Engagement and deliverability are inextricably linked. If one of them is poor, so will the other be, and if one of them is good… you get the picture. The trick is to lift them both up so that they continue to lift each other in a lovely little circular way.

How do we do this?

As a general rule, if you only send an email when you have a new release, you create for yourself a threefold problem:

  1. Frequency: you’ll have been forgotten by the time you email them again (an Engagement problem)
  2. Sender reputation: you’re not emailing often enough to cement your reputation as a good sender (a Deliverability problem)
  3. Give-to-ask ratio:  every time your readers hear from you, you’re asking them to do something to benefit you (an Engagement problem)

(But remember: Engagement problems lead to lower open rates, which lead to poor reputation, which lead to deliverability problems, which means your emails are more likely to go to Spam or Promotions, which leads to engagement problems.)

We solve for Item 1 by sending frequently enough that people won’t forget you. How often that is will depend on varying factors, and may be different for each of you, but we can pin that down in our calls. For now, know that it may very well be more frequently than you will at first be comfortable with. Suck it up.

But I don’t want to bother people.

You’re building a list of superfans, remember? And you cannot, by definition, bother a superfan.

We solve for Item 2 by sending frequently enough that your reputation continues to build rather than reset. As I’ve mentioned, no one is 100% sure what duration that is—and for all we know, it may be different for different receivers—but one month seems to be pretty safe all around.

I know it sometimes feels like you don’t have anything to say every single month, but you do! The suggestions in Ninja for both topics and good conversation starters are a great resource, but the templating we’ll start in the last lesson should help a lot too, by making sure you’re not sitting down at a blank page.

We solve for Item 3 by sending frequently enough that by the time your ask comes around, you will have had several gives, which makes your list love you and be more likely to run out and buy your new book. (Plus you’ve been hyping it up in the preceding emails.) How often you send will therefore be affected by how often you’re releasing; if you release very frequently you will need to send some emails in between, even if that means more than once a month. We’ll talk about that in your one-on-ones as well.

Since we can’t directly affect deliverability, we have to increase engagement to get deliverability up. (We also purge the non-openers, but that’s at the end of this week’s lessons.) So how do we increase engagement? By building relationships and delivering value, of course! That’s the next lesson.

By now, you should know the dealio:

  • How often are you currently emailing?
  • What sorts of things are you doing to increase engagement?

27 Responses

  1. How often are you currently emailing?
    Honestly we probably haven’t emailed in a year. We were working on a book to give away to our subscribers, and then we never got to finish that book, and I hated the feeling of emailing them back and saying, we’re not even close to finishing that, I know we promised it to you, but we’ve been publishing other things.

    What sorts of things are you doing to increase engagement?
    I was using book cover A vs book cover B, and how we can make it better. We announced when our book was released and how long the 99c promo would go on. We sent out webpages to them where they could find other authors.

  2. How often are you currently emailing?

    About once a month but only since June

    What sorts of things are you doing to increase engagement?

    I am talking about historical background of the latest book. I plan to ask questions about some of the details of the current novel. One problem people have with the Anglo Saxons in hi9storical novels like mine are the nemes. Do I stick to historical accuracy and use names like Æthelred, Athelstan, Æthelflæd, Æthelfrith? ( yes they liked Æthel – it meant sort of royal so everyone wanted to use it). or do I change it? One book used Stan and Red etc instead. Another question I plan to ask is ideas for a title and maybe even views on cover designs eg show two alternatives and ask for a vote.

    1. I’ve read to put the link under the FB header. But, most of the authors either a) don’t mention newsletter anywhere or b) their newsletter info is buried in their About page. I saw one author page that had “Newsletter” as a tab on the left-hand index on FB (but their newsletter form link was broken!!)

      Here’s the only author who puts newsletter sign-up on the page (that I could find easily):

      Even the marketing “gurus” I follow don’t have links to their newsletters!

      Tammi – shouldn’t we link to our newsletter EVERYWHERE?

  3. How often are you currently emailing?
    At present, my clients are emailing every two months or so. I’m working with them to increase it at least once a month. Some are resistant but others are more open to once a week. The problem right now is that they only generate the content – and I usually have to do heavy editing to make it more personable and engaging or I have to re-write it. I also build all the visual elements/graphics in Canva – I’ve created templates for them with headers but if we do a giveaway or promote something then I also have to do graphics, which takes time. The graphics part is fine – but I want them to do the content – I have to keep working with them on brainstorming ideas. I have no problem coming up with stuff to write about. If I had my own newsletter it would be a breeze LOL. But for my authors – it’s a bit more of a challenge – I need to poke and prod them and give them ideas – to me it’s obvious – but I’m working on explaining to them that their lives are important to their readers – i.e. their travels, conferences, funny things that happen.

    What sorts of things are you doing to increase engagement?
    Some, I mentioned above – but I am meeting with each of my clients to come up with an approach that suits their personalities and their writing. For example – Belle Ami is a gourmet cook and her books always have lots of good food in them LOL. So I have suggested to her – many times! that she craft recipes for the meals in her books – and even make short cooking videos and send them out to her readers- like a mini-cooking show 🙂 She has a cute Chihuahua named Giorgio – who is always with her – who would make a funny side-kick in the videos. 🙂

    We also do giveaways and contests – but we’ve found that amazon gift cards are kind of blah – so we’re starting to do giveaways that connect with something in the book – i.e. if a heroine wears a red pashmina scarf in a scene then we give away red pashmina’s scarves as a giveaway – we’ve found much more engagement that way. 🙂

  4. This is all theoretical as I don’t have a newsletter yet, but the goal is going to be once a week. I want to get a few newsletters or newsletter templates written before I decide on weekly or twice a month.

    What are you doing to increase engagement?

    We talked about this in our one on one but I am going to offer a weekly tip for working remotely. I also plan on offering a roundup of interesting articles for people who want to see what other folks are writing about remote work and management. I read a lot on the subject and I’d love to share some of the gems I find. I also thought I could share behind the scenes stories about working from home while also parenting small children. I thought a ‘current obsessions’ section might be fun—stuff I like that gives an insight into who I am. I’ll also ask questions. Basically I’m in the ‘throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks’ zone right now!

  5. How often are you currently emailing?
    I aim for once a month, but sometimes it can be as long as six weeks between mails. I need to become more regular.

    What sorts of things are you doing to increase engagement?
    I ask a lot of questions about where I should take my characters in future books (e.g. should I let the main couple from the first book retire quietly to build a family or should I rattle their ants’ nest with a stick). I also send irregular shorts backstories that are ML-only, and I ask subscribers who they want to hear about next.

  6. How often are you currently emailing? My aim is to email once a month, but I haven’t actually emailed since the beginning of February. The longer I leave it the harder it is to do, so I will basically be starting from scratch again trying to engage people. I don’t even know how to start again and feel daunted.

    What sorts of things are you doing to increase engagement? In the past I’ve run contests, which seem to get the most engagement. I’ve also had some success asking for book recommendations. I feel like I need to ask better questions, but I don’t know what about.

  7. How often are you currently emailing?
    Daily (General) 5 Days/Wk (Low Carb) 3 Days/Wk AF/EPC
    What sorts of things are you doing to increase engagement?
    The recipes themselves are doing most of the work. However, I recently added a mystery link that many of my subs seem to really like and that has increased clicks. Additionally, instead of always putting the recipe name in the subject line, I have started describing it (or painting a vision for them) and they have to open to see the recipe I am referring to. For strong recipes, I think titles work better for engagement, however, for recipes that do not typically get a lot of attention from face value, this tactic seems to really work. I am just struggling with keeping it fresh.

  8. How often are you currently emailing?
    Once a month, pretty reliably.

    What sorts of things are you doing to increase engagement?
    Nothing. Learning about that is why I’m taking this course.

  9. How often are you currently emailing?

    Through February, I sent out monthly emails. Just newsy little updates that always included a recommendation for another author’s book. An emergency appendectomy and a slow recovery threw me off schedule, and I didn’t send out another email until June. For now, I’ve put my newsletter on hiatus while I transfer everything over from MailChimp to MailerLite. I’ll pick up with a new NewsletterNinja format 🙂 that will include recipes from my grandmother’s collection in September.

    What sorts of things are you doing to increase engagement?

    Since I won’t have a new book out until April of 2020, it’s all about giving to my subscribers between now and then. And, of course, building some excitement for the first-in-series book for Hallmark Publishing. 🙂 Not sure exactly what I’ll be changing in the new format but I’ll definitely be including a recipe each month, plus recommending this month’s Hallmark release. I’ll pick up my usual once-a-month emails beginning in September.

  10. How often are you currently emailing?
    I plan on emailing twice a week. I was wondering what the heck I could possibly talk about but a light bulb went off when I read Tameri’s response, so I think I have at lest a starting point now.

    What sorts of things are you doing to increase engagement?
    I write nonfiction, so my case is a little different than most here, but I have to assume that people are on the list because they enjoyed the books, so they like to read about traveling, tavel/hope to travel themselves, enjoy reading about the experiences of others’ travels, and/or like to read about places in the world. Therefore, to increase engagement, I should be writing about these things in the newsletter. I think I will go with a bi-monthly newsletter, with one having a short piece about someone or someplace mentioned in one of my books, or a little more about one person, event or place from one of the books. The other would be news about upcoming books, writing about my plans for a trip in such a way as to evoke interest, or why I would like to go to/return to a certain place.

    As far as questions go, I’m not sure at this point. This is something that won’t come naturally to me, so I’ll have to stumble my way through this, at least at the beginning.

    On of the benefits of writing memoir/journal nonfiction is that there are plenty of tidbits that didn’t make the final cut. I have also picked up a lot of good and bad travel practices, both from reading and traveling myself. I have a blog set up and and can populate a couple times a week with short items, and then link to them in the newsletters (or are multiple links in a newsletter not a good idea?)

    1. Tom – I replied to your question to me above, but wanted to pop on here to say, those ‘excerpts’ of your travels would make AWESOME coookies. Like, stories of what went wrong are my jam! Did a monkey steal your wallet? Did a giraffe snaffle your crisps? I’d love all of that ‘behind the scenes’ stuff. And, it makes your readers feel special that they got the scoop and no on else did. <3

      Also, your questions can be: Where would you like to travel? If money was no object, where is your dream vacation and why? What's your favorite mode of transportation? Have you ever ridden a camel? Would you want to? 😛 Where as the place you vacationed that you always recommend or rave about to your friends? Do you keep a travel journal? Is it lined or blank so you can draw images of what you see? Do you take a fancy camera with you traveling? Have you ever lost your phone/wallet/camera on a trip? How did that happen? Have you ever had to go to your embassy while traveling?

      Stuff like that. Ask questions that can then lead to more newsletters. Like, the embassy one – if someone sends you a 'oh my god, I thought I was going to die' email, you can make up a newsletter of what do do if you need to go to an embassy. Does that make sense? I'd have absolutely NO idea what to do if I lost my wallet! That's really useful information.

      Think of your newsletter as part entertainment, part travel helper, part interactive. If there's a story you get that's really intriguing, ask the sender if you can share it with your readers.

      1. Wow! That helps a LOT! Thanks. Those are great questions. I’ve already thought of several riffs on your suggestions.

        I’e come close to losing wallet and passport a couple times, but lucked out each time. I carry two hundred dollar bills and a third credit card (besides the two in my wallet) hidden in daypack or on my person. The worst would be loss of passport in conjunction with loss of money, especially in a less developed country. I emailed a photo of my drivers license and the front (picture) page of my passport to a yahoo account that I can open anywhere. It would at least save the time of identifying me and associating my photo with the passport numbers.

        Almost all my blunders and things-that-go-wrong are already in my books–they’re the most entertaining part 🙂 but most I can elaborate on. And I can give away write-ups of travel days from a book soon-to-be-published book, something that no one has seen yet.

        1. And now, going forward, you can plan for newsletter content.

          Oh! I meant to mention that Joanna Penn has a wonderful podcast for writers and covers both fiction and nonfiction, but even more exciting for you, she has a special travel podcast where she talks about her travels. I believe she blogs about it, too… I might be wrong on that. But definitely check out the travel podcast and maybe you can be on an episode!

          thecreativepenn.com is for writing and https://www.booksandtravel.page/ is for travel

          1. I also highly recommend Joanna Penn (I even got to meet her at the BookBaby Independent Author Conference in Philly).

            Tom – I love to travel and lived in England for 6.5 years (as well as 4 major US cities). So, your website sparked some ideas for me. I read a bit on your site and like your travel style. My husband and I are huge Rick Steves fans and we followed similar travel philosophy to what it looks like you have. (though transport to continental Europe was obviously a fraction of your costs – we frequently took our Prius via ferry or Chunnel).

            I would think mini-guides of some-sort would be good cookies. Maybe something like: A downloadable “Top Tips for Travel” or maybe Tips sheets for particular destinations?

            For your newsletter – maybe reviews of particular travel resources? Or, even interview other travelers and use in a newsletter? Invite readers to share their favorite travel pic (maybe post on your web or pick top 10 to share?? maybe not a feasible idea, just spitballing).

  11. How often are you currently emailing?
    Right now, it’s a month to 5 weeks, but my plan is every two weeks. The first of the month will be bookish news, book recs, all things bookish (including character interviews, special stuff just for subscribers, etc). The second newsletter will be travels/adventuring stuff, anything interesting in my life that’s not book related, recipes, fun stuff I think my readers will enjoy.
    What sorts of things are you doing to increase engagement?
    I ask questions. Lots of questions! Anything from ‘What kind of super hero are you?’ to “What kind of mythical animal would you like as a pet?” to “What’s your favorite pair of socks?” I try to tailor the questions to what I had on the email, but sometimes it’s completely random.

    I also have giveaways. Usually, it’ll be items I pick up on my travels, but sometimes they relate to a specific book. I thought about doing a giveaway each month, but that’s a big time commitment, so I’m making it a sporadic kind of thing. 🙂 I really enjoy doing the giveaways, but I don’t want to train my readers to EXPECT a giveaway from me each month, either. I want them on my list for news about the books and me, not just for the freebies. If they’re engaged, then I don’t mind doing the freebies, but I don’t want that to be the sole reason they’re there. Does that make sense?

    I know I could/should be doing more for engagement. That’s what I’m hoping to learn in this lesson! 🙂

      1. Hey Tom!

        I think you mean for my giveaways, right? Because I have a fun onboarding sequence I’m working on where I’ll giveaway three things.
        I’m still in the process of making up my ‘cookies’. The first will be a short novel (42k) that’s an origin story for one of my series, but ties into another series briefly.
        The second will be a set of printable bookmarks. I’m having my daughter do the artwork and they’ll be little coloring pages readers can print, color, glue, and laminate to make into a groovy, personalized bookmark.
        The third is going to be either a world map, a family tree, or a ‘behind the scenes’ super short (less than 5K, more like 2K) told from my dragon companion’s POV. That one will tie into the book I’ll publish next year called, The Misadventures of Lady Dazzleton. 😉

        For giveaways in the newsletter – those are trickier because it’s a physical item I have to mail. Right now I’m in the UK, so postage is crazy unless the winner is in the UK. 🙂
        I’m always searching for new things I think readers will love. I write about dragons, so anywhere I find a dragon that’s unusual or fun, I pick it up. Wales is awesome for this!
        Or, I bought a mermaid’s tail blanket from a shop around the corner for when my mermaid book comes out.
        I have Highlander stuff (mug, coaster, kilted yoga book) for when my dragon Highlander books come out.
        I have tons of fabric shopping bags with fun, quirky sayings on them.
        I buy TONS of London items since readers gobble those up.
        In Venice I bought some inexpensive Murano glass bracelets.
        Keychains and bookmarks are always gold. Again, I try to keep within my brand, so dragons, books, daggers, bow and arrow, soldiers, kings, queens, medieval, unicorns, etc.

        For YOU, trinkets from all the places you travel, postcards (omg, they LOVE postcards!), keychains, items that make traveling more fun (journals, pens/pencils, maps), hell – you could even giveaway used museum tickets or rail tickets for them to use as bookmarks.
        I’ve done all the above and readers love, love, love stuff like this.
        Pretty much, anything they sell at the ubiquitous vendors around town are fabulous. I try to stay away from glass like snow globes and chocolate. 🙂 Those don’t travel so well.

        I hope this helps!

        1. Hi Tameri, I was wondering if you were giving away physical items. I hadn’t thought of that. It brings up several questions, but I’ll have my answers shortly: I just subscribed to your newsletter! 🙂 (I already subscribed to Anna’s and was embarrassed looking at her sequence compared to what I had planned for myself 🙂

          The postcard thing might be a good idea for a promotion. “Enter to win a postcard mailed from every port of call on Tom’s 21-day 2020 Panama Canal Cruise. All entrants will receive a daily email with accounts of the voyage.” Something like that.

          1. I, erm, don’t have my sequence started yet! When I get it all sparkly and perfect, I’ll add you to the onboarding so you can see what I do! Right now, I literally just switched back to MailerLite and am trying to sort out tags/groups/segments and reaclimating myself with that service provider.

            Give me about a week and the onboarding should be good to go!

          2. Okay. I’ve been away for a couple of days and just this morning found your confirmation email and clicked it. But please add me to your onboarding or, if you prefer, give me a link to the signup and I’ll run through the whole sequence and road test it.

        2. I have questions, and maybe you don’t know yet. Or perhaps Tammi might chime in if she has a thought on them:

          On your origin novella you use for a cookie – is this something that would spoil the series or give something away if the subscriber hasn’t read the series? Are you writing it now, specifically tailored to be a cookie?

          If there are some sort of “spoilers” in the cookie – would you designate that cookie from a BoB link or source that has most likely read your book(s)? Does that make sense?

          Just trying to get my head around this all.

          1. Hey Jennifer!
            I’m writing it now specifically as an origin, and not to give anything away in the series. Since this will be a back of book cookie, they will have already read at least the first book, so the world will be familiar to them. The prequel is more of a ‘before they were famous’ kind of thing. As in, before the heroine shows up and everything goes to hell, this is what the characters were like.

            That’s one prequel.

            The other one is already written and is the origin of the curse that affects the hero of my fae series. It’s set thousands of years in the past, so no direct correlation to the current story, but in the same world. This book, Fae Cursed, can be used as a cold or warm cookie as it introduces readers to the world and links to both of my already published series’ through the mythos. I call it my multiverse. 🙂

          2. Thanks, Tameri.

            I love the “origin of the curse” idea, for exactly the reasons you stated.

            I was thinking of the origin story as a good BoB cookie, but I have no BoB yet. I guess if the origin story doesn’t need to be a mystery or surprise in the novel, it could still work as a general cookie. But, in my case, my origin stories are kinda spoiler-y.

            I’m toying with the idea of making two or more of my WiP series in the same world, so something that introduces the world and not characters could work for me, too.

    1. Hi Tameri,

      I love your website and logo. I like the ideas you have going, especially for the giveaways (as for your sporadic approach – I bet the fact that it isn’t regular and expected adds an element of “ooo-special treat!” – if that makes sense).

      Do you get a lot of response from your questions on your newsletters? I don’t think I’ve ever responded to a question on a newsletter, and I’m trying to come up with reasons why so I can do something different, lol.

      I’m going to wait a bit and sign up for your newsletter so I can see your onboarding (no pressure!).


      1. Too funny about my website and logo! I went to a conference over the weekend and we decided my logo needs to be more badass (I LOVE my teacup dragon! But she’s too cozy, not badass enough), and I need to update my website to not look so contemporary romance. :O

        The giveaways are super popular, and a huge pain in the butt for me, but I love them.

        I get a good response with my questions. I wouldn’t say huge, but about 75-100 replies per email. My list is 15k, so that doesn’t seem like a lot to me, but when I have to answer them all, it’s huge! 🙂 Remember, the reader is not you. They LOVE authors and want to ‘know’ us. Ask questions they want to answer, not questions that are interesting to you. Unless, of course, you’re sneaky like me and ask data driven questions like, ‘Do you prefer shifters or fae?’ so I can determine if I should write more shifters or fae books. Or, ‘What device do you read on and what app?’ to see if they read on their phone, tablet, Kindle, Apple Books, etc. Just remember to add a tag to their subscriber profile when they reply. Again, time consuming, but awesome for future promotions.

        Give me a few weeks for the onboarding. I’m on deadline and then going to WorldCon for a week from August 14-20. This month is going to be insane! I talk to Tammi tomorrow night and will know if my onboarding is good to go or needs to be tweaked, then I’ll get it set up as I have time over the next few weeks.

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