New eBook: A Writer’s Guide to Email Marketing

How you communicate with your readers is at the core of your platform as a writer. Again and again, I hear from successful authors that email is not only important, but actually ESSENTIAL in establishing meaningful connections to readers, and to selling more books.

This ebook will explore not only why you should consider developing an email list, but also how to do so in a way that feels good and actually converts.

A Writer's Guide To Email Marketing

In this ebook, I focus on helping you:

  • Understanding why email is at the center of reaching readers and selling books.
  • How to build your email list.
  • The steps to craft and send an engaging email campaign.

A Writer’s Guide to Email Marketing covers the topics that I have found to be most critical to authors today. Here is a look at the table of contents:

Table of Contents

This 60+ page PDF ebook is guaranteed to supercharge your email marketing efforts. If you aren’t completely satisfied within 30 days, I am offering a 100% money-back guarantee. There is literally no risk.

All of this is included in the price of the ebook: $29.99. Get it today:


Buy Now

DanBlankMy name is Dan Blank, and I help writers build their platforms, and work with publishers to grow their online communities. I have worked with hundreds of writers to help them develop the skills they need to build and engage their audiences. I have taught courses for Writer’s Digest and Mediabistro, and spoken at many of the major publishing and writing conferences. For my full background, please check out my bio and LinkedIn profile.

Brands I have worked with:

Events I have spoken at:

How to REALLY Support the Work of Someone You Respect

There is so much noise out there. Tweets, status updates, emails, blog posts, comments, pins, and the like. So I have been considering how I ensure I can help out those I respect and admire. That, if a colleague or friend has a new book out, a great newsletter, a new product or course: how can I REALLY help spread the word? My conclusion:


And I think this related to the offline world in this way:


Yes, a Tweet is nice. A bumper sticker is nice. They are very much appreciated. But do they take ENOUGH action? Do they focus on having a powerful intended effect? Or, do they sometimes come off as a well-meaning token effort? I want my support to be measured in action. In results, not intentions.

So today, I want to review different ways that I can promote the work of someone I respect in a world that is full of a very low signal to noise ratio.

To frame the conversation, here are some examples of some folks I respect, whose message or services I would like to spread:

There are so many others I could add to this list!

How do you spread the word about books you love? Services that have wowed you? Articles that made you rethink something important? How do you promote the people BEHIND these creations in a consistent and meaningful way?

So this is what I have come up with so far in terms or actions I can take:

Really empathize with what their goals are and what they need to achieve them. That if I know someone has a fledgling business, I know how tenuous that can be, how every little “win” can just make their day. So how can I deliver two more days like that this month for them? Or four days!?

Sometimes, when speaking about the creative arts and ventures built upon passion, we don’t talk about money enough. That a writer needs to support their family. That an entrepreneur has lots of risk and overhead, and even sleepless nights. That financial support means that they can sleep better, support their family, and make positive proactive decisions to grow in a meaningful way. That yes, growing someone’s revenue streams can increase their ability to create art or great writing. That it may allow them to take MORE creative risks.

So when I empathize with a writer who has a new book out; a colleague who offers services; or a journalist reporting on something, I want to really analyze the resources they need to support their work. That a writer needs sales, not just “exposure.” They need momentum. They need a team out there working on their behalf.

It is not enough to just say “Congratulations on your new book Christina!” on Twitter. I need to make the ‘ask,’ actually encouraging people to buy her book, watch the trailer, attend a reading, or subscribe to her newsletter. I need to provide the context, ensuring people know WHY they may like this book.

This is hard. As a business owner, I am super sensitive about the distinction of sharing my passion for what I do working with writers, and anything that has a price tag on it. People react differently when a price tag is involved. And I think sometimes we shy away from the “ask” because we expend less social capital. There is a difference in me saying these two things on Twitter:

  • Loved Christina Rosalie’s new book A Field Guide to Now. Thanks @Christina_write!
  • If you want to lead a more meaningful creative life, check out A Field Guide to Now by @Christina_write. Check it out

I want to be more mindful to ensure my mentions allow people to take an ACTION.

I don’t want to pat myself on the back for sending a single Tweet supporting Christina or Jane or someone else I respect. Because if I send that Tweet at 4pm on a Tuesday, maybe only a tiny percentage of my followers actually see it. Maybe the single Tweet doesn’t communicate the passion I feel about this person and their work. I need to think strategically about how I can spread their message and promote their work consistently over time.

For example: how can I share the news about someone’s book consistently over time without saying the same thing again and again? Some ideas:

  • Interview him or her
  • Post an excerpt
  • Review it on Amazon and Goodreads
  • See if I can help host a book tour date in NJ or NY
  • Share his or her book trailer on Facebook
  • Tweet about him often, but use different Tweets each time. Some overtly endorsing the book, other times sharing a great quote from it, or promoting his or her own blog posts or Tweets. Be mindful to not to be promotional, but meaningful.
  • Think of who else has an audience that would appreciate this book. Reach out to them via email and encourage them to interview with author, or host part of their blog tour, etc.
  • Buy books and send them to those I know who would appreciate it, especially if those people may connect with others who would like it.
  • Are there organizations that I am involved with who would want to partner with this author or even consider bulk sales? Reach out to them.

Realistically, in a single month, I could spread the word in 5 different ways, 20 different times.

I don’t want to assume that I know someone’s goals, and what they value most in their career. Maybe they are more focused on getting blog subscribers, or spreading the word about an appearance, or a blog tour, or selling a book. Reach out and ASK THEM what matters most. Don’t do this get credit for spreading the word, do so to ensure that my efforts are laser targeted on what matters most. Again: this is about effect, not intention.

As I was writing this post, I saw a similar one from Nilofer that explores this same topic in a slightly different way: How To Support An Author. Well worth the read.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how to support those you respect.


A Book Launch is an Investment in a Long-Term Career

Cynthia MorrisIn this guest post, Writer’s coach and author Cynthia Morris shares what she learned from launching her self-published novel. Disclosure: Cynthia was a client of mine, and I helped her strategize her launch process. Also: she’s pretty awesome.

by Cynthia Morris

When I made the decision to self-publish my novel Chasing Sylvia Beach, the possibilities excited me. I knew that creating and launching a novel takes an enormous amount of work. But I also knew that if I found the right perspective, the work wouldn’t seem so daunting.

I chose to lean in to my experience as a businesswoman. After all, I’ve been writing and launching products since 2000. Launching a novel couldn’t be much different, could it?

A month post-launch, I can report that it’s not much different than the other e-books, courses and retreats I’ve launched through my business. But what was different about the novel was the depth of personal connection I have with the book.

Deep in the process of writing seventeen drafts, I had to pop my head up to see the bigger picture. I needed outside, expert perspectives to help me see what I couldn’t and to help me plan the project’s entry into the world.

The process of launching taught me a lot. I now know that the same principles that apply to my business also apply to a novel launch. I worked with Dan Blank to help clarify my vision and develop strategies and tactics to achieve that vision.

Four challenges defined my strategizing, which I began in earnest a year before launch. I needed to:

  1. Define my reader for the novel.
  2. Shift from writer to marketer.
  3. Make good decisions with an eye to the long view.
  4. Be unique in my launch offer.

Investing time
Investing time in the thinking and strategizing process is something many people don’t consider until the eve of the launch. I started a year before launch to plan my content strategy, design my novel’s web site, plan the launch while continuing to build my audience.

The time I invested beforehand helped me feel both empowered and strategic with my launch. Here’s how I responded to the challenges mentioned above.

Defining my readers
In business, the first question to ask is: “Who is my audience? Who would be interested enough in this book to buy it and tell others about it?”

This is a step that many creative people miss. We get so caught up in our ideas, we forget that in order to sell something, it has to appeal to a buyer. A specific kind of buyer.

I know my audience for my business, Original Impulse, where I coach writers through their own creative blocks. I knew I had a lot of reader loyalty but would they want to buy and read my novel?

My initial mistake was to assume that all people in my network would be interested in my book. But I realized that just because they follow me to learn to write more and be more creatively expressed, doesn’t mean they want to read my novel. With Dan’s help, I refined my definition of my reader to help target my marketing efforts.

Shifting from creator to marketer
One of the biggest challenges writers face is not being able to separate themselves from the writing to have the objectivity required to do the marketing.

I wrote Chasing Sylvia Beach because I wanted more people to know about this American expat and her inspiring life as a bookseller in Paris. When I thought about the content I wanted to produce, it was natural that I would tell stories about Sylvia. But it took a bit longer to realize that sharing the themes in my book through stories about my character might also be interesting to readers.

Looking at my themes reminded me that what we value most dearly is what we put into our art. This makes talking about the book less an act of marketing and more an act of sharing what I care about. Writing and speaking about the novel and my process of writing it is a reflection of everything that’s at the core of my life and work.

Making good decisions, and lots of them
Keep trying for traditional publishing or self-publish? Who to hire to design the cover? How to print and distribute? These are the kinds of questions that keep indie authors up through the night.

Inherent in any project lies a million little – and big – decisions. Decision-making is another of the big challenges creatives face: we don’t like choosing. When we choose, we lose possibility, and possibility is the darling of the creative.

We also get hung up on making the right, best decision at every turn. Many of us experience ‘analysis paralysis’. The inability to drive decision after decision is what lies behind millions of abandoned projects.

I wasn’t immune to the daunting responsibility of having to decide about the cover, the author photo, the printing, the launch party. I maintained my momentum by getting professional help from Dan, my mastermind partner Alyson Stanfield and friends.

While I had the ultimate say on everything – one of the best reasons to self-publish – I had a lot of targeted input on my decisions. My influencers helped to drive my decisions to be smarter and more strategic.

Differentiating my book in a crowded market
I knew I didn’t have the pull to drive a mega launch. I wouldn’t hit the New York Times bestseller list and I wouldn’t dominate my category in Amazon. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t create something remarkable and memorable.

Before brainstorming possibilities, I had to identify my motivation for making something special. I wanted to do a limited edition for my readers. I enjoy the direct connection I have with people who buy my e-books and take my classes. It seemed odd to miss out on that with the novel.

Dan encouraged me to bring in my love for illustration and paper products. Part of the reason I wrote a historical novel is my nostalgia for the analog era where paper, pens, books and ink ruled. I wanted to make something that both physically and thematically illustrated the novel.

My original impulse was this: to have a library card pocket in the back of the book with an insert of some kind. I envisioned a folded piece like my beloved Moleskine accordion notebook.

Still, while the form was clear to me, the content wasn’t. It took a long time to gestate, but when the idea crystallized, I did all the art in one marathon rainy day in Denver. I pulled together the stamps, cards, library pockets and then signed and numbered the art included in the limited edition.

In it for the long haul
The sale of this edition went great. The launch party was sweet and satisfying. I’m still assessing the efficacy of my efforts and I’m still taking daily steps to promote my novel.

I’ve been a writer for enough years to know that this career is a long game. We need to find satisfaction from the small victories along the way to our bigger vision. Defining my own success rather than relying on conventional metrics like bestseller or Amazon rankings allows me to continue to own the process.

Sure, I still care about sales and want readers to love the book. But I also know that every investment in this book is an investment in my career as a writer and artist. And those are investments I am willing, and luckily able, to make.

To read more about Cynthia’s book launch process, check out this post: Craft And Connection Takes Time

Craft And Connection Takes Time

Quick! Write 4 books and put them for sale on Amazon for 99 cents each.
Facebook it! Tweet it! Put a ‘share this’ button on your blog!

Now… sit back, and let the awards and money roll in. Well done, modern author.

I received a package in the mail this week, a new book from my friend Cynthia Morris. Here is the experience of unwrapping it:

Chasing Sylvia Beach

Chasing Sylvia Beach

Chasing Sylvia Beach

Chasing Sylvia Beach

Chasing Sylvia Beach

Cynthia created a limited edition release of the book, with the special packaging above. She wanted to not treat the book as just another commodity, but as something special. In the back is a limited edition print that folds out with her art and signature on it.

Doing this cost her time, money and effort. The mental energy to strategize what to create, to package it, and to physically do all of the mailings herself.

Here is a photo of her home, where she prepared the packages to send off (I grabbed this from her Facebook page):

Chasing Sylvia Beach

Does this scream “glamorous life of an author” to you? No, this is a REALISTIC view of the life of an author. Pouring care, time and attention to detail into their craft. And yes, in “craft,” I am including your ability to share your work with others in a meaningful way.

Sharing is a part of creation.

The craft of writing takes time.

Real connection with others, takes time.

This goes beyond the production of physical media, a book. This same caring can extend to how you use social media. Two successful authors mentioned to me this week how their fans are shocked if they actually @reply back to them on Twitter. It’s a simple thing. Yet, many authors will focus on everything but this real connection because they fear it won’t scale. Some would rather pin something on Pinterest than engage with a single reader on Twitter.

Do you want to differentiate yourself from most other writers out there? Once you are done writing for the day (writing does come first after all), focus on connecting with readers. Who are they? Where are they? What do they love? How can you engage with them in a meaningful, not promotional, manner?

I always use Neil Gaiman as an example of this. How here is someone who has achieved so much, is “famous,” works across a range of media. And yet, this is a typical moment in his Twitter feed:

Neil Gaiman's Twitter feed

You see @reply after @reply. Yes, some are to those he is close to, other authors, even his wife. But plenty are to fans, to “regular” folks he is engaging with in small ways. How does Neil have the time? He makes the time. It’s a choice. To care.

With all the social media buttons at our disposal, as much as we like to say “everything has changed,” in terms of marketing your book and managing your career as a writer, it really hasn’t. If you want to differentiate yourself, if you want to matter to your readers, find ways to connect with them in a meaningful and down-to-earth manner. It’s not the tool, it’s how you use it.

It’s a craft.


Lessons from Seth Godin’s Kickstarter Project

Like many of you, I am a fan of Seth Godin. This past week he launched a Kickstarter project for his next book, and today, I want to dig into what we can – and can’t – learn from it.

Others have lavished praise on every aspect of what Seth has done with this project, notably Fred Wilson and Mike Masnick. They certainly see the bigger picture of what Seth is doing here, but I want to get more granular.

I became aware of the project at around 8am Monday morning, soon after it launched, when he had 229 backers and $19,838 in donations. About an hour later, he had $51,833 with 657 backers. Another hour or two later, he was at $91,166 with 1,251 backers. By 1:30pm, he had $118,326 with 1,671 backers. At the end of the first week, he has $221,901 in donations and 3,251 backers.

It’s interesting to see which of the packages he offered gained traction first. There were 10 options, so if you donated a certain amount of money, you would get different things in return. Often, it was a combination of different books, and different quantities of them. There was an 11th option, which was really just a joke, and he later removed. Each level had a limited number of packages available. This is what it looked like throughout the early part of Monday, the columns represent each price level (from a $4 donation up to the $10,000 donation), and how many backers he had at each of four time slots that I checked. The pink color represents when each price level sold out:


Time $4 $22 $49 $62 $76 $111 $200 $360 $665 $1,150 $10,000
8am 45 226 19 17 4 41 14 5 1 5 0
9am 113 186 80 48 8 150 35 14 7 5 0
11am 258 300 180 81 16 307 50 26 12 5 0
1:30pm 441 300 200 117 32 459 50 32 16 5 0


Below are some thoughts on what we can – and can’t – learn from Seth Godin’s Kickstarter project:

There is a tone throughout the Kickstarter description that asks us to prove something to someone. That there is an “other” that we must fight against. Seth says:

“Please help me show my publisher, the bookstores and anyone with a book worth writing that it’s possible to start a project with a show of support on Kickstarter.”

This is a theme throughout the piece, that this isn’t just about publishing a book, this is about taking a stand. I am a bit surprised by some of this, because it seems to imply that maybe there was a heated debate where a world-renowned author and marketing expert (SETH!) went back and forth with his publisher about whether you could engage people via Kickstarter. That he spoke to bookstore owners who actually considered not stocking his books. Was it ever up for debate that someone with a loyal following such as Seth Godin could get donations from their fans, or that bookstores would stock his bestselling books?

Regardless, the larger theme goes beyond “buy my next book.” There is almost an “us vs them” attitude here, and certainly a focus that this is about supporting a cause, an ideal, not just buying a book. We see this again after the (really compelling) description of his book:

“My first new printed book in over a year is combined with two extraordinary bonuses—and the chance to send a message about how books and bookstores can still be part of the conversation. (Be sure to check out the no-brainer option).”

So two things are happening here. Again, this isn’t about how powerful his book is (although it does sound powerful in its own right), but this is about “SENDING A MESSAGE!” This is portrayed not as selling his book, but supporting an idea. That books can “still be a part of the conversation.”

But then we switch back from supporting an ideal, to buying his book as a symbolic act. Half a breath away from his rallying cry that we are sending a message, he encourages you to buy the 8th option, meaning there are 7 less expensive options. It’s $111 and called the “NO BRAINER” option to somehow make it seem obvious that we should buy EIGHT copies of his book months before it comes out. Now, this option is a good deal with all you get, 11 books (including limited edition books) for $10 each. But it’s always interesting when you are first encouraged to buy 8 of something as the obvious choice. This is, I suppose, meant to drive home the idea that by buying more of Seth’s books, we are “SENDING A MESSAGE” to someone.

Later in the post, he repeats this: “Did I mention the No-Brainer option is your best bet?”

A bit further down, he hits this same “US VS THEM” point again, positioning him and us as the underdog:

“Sink or swim–I’ll need your help. If this Kickstarter campaign reaches the minimum, then the publisher has agreed to launch a major retail campaign to introduce the book to readers in bookstores.”

Seth is right, Kickstarter only works if we actually get involved and donate. But seriously: is there any chance that Seth Godin wouldn’t raise $40,000 for this project within 30 days? He charges $800+ for a one day workshop to see him speak. His books are wildly popular. He is cited time and time again as a brilliant thinker in terms of marketing.

I could be reading this wrong, but it again seems to paint his publisher as folks who either don’t believe in his work or don’t believe in physical books. That ONLY if Seth raises $40,000 will they promote his book in bookstores? REALLY? Exactly which person sat across the table as Seth told him about his new book, and then said to him: “Gee Seth, I don’t know, can you PROVE to us that we should promote your book in bookstores?” Who? Who said that to bestselling author Seth Godin?

And since this is the crux of the campaign, I would love some clarity on what “a major retail campaign” entails. What will happen if he didn’t meet the $40,000 threshold? Would there just be a “minor” retail campaign? What would the difference be? To me, this seems to be a very important point.

There was also this line:

“Only my loyal, intelligent and good-looking Kickstarter backers can get the limited edition book.”

I only bring this up because if Home Depot said this in a Kickstarter campaign, they would be called out and held up as those who “don’t get it.” That blindly gushing about your audience in this manner can be seen as a marketing tactic to generate sales, not something a true tribe leader would do, but something a politician would do. I just didn’t want to overlook that because if a corporation did it, NO ONE would overlook it.

Seth goes on:

“Maybe this will help authors like me continue to make books by hand, and maybe this Kickstarter will outline a way other authors can rally a tribe, connect them, engage the early adopters and then reward them with an artifact they helped bring to life.”

Really? Without Kickstarter, authors like Seth Godin won’t be able to publish physical books? And what does “by hand” mean? This is not a letterpress book is it? Is there really any danger of Seth’s books not coming out in print form? Maybe Seth has lots of data here, lots of examples, but I just wish he would have shared it within the context of this campaign, to educate us about the issue. Otherwise, I am left guessing, and I am reminded again of a political candidate making a claim without backing it up. That we are asked to rally together to protect something, and the only way to do so is elect this person, or in this case, buy this person’s book.

The overall point he makes is dead-on accurate: Kickstarter helps creators, writers and artists. I LOVE THAT. And of course, I love how Seth is making such a big deal about supporting Kickstarter. He explains it this way:

“This project on Kickstarter is my way to organize the tribe, to send a signal to risk-averse publishers and booksellers (who have limited shelf space and limited paper). We can let them know loud and clear that this is a book that’s going to get talked about. Kickstarter coordinates and it amplifies.”

But again, it seems odd to lump Seth Godin into the crowd of people fighting for bookstores to consider carrying him. Is there really a chance that a bookstore wouldn’t make space for his physical books? If you go to his homepage, he describes himself immediately and exclusively as: “Seth Godin: best selling author.” When you click on each book on the homepage, he tells you how well they have sold, with phrases such as:

  • “Book of the year”
  • “An instant best seller”
  • “The classic named “best book” by FORTUNE”
  • “The worldwide bestseller”

And those are for just for some of his physical books. To me, I would guess that any physical retailer would stock Seth’s books because he is a known bestseller who is incredibly relevant to the conversation in many topics nowadays. But his campaign seems to be a rallying cry to “show them” that both he and physical books are not irrelevant. Was this in question?

What Seth illustrates so clearly is that people want to turn their belief into action. They want to support those who inspire them in deeper ways and they often want recognition for doing so. Every aspect of this campaign illustrates the power of Kickstarter, the power of his supporters, and Seth’s brilliant marketing mind.

Seth set the goal comically low for the Kickstarter campaign at $40,000. Given the size of his audience, was it really possible that he wouldn’t exceed his goal quickly? So why do this? Because it writes the headline for every article reporting on his project: “Seth Godin blows away Kickstarter goal by 500%!”

He talked about this as well: that the real momentum happens once you reach your goal.

This is meant to show immediate success, that we are sending “a message,” that his publisher was skeptical, but we would “show them.”

With Amanda Palmer’s fortune with Kickstarter, we are in the gold rush for already successful people to become Kickstarter media darlings. My gut is you will see this again and again throughout 2012. It’s great marketing.

The VALUE of each package mattered, not the price. Some of the 10 packages Seth offered had unique value in them, not just the commodity of a book that in a year’s time, anyone who wants one can have. Two packages sold out quickly: higher priced options where either Seth interviewed you or you received a limited edition art print.

When I first saw this around 7:30 or 8am on Monday, the only package that was sold out was the one I was most interested in… for $1,150:

“Your story, told. I’ll interview you and write at least a paragraph about something brave or powerful or remarkable you’ve done or built–and include it in all editions of The Icarus Deception. I can offer this without fear of being stuck or compromising the work because everyone has something artistic in their history (and their future). Also includes everything in the No-Brainer level. Also includes access to the preview digital edition.”

This is – by far – the best deal on the page. A chance to speak with Seth, have him craft your story, and actually include it in the final version of the physical book. That is easily worth $1,150, and I would have jumped on that opportunity. Why? Well, consider what it means to ensure that EVERYONE who reads his book reads about your story, told in the way only Seth Godin can tell it. What it means to get a positive testimonial by Seth Godin. Definitely worth $1,150 without even a moments thought.

He offered some limited edition books as well, but many of the other price levels were for multiple copies of the same book or packages with copies of books he has already published. Those took longer to sell out, or are still available.

Seth added a $10,000 package as a sort of joke. I see now that he removed this option at some point during the week, but this is what it originally said:

“The really silly high-level product that everyone always scrolls down to see, so they can chuckle at the insane thing the author is offering and the crazy person who bought it. This package includes signed copies of Catcher in the Rye and Shakespeare’s folio. Both signed by me. And whatever book of mine you like. And a milk carton. With Purple Cow in it.”

It should have been a personal appearance by Seth, a consulting session, a custom video, something meaningful. Something where he would donate the $10,000 to charity in exchange for someone taking the chance.

People like being the first to see something – the chance to be an early adopter, and therefore, an influencer and connector. The first to Tweet it. I did, it was my first Tweet Monday morning. It was clear this would be something special, which is why I also took screenshots of it right away.

People want to be insiders. They want to say: “I saw this early, and I backed Seth Godin.” It’s akin to saying “I saw the Pixies play live in 1986 before you even heard of them.” There is social cred in fandom. Kickstarter is brilliant at offering this to fans. It makes you feel special.

As I mentioned, many of the packages offered multiple copies of the book, and for each higher level you bought, the lower the cost of each individual book would be. He says:

“Sometime after your copy is delivered in January, the Icarus book will show up (at a higher price) in bookstores and online. You can help me make the minimum by buying copies now, at a discount, to distribute to friends.”

Months before the book comes out, he is going for bulk sales, which is smart on several levels. And of course: it supports his overall goal to ensure that physical books are shared among friends and colleagues.

Overall, I hope I have conveyed that I am a fan of Seth’s work, and impressed at his ability to change people’s lives for the better. But I think the details described above matter for other authors considering using Kickstarter. Seth has clearly proven that Kickstarter is a powerful means to bring people together for a common purpose, and infuse it with financial backing. This IS important. Is it a powerful message to publishers? You tell me.