Time Released Email – The Often Overlooked Path to Self-Publishing Success
By Bob Baker
When the subject of e-publishing and self-publishing on the Internet comes up, the conversation usually turns to talk of .pdf and .exe files, not to mention the pros and cons of various personal ebook readers. What you don’t hear much about is the workhorse of Internet communication: basic e-mail.
There are some exceptions. A few fiction writers have received notoriety by “serializing” their novels via e-mail segments delivered over the course of several weeks. What I’ve been doing for the past nine months, though, is taking a non-fiction subject, borrowing the serialized concept, combining it with a free autoresponder service and turning it into what I believe is a fresh format: the e-mail workshop.
Let me explain how I did it – and how you can, too.
A few years ago I wrote a 72-page book called “Creating Wealth for Creative People.” It was a manual designed to help artists, writers, musicians, actors, photographers (and other people pursuing creative fields) overcome money-making obstacles and get a grip on how to market their talents. I self-published it by having the pages printed on three-hole-punch paper and placing them in a three-ring binder with a colorful cover inserted into the front sleeve.
I did the same with another book, called “The Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook,” a more focused subject aimed at independent bands and people running small record companies. I did pretty well with both titles, selling a steady amount through free e-mail newsletters and my two web sites.
Then I started thinking more about e-publishing and the success potential of using electrons instead of paper.
The first thing I tried was offering the individual chapters of my music marketing book, along with some other music-related special reports I’d written, in a basic e-mail text format. I called them Instant E-Reports. Each one ran from 2,500 to 3,500 words long. The E-Reports were offered in a range of prices, from a single report for $4.95 to all 20 of them for $29.95. Much to my satisfaction, most people who bought my Instant E-Reports purchased all 20.
This was a good thing. Customers got them fast. I could send them quickly and for little or no cost. Everyone was happy. And I continue selling them in this format to this day (in addition to the more expensive hard copy binder versions).
Next I wanted to do something similar with my book for creative people. Unlike my music marketing book, the creativity title was made up of modules that were around 600 to 800 words each. The idea of separate e-mail lessons began to emerge. I added an Action Step to the end of each module and came up with “The Creative Success 28-Day E-mail Workshop”.
You guessed it, the idea was for the buyer to receive one new lesson by e-mail for 28 days in a row. Books can easily be bought and, after a few days or a week, set aside and forgotten. A daily e-mail lesson acts as a constant reminder to focus on the subject at hand. Customers had a much better chance of actually putting my advice into action, allowing them to connect with me as an author and view me as a credible source of information. This got my juices flowing. And the positive feedback I’ve consistently received from readers has proved me right.
What I did at first was save each lesson in a separate file. At around the same time late every evening I would log on and send the next day’s lesson. To keep my sanity, I made sure the workshop started on the first day of each month. That way, everyone was getting the same lesson on the same day. Fine and dandy, but what about the times I went out of town? Or got home late and didn’t feel like firing up the computer? Or what if someone wanted to sign up for the workshop in the middle of the month?
There had to be a better way.
That’s where a free autoresponder (sometimes called a mailbot or autobot) service came to my rescue. You’ve probably heard of them. You set up a special e-mail address for people interested in a specific type of information. For instance, you might use one to send your bio and writing samples to editors. Any time someone sends an e-mail to BobSamples@CoolGuy.com (I just made that up, so don’t try it) they will instantly receive a return e-mail with the requested information. Autoresponders allow you to send info to people without having to manually open e-mail, copy and paste, etc. It’s an incredibly useful tool.
Better yet, there are autoresponders that send a series of follow-up messages at predetermined intervals. These are great for sales messages. For example, you could offer a sample chapter of your book using an autoresponder e-mail address like FreeChapter@CoolGuy.com . You’d announce this special e-mail address on your web site, in press releases sent to the media, through discussion groups and more. Interested readers would send for the sample chapter and get it immediately by e-mail.
You could then set it up to send another message to that person two days later, containing quotes from satisfied readers and reminding him or her of how to order the book. A week later, the autoresponder could send a follow-up e-mail that contains a list of links where your book has been reviewed online. You get the picture.
Well, I decided to use an autoresponder for my 28-day course, but not in this manner. I didn’t want to make the e-mail address public knowledge (since I charge $19.95 for this workshop), but I very much wanted to use the follow-up e-mail capabilities. So I loaded up each daily lesson into 28 separate e-mails designated to go out in a certain order over the course of four weeks.
Now, as I get orders for the workshop, I log onto my autoresponder account and manually enter the customer as a new prospect. The first day’s lesson is sent immediately, and for the next four weeks that customer automatically gets the daily lessons … and he or she receives them whether I’m online, driving my car, playing pool or sleeping. Now that’s making good use of technology.
So, how do you set up an autoresponder? Your web host may be able to help you set one up, perhaps for an extra fee. But there are also some excellent free services available. Here are two of them: http://www.GetResponse.com .
So there you have it. Yet another option of self-publishing your words via the Web. Using autoresponders gives you a fresh, time-released method of distributing your craft. It’s worked successfully for me. Perhaps it could do the same for you.
[editor’s note: Make sure you set your autoresponder to respond once a day to incoming email – it’s possible that another autoresponder will respond and it can fill up you email in a matter of minutes]