Thursday, October 26, 2017

Author Newsletters — Part 4: Tracking Statistics

By Valerie Comer

Welcome to the final section in my series on author newsletters. We’ve already talked about Getting Started, Finding Subscribers, and Choosing Content. So now you have a newsletter set up, you’ve attracted some subscribers, and sent out a few emails.

Is it worth the effort? Are you doing it “right” or are you missing the target?

Let’s go back to an early question: why have an author newsletter? My answer: to turn leads into fans who will buy my books. It wasn’t because I was bored and needed more on my to-do list!

As Randy Ingermanson puts it: Any working marketing strategy needs to achieve three things. If you do all three of these things well, you succeed. If you fail on any one of these three things, you fail. The three phases of marketing are 1) attract, 2) engage, and 3) convert.

In the earlier parts of the series, we focused on attraction and engagement. Let’s turn to conversion. How do I know if my emails are converting? I can look at the end result. Do book sales or pre-orders take a jump commensurate with the number of subscribers in the hours/days following an email? While no one is going to sell a book to every subscriber, there are ways to gauge where in the system things are going awry.

Different service providers show statistics in different ways. Mailerlite gives me the following data after each campaign:

1. Open Rates

The stats show how many emails were actually sent and how many recipients opened them. Mailerlite gives this as a percentage and an actual number both. You’ll never get to 100% opens. For authors, anything between 40 and 60% is average. My goal, which I haven’t achieved, is 80%.

Please note that the stats shown in your dashboard are not accurate. Many readers read the entire email in a preview pane, which won’t register as an open. Gmail also admits to not supplying accurate stats, so don’t go on a purge to delete all subscribers who haven’t opened an email! Because they might be reading every one of them.

Tip: If your open rates are low, consider the following. Is your subject line intriguing? Did you send the email at a good time of day/week?

2. Click Rates

This is a more useful metric to determine how engaged readers are. How many recipients clicked a link in your email? Side note – you DO have a link in there somewhere, right? Remember to always have a CTA (call-to-action) with a link.

A 25% click rate is considered decent. Some authors report click rates in the 60% range.

Tip: If your click rate is lower than you’d like, consider the following. Do you have so many links recipients don’t know which takes precedence? Is the link easy to find? Does it clearly show where the click will take the reader? What’s the “sales copy” leading up to the CTA? Do they know why they want to click?

3. Unsubscribe Rates

You’ll see how many recipients unsubscribed (percentage and actual number). Don’t sweat these people unless the number is higher than 3%. People join lists and leave them for all kinds of reasons. If they want to leave, that’s great. They’re not your target audience, and you don’t want to pay to keep them.

Tip: If your unsubscribe rates seem high, consider the following. Are your emails what you promised to send in content, frequency, etc, from the signup page? Did you participate in multi-author list building promotions that were not well-targeted to your writing (eg: a secular promotion for books that are explicitly Christian)?

4. Spam Complaints

This is also given as a percentage and as an actual number. If the number is very low, don’t sweat it.

Tip: If your spam complaint rates seem high, consider the following. How easy is it to find your unsubscribe button? Are you sending emails with words that might automatically be filtered to spam? Click for an exhaustive list of possible spam triggers.

5. Bounce Rates

Mailerlite defines bounces like this: A soft bounce is an email message that gets as far as the recipient’s mail server (it recognizes the address) but is bounced back undelivered before it gets to the intended recipient. A soft bounce might occur because the recipient’s mailbox is full, the server is down or swamped with messages, or the message is too large.

A hard bounce is an email message that has been returned to the sender and is permanently undeliverable. Causes include invalid addresses (domain name doesn’t exist, typos, changed address, etc.) or the email recipient’s mail server has blocked your server. Repeated soft bounces to the same email address can result in it becoming classed as a hard bounce.

6. Reading Environment

This one is informational only, showing you the percentage of opens on webmail, mobile, or desktop mail clients. However, mobile is a growing percentage, so consider how your email looks on your phone and tablet occasionally.

7. Top Email Clients

Also information only, this offers the percentage of readers who use certain email providers (gmail, etc) as well as their internet browser of choice.

8. Link Activity

This section of the report lists every link in your email, including social media and unsubscribe links from your footer, and shows you both the unique clicks and total clicks on each one. Unique clicks are more useful, but I’m always interested to see the difference between the two numbers. I understand that people might click on the link in mobile, then return on their computer to click it again to actually buy in an environment they prefer.

So there you have it! The ins and outs of author newsletter in four parts. Feel free to ask any questions that may have come up while reading any of these posts, but please comment on this post.

Here are the links to the other posts in this series:
• Part 1: Getting Started
• Part 2: Finding Subscribers
• Part 3: Choosing Content

Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily-ever-afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner. She writes engaging characters, strong communities, and deep faith as she injects experience laced with humor into her green clean romances. Visit her at

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