Email Marketing Gone Awry

I am very poor at book marketing, as evidenced by the sales numbers for my books. I’m not bad at giving away books—my free romance novelette Trapped by Love has been downloaded more than 28,000 times—but books that people have to actually pay money for aren’t as popular. I hope, though, that I haven’t made people angry as I became after a recent promotion.

I downloaded a free Christian romance novel from a huge promotion offering free and discounted downloads of dozens of books in a variety of genres. I understood I would be receiving email promotions from the author whose book I downloaded. That is reasonable and expected. If I didn’t like the free book, I would unsubscribe from the list and be glad I had a chance to try a new author. Even if the author didn’t keep her new subscriber, at least she got her work in front of a new reader. Some would stay and some wouldn’t; by giving away a copy of her book, she would gain readers who liked her genre and writing voice. I would have been perfectly happy if I had been subscribed to the lists of all authors in the genre of the book I selected.

However, I did not know and did not appreciate that anyone who downloaded a free book in this promotion was added to the email lists for every participating writer. Suddenly my inbox was full of promotions from authors I have never heard of and have no interest in. Why would an erotica author expect a reader who chooses Christian fiction to buy her books or even read her newsletter? Or vice-versa?

I don’t know much about creating a successful email marketing campaign, but I do know that targeting your market is the first step. It usually comes as a big surprise to aspiring writers that not every reader is a prospect for them. When I ask a new client to describe the audience for their book, they often say, “Everyone.” If everyone liked to read the same thing, Wikipedia wouldn’t list nearly 200 writing genres and subgenres! Even if we have wide-ranging reading tastes, there are still some things we really like and some things we just don’t read.

I am tired of getting marketing for horror and fantasy and erotica and science fiction and any number of other genres I don’t enjoy. Every day I unsubscribe from several of these newsletters, a waste of my time and attention. I will never again click again on a promotion from this group; if there are many readers like me—and I suspect there are, rather than getting lots of readers of Christian fiction to suddenly start downloading erotica—or vice versa, the authors who probably paid a lot of money to get all these new email subscribers will have little to show for their promotion.

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