Seekerville: The Journey Continues | category: newsletters


Seekerville: The Journey Continues

Who's Your #1 Fan?

Who's Your #1 Fan?

For the last couple of months I’ve been focused on newsletters, not so much the content, but how to manage your subscribers as well as how to keep costs down with the your software service.

Today, let’s talk a bit about figuring out what makes someone engage with your newsletter and what keeps them engaged.

I have more thoughts on this and we’ll get to them next month, but today’s topic is going to be VERY narrow, maybe because the remnants of a summer cold has my ears stopped up and I have tunnel vision …. uh … hearing, but a nice, simple, detailed topic seems to fit the bill today.

Who's Your #1 Fan?
Reader "A"

I bought this little ebook a few months ago called Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque. It’s an interesting read and the more I dig into managing my own list, the more some of what she says in the book makes sense, like segments and tags, and autoresponders and all that stuff. I’m slowly learning, but trying not to become so focused on the nuts and bolts of my newsletter list that I forget the purpose of my newsletter.

Which brings me to Tammi’s mailing list philosophy. She says, “First, you are not selling what you think you are. Second, if all you’re using your list for is selling, you’re doing everything wrong.”

Okay, that makes sense. For those of us who’ve been around the marketing block a few times, we understand what she’s saying, but if not books, what are we selling?

Who's Your #1 Fan?
Reader "B"

Tammi declares that we are selling ourselves. But I’ll go one better. We’re selling relationships. Or, more accurately, we’re creating relationships.

Generally, people signed up for our newsletter either because they found us through a blog tour or giveaway, as a direct contact at a festival or event, or they read one of our books.

I think about those people that I’ve met at events and we had time to chat and get to know each other a bit, and they signed up for my newsletter. I feel really good about our relationship as an author and an engaged subscriber and reader.

One lady I met at a book fair several years ago stands out. In her 70s, petite, short permed hair, twinkling blue eyes, Margaret emails me almost every time a newsletter goes out. We’ve only met that once, but I’ve never forgotten her because SHE keeps he lines of communication open. Now, isn’t that cool?

Who's Your #1 Fan?
Reader "C"

Another one of my #1 fans is Clent. Clent and his wife had a booth across the way the first year I had a print book out. It was Claiming Mariah. I was so nervous selling my ONE book that year. I had a few minutes to spare once I got my booth set up, so I chatted with Clent and his wife Reba. Clint was there for moral support for his wife who was selling homemade soaps, lotion, jewelry, etc. About the time the festival got under way, Clent walked over and bought a copy of my book. Then he spent the rest of the day reading. And he’s been reading ever since. He always makes sure to seek me out and buy a copy of my latest novel. Clent’s a truck driver, if I’m not mistaken.

Then there’s Caroline (18) and her aunt Anitrel (40s)….

Margaret: Female. In her 70s, petite, owns a printing and frame shop.

Clent: Male. Early 60s. Truck driver.

Caroline: Female. 18. Just graduated high school. Wanted ALL my books for Christmas.

Anitrel. Female. Guessing she’s in her 40s, and refuses to share he copies with her niece and vice versa.

Who's Your #1 Fan?
Reader "D"

So back to Tammi’s advice in her book Newsletter Ninja. Tammi suggests creating the ideal subscriber and write to that person. She declares it works. How do you create a relationship with 2000 or 10,000 subscribers when they’re all SO different? I just listed four who I’ve met personally and on the surface none of them (other than the aunt and her niece) have much in common with each other. 

I’ll call my perfect subscriber Tammi (fitting, since the author of Newsletter Ninja called hers Pamela!). Tammi is 39 years old and is a school teacher in rural Tennessee. Her husband works for the electric company. He works a M-F shift, but is on call during storms and bad weather, so reading keeps her mind off the danger her husband is in while working during storms. Tammi reads historical romance, and she enjoys long weekends out of school, winter breaks and the long summer break so she can relax and read as much as she wants to.

This is such a fresh concept for me that I’m not sure I can really picture my fictitious Tammi when I’m putting together my newsletter, but I sure can picture Margaret, Clint, Caroline, and Anitrel. So that might work for me.

Who's Your #1 Fan?
Reader "E"

What about you? Do you have a newsletter subscriber or a #1 fan that you picture in your head when your writing or putting together your newsletter.

For fun, pick one or more of the people in today’s post and develop a reader/newsletter subscriber around them. Give them a name, age, occupation, family (or not), where they live. The whole works. 

Make them somebody who’d be YOUR #1 FAN.

And... celebrate with me! Love is a Puzzle is here! 

Originally part of Barbour's California Gold Rush Romance Collection, it's now been re-published as part of my Calico Trails Collection.

Who's Your #1 Fan?

Newsletters: Trim & Grow

by Pam Hillman

Last month I took a deep dive into managing your mailing list with the goal of archiving unsubscribed fans and subscribers who have rarely (if ever) opened one of your newsletters. Managing your list will increase your open rate as well as keep costs down if you’re to the point of paying for a newsletter service. You can review last month’s post here.

This month is where do you go from here?

This month’s post should be a good bit shorter… and well, last month’s would have been as well if I’d found out where to segment the 0% Open & 0% click rate before I did. Oh, well, live and learn.

So, you read last month’s post, took a day, or a week to clean up your list and then dusted off your hands, thinking your work was done. Not so fast. :)

Now that you’ve cleaned up your list, you need to stay on top of keeping it that way. It’s like your kitchen countertops. You can have your kitchen spotless, and thirty minutes later, a kid or your spouse will walk in, get a drink of water and leave the glass on the counter. By day’s end, there are 5 coffee cups, 10 glasses, 15 plates and 45 spoons and forks. Can I get an amen?

Do you ever participate in PR campaigns like Round Robins or Blog Hops? Maybe host a giveaway or your publisher does where readers sign up for your newsletter? Or even collect email addresses at book signings?

Go ahead and segment these email addresses when you add them to your list. You can be as broad or narrow as you like.

For instance, I’m signed up for a Christmas in July Blog Tour. Blog hoppers won’t sign up for my newsletter directly, but I’m supposed to get the list of all the visitors after the tour is over.

I plan to upload all those emails and either use the segment or tag feature to identify where they came from. Segment Organic signups, too. Most of these can be just by year.

Right now my biggest criteria is 0% Open & 0% Click Rate. But, remember, just because they have 0% Open/Click, don’t archive them just yet. How long have they been on your list? If they just signed up and you haven’t sent out a newsletter, then of course it’s 0%. As long as I have room on my list, I’ll keep those 0%’ers on there for 12 months at least.

Now, for a few stats on what’s happened since my big “clean up” started.

But before we dig in. Here’s a nice little tip. If your newsletter service provider offers a mobile App, download it. Even if you don’t want to use the App to create your newsletter, it’s a quick and easy way to keep up with what your latest campaign is doing.

At the end of April, I sent out a “Hello, do you still wanna be friends” email to all those 0%. It’s not necessary to know whether the email address is just a catch-all inbox (I have one of those), if the address is a bot/scammer, or if the subscriber just doesn’t have time and deletes the email. But it is important to know if they opened it.

That email only went to 809 subscribers and had a 12.42% open rate. My average for almost 10 years is 33%. But I wasn’t surprised. Remember, this is the group that never opens my newsletter. Some even unsubscribed at that point, and if they didn’t click, they were archived.

My April newsletter had a 30.7% open rate and a 2.2% click rate. May was 34.5% open and 3.5% clicks. I had just started the cleanup on the May newsletter. My June newsletter went out last week and has a 36.8% open rate, and a 3.1% click rate, so my average click rate is slowly creeping up. Hooray!

Opens are good, but clicks are better. And here’s a fun fact. Both my April and May newsletters included links to some .99cent sales, but the June newsletter didn’t have any sales at the time it went out, but my click rate is still nice and strong (at least for me). Historically, new releases, sales, and giveaways get the most clicks, but if you can build traction even when you don’t have those things going for you, then that’s a win-win.

Two things are at play here that have helped my open rate in the last 3 months:

1) About 350 subscribers who never open/click have been archived, so that means those who are left are the ones actively opening and clicking. Well, at least some of them.

2) I’ve started paying attention to what makes my readers engage and am playing to those strengths.

And, boy, it’s not always what you think!

Stay tuned for a post on that next month. Hopefully. :)

Oh, and if you want to see my June newsletter, click here.

A Deep Dive into Newsletter Subscribers

A Deep Dive into Newsletter Subscribers

by Pam Hillman

Let’s talk about newsletters. Specifically, newsletter subscribers.

And… as usual, at the last minute, I figured out how to find the 0% Open and 0% Click throughs, so this post, as well as my time spent whittling my list down, could have been a LOT shorter. But a hard lesson learned is one well learned. So if you're strapped for time, just scroll to the bottom.

We've all heard the following mantras: “More than anything else, grow your newsletter list”. Or “Your newsletter subscribers are GOLDEN”. “You have control of the email addresses entrusted to you by your fans, not Facebook, Twitter, etc.”

You get the drift. All of that is true and we jump through hoops to be part of promotions and giveaways to grow our mailing list. Nothing wrong with that.

And newsletter services took note. As your subscriber base grows, you’ll have to pay for an account. Nothing wrong with that, either. But what isn’t said most of the time is that it’s just as important (more so!) to manage your subscribers after you get them as it is/was to get them in the first place.

First, there is a ton of information online about what to do and not do with newsletters, how to manage subscribers, and which service providers are best for you. But that’s the problem. There is SO much information that I could never figure out what I needed to know and what I didn’t. So it was easier to just keep building my list. 500 subscribers. 2k. 3k. Wow! How exciting!

Not exactly.

A few years ago, I had to go to a paid plan, and it’s been costing me about $500 a year. So this month I finally took the time to really dig into my newsletter service and the fees I've been paying. I’m not sure I’m providing any new information for your toolbox, but it was new to me, so here goes…

I wish someone had told me in simple language how important it is to review my lists on a regular basis, because if I had, without a doubt, I wouldn’t have had to upgrade to a paid service plan during the last 3-4 years. You do the math. 4 years x $500. Gulp.

So, it is a good idea to figure out how your service (Mailchimp, Mailerlite, Constant Contact, etc.) works and manage it effectively… before you get to the stage that you’re forced to pay handsomely for the service.

A Deep Dive into Newsletter Subscribers

I have Mailchimp, so most of what I’m going to talk about is specific to that service provider, but (in general), it should apply to whatever service you’re using, depending on how many subscribers and email sends you’re allowed.

And, yes, I could switch from Mailchimp to a different provider, and I may at some point. But the bigger and more urgent problem was that I had a lot of contacts on my list who weren't engaged and were costing me money.

Things I wish I’d paid attention to for the last 10+ years:

  • Subscribed
  • Unsubscribed
  • Cleaned Email Addresses
  • Archived Email Addresses

While Subscribed, Unsubscribed, and Cleaned sounds self-explanatory, from what I’ve gathered, it is not. Or at least the gazillion posts I waded through made it seem that way. As best as I could tell, Subscribed AND Unsubscribed count toward your billing on Mailchimp with their current plans. Which makes no sense at all. Unsubscribed is unsubscribed, but whatever.

I could be wrong, though, since I was on a “Legacy” plan up until I started this “clean-up” journey. But I don’t think Mailchimp was charging me for the 870 unsubscribed emails on my list. Also, cleaned email addresses are those that pretty much are going into a dark hole, so according to Mailchimp, you shouldn’t be charged for those, but you can’t archive them either. As one article said, they’re just “dead in the water”.

Regardless, since I didn't want to see those 870 unsubscribes on my list, I archived them as Mailchimp was very clear that no matter what plan you were on, you would not be billed for ARCHIVED email addresses.

Now let’s talk about the following…

  • Ratings
  • Segments
  • Tags
  • Open Rate
  • Click Rate

Mailchimp gives each subscriber a Rating of 1-5, and it’s not very accurate, imo. But at least it’s a starting point.

Mailchimp makes it easy to Segment your lists in all sorts of ways, and Ratings is one of them. According to one of those “know everything” articles, if you’re going to archive a group of contacts, the #2 group is the one to archive.

Think of Ratings, Segments, and Tags as a big picture, little picture scenario, or using Segments and Tags to “drill down” on your subscribers. I’m currently using it to whittle down my inactive subscribers, but it’s a good way to BUILD UP your list as well. Hopefully, we'll talk about that in a later blog post in a month or two.

I segmented my lists this way for now:

#1 Rating - According to Mailchimp, these recipients have either unsubscribed and resubscribed, or soft bounced in the past.

#2 Rating - These rarely engage, but all new subscribers start out as #2 rating, so you can't just willy-nilly archive all of the #2 ratings.

#3-#5 Rating - These are supposed to be the most engaged. Later, I will segment these out in order to send targeted campaigns to my most engaged subscribers.

I’m in the process of going through 800 subscribers who have a #2 rating but signed up at least 2 years ago and as far back as 2011. These subscribers rarely engage according to MC. But #2 is weird, because some of these people have a 15-30% open rate, so that’s why I’m manually going through these. Granted, click rate is much more important than open rate, and I’ll talk about that a bit more below.

Where do Tags come in? You can do ANYTHING you want with tags. I had over 700 in my segment of #2 rating of subscribers who’d been with me 2 years or longer, but hadn’t opened anything in a long time, if ever. I needed a way to manage that group in small chunks as I only needed to reduce my subscriber base a couple hundred to downgrade to the free account. 

Now, here's where I wasted some time over the last few weeks. At night, while sitting around watching tv with hubby, I’d pull up the #2 rating segment, tag a group of 50 with a temporary tag of SMALL GROUP, then I’d manually check that group to see what their open/click rate was. Sometimes I’d even look at their history a bit. Once I decided to archive them, I added an ARCHIVE tag and removed the SMALL GROUP tag and they would immediately disappear from my “small group of 50” that I was working on. Every few hours or every couple of days, I’d look at the group I’d decided to archive (tagged appropriately as ARCHIVE), choose them all, and actually archive them. Clear as mud, yes? lol

Oh, and while I was at it, I added tags like “Do Not Archive”, “5%+ Click Rate” to those I was keeping. I’m nowhere near done, but I met my goal of whittling down below 2000. From now on, I’ll only archive subscribers that have a 0% Open Rate AND a 0% Click Rate and have been on my list for years.

Here’s an important tip: If your list isn’t out of control like mine was, start learning how to manage it now. On the other hand, if you have THOUSANDS of (as in 20, 30, 80 THOUSAND) subscribers, I can’t help you! But maybe YOU can help the rest of us! Do tell your secrets for such a robust list. lol

Final Takeaways: 

  • DO learn how your provider works.
  • DO learn about segments and tags.
  • Don’t just blindly archive based on Mailchimp’s ratings. Many of my 2 star ratings have a 30-40% open rate.
  • DO review your list regularly. If you only have a few hundred subscribers, the time to start is now. If you don’t want (or need) to archive anyone yet, at least segment them so that you can manage them better when the time comes.
  • Do I WANT to be below 2000 subscribers just so I can have the free plan? No. But if 500-1000 subscribers haven’t opened or clicked anything in 3 or 4 years — if EVER — then there's no need to pay to send them an email that they aren't going to look at. At least for now.
  • Are these archived subscribers gone forever? Again… no. As I learn more about how to improve my open and click rates, I can test drive some of these guys. Maybe even unarchive in small groups and alert them to a new release and see how they respond.

Final, Final Takeaway

As I was finishing this up, I went back into my Mailchimp account and searched one last time for 0% open rate and 0% click rate and I found it. Sigh. The thing is, there are many different ways to search for your subscribers and determine if they haven’t been engaged at all, ever. I hated archiving ANY of mine, but it had to be done.

Here's an example of a segment with 3 parameters. It's before 12/31/2018, a 0% Open Rate, and 0% Click Rate, AND has not opened any of the last 50 Campaigns. Contact can match "Any" or "All" of the conditions you assign.

A Deep Dive into Newsletter Subscribers

Here's the dropdown menu that you can choose to determine your segment. So many options!

A Deep Dive into Newsletter Subscribers

And then this dropdown shows all the options for how the campaigns were opened or not opened. There are similar dropdowns regarding dates. You just have to think through what you're looking for.

A Deep Dive into Newsletter Subscribers

This screenshot is a sampling of some of the tags I've been using. Again, tags are different to segments. Segments come directly from the FIELDS that Mailchimp has set up. There is ONE tag field, but you can tag a contact multiple times if need be. Tags will likely be unique to you and your needs at the time.

A Deep Dive into Newsletter Subscribers

Well, that's a lot to take in. But if you take anything away from this, just know that if you have a small list that's on the verge of having to move to paid or is already on a paid plan, you might have options if you look more closely at your subscribers.

Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)

Happy Friday, everyone. I wanted to re-share a post from the original Seekerville blog from August 2017. And yes, I will be doing the giveaway again! 

My name is Missy Tippens, and I am a cosmetics and skincare product addict. I love face creams and foundation. Primer and powder. Cleansers and concealer. I’m a sucker for just about anything that declares itself anti-aging. :) (Please bear with me. I WILL tie this in to writing and books.)

Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)

My husband has always called me a marketer’s dream. Sales and advertisements draw me in. I love to discover new products, and once I love something, I’m a loyal user. For the last year, I’ve been a big fan of an up-and-coming cosmetics company. I’ve tried many new-to-me products, but have also experienced the release of new items. I have enjoyed the samples that come with every purchase. Very often, I use those samples and then buy the products, discovering new favorites. When I go to their website to shop, I always read the reviews before I buy. They seem to have a crazily loyal customer base, women who heartily share their love of the products with others. I found myself spoiled by the company’s business model and by those new product releases—the samples, the build-up, the special promotions.

But recently, when it had been a while since a new product, I found myself losing interest a bit. I started looking around, clicking on links in newsletters from other companies, checking out products by other brands. Then,

In that moment, it hit me… Oh, my goodness, what if books are the same? I suspect voracious readers are the same way I am with my cosmetics. If so, we authors need to stay in contact with our readers. We need to give them new products to sample and buy. We need to keep them excited about our product so they stay loyal. :)

Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)

How can we give our readers more books and keep them interested when some of us are slow writers? Or when some of us are at a place in our lives where we have family or other commitments taking us away from our writing? What about those authors facing illness or grief? It got me thinking…wondering…feeling a bit overwhelmed…

And then I got a promotional email from Nick Stephenson of the blog
They key thing to remember is that 'overwhelm' isn't an inherent personality flaw. It's not genetic. It's not communicable. It's not a fault with you. Overwhelm is a by-product of 'not having a plan'.”
That was another
No more saying, “When I finish x, I think I’m going to work on y…or maybe z.” No more being anxious or indecisive. I need to fully commit no matter what. I need to make decisions about the order to work on projects and then set deadlines.
Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)
I mentioned in the comments section not long back that I have a new Panda Planner. But I haven’t been using it regularly. I’m now reminded of how important it is to have a plan and to stay on track. Organization is key to keep from getting overwhelmed, which is key to producing more books, which keeps our readers faithful and excited about our work!
So, while planners can be fun and even artistic ventures (some use stickers and artwork!), and while I love my planner because it includes space for recording gratitude as well as a place to list successes, the calendar area should be a priority.
Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)

Today, I want to share some ideas I’ve had (inspired by my cosmetics addict lightbulb moment) for keeping readers interested and loyal:

--Focus on our newsletter, and try to keep a regular schedule (whatever that frequency is for you).
--Be generous with samples (first chapter or free prequel, etc.) on our website or wherever we connect with readers.
--Don’t let big gaps of time pass without offering a product, even if it’s something short or just a freebie. Work toward being more prolific so readers will remain excited about new releases. I think several of the Seekers have a good handle on this by just sticking to a daily word count goal. Consistently writing 500 or 1000 or 2000 words a day (or whatever number works for you) can make all the difference.
--Get readers involved in our work. I’ve recently read authors who recommend keeping readers engaged on social media. One author asks them questions and lets them give input on his books while writing them. And he always responds to comments. This is something I know I can improve on. I have tended to think I’m boring so haven’t posted much on my Facebook author page. But in the future, I want to reach out more often.
--Don’t overdo the promotion. The last thing we want to do is shout, “Buy my book!!” over and over until our fans get so sick of our pleas they want to run the other direction. We don’t want to shove our books down their throats. We want to keep them excited and looking forward to hearing from us. Finding this ideal frequency may take a little trial and error, but I think we’d be safe looking at how often we like hearing from our favorite authors (or from our favorite products outside of books).
--Finally, I think we should move beyond thinking of ourselves simply as creatives and try thinking of ourselves as a brand. We should be savvy business owners. Consider who our customers are and what they want. Come up with a plan, and schedule those product releases on our calendar. Break down those projects into manageable steps. Plan well ahead, especially for promotion. And always be learning from other authors who are successful.
I hope you found this helpful! I’d love to hear your input, as I’m still in the process of shoring up my plan.
Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)Today, I’ll be doing a fun giveaway! I’m giving away a hanging travel bag that’ll be great for cosmetics (you knew I had to go there :)) or other toiletries or shaving items. It can even be used for packing electronics (for the many chargers you have to haul everywhere). Please let me know in the comments if you’d like to be entered! (Giveaway item will be similar to this photo but may not be exact depending on what’s available when I order it. U.S. entries only this time please.)

After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com and

Who's Your #1 Fan?Newsletters: Trim & GrowA Deep Dive into Newsletter SubscribersBest of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)

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