Your email list is possibly the most valuable tool you have in your book launch toolkit. A carefully curated list can drive book sales, help generate Amazon reviews, and support on-going marketing efforts.

Many clients come to us with a list of email addresses and a collection of business cards. It’s a great start, but before we can begin marketing to those contacts, it’s crucial to get permission.

Permission means getting people to expressly agree to allow you to send them marketing messages via email. It not only helps you be compliant with the law (see the CAN-SPAM Act) but it’s also important for the success of your efforts. A recent study found that emails sent to permission-based lists had 30-40% open rates, while emails sent to lists without permission had open rates around 2%, and spam rates as high as 43%.

Having your email messages marked as spam can limit distribution and open rates, and it can also shut down your email marketing efforts. Email marketing services such as MailChimp will halt your ability to use their service until you get permission from your email contacts. Email providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook will send your future communications straight to a subscriber’s spam folder — they’ll never even know you sent them a message.

How Do You Get Permission?

Permission is not just a way to show respect for the people on your list, it can make or break the success of your efforts. That being said, getting permission is pretty straight-forward.

If you have a list of personal contacts and collected business cards, we recommend sending a personal email with a link to opt into the list. This recommendation usually prompts a quick question: “Wouldn’t more people be on the list if I sent an opt-out message?” The answer is “yes, but . . .”

Opting out is a way to keep more names on your list, because let’s face it, people prefer not to take any action. But opting in means each person on your list wants to be there. Your list may initially be smaller, but it will be more effective, because people have actively chosen to be on it.

From there, it’s important to set up an on-going way for people to join your list. A newsletter sign-up on a website, a lead magnet sign-up, an opt-in form on your phone or tablet at a conference or event — all are ways to build your permission-based list in an ongoing way.

One note: a permission-based email marketing plan means no purchased lists. Most email marketing services will not allow you to upload a purchased list. Now, this doesn’t mean purchasing a list for certain initiatives is wrong, it just means you have to do it outside of your regular email efforts. There are special services just for sending to purchased lists. Keep in mind, emails to purchased lists often have open rates below 15%, so it’s not a tactic we recommend often.

Once you have explicit permission to begin emailing, the next step is to create messages with value for your audience.  We’ll share some tips in a future post.

Until then, if you aren’t sure if you have permission to send an email marketing message to someone, get confirmation. A smaller list of people who want to hear from you is much more powerful than a large list of people with no interest in your message.

Good luck and happy email marketing!