Category Archives: Marketing

Understanding Email Bounce Rate

A third important metric in email marketing is bounce rate. (The first two measurements are open rate and click-through rate.) The bounce rate is the percentage of email messages that bounce back, meaning that they’re not delivered.

Understanding Email Bounce RateA message can bounce for a number of reasons, including it being blocked at some point along its delivery path, the recipient’s email box being full, the email server being down, an unexpected glitch, or a non-working email address. There are many other possible causes as well. Sometimes an email message may bounce back for no apparent reason.

There are two types of bounces: a hard bounce and a soft bounce.

A hard bounce results from a major problem, such as the email address not existing, the domain name not existing, or the recipient’s email server completely blocking the message. For a hard bounce, the problem is deemed to be permanent – though sometimes that may not be the case.

A soft bounce is a less severe problem, and it is likely temporary. Reasons for a soft bounce include the recipient’s mailbox being full, their email server is down, or the message is too large.

All email marketing platforms track bounce rates. For some that’s all they do, and the list owner must decide which addresses to remove and which to keep. Failure to properly remove bounced email addresses results in a drop in the overall quality of the email list, which increases the likelihood of other email messages not being delivered.

Other platforms remove bounces automatically, deleting hard bounces immediately and tracking soft bounces to see if the bounce is a one-time issue or a reoccurring problem. Then it acts accordingly.

It’s important to understand how email marketing platform tracks and treats bounces. The more bounces, the fewer people who see our messages and the greater the chance that certain email providers will block all of our messages to their customers. Bouncing is bad for the individual subscriber and the entire list.

Lower bounce rates means that more messages get through and are indicative of good email mailing list practices. Good bounce rates are in the low single digits, preferably 2 percent or lower.

How does your email marketing program handle bounces? What is your bounce rate? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!



When is Email Click-through Rate Important?

Earlier this year, I blogged about email open rates. Once an email message is opened, another important metric is the “click-through rate.” The click-through rate is the percent of opened messages where the reader clicks on a link in the email message.

Depending on the type of email message, the click-through rate can be critically important or not at all meaningful. For example, if the goal of the message is to get the recipient to respond by clicking on a link, then the click through rate is of paramount importance. However, if the email message is self-contained, presenting all the needed information without needing to take action, then who cares about click-through rate?

Some of the email messages I send out include all the information within the message. Any link a reader clicks on, such as to go to my website, is secondary to them reading the message. Other emails that I send out contain essential links. I am notifying them that information is available, but the recipient needs to click on a link to read it. In this case, click-through rate means a great deal. A third option is in between, with some information included and additional information only a click away.

However, if an email message is a marketing piece, then the call to action is to click on a link. This link will take the person to a landing page where they can request more information, signup for a course, or buy a book. In this case, the click-through rate is critical. It measures the success of the email pitch. A low click-through rate automatically means poor results from the campaign.

If you are using email to market your book, track the click-through rate. Tweak your message to maximize your click-through rate. If your email marketing program allows for split testing, use it. Higher click-through rates should equate to higher books sales. Isn’t that the goal?

Do you use email marketing to let your audience know about your book? What are your click-through rates? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

What Email Open Rates Mean

One effective way to market our books is via email marketing, often in the form of a regular email newsletter. This, of course, assumes we have an email list, which is a different discussion for another time.

When we do email marketing, the email software we use, such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, or AWeber, will track open rates. Open rate is the percentage of opened email messages, compared to the number sent.

However, open rate tracking is not an exact science. Some messages can be counted as “opened” even though they were never actually read, while others were read in the preview mode but never counted as “opened.” (Generally, when the images in the email are downloaded, it counts as being opened, so people who don’t routinely download images and only read the text of the message, do not trip the “opened” counter. Sometimes I do that.)

Given these limitations, what is a good open rate? The open rate varies by industry, relevant to their audience’s interest in the sender’s content. Some groups enjoy high open rates around 25 percent, while other categories can be half of that. I can’t find an overall average open rate for all email messages, but given such large variations between different types, it wouldn’t be helpful anyway. One thing is certain: everyone wants his or her open rates to be higher.

Here are some ways to increase the open rate of our email newsletters:

  • Provide Valuable Content: When we provide good, useful content, people will anticipate our email messages and look forward to reading them. We need to give them value.
  • Meet Recipient Needs: We need to survey readers to find out what they like and don’t like about our email newsletter. Also, ask what else the might like to read from us, how often they want to hear from us, and how long our messages should be. Then give them what they want.
  • Connect With Readers: Our writing needs to be accessible; we need to let our personalities come through. We need to be honest and open; allow our vulnerabilities to show. If we are real, readers will connect with us.

If we provide value to meet the needs of readers in a way that connects with them, they will look forward to our newsletters and read them. Our open rate will increase and our audience engagement will soar.

If you have an email newsletter, what is a typical open rate? What do you do to engage readers? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Eight Advanced Book Marketing Ideas: Working with Publications

The goal in advertising is to get our name and book in front of readers. But advertising is expensive; it is a quick way to lose money if we advertise in the wrong place. However, when we find the right place to advertise – one where our audience hangs out and that provides a good return on our investment – we can do even more to maximize our paid coverage by following these eight tips.

In addition to running ads in carefully targeted publications and websites, we can take these additional steps to enhance the value of our advertising dollar:

  1. Press Releases: Submit press releases about our new books or any significant news about our brand or ourselves. Consider book signings, speaking gigs, website overhauls, updated covers, language translations, entering foreign markets, and so forth. Places where we run paid ads are prime candidates for our news and announcements. When an ad and a press release are in the same issue, we receive double exposure and re-enforce our message. If you are not sure how to submit a press release, look on their website or just ask.
  2. Articles: If the publication accepts articles, find out what they are looking for and submit content. Although this is not the place to promote our book or ourselves, we can generally include a brief mention in our bio. If we come across as credible or interesting, prospects will seek out our book.
  3. Whitepapers: If the publication posts white papers, be sure to submit one. We should write about what we know to present ourselves as a thought leader in our field. Though this applies mainly to nonfiction authors, with some creativity, fiction authors may find an angle that works.
  4. Promote Coverage: When we receive coverage of any kind, promote it; ask for reprints of significant coverage (there may be a charge). Link to these press releases, articles, and papers. Ask them to link back.
  5. Follow Blogs: Read the publication’s blogs. Make insightful comments and ask thoughtful questions.
  6. Events: If they print or post events, we need to submit ours. Do so as soon as possible as there is a long lead-time for print, often months.
  7. Videos and Photos: If they post videos or photos, find out how to submit them.
  8. Support Them: We need to do what we can to promote the publications in which we advertise. We have a mutually beneficial relationship with them, so we need to be supportive.

While not all of these options are available with every publication, look for these opportunities and pursue them whenever possible. Doing so will amplify our advertising investment and increase book sales.

Although these tips work best when we advertise in the publication or on their website, we can consider them even when we don’t.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Smart Book Marketing: Don’t Fall Victim to the Marketing Measurement Myth

As we consider ways to market our books, we need to be aware of the “marketing measurement myth.” This is an alarming trend with marketers, especially those with affection for the Internet. Their perspective is that if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t matter and isn’t worth pursuing.

Consider, for a moment, applying this bias to pursuing a personal relationship:

  • You can count the number of dates you go on (analogous to “page views”)
  • You can time the length of dates (“visitor engagement”)
  • You can track the number of second dates (“repeat visitors”)
  • But you can’t measure love (“loyal, dedicated readers”)

Pursuing a relationship based solely on what we can measure will result in disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment. Though we can quantify the process, we can’t guarantee meaningful or lasting results.

In the same way, promoting our books based on the metrics we can measure may produce a lot of activity but may not do as much in the way of sales and certainly not in cultivating fans for us and our books. It’s what we can’t measure that means the most, both for personal relationships and developing a loyal fan base of committed readers. We must invest our marketing efforts and dollars accordingly.

When it comes to smart marketing of our books, what we can’t measure is even more important than what we can.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Public Relations and Promoting Your Book

Book publishing is more than just writing and producing books; it is also about selling them. Selling books requires a host of skills, including marketing, promotion, and public relations. Yes, public relations – PR for short.

At its most basic level, public relations is managing the flow of information from an entity (a company, organization, or an individual) to the public. As in the case of authors, the goal of this flow of information is to increase awareness of a book, both published and soon to be published. The intent is to produce interest for the ultimate purpose of generating sales. In between awareness and sales, lies intermediary goals such as sparking dialogue, fueling a buzz, encouraging word-of-mouth promotion, and even the hope of the campaign going viral, all of which is publicity.

When people think of PR, they think of the time-honored press release. But a press release is just that: it’s the start; it’s not the end. There is also advertising, interviews, email marketing, influencing the influencers, networking, book signings, book tours, and so on.

Though selling books and PR is more the concern of the self-published author, it also comes into play with traditionally published books. Publishers expect authors to promote their books, and often the publisher’s PR department’s budget for the book allows little more than sending out a press release.

Here are some general articles about public relations. Though many are geared to business, the principles apply to individuals, including authors and their books. When considering these articles, remember: being an author is a business, your book is your product, and you are a brand.

While most authors will not master the art of public relations, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Your Nonfiction Book is the Ultimate Business Card

If you are a consultant, service provider, or business professional, having a book can become your best form of promotion. A book provides instant credibility, elevating you above the competition who has no book. It becomes a calling card, opening doors and providing opportunities you would otherwise miss.

Your book is the ultimate business card. Learn more from the article “Your Book as Your Business Card: Indie Book Publishing Provides Professionals the Edge.”

Of course, to realize the most from your book as a business card, it must be professional. Business cards run the gambit from homemade cards using your PC printer and perforated stock to four-color glossy works of art with professional graphics and quality printing. The difference is apparent, separating card-carrying market leaders from under-resourced wannabes. Though the homemade version is better than no card, it’s only a marginal improvement.

So, too, published books run the gambit, from homemade cover and self-edited to professionally designed graphics, quality editing, and elegant interior design that ooze competence. While the homegrown book is better than no book, it is only marginally so.

Whether it is a book or a business card, when someone sees it, do you want them to think “Oh no!” or “Oh wow?”

Is your nonfiction book your ultimate business card? Why or why not?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Is Your Website Responsive?

With more and more people viewing websites from mobile devices, it’s critical that our sites work well with smaller screens, that they are “responsive.” In simple terms, a responsive website is one that automatically resizes to fit the viewing area of the appliance accessing it.

In the past this meant making a separate version of each page for mobile screens, be it a smartphone, tablet, e-reader, and so forth. Now many website themes have this functionality built into them. If a theme isn’t “responsive,” then don’t use it.

Having a responsive website, one that is mobile friendly, is important for two reasons. First, we are near a point where the majority of sites are accessed not by a computer but by a portable device. Not having a responsive site hampers half our readers from having a usable experience.

The other key reason is that Google is reportedly rewarding responsive sites by placing them higher in search engine results. This means they are effectively penalizing sites that do not play well with mobile devices.

Although you could test your site with every size and type of mobile appliance to see if it is responsive, Google has provided an online tool to check for us. Just enter your web address (URL) and click “analyze.” It takes less than a minute.

If it says “mobile-friendly,” then you are all set. If it reports your site is “not mobile-friendly,” then find a responsive theme or hire a website developer to correct the problem.

Whether we are selling books or promoting something else, our websites are there for people to use. We don’t want to eliminate half the population because our site doesn’t work well with mobile devices.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Creating Your Elevator Pitch: Don’t Leave This to Chance

I hate asking new authors, “What’s your book about?”

They panic; they stammer; they ramble. Five minutes later, I’m still not sure. Telltale signs that communication is not occurring are phrases like, “Then in chapter two…” or “Oh, I forgot to mention…” or “I haven’t worked this part out yet.” When my eyes glaze over, they become flustered and utter the killer phrase: “It starts out kind of slow but really picks up around page 65.”

In recent posts, we talked about writing back cover copy and promotional copy for our books. A related topic, which I should have addressed first, is creating an elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is a concise and intriguing synopsis of our book. Imagine getting in an elevator and an agent or publisher asks, “What’s your book about?” Before the doors open, we need to have finished answering the question in such a compelling manner that the person wants to know more.

An elevator pitch must be short. Every word must count. We may only have twenty seconds, likely less. Our elevator pitches need to:

  • Grab their attention
  • Make our book stand out
  • Cause them to want more
  • Be memorable

It is usually only a couple sentences.

Prior to getting a book deal, our elevator pitch is the most important thing we will write. Yes, we must write it. Then we must memorize it. Finally we must deliver it flawlessly and with passion. The future of our book depends on it.

Here are elevator pitches for two memoir-style books of mine:

  • “My wife and I visited a different Christian church every Sunday for a year. 52 Churches shares what we learned on our journey.”
  • God, I Don’t Want to Go to Church shares my lifelong struggle with church attendance, while offering hope to the disenfranchised. The subtitle is “Seven Churches that Pushed Me Away and the God Who Wouldn’t Let Go.”

Now I just need to work on memorization and delivery.

Have you ever fumbled the question, “What is your book about?” Do you have elevator pitch?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Writing Promotional Copy For Your Book

In five steps to write back cover copy for your book, I acknowledged that most writers struggle producing compelling back cover copy. I also encouraged you to write two versions and to save unused copy, content you didn’t use, and your brainstorming session. Here’s why:

You also need to write promotional material for your book. Yes, if you’re going with a traditional publisher, they may do this for you, but you know your book better than they do and have the most at stake. At the least, you can offer them copy to tweak and be part of the process – or you may opt to do it yourself anyway. And if you’re self-publishing, you need to write this or pay someone else to.

We’ll need to have promotional copy for email marketing, social media posts, online book listings, and other advertising opportunities. The length of the copy depends on the medium, so create multiple versions of different lengths. While back cover copy varies from 150 to 300 words, promotional copy is shorter, usually 100 words or less. I advise four different lengths: 100 words, 75 words, 50 words, and 25 words.

Then, there’s one last item. Make a tweetable version of less than 140 characters, preferably fewer than 120, so followers can retweet it with their comment.

Starting with your back cover copy, try editing it down to fit these different lengths. Do this with both versions Sometimes back cover copy doesn’t scale nicely to shorter lengths. If this happens, return to versions you didn’t use or your brainstorming session. Often these will work nicely for short marketing blurbs even though they didn’t work for a longer back cover copy.

Ideally you should end up with a couple versions of each length; they may be similar in concept or completely different. The goal is that any time you, or someone else, wants promotional copy of a specific length, you have it ready. In some cases it may need tweaking for the particular application, in which case, make the edits and add the result to your cache of marketing blurbs.

Now you have created a great arsenal of book promotional material. Make sure you do this ahead of time, so you’re not rushed to meet a last minute request and provide them with less than ideal copy.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!