Is Your Email Newsletter Working? 4 Top Metrics to Watch

How do you know if your author newsletter is working effectively? EJ Wenstrom suggests monitoring these four metrics to determine if you’re building a real audience, or getting buried in inboxes.
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How do you know if your author newsletter is working effectively? EJ Wenstrom suggests monitoring these four metrics to determine if you’re building a real audience, or getting buried in inboxes.

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An email list is one of an author's most important platforming assets. Author newsletters offer a direct line to readers in a very unique way—they’ve invited you into their lives via their inbox! That’s not just platforming, that’s a relationship.

But sometimes it can feel like you’re blasting your emails off into the void. How do you know if your emails are really connecting? Here are four important metrics to watch to determine if your emails are building a fandom or getting buried in inbox purgatory without a second thought.

1. New subscribers

There are many ways to encourage readers to subscribe to your email list, from website pop-ups to links in your social media bios. However you do it, keeping an eye on how many new subscribers join your list each month is a helpful way to gauge how effective those tactics are.

Some authors maintain a very high subscriber rate with aggressive promotion and large freebies (like a novel box set). However, others argue they do better long-term with a subtler promotion approach. Their list grows at a much slower rate, but those who do subscribe tend to be much more engaged.

In other words, because subscribers joined only because they cared enough to seek out the subscription form and had genuine interest in the emails alone, they are much more active in engaging those emails long after the draw of those freebies fade.

There is no absolute right or wrong approach here. The important thing is to understand the correlation between your tactics and your strategic goals for your author newsletter.

2. Open rate

This metric shows how many of your subscribers are actually opening the emails you send. This is a fundamental step to building a relationship with your subscribers—how else can they read your content?

If your email list is young and growing at a steady rate, don’t panic if your open rate drops from 75 percent to 25 percent over a matter of months—young email lists tend to get very high engagement, and these metrics level out as the list matures.

But if your open rate is consistently low, it’s time to kick the tires and see what you can do about it. Look at your analytics for times with swells of activity, or topics that generate stronger responses. Play with different distribution times, subject lines, email frequencies, and content formats.

3. Click-through rate

Once you get readers to subscribe to your author newsletter and they’re opening those emails, the click-through rate (CTR) is where the real gold is.

This metric tracks how many of your subscribers are clicking on the links within your emails as they read. There is an overall CTR that measures how many readers clicked on any link within the email, and then there is a CTR for each individual link.

Are readers clicking on your social media icons? Your latest blog posts? On the carefully curated news you share on a relevant topic? Are they clicking on buy links when you announce a new release?

I especially love using the click map tool for link-by-link engagement. Not only does it help me track hot topics, but it also helps determine at a glance what sections readers pay most attention to, and how many of them are reading all the way to the end.

If most readers are only reading the first third of your email, don’t wait until the end to announce your new release! And maybe consider abbreviating your format.

4. Unsubscribe rate

This metric shows how many of your subscribers are jumping ship. This number is not just useful, it’s important—if your unsubscribe rate gets too high, your emails will get flagged as spam more often, and you can even get blocked from your email service.

On a more strategic note, a high unsubscribe rate indicates an gap between what readers want and what you’re supplying.

Sometimes, if your email frequency is really high, it’s a simple matter of content overload. But it can also indicate a mismatch between what readers sought when they subscribed to your list and what you’re delivering in each email.

For example, if you offer a great freebie, sometimes subscribers will drop off after receiving it. Alternately, if you promise a monthly recap of the hottest news in your genre, but deliver a weekly ramble in your latest writing struggles, subscribers may be inclined to part ways.

Watch and Learn for Better Relationships

An author newsletter is a great way to connect with your biggest fans and build important reader relationships. But if you’re not watching these four metrics, you’re ignoring important messages your subscribers may be trying to tell you.

These metrics allow you to learn from your subscribers’ actions and create a loyal, lifelong fandom. Once you understand them, all you have to do is watch and learn from them.

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