A Newsletter Takeaway from NINC

Newsletter Ninja by Tammi LaBrecqueAt the beginning of this month, I attended the Novelists Inc annual conference. It was held at St. Pete’s Beach, as usual – I shared some impressions when I got home, right here – and as usual, I had a huge To Do list as a result of the many excellent workshops.

I also had a couple of new books to read. The first (and the one I’m going to talk about today) is Newsletter Ninja by Tammi LaBrecque.

I really like this book. Not only do her strategies make sense, but implementing the suggested strategies shows quick results. What’s not to like about almost-instant gratification?

Here’s one thing I changed after reading this book and the difference it made. My newsletter list was already divided into three groups, separating readers by the sub-genre they prefer to read: Heroes & Bad Boys is for my Deborah Cooke contemporary romances; Dragons & Angels is for my Deborah Cooke paranormal romances; and Knights & Rogues is for my Claire Delacroix historical romances. There’s a sign-up form in each ebook, guiding readers to the appropriate group, and offering a free read in that sub-genre. There are also sign-ups on my various websites, guiding readers to the appropriate newsletter, and also on my Facebook pages. Before reading this book, my welcome message to my newsletter list was a single message. That all seemed very straightforward, but I’ve been mystified by one detail for a while.

Only 67-70% of new subscribers opened that welcome email message, which meant that roughly 30% of them never got the free book. Since this was supposedly the reason they signed up, I thought that was weird. Also, you can see that a lot of people who opened the message didn’t click to take the free book:

Deborah Cooke's newsletter onboarding open rates before Newsletter Ninja

So, there are two obvious questions here:
1. Why sign up for the newsletter to get a free book and not open the welcome message?
2. Why open the welcome message and not click on the link for the free book?

The answer to the first question might simply be that the email was in the spam folder and the recipient didn’t see it. I already had a note asking the subscriber to add my domain email to their email address book, which should white-list it. (That’s the email that sends the newsletter and white-listing it should keep messages from that address out of the recipient’s spam or Promotions folder.) But it still looked as if a significant percentage of people either weren’t receiving or weren’t finding that first message. I followed the advice of Newsletter Ninja and added steps to the welcome message, which should add verification to my email address and validate my sending to each recipient. I also asked two more times for them to white-list the address. It felt like nagging to me, but you’ll see that it worked.

All or Nothing, book #4 of the Coxwell series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeThe answer to the second book is more interesting to me. What if the reader didn’t want the free book? For Heroes & Bad Boys, I offer another contemporary romance, All or Nothing, as a free read. But after reading Newsletter Ninja, it occurred to me that a subscriber who had read one of the Flatiron Five books might not be interested in reading one of the Coxwell books. That’s two different series and while I think there are similarities, I’m definitely asking readers to invest in another world of characters with this offering – and if they’re subscribing to the newsletter after reading Simply Irresistible, book one in the series and a free read, then they want more F5, not something else.

Clearly, I should be tracking which book or series each new subscriber was reading when he or she clicked the newsletter link, and I should be offering bonus content that the reader will already find interesting.

This is a HUGE takeaway for me.

I implemented a whole bunch of changes simultaneously. In fact, in the screenshot above, I’d already made one – below, I’ll talk about the new sequence I created for readers of Simply Irresistible, but in the screenshot above, I’d already tagged the readers signing up everywhere else as “Organic”. Right now, I don’t have any other promotions running to build my contemporary romance subscriber list. All subscribers are organic i.e. they’re following newsletter sign-up links in my ebooks, on my websites or from my Facebook pages. Having them tagged that way is a great suggestion, as organic subscribers tend to be the most enthusiastic – I’ll be able to sort subscribers based on source in future.

Simply Irresistible, a contemporary romance by Deborah Cooke and first in the Flatiron Five series.Now, on to my experiment. As my test, I created a new onboarding sequence that was only for Simply Irresistible, my free first-in-series title and the funnel for new readers to find my books.

The sign-up link exists only in the book interior of Simply Irresistible. It offers a different free read, chosen specifically for the readers of that book. (In that story, the heroine, Amy, writes a book. There are excerpts from “her” book in the story, but they’re taken from an actual book, written by another author. We had this brilliant joint promotion plan, which didn’t work. :-/ She has since left publishing, so has graciously agreed to let me offer her book to my readers as a bonus read.) This sign-up feeds into a different group and a different (longer) onboarding sequence, as suggested in Newsletter Ninja.

Fear not – if you’re already signed up for my Heroes & Bad Boys newsletter, you’ll have the chance to download this content free in November. Existing subscribers won’t be missing a thing!

I was very excited to see immediate results – these are from the new onboarding sequence on its first day in action:

Deborah Cooke's newsletter open rate on new onboarding sequence, thanks to Newsletter NinjaReaders opened! They clicked! There is nothing to click on in the first email, so that 0% is to be expected. The link for the free read is in the second email, and we can see that everyone opened, then most people clicked. I used BookFunnel to deliver the free read – I created a unique link for people on this onboarding sequence – and saw there that 8 people had downloaded the book file when this screenshot was taken.

Triumph! There aren’t very many people in this stream yet, but I’m very encouraged by results from the first day of these changes being in place. Who doesn’t like instant gratification?

I’m going to create more new onboarding sequences, keyed to my free reads and funnel books first, then divide my lists again into smaller groups to offer something custom to readers of each series. This strategy probably means creating new bonus content, but I’ll offer it to my existing readers, too.

And then, there are changes to be made to the newsletters themselves…I have a lot of work to do, but am excited about it. With the results coming this quickly, I know that doing the work will vastly improve my open rates and my interaction with my readers over the next year.

I’ll post an update on using these strategies in six months. April 25. Be here.

I think Newsletter Ninja is a terrific book. If you run a newsletter and haven’t read it, maybe you should. 🙂

 

GDPR and Newsletter Links

The sign-up links for my newsletters have changed. In order to make them compliant with GDPR, I needed to add fields to the form, which couldn’t be updated on the old version. The links in my books will still work, and I’ll gradually update them as I publish updated versions of my books.

If you’ve signed up already, all is good. If not, here are the links!

Heroes & Bad Boys is the newsletter for my Deborah Cooke contemporary romances.

Dragons & Angels is the newsletter for my Deborah Cooke paranormal romances.

Knights & Rogues is the newsletter for my Claire Delacroix medieval romances.

 

 

Open the Newsletter!

This week, I sent the first round of newsletters from my new service provider. Please check that you received the applicable newsletters and open the newsletter! I’ll be drawing giveaways in January from subscribers who open the newsletter.

Dragons & Angels is the newsletter for my Deborah Cooke paranormal romances. The first of these was delivered December 26 at 5:15 PM your local time.  You’re subscribed to this list if you were already subscribed to the Dragons of Incendium newsletter, or if you had chosen Deborah’s Paranormal Romances in the Choose Your News option at the old newsletter service.

Heroes & Bad Boys is the newsletter for my Deborah Cooke contemporary romances. The first of these was delivered December 27 at 5:15 PM your local time.  You’re subscribed to this list if you were already subscribed to the Flatiron Five newsletter, or if you had chosen Deborah’s Contemporary Romances in the Choose Your News option at the old newsletter service.

Knights & Rogues is the newsletter for my Claire Delacroix medieval romances. The first of these was delivered December 28 at 5:15 PM your local time. You’re subscribed to this list if you were already subscribed to the one of the medieval romance series newsletters, or if you had chosen Claire’s Medieval Romances in the Choose Your News option at the old newsletter service.

If you had chosen All the news at the old newsletter service, you’ll be subscribed to all three lists. I couldn’t continue to offer everything in one email as those newsletters were getting too long to be delivered properly.

The newsletter is coming from a new email address, so you might find it in a different place (like your spam or promotions folder). Please add
deborah AT deborahcooke DOT com
to your email address book.

This concludes today’s public service announcement! 🙂

New Options

One Knight Enchanted, book #1 of the Sayerne series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixYou’ve probably noticed that I’ve started to make changes around here. Claire, for example, has a new website of her own and the detail pages for her books will be disappearing from this site by the end of the year. By then, the links in the end matter of my books will go to Claire’s new site. (BTW, if you have bookmarked any of Claire’s pages here, you might want to update the bookmark with the url of the new site. I’m going to guess that some of you will want to keep track of the Kindle Unlimited page, for example.)

There are a couple of reasons for this change. The first is that this site, while a useful and encyclopedic reference to all of my books, is becoming unwieldy. Those nested menus are a nightmare on a cellphone and they’ve gotten to the point that they’re even hard to navigate on a laptop. There are just too many books to display in one place. I think that a reader new to my work might not know where to start, which is fair enough, and also means that I want to streamline the presentation.

The second issue is that newsletter open rates drop as the subscriber list gets bigger. I noticed a real difference when my total number of subscribers went over 5,000 readers. It’s now more than twice that. The issue is that servers perceive batches of emails from the same source as spam and block them from delivery. Once a list gets over a certain threshold number of subscribers, there’s seems to be a critical mass of emails being delivered to any given server (gmail, yahoo, aol, etc.) So, the bigger the subscription base gets, the less effective the newsletter becomes as a means of reaching readers.

I’ve been gathering ideas for new strategies for a while and it’s time to start putting them into play. As much as I’d love to believe that every reader wants to read every book that I write, that’s just not the case. You probably have a favorite sub-genre or series. These changes will make it easier for you to keep track of new releases of your favorite type.

Wyvern's Outlaw, book #4 of the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke• I have multiple websites now and will have more in future. The idea is to give each series or subgenre its own virtual home. Claire has her own website now, and so do the Dragons of Incendium.

• on both this website and Claire’s new website, there is an updated booklist. The titles of the books that are the best place to start in any given series are in red and bold. When there are other points to enter that fictional world, the title of that book will be just in red. If you want to know where to start, go to the booklist and look for those red titles. Here’s the booklist on this site for Deborah Cooke books, and here’s the one for Claire’s books on the Delacroix site.

• On all three websites, the home page is called Next & New and displays the most recent release as well as the upcoming one. So, if you bookmark any of my sites and visit them at intervals, you’ll see what’s new.

• This site hosts my main blog, of course, but I’ve added a blog to both Claire’s website and to the Dragons of Incendium site. I’ll blog on those sites about new releases in those respective worlds or series as well as about upcoming releases, once I have covers and buy links. You can subscribe to either or both of those blogs and receive an email when I create a post. Of course, if you follow the blog on this site, you’ll see all of my posts made here. Scroll down to the bottom of the blog page for the Follow link. Here’s the blog on Claire’s site, and here’s the blog on the Dragons of Incendium site.

• When you sign up for my main newsletter, Knights, Dragons & Heroes, you can choose your news. Selecting either my contemporary romances, my paranormal romances, my historical romances or all of my books means that you’ll get a newsletter each month tailored to tell you what you most want to know. You can change these preferences any time by scrolling down to the very bottom of the newsletter and choosing Update My Preferences.

Some Guys Have All the Luck, #4 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke• In addition to my main newsletter, I also have series-specific newsletters. When you join these newsletters, you’ll receive a sequence of messages bringing you up to date on the series so far. After that, you’ll get a new message when there’s a new title up for pre-order and another when it publishes. These lists are maintained separately from my main newsletter list: you can belong to as many or as few as you like. The existing series-specific newsletters are:

Flatiron Five

The Dragons of Incendium

The Brides of Inverfyre
(This one hasn’t actually launched yet. The first message will go out when The Mercenary’s Bride comes out of the boxed set, The Nutcracker Reimagined, and is available for purchase on its own. You can sign up now if you don’t want to miss that.)

The Mercenary's Bride, book #1 of the Brides of Inverfyre series of medieval Scottish romances by Claire Delacroix• There’s also a Yahoo list which is a New Release Alert. When you sign up for this, you receive a single email when I publish a new title. It includes buy links for all the portals, as well as the cover copy and the cover itself.

I’m going to be adding some new options to my newsletter list soon, too, in order to ensure that you get the news you most want to know. There are some amazing new ways to tailor information to subscribers and I want to try them out. Stay tuned for more updates!

Newsletter Series Lists

I’ve recently been exploring automated email sequences. This means that when you do something, my newsletter service automatically does something in response.

Subscribe4If, for example, you subscribe to my Knights, Dragons & Heroes monthly newsletter today, you’ll receive a sequence of four emails introducing you to me and my books. They’re spaced out, so you get one a week, and each one has a featured topic. You’ll be pointed in the direction of free reads, and my various series will be explained. You’ll also learn in the sequence about the free resources available to you (like family trees) and where to find me on social media. Finally, you’ll receive special offers to buy books directly from me in my online store. I think this is pretty nifty. Once it’s set up, the sequence launches each time (and any time) someone new subscribes to my monthly newsletter. (If you haven’t done that yet, you can subscribe right here and see this sequence for yourself!)

Once this was set up (in October), I started to think about how else I could use this feature. One of the challenging things for me is staying on top of all the things I want to read. I thought it might be useful to you to hear specifically about the series you’re following, instead of looking for updates on those books in my monthly newsletter. So, I started some subsidiary lists, each one featuring a single series.

These lists are separate from my monthly mailing list. You can belong to any combination of the lists—all of them, one of them, some of them—whatever works best for you. Not only will a new message be delivered to you when there’s a new release in the series, but you’ll get discount codes for shopping in my online store and buying directly from me.

Originally, these were set up through my online store: anyone who downloaded a sample or bought a book directly from me was added to the list. Since you might want to subscribe to one of these lists without buying a book directly from me in my online store, I’m adding sign-up links. I’d suggest that you try one first, instead of subscribing to them all, just to see if you like it.

Wyvern's Mate, book #1 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeThe first automated series list I set up was for the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances. If you download a sample or buy any of the books from me in my online store, you’re added to this list. It’s a growing sequence, in that each time a new title in the series is released, a new message is added to the sequence. Right now, there are three messages—one about Wyvern’s Mate and Nero’s Dream, one about Wyvern’s Prince and Arista’s Legacy, and one about Wyvern’s Warrior. The next message will be added when Kraw’s Secret is available.

Subscribe to the Dragons of Incendium series list.

Addicted to Love, a contemporary romance by Deborah CookeMy second list was set up for Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances and romantic comedies. This one has only one message right now, because only the first book (Simply Irresistible) has been published. There will be another message added when Addicted to Love is available for pre-order.

Subscribe to the Flatiron Five series list.

These two series are in progress, so once you’ve received the messages about all the books currently available, you’ll be in a waiting mode for the next release and the next message.

What about completed series? Recently, I set up a single-message campaign, which is being delivered to anyone who downloaded or bought any of the Champions of St. Euphemia books in my online store. I wanted to make sure that no one who is already reading the series missed the upcoming publication of The Crusader’s Vow. I thought this was a pretty nifty way to remind people that the series will soon be complete.

Now, I’m planning dedicated series newsletters for series that are complete, with all titles available.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the first one of those, a new newsletter for my historical romances which you can join right away.

 

This ‘n That

It’s been quiet on the blog this week, because I’ve had a deluge of things that need doing – when they’re things other than writing, we might as well call them this ‘n that. Once upon a time, there were never very many of these things landing on my desk, but now that I’m also my publisher, they seem to be breeding like the bunnies who lurk under my hydrangea bush. There are always more!

What kind of things qualify as this ‘n that?

• This week, there have been covers. Covers are pretty exciting to me, more exciting than most this ‘n that. I have covers for a new medieval trilogy to show you and also more Dragons of Incendium covers. Newsletter subscribers get to see them first, so you might want to subscribe. 🙂

The Crusader's Handfast, #5 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix• Covers mean pre-orders. I’ve been setting up a number of them at various portals – look! There’s The Crusader’s Handfast at Amazon live this morning! – which means a lot of uploading and processing. That means adding new links to the website, too.

• Covers also mean formatting. I’ve been sending book files and cover files and metadata to my formatter, and she’s been sending book files back to me.

• Covers also mean setting up interior files for print books. I used to be a typesetter, so I enjoy this flavor of this ‘n that.

• Covers also mean new swag! Yay! I ordered some new postcards and bookmarks this week, and you’ll be able to see them first in my August newsletter. (I hope they arrive by then.)

• New covers also mean new banners for the site, the newsletter and the Facebook pages. I should update some of the other social media banners, too.

Wyvern's Mate, book #1 of the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke, in audio• Audio! The audio edition of Wyvern’s Mate is available for pre-order for September 13 delivery. I had to think about the short stories and what to do with them. We’re going to keep it simple and record them individually. Nero’s Dream will go into audio production at the same time as Wyvern’s Prince, probably later this month.

• I like to hang charms on bookmarks for special occasions and had no inventory. I caught up on the Flatiron Five bookmarks and the Champions of Saint Euphemia ones, before the new ones arrive.

Spellbound, a Regency romance anthology by Claire Delacroix, Jane Charles and Claudia Dain• Then there have been edits, which technically are writing, but tend to feel like this ‘n that. I’ve finished my edits on Something Wicked This Way Comes, my contribution to the Spellbound anthology. I’ll give you some sneak peeks of that over the next few weeks. (You know what I’m going to say – newsletter subscribers will see more first. You might want to subscribe!)

• We’ve been updating digital book files with new end matter and front matter, as well as fixing some typos. The Jewels of Kinfairlie new editions went out with the new covers. The time travel romances have been updated in their print editions and the digital ones are half-done. (I’ll tell you when the new files are all uploaded.) And we’ve started on The Coxwell Series. The books need their table of contents moved to the front for Amazon now, and the end matter hasn’t been updated for two years. It’s also a good opportunity to change the covers, if I have plans to do that. I’m very happy with the new covers for The Jewels of Kinfairlie: The Prometheus Project will be getting new covers, too.

• I’ve been working on the newsletter, adding bits and pieces as I think of them. My VA Chelle is on vacation for part of this month, so I’m doing most of the newsletter. I’m always sure I’ll forget something! (This is going to be a long newsletter. Have you subscribed yet? LOL.)

• There’s a book sale coming up later this month, which means arranging for price changes to happen in time, and also booking some promotion to spread the news about the sale.

The Crusader's Vow by Claire Delacroix, book #4 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series of medieval romances.• And then there’s writing. I’m working on Wyvern’s Prince and having a wonderful time with Gemma and her unexpected ally. Next up, I have to finish The Crusader’s Vow. (Back to Scotland for the big finish of the Champions of St. Euphemia. Yay!)

Phew! It’s going to be a busy fall, but a fun one.

• I also made a spreadsheet for myself of all the upcoming releases and updates to current book files. There are a lot of things in the works that I can’t tell you about yet – but the plan takes me through 2019 at this same kind of hectic pace.

Stay tuned. Things are starting to get interesting. 🙂

New Release Alert

I’ve been thinking (too much) about newsletters lately. As I get busier, I tend to prefer newsletters that get right to the point. Although I already have a monthly newsletter, which always ends up full of content and longer than I anticipated it would be, it seemed possible that some of you might like something shorter and sweeter.

So, today, I’ve set up a new Yahoo group called Deborah’s New Releases. If you subscribe to this Yahoo list, you’ll get an email on the on-sale date of any new book. It’ll include the cover, the description, the series information and the buy links, and you’ll only get it the once.

You can subscribe to either the monthly newsletter list or the new release alert, or you can subscribe to both of them.

The sign-up for my monthly newsletter sign-up is here.

The sign-up for my new release alert is here.

New Perk for Newsletter Subscribers

I’m going to add a free read to my monthly newsletter, starting with the April edition.

I tried this before, but wasn’t happy with the mechanism of delivering the content to you. Now, my newsletter provider has a nifty way to do it, so we’ll give it a try.

What will the free read be? Well, it’ll vary each month. It might be a story that’s already available but you may not have read. It might be a first peek at something new. It might be a serialization. It might be dragons. It might be knights. It might be something else. 🙂 I’ll try some different options and see what subscribers like best. The free read will be available each month in EPUB or MOBI format.

If you haven’t learned to sideload content onto your e-reader, you can practice with the free reads in my online store.

Have you subscribed to my newsletter yet? Maybe it’s time! Here’s the link.