Building your author email list is one of the fundamentals of book marketing, but how can you grow it more effectively to sell more books? Tammi Labrecque explains in today's interview.
I've been listening to a fantastic audiobook this week, very useful if you want to get into audiobook narration. Check out Storyteller: How to be an Audiobook Narrator with Lorelei King and Ali Muirden
Today's show is sponsored by Reedsy, the curated marketplace for editors, cover designers, marketing professionals, design, websites and ghostwriting. Reedsy also has a free online book formatter, lists of book review bloggers and book promotion sites, and free training with everything from writing in specific genres, to publishing tips, Facebook & Amazon Ads, and much more. Check them out at www.TheCreativePenn.com/reedsy.
Tammi Labreque is an author, editor, and publisher. She writes fiction under a number of different pen names. And today, we're talking about her brilliant and super useful book, Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert.
- How can authors make emailing their readers fun?
- Why segregating lists matters
- Dealing with issues of privacy and what to share with your subscribers
- What is the best reader magnet?
- The elements to use when welcoming someone to your newsletter list (i.e., your onboarding sequence)
- Tips for newsletter frequency and content
- Thoughts on list size
- When to clean your list
You can find Tammi Labreque at NewsletterNinja.net and on Twitter @tammi_ninja
Transcript of Interview with Tammi Labreque
Joanna: Hey, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com. And today, I'm here with Tammi Labrecque. Hi, Tammi.
Tammi: Hi, Joanna.
Joanna: It's great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction.
Tammi is an author, editor, and publisher. She writes fiction under a number of different pen names. And today, we're talking about her brilliant and super useful book, “Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert,” which is just an amazing topic.
Tammi, before we get into that, tell us a bit more about you, and how you got into writing and publishing.
Tammi: I've always written. I'm one of those people who've written as long as I can remember. But that was back in the olden days. I'm in my 40s. So that was the '80s and the '90s when you did the whole query letter thing, and you tried to get an agent and blah, blah, blah.
I was published once way back, I had a short story published by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which is a real feather in my cup. At the time, I was very, very young, like, 20. But I was never was successful in getting like novel-length things published.
And then I got married, and I had kids, and you know whatever life happens. Around 2010, 2011, I had one of the early Kindles. So around like 2010, 2011, I started to understand what was going on with indie publishing. I started to see that people are actually really doing this, and I started following your podcast, the SPP, the various podcasts that people had.
I thought, “Mm-hmm. I might like to do that.” But it's hard to take the plunge. By that point, I was a single mom. I had divorced and I had a job, and it had health insurance and a retirement plan. So, fine.
But then in the fall of 2014, I lost that job, and so I had a choice. “Okay. I can get another crappy office job with health insurance and a retirement plan, or I can do this thing that I've kind of been thinking about doing but I hadn't made the plunge.”
I made the plunge. I put up a short story. That short story actually that had been published way back in the black and white days of the '90s.
I put that up on Amazon in November or December of 2014, published a romance novel in February, another in May, and by June, I was supporting us with my writing, which is not quite impressive as it sounds because I live in central Maine which is very inexpensive.
That's what got it all started and I picked up editing as a side hustle. There was a period in 2016 where really that was kind of more of a side hustle, 2016 wasn't a great year, but in 2017 my writing income started going back up, and it's been uphill ever since then.
And, of course, I had a brief period where I was employed by Sterling & Stone there from late 2016 to late 2017 when I left them to have more writing time, really.
And that was my first exposure to a really large-scale newsletter enterprise because, of course, when you're just one author you just got a little thing. But they had this whole huge scalable thing, and I really learned a lot doing that.
Joanna: That's fantastic. And it's interesting living in Maine because one of the things I think is a really good tip is if people's living cost are too high and they want to go full-time, it's actually moving somewhere cheaper.
Tammi: Yeah. It totally is.
Joanna: At the moment, you're writing on the different pen names, but what different genres are you writing? And how many pen names do you have? You don't need to tell us what they are, but just what are the different categories?
Tammi: I write romance, I write LitRPG. I am working on but not yet published in urban fantasy. Actually, I have two romance pen names, trying to think of them all, two romance pen names, LitRPG.
I did a reverse harem for a while but actually, I'm not doing that anymore. That was fun.
And I'm working on a thriller. That's my newest pen name, which is part of the reason…well, we'll talk about the course later, but I'm sort of a spoiler and winding the course down quite a bit and that's part of why, is because I need time for that pen name. So mostly it's my romance and my LitRPG that I write the most.
Joanna: Fantastic. We're going to get into the book now. We're going to cycle back to the pen names in a minute, but first of all, I open your book, and you're a very upbeat person which I love, and you're very jolly, and everything.
And that comes across in the book which is great because I think under anyone else's writing, it could have been quite dry but it's not dry. It's actually really upbeat.
I had to call you out and say, “Email can be fun.” And I was like, “What is she talking about? Email being fun?”
I've got to ask you how can we change our mindsets so email is fun? And why do authors have such an issue with email?
Tammi: I think that part of the reason that authors have an issue with email is that they're not doing it right, if we work under the assumption that this stuff I talk about in “Ninja” is like the right way. So let's work under that assumption.
I think that they don't know what to say, they're always selling, they wonder if maybe they wouldn't be better off running some advertising or writing.
We often are better off writing than messing around with any of the other stuff. And because they're not making it fun. For me, when I send out a newsletter, it's not a selling proposition for me. I'm not sending the newsletter wondering like, “Will I sell any books? Will I make any money? Is this worth my time?”
That is a question that you could ask, but I don't ask that question. When I email, I'm talking to people who are like me, and people who like me, which is great, about stuff that we have in common.
So how can that not be fun? If I'm talking to my LitRPG crowd about whatever gaming it is that I'm doing right now or if I'm like slagging off on Fallout 76, or whatever. If I'm talking to my romance people about whatever television show I'm watching that has all the feels because romance people love all the feels, like, that's fun. That's super, super fun for me.
And once you start to have a pretty engaged email list, then you know that you're going to get a lot of replies. I think that that's really motivating as well because you get to hear back from people, and that kind of feedback is always really invaluable.
Joanna: So a couple of questions out of that then, so back to the pen names. What about separating lists? Because I think this is a really major question for people. I have two main names and two lists for my fiction and non-fiction.
But then even within fiction, I have thrillers, I have crime, I have something that could be more supernatural. You have all these quite different things.
For people listening, do you recommend separating email lists even if people are writing under one name, for example?
Tammi: I do, actually, I tend to segregate quite a bit. I segregate by genre and even within genre. I have more than one romance name, I will separate them out based on that.
Readers are a lot more genre loyal even down to the level of being subgenre loyal than I thought they were before I started writing and marketing.
Because as a reader…and I think most authors are like this, I have always read everything since I was a kid. I would read whatever. I would read the back of the ketchup bottle if that was the only thing on the table.
So we tend to think, “Oh, people will follow me wherever.” And there are very few people that that is true about, but for the most part, I tend to separate them. There's technical reasons for it.
If you talk about whether you want the wrong sorts of books getting into your also boughts, how you want to feed the Amazon algorithm engine, that kind of thing.
But I also find that separating them helps because I don't want to be talking to people about things that they are potentially not interested in. That I think is a really quick way to get some disengagement.
If I were, for example, to send my billionaire romance people something that was paranormal, say, a lot of them are not interested. And so they may begin to open fewer of my emails or buy few of my books. And so I keep them pretty segregated.
That's just my way of doing it, but I think that it helps. And if you have, like your situation where you have fiction and non-fiction, you definitely want to separate it because I do know that for a while one of my romance pen names releases early, early last year, my class always knows my…I tend to talk about my pen names with my class because there's just a few of them.
For whatever reason, I reached this critical mass and one of my romance pen names first also bought on her romance, her most recent romance was David Gaughran's “Strangers to Superfans.” And so that was clearly a problem. And that book subsequently didn't sell very well, imagine that. So, yeah, I'm big on segregating.
Joanna: I am too. I definitely agree with you on that.
The other thing I think people are probably feeling already is you talk about you're emailing and you're saying, “Oh, these are the types of gaming things I'm doing. These are the types of TV shows.”
So it's this concept of sharing personal stuff that I think many people, in general, probably have an issue with. And maybe because we are reaching a point with social media and privacy, and I almost feel like that fear is coming back up again, this sort of how much can you share openly about your life on an email list?
Can you address that fear that people have and where is the line?
Tammi: I think that that is a very real thing. I always wind up with at least one person in every class that I haven't even seen because their camera's closed when we do our one-on-one conversations. There are people who are super private.
I also have students who send baby pictures, but they just literally do not care, they are an open book. And the people who are more private are often very concerned about that exact thing. They are like, “I don't want to tell people where I live. I don't want to tell them my real name. I don't want to tell them, you know, this, that, or the other.”
For me, I think it's really important to remember that you can be authentic with people and you can even share things that are personal if you want to call them that without ever revealing anything that you're not comfortable with. So I'll call her out.
Lucy Score is a former student of mine. She's a romance writer, a very successful romance writer and super engaging, very fun, very active Facebook group, very good email list. But if you would have really drilled down and say, “What do I know about Lucy? What do her readers know?”
They don't know where she lives. She doesn't post pictures of her husband, for example. She's very private about that. What you know about Lucy is the kind of movies she likes. You know that Lucy loves tacos, she's very big on tacos. It's a whole thing in her group.
So she shares these little bits about herself that enable people to identify with her without ever giving away anything that just feels like too much to her. And I think that you can definitely do that.
Telling somebody that you've been to see “Infinity War” doesn't really tell them a lot about you because everybody saw “Infinity War,” right? But you can talk to your readers about that, and if you write superheroes, or urban fantasy, or even science fiction, you've probably got a lot of overlap there in your audience.
And you guys can have a great conversation that enables you to identify with each other, and you still haven't given away anything that's too much for you.
Joanna: It's so funny though because I hear you saying that, and I know you're right because I have been doing this a while too. But it took me, I think, six years of writing before I shared openly that I like going to graveyards and cemeteries, and they are in pretty much all my books.
I go to graveyards for fun. It's a tourist thing, I'm a taphophile. And what's so funny is now people send me photos. When they travel, they go traveling and they go to graveyards, I get some graveyard pictures.
Now, some people listening, and they think that's creepy but those people who think that's cool, they are my people. But I was afraid of sharing that. And in a way, that kind of fits into the same category as you're saying.
In a way, it's about judgment, isn't it? It's kind of fear of judgment that you're giving away something that you care about even if it's not a picture of your kid.
Tammi: I definitely do think so, and I think that people will try kind of just instinctively to make their newsletters something that everyone will enjoy. And I would actually say that that's going to be the most boring newsletter that anybody has ever written.
So make your newsletters something that your tribe is going to be nuts about. Your email list does not have to consist of every person who has ever read one of your books or who might read one of your books, it needs to consist of the people who are like, “Joanna is so cool with that graveyard thing she has going on.” That's your tribe. Those are your people.
If somebody thinks that you're weird, or you're too chatty, or they don't want to hear about what movies you're seeing, or whatever it is about your newsletter that might turn them off, hey, they could follow you on BookBub, or they could follow on Amazon or whatever.
But that core set of people that's on your newsletter, they're what David Gaughran calls “super fans.” Those are the people who are going to buy every book you write on release day at full price, and they are your people. And I think you cultivate those people by being yourself and being super authentic.
Joanna: We've established some things there about what should go in the newsletter, but let's wind it back to the idea of the reader magnet which many people have talked about for many years. This issue of should you have a free book that you give away? Should you give away a whole load of books? But I think people are still confused about that.
What's the best reader magnet? And what if you're just starting out and you haven't got anything?
Tammi: I feel really strongly about this. I could go on at length, but I will try to hit just the high points.
I think that your reader magnet should be a piece of your writing, full stop. I really very firmly believe that; a book, a novella, a short story, I don't care. But I believe that it should be a piece of your writing, and a complete piece of your writing.
I'm really not a big fan of giving away the first three chapters of your book. So, a complete piece of your writing. I'm a really big believer that it should be something exclusive, something that can only be gotten on your newsletter list.
A lot of people like to give away something that is for sale on Amazon, and they feel like people will join the list because they would rather save the money. But interestingly, that doesn't actually play out when you actually try it.
Chris Fox, in particular, shared his numbers with me of how well his reader magnet got sign-ups before and after he put it up on Amazon, and the results were not surprising. Sign-ups went way down when someone actually buy it instead of joining.
So people having to hand over the email address to get that really makes a big difference. It's kind of cool to give away…I don't know the word I'm looking for, peripheral stuff, stuff that's not your writing. Mark Dawson had that, like, dossier on John Milton which I think is super, super cool, but he does also give away writing as well.
If you only have one book, I think the best thing you can do for yourself is to write a story to go along with it, a prequel. If you're writing something that has villains, people love a prequel that shows how the villain became the bad guy.
If you're writing paranormal romance, people love a prequel or a scene that's in the book told from the point of view of the hero instead of the heroine.
If you write contemporary romance, people love an extended epilogue, a marriage, a honeymoon, whatever. Christmas stories. People are nuts about holiday stories and Christmas in particular. I think I sell more Christmas stories than romance stories and then Valentine's stories and I'm a romance writer.
If you can just write, and it doesn't have to be long before, it could be 5000 words. It does not have to be a huge thing but something that takes place in the same world as…or about the same people as one of your books or series is kind of the perfect intersection of reader interest and time investment, so I recommend that very strongly.
A quick example, my daughter has actually just released her first book. I'm super proud of her. She's just released her first book which is an urban fantasy and her reader magnet is actually a little story that takes place during the course of the novel, but it really didn't fit in the novel.
So the characters have to go do a thing. Something happened and they're like, “Oh, we forgot about the thing.” And they run and they solve that problem, and that is like a side story sort of, and that's her reader magnet working like gangbusters.
The book is selling very well and we're getting a really steady stream of people because at the end of the book it says, “Do you want to find out what happened when they went to…?” They're going to pick up a zombie hamster at the vet. Long story. Do you wanna hear what happens when they went to get her hamster at the night vet?
And selling like crazy and then lots of people are signing up because when you get to the end of that story, if you liked that story, do you want to know what happened when is a no-brainer, a total no-brainer.
I think that the dovetailing of whatever series or book you're leading them from over to the newsletter, if those things intersect, I think that they're more likely to be a “yes.”
However, that said, it is also good if your reader magnet can bring in what you would call cold leads. And I know people who have more than one. I know people who write a reader magnet for each series, and then maybe they have one that just kind of stands alone because if you can read the reader magnet without having read your series, and it will interest you to read the series, then you could do cross-promotion with other people.
Those are really good list builders right now if you write romance and you ask five of your romance friends, “Hey, do you have a BookFunnel link for a reader magnet?” And you guys all just email about it, it's a great way to cross-pollinate your lists.
Joanna: Fantastic. You mentioned BookFunnel there, bookfunnel.com, we're not going go into any technical setup but we all use bookfunnel.com these days, don't we, for delivering our reader magnets.
Tell people the author name your daughter is writing under in case anyone wants the zombie hamster.
Tammi: She's gonna kill me. Don't go mess up her also bougts, guys, but if you do buy urban fantasy, her pen name is Genevra Black, and the book is called “Rune Awakening,” like a pun on rude awakening but it's about Norse mythology, so “Rune Awakening” is what it's called. And it's amazing, and there's a zombie hamster.
Joanna: If you like those kinds of books only, then go check that out. We're not messing up her also boughts here.
The other thing there I guess is non-fiction. I've done non-fiction for years, just anything useful. I have basically what is a book, my author blueprint, but it is, you know, still a PDF. After 10 years, it's been updated.
Non-fiction I think is much easier than fiction, but you've given some great examples there.
Tammi: With non-fiction, you can do so many things. You can do material that didn't make it into the book that ended up being an outtake or that you didn't know at the time of your non-fiction writing, that now you would add if you were to, say, do an update. You can do worksheets, you can do brainstorming sheets.
There are all kinds of adjunct materials. So basically, anything that's going to make your book more useful to the people who are ostensibly going to pick it up.
And then, of course, again, you want to think about cold leads in case somebody says, “You should check out this cool thing I got from Joanna Penn.”
If it stands alone and then leads into the rest of your stuff, then that's a perfect kind of two-way street.
Joanna: And what about first-time authors? I get this email question all the time, “I'm an author writing my first book. I've been told I need to build an email list.” So they haven't got anything at all and they're focusing their writing energy on writing that first book. So I generally say, “Hey, don't worry about it too much.”
Tammi: I do the same.
Joanna: You do. Okay.
Do you think people should even try?
Tammi: We did build Genevra's email list up just a little bit before the book came out because the story, while I think that it reads a little bit better if you know the story, the bulk of the story actually does not contain any of the main characters from the book because it's happening at this veterinarian. That doesn't sound very exciting but there's zombies.
So we did actually put that up. We ran a Facebook ad to it and got a bunch of sign-ups that way. I have a lot of friends, obviously, that are authors. And I had a bunch of urban fantasy authors share it with their audience as well. She was able, when she launched book 1, to launch it to a list of a couple hundred people instead of just launching it to nothing, which is, you know, infinitely better than nothing.
If you can come up with something short and you have the time to write it, I think it's well worth taking a couple of days to knock out something short, and just get a cover made up for it. It doesn't even have to be a particularly good cover, as I know from the hamster one you'll see.
Just get a cover made for it and throw that up on BookFunnel. And start collecting people because the sort of people who are interested in that thing are probably going to be interested in the book that goes along with it. So you will be collecting people that are kind of predisposed already to like whatever is coming after.
But that said, would I be better off writing is a really valid question, and if you're trying to write three books so you can get them all set up for rapid release, I would say, “Go ahead and write your three books, and then maybe think about the reader magnet after,” because you don't want to mess up your forward momentum.
You don't want to stop doing the thing that you're doing, that is working very hard towards your success to talk about marketing.
I think that writing is always the first thing that we do. It should always be the first thing we think about, and then we think about newsletters. I think about newsletters even before I open my ad dashboard. Some people have a different priority. That's fine.
But at some point, you do have to build it. I don't know anybody who's successful without one.
That's a straight up lie. T. S. Paul is an urban fantasy writer who does not have a newsletter.
Joanna: But he's a rapid writer.
Tammi: He's a very rapid writer and he does have a website which apparently gets a great deal of traffic. He's just got a different way of interacting with his readers, but he's the only one I know. Everybody else I know definitely credits their newsletter with success.
Joanna: Yes, me too. Absolutely.
So we've got our reader magnet going and then we're like, “Okay. Great. I've done that.” People do sign-up, they get the thing, but then what do I do? So what do we put? I have an autoresponder sequence or onboarding, some people call it onboarding.
What goes in that automatic sequence of emails after sign-up?
Tammi: What do I put in my onboarding? Obviously, the first thing that you're going to want is an introduction to yourself. You're going to deliver whatever it is that you promised them if you're bribing them onto the list. You deliver that.
You introduce yourself. So, here is who I am, here is what I write, here are the sorts of things you can expect from me.
I also like an email, a separate one maybe if you have several books. Before a long time, my steamy romance pen name, the billionaire one, she had two books, so she had a single onboarding email. I mean, she didn't have much to say. So I accomplished it all kind of in one email, Do the introductions. Talk to them about your catalog. “Here's the stuff that I write, and here's why I write it.”
When you're talking to them about your catalog, I think the important thing, especially in an onboarding sequence even more than in a campaign, is that you do not want to come off like you're pushing people to buy something.
This is an introduction, best foot forward. So you talk about your books with enthusiasm and, of course, if you mention the title, you make it a hotlink because you are trying to sell books.
But I never ever, ever say, you know, “You should buy this book. You should do whatever.” I say, “This is the book I wrote. Here is something cool about it, and next week I'll tell you about this other series that I write”. And so you walk them through your catalog in whatever way seems to make sense to you.
I am a fan of keeping onboarding sequence as somewhat short mostly because I want to get people into the list proper because they think I send really fun newsletters and it will be really engaging. But I do like onboarding to kind of weed people out.
My onboarding, for example, my romance pen name, she tends to send sort of long chatty emails, sassy best friend style emails, so that's what my onboarding sequence looks like. If I've got a person who's very no-nonsense, “I just want to know when you have a new book. I don't need any of this crap,” then they will show themselves out during the course of the onboarding sequence because they'll realize they don't like the emails that they're getting.
And that means that people who wind up on the list are already filtered, which I think is really smart. And I think that's the most important thing really that your onboarding does. It lets people know what they can expect from the list so that the people who don't belong there will unsubscribe during the automation portion, and that's fine.
When people unsubscribe from my list, this is my best ninja trick, when people unsubscribe from my list the page that they get and the follow-up email that they get has links to follow me on Amazon, and on BookBub. So if you just want to know when there's a new book, click one of these and you can go follow me there
I don't have any way to know because they don't tell me who's following me. My BookBub subscribers do tend to go up pretty steadily, so I think actually that's probably helping.
Like I said, the people who wind up on the list are primed. They are like, “Oh, she writes these long chatty emails, they are hilarious. I love them.”
Joanna: I love that because that tip was great. I need to go do that. So that was a good one. I'm interested.
Let's get into the actual newsletter. You said the word fun, fun newsletter, and writing newsletters.
What's in those regular updates that you do? How often do you send them? Any tips for that section?
Tammi: How often you send depends on how often you release. I really believe that your newsletter should probably give some kind of value. We need to talk about value in a second. It should probably give some kind of value more often than it asks people to do stuff.
I call it the give to ask ratio, which is a super clever thing to call it. And I think it's really important that it's always skewed in favor of the subscriber because nobody wants a friend who just keeps asking you for stuff, that's super obnoxious.
So in terms of how often you should send, often enough that every email is not a sales email. So if you're releasing once a month, probably want to email twice a month so that there's at least one email that doesn't say, “Go buy my book,” which is really important.
Because my ‘don't sell in your newsletter' rule is totally broken on release day. Of course, go buy my book because I just wrote it and it's awesome. So you should definitely send often enough that you're not always asking for something. If you release infrequently some people are only writing three or four books a year.
Joanna: Wait, wait, wait. Some people are only writing one book, or two books a year, or even one every couple of years.
Tammi: That's a good point. I hang out with a lot of overachievers, don't I?
Joanna: Yeah, you totally do.
Tammi: I totally do. I'm a four-books-a-year person, which is why none of those pen names are bestsellers. But I like a lot of different things, and that's just how it is.
If you can really focus, I know people that are releasing every couple of weeks, and that's crazy talk, but they're doing it. So they should probably email every week, but you should email every month regardless of how often you're releasing.
At least every month because there's a technological element where the receiving email providers like Gmail, or Hotmail, what they call your reputation, it sort of resets or falls back, we're not sure, after some period of time. After some period of time, again, we're not sure, but it seems to be about the one-month mark.
And so if you send very infrequently, like every three months, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, they don't have a chance to understand that you are a trusted sender for these people that are opening your emails.
What you want, of course, is to send frequently and have people open, and click, and reply to your various emails. Those are the things that signal, “Oh, this is a good sender.” And your open rates will be better as a result. So at least once a month.
As for what you say, it can vary, obviously, depending on what it is that you write, and what kind of list you have, what kind of people are on your list, and your comfort level, like we talked about. But you can talk about what you're reading is a huge one, which I'm pretty sure I stole straight from Nick Stephenson way back in the day.
I remember him saying that you should always ask in your emails what are they reading, and it will get them to reply. And I thought, “Yeah. We want to talk about books.” People are reading books. They like books. So I always talk about what I'm reading.
Twice a year J. D. Robb has a new book, that's Nora Roberts. I always post about my new J. D. Robb that I'm reading. If Lucy has a new book I tell people, “Lucy has a new book.” So that's a huge one. They are readers. That's definitely going to be something that you have in common.
So that's always a good go to, but also other media. What are you watching? What are you watching on TV? What are you watching for movies? If you're the sort who talks about your family or about travel or things like that, you can talk about those things.
You can share images from where you're going, pets. People are crazy about pets. I get more people coming through my class that are like, “I don't even like cats.” And I'm like, “It doesn't matter because you readers do I promise. They're are nuts about pets.”
My youngest daughter adopted a tarantula and I sent my romance list, not a picture because don't put a picture of a spider in an email, that's rude. But I sent them a link in the PS that said, “If you want to see my daughter's tarantula you can click on this link, and you will see this picture.”
I could not believe the number of people who clicked through to look at this horrible thing that she…because they are horrible. So they love it.
They don't even care what kind of pet. It's a bird, it's a bunny, it's a tarantula, they don't care. And, of course, stuff about your writing. That's the biggie.
I try to include something about what I'm working on in every email. So I snip it just a little bit of a scene that I wrote that I think had clever dialogue or was funny. So sneak peeks that are work in progress.
Cover reveals are always big, of course. The beginning of the year is a great time to say, “Here's what I'm going to do for the rest of the year. You can expect these books at this time.” A year-end roundup is nice, “Hey, here's what happened this year.”
That's also a good chance to sneak in all those links. So if anybody missed a book over the course of the year, they can go pick it up.
So, yeah, in that order. What are they reading, what are you writing, and then what other things do you have in common, I think are probably the things to talk about.
Joanna: That's fantastic. Really good list of stuff there. And I do share pictures of where I'm traveling, which is also in my book research. So, I can say, I went here and I'm thinking about a book about this. I always share what I'm reading, and this is on my fiction list. My non-fiction is kind of his useful stuff.
I send out a link to this interview in my newsletter to my non-fiction list, which is like, “This is useful, and this is a useful book, and a useful interview.” So I think non-fiction you can just be useful or inspirational and fiction is kind of entertaining.
I love to keep coming back to the fun aspect because what you're talking about is being a little bit more light-hearted about your email. Don't make it super serious all the time.
Tammi: No. Definitely not. And I think that if you free yourself from the shackles of saying, “Is this email going to sell me any books?”
If you stop trying to ROI on every email you send, then I think that you will be in a much better position. That puts you in a place where…like I said, you're talking to people who they like you, one can assume, because they are on your list.
And they are like you, they read the sorts of books you write, and probably so do you. And you can just have fun talking to them about stuff. I really think that freeing yourself from that wholesales attitude helps a lot though.
If you're looking at an email, and you're, “Okay. How do I slide the sale in? How do I get to pitch in there? I hope that at least 12 people clicked through because this took me 30 minutes to write.” That's no way to have any fun at all.
Joanna: And then another really common question, and we're almost out of time, so this is probably our last one, is how important is list size because everyone is like, “Oh, but I've got only three people on my list and it's okay for you because you've got a big list,” or whatever.
What are your thoughts on list size and also cleaning the list, which is kind of heartbreaking?
Tammi: It's always hurtful. I keep my list fairly small for reasons I'll talk about in just one second.
Some people are going to be like, “That's not small.” But it was only up to maybe about 7000, probably just shy of 7000 when the GDPR regulations came into effect, and a lot of people did some cleaning.
I did some cleaning because back in the early days of building that romance list I thought the providence to some of those emails might be a bit sketchy. I ran a couple of promotions that in retrospect I was like, “Oh, I'm not so sure.”
So I made everybody recertify and I lost literally 3500 people, just whack. They never opened the emails, they never clicked to stay, and I thought, “Oh, God.”
But my sales didn't go down, my replies didn't go down. What happened was my open rates went up because that's math, obviously.
So, ultimately, cleaning it out is the best thing you could for yourself, people get rid of the dead weight. I do talk about that in “Newsletter Ninja” only because you want to be careful not to scoop out people who might be opening, but the opens are not registering.
There is a section about that in the book which I think is really important. But, in general, you definitely want to scoop them out. I forgot your initial question. I jumped to the end instead of the beginning. List size?
Joanna: List size, yeah.
Tammi: Okay. How big your list is is not the most important metric. I say this, I think, in every podcast interview.
David Gaughran wrote a blog post once, and the title was, “The one with the biggest list wins.” And I was like, “Delete that,” because that's not true.
The one with the most engaged list wins. Now, obviously, there is a bottom level. If you've got 10 people on your list, they're not going to help you sell very many books, but those 10 people become 20 people and become 40 people.
So what you do is you nurture those 10 people, and you keep on list building. What you don't want to have is a list of 20,000 people, and only 1200 of them open. How is that useful to you? How is that helpful?
I never ask people, “How many people do you have on your list?” I say, “What are your open rates?” That to me is the most important. Who's looking at those emails? Because if you've got 2000 people but you've got an 85% open rate, that's way better than anybody who's got 20,000 people and I know that only 800 of them are going to open.
List size matters somewhat in that you have to have some sort of list but even once you get in to just having a few hundred people, you can deploy them really. You can segment the list into three sections and watch your sales spread over a few days instead of having one of those spikes that Amazon hates.
You can get those people to go do other things for you, “Come join my Facebook group. Go vote in this poll. Spread the word to your friends that this contest is going on,” something like that. You can really kind of exponentially multiply once you've got a couple hundred people to work with.
Joanna: We are out of time although I could talk to you forever about that. You make email just seem amazing. So I know people are going to find it interesting.
Tell us what else can people find in your book and also in your course.
Tammi: The book and the course have virtually the same material. It's actually super important to me that the book not be a sales card for the course. It was really important to me. So I put everything in there that I could.
I get some complaints occasionally because there are no samples. So I'll warn all of you ahead of time, there is nothing that you can cut and paste into your emails. You're going to have to write it all yourself, but other than that, everything I know is in there. This is the book “Newsletter Ninja.”
Joanna: It's a fantastic book really. Seriously, everyone needs this book.
Tammi: I'm so happy to hear that. So the book is on all retailers. It's wide. So you can get it at whatever retailer it is that you buy books on.
I push people to the book rather than to the course. I only do the course four times a year. I'm actually probably going to cut back to 2 times a year by 2020 because I have a new pen name I want, she needs writing time, so that's that.
So I steer people to the book because a lot of people they read the book, and they can implement that stuff themselves. They don't need the hand-holding. They really don't need to sit down with me one-on-one, but that's what the course is, essentially.
You get kind of the same material within the book, and then every week for four weeks we do a one-on-one video call, me and the students, each of the students. That's why I keep it to 10 because I got stuff to do. But it's awesome, and it really works out well.
I do critiques. There are onboardings that they have. I help them rewrite if they need to start from scratch, if that's where they are at which definitely happens. So it's a lot of fun.
But start with the book for sure. You can find it at newsletterninja.net, so that's pretty easy. And then if you read through it and you do need help, the course is also there. So you can go and find it there.
Joanna: Fantastic. And where can people find your main site and all your other books online?
Tammi: The only fiction that's published under my own name is a romance that everyone hates. I love it. Just so that you know, I think it's fantastic. The heroine is a little bit unlikable, apparently. You can read the reviews. So that's on my Amazon Author Central page.
You can also sign up to the mailing list for that name at tammilabrecque.com. But if you want to do the newsletter stuff, if you want to find out about that, you'll definitely just want to go to newsletterninja.net.
And I'm on Facebook under my own name, but mostly I just rant about politics. Well, I'm also kind of funny, but I do a lot of ranting about politics. So you may or may not wanna hit me up there.
Joanna: That is Americans right now, so that is just normal.
Tammi: Oh, yeah, we're all ranting. No matter what we think, we're all ranting in there.
Joanna: Exactly. It doesn't matter what side you are on, but anyway, not a political show. So thank you so much, Tammi, that was really brilliant. Yeah, I really appreciate your time.
Tammi: Thank you so much, Joanna. It was great to be here.