Yup, you read the title right. I signed up for the newsletter of hundreds of bestselling authors, hoping to improve my own email game. Unexpectedly, I discovered that a whopping 23% of email communications from those same authors landed in my spam folder!
Between March 1st and March 21st, I received 303 emails from the authors that I subscribed to. 71 of those emails tripped spam triggers and were hidden in my spam folder. Think about that for a second. These are bestselling authors who make thousands of sales every month; just imagine how much money they’re leaving on the table because their email didn’t land in their reader’s inbox!
This problem doesn’t only affect bestselling authors. Even first time authors and mid-list authors can benefit from ensuring that their emails end up somewhere that their readers pay attention to. In this post I’m going to cover some tips that authors can use to make sure their emails get into the inbox of their readers and avoid the spam folder.
Get a professional email address
If you’re sending emails from a free email provider such as gmail or hotmail, you’re already halfway to the spam bin. It’s absolutely critical that you get yourself a professional email address, such as [email protected]
Use an ESP (email service provider) with a good reputation
Unless you’re an expert (but then you wouldn’t be reading this), it’s time you signed up to use a service like Mailchimp to send your newsletters. They have teams dedicated to ensuring high email deliverability and making sure that the emails they send land in the inbox. They’ve also spent years building up the reputation of their email sending servers. This is not something you want to do on your own and it’s worth the cost.
The good ESPs will also do a number of other things to improve your deliverability, such as automatically generating a text version of your email, help with double opt-in, and more.
Set up DKIM and SPF
This one’s a bit more on the technical side, but most newsletter providers should have an article to walk you through it. For example, this is how you would set it up with Mailchimp.
Setting these up with your email service is essentially the modern day equivalent of a wax seal on a letter sent by a king. Services such as gmail look at this as a sign that the message is legitimate and has been sent by an authorized party.
Use double opt-in
When a reader signs up to your mailing list, you should require them to verify their email address. This is important for a couple reasons:
- Prevent fake email addresses from getting on your list. Email providers often keep old, unused email addresses around as a honeypot to determine who is sending spam and who isn’t. If you send email to one of those email addresses, they’re going to trust you less. Without double opt-in, anyone can add any email address to your newsletter and you’ll never know.
- Ensure people actually want to hear from you. If they opted in twice, there’s less chance that they’re going to report your emails as spam.
- Email services look at engagement. So, if you have a high open/click ratio, it’s more likely that you’re a ligitimate sender and people are interested in your emails.
Avoid huge, multi-author giveaways
I know, I know. It’s attractive to join a 50 author giveaway where you all get to harvest thousands of email addresses. So why wouldn’t you want to do it?
It’s quite simple actually. Most of those readers are signing up to win the Kindle or Amazon.com gift card and many probably don’t realize just how many emails they’re going to start receiving by entering. It’s not the best experience suddenly getting blasted by 50 random authors that you’ve never even heard of before. A lot of those readers are going to get tired of it pretty quickly and start hitting that spam button a lot more liberally, even if you’re following all of the rules.
On this note, do not purchase a reader list! You don’t know where those emails came from and as soon as you start sending to them, you run a huge risk. They didn’t give you permission to contact them, so don’t communicate with them.
Get your readers on multiple platforms
This isn’t necessarily a tip to avoid the spam folder, but it can help for those times that you do find your email trapped there. If readers are following you in the Booksprout app and on social media, they can still get your message!
Send regular communications
You should be contacting your readers at least once per month (preferably bi-weekly). If you don’t, readers are going to start forgetting about you. Then when it comes time to email them about your new book, they won’t remember asking to hear about books from you and your chances of getting reported for spam go up.
Make it easy for them to unsubscribe
Yup, it sucks to see people unsubscribe from your list. But, do you know what’s worse? Seeing a spam complaint after sending an email to your newsletter. If you make it easier for them to unsubscribe than it is to report you for spam, you’re going to get less complaints.
I recommend having a clear link at the bottom of your email where users can click to unsubscribe. Some people even make it easier and include a link at the top of their emails, but it’s fairly standard for the link to be at the bottom so that’s usually good enough.
Avoid trigger words
Most of the emails that ended up in the spam folder in this study had at least one trigger word in their title. Word like “FREE” (it still counts if you write it as “F*R*E*E”), using all capital letters in your title, using those cute little icons in your title and all over your email , or using a whole pile of !!!! are going to hurt your email’s chances.
Take a look in your own spam folder and analyze the titles there, then try to avoid doing that. I know that it’s exciting to release a new book or give your readers a freebie, but your emails are going to do a lot better if you try less hard to capture their attention.
Use a healthy text to image ratio
Some authors who wound up in the spam folder sent a single image as their entire email (aside from the maintenance links at the bottom). The image was covered in text that the reader was supposed to read to get information about her book. Rather than doing this, the author would have had more luck with a text based email.
A good rule to keep in mind is that you don’t want to look like you’re selling something. Pretend you’re sending an email to your mom. Would you go through all the effort to have a giant image created just to send to her?
Include less links
Many of the author communications that landed in my spam folder had a lot of links. Keep it simple, one or two links is all you need in most cases.
There are services out there that can allow you one Amazon link that will automatically direct users to the appropriate store based on their location. For example, I use a-fwd.com for Booksprout to have a single Amazon link.
Sending email is hard and should be taken extremely seriously. Once you end up in the spam folder, it’s difficult to dig your way out. It could take months or years to rebuild your sender reputation. No matter your current sender reputation, you should start acting on the above tips right away to ensure that your emails are landing in your reader’s inbox.