1.99, or whatever price your book is selling at!
Next week, I'll be looking at the second rule of marketing etiquette - asking for book reviews.