One of the best ways to connect with readers is through email. Having an active email list of readers is a must for any author who is serious about selling books. One often overlooked, but very important aspect of managing an email list is to make sure your readers get a welcome email when they sign up.
Welcome emails can have 2-3 times the open rate of a typical email, and it is the first step in building a connection with a reader. Email service providers like Mailchimp typically offer an easy way to set this up. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to set up a welcome email using Mailchimp’s Automation feature. This article is teeming with images and helpful screenshots to make setting up your welcome email as easy as possible for a busy author like yourself.
Step 1: Login to Mailchimp and go to the Automate Tab.
Mailchimp has an easy way to get your welcome email fired up! They now offer their Single-Step Automation features (including welcome emails) for every pricing plan (including their free plan!). You can learn more about their different pricing plans here.
The Essentials paid plan from Mailchimp starts at $10/month and we think it’s well worth it, although it is not required to get basic automation setup. (Note: The larger your mailing list size, the more you will have to pay for a Mailchimp plan. Be sure to utilize the ‘Calculate your price’ link listed under each plan’s price to decide which plan and pricing option are best for you.)
Once you have picked a plan and logged in to Mailchimp, you are ready to set up your automation. Click on the Automate tab, then choose Email from the dropdown menu.
In the pop-up window that appears, select Welcome new subscribers.
Step 2: Name the Automation and Select a list
You’ll need to give your automation a name. We recommend naming it something simple like “Welcome Message.” As you become more advanced, you can name your automated emails fancier names but, to start with, let’s stick to the basics.
You will also need to select a list. Most authors will have just one list, so this is an easy choice. In the example below, you can see that our example author (Jack London) has one list. (Because he’s just getting started with his author mailing list, he’s using the Free pricing plan, which allows for only one audience). You will want to make sure to choose the list where your readers are. Once you’ve entered your automation name and selected an audience, click Begin.
Step 3: Customize the Default Email
Mailchimp will take you to your Campaign screen, which is where you can see and customize the different parts of your email such as email name, subject line, sender information, content, etc.
You’ve already named your email “Welcome Message”. Next, you will need to set the email subject line. We recommend you take this opportunity to welcome your readers, so use a subject line like “Welcome to the mailing list for Jack London” or “Thanks for joining my mailing list”.
Next, you’ll need to update the sender information to let readers know who your emails are coming from. Your author name and email address should be in there by default, but if not, make sure to add them in. Make sure the Author name is correct, and if you write under a Pen name, use the Pen name, not your real name.
The from email address is a very important aspect of this whole process. Make sure you are using an email address from your website (like email@example.com), and NOT a free email provider like Gmail or Yahoo (firstname.lastname@example.org). This puts your email in compliance with DMARC, which is a complicated, but important rule. You don’t need to understand it completely, but you do need to stay away from using free email providers. If you don’t have a website, we can teach you how to get one yourself with this course.
Important Note: If you see a ‘Verify Domain’ button next to your email address, click it! Verifying your email domain is an important step to make sure your emails stay away from spam filters. All you have to do is click the button that appears. Mailchimp will send you an email; click the link that appears in that email and you are verified—easy as pie.
Step 4: Pick a Template and Design Your email
Mailchimp has LOTS of options for templates. They have ‘Themes’ which have pre-canned designs with imagery in them. They can be fun to look through, but you are better off just using the ‘Basic’ 1 column template. We have found that the more simple the email, the better it does. You will see the basic template designer sitting there. It can be a little overwhelming to think about designing an email from scratch, but follow our instructions and you’ll be fine.
- Image: If you have a great image that is 600px wide, pop it in, if not, don’t worry at all. Just delete the image block. If you really want to create a great banner here, we recommend using Canva. It’s web-based and easy to use.
- Text: Click on the text of the email, and Mailchimp will slide in the email text editor on the right-hand side. You can see our example in the image below from Jack London. Feel free to use this as a template, but add your own flair to it. Make sure that your readers know what kind of emails you plan on sending and how grateful you are to have them on your list. Don’t make your text too long; 3-4 sentences should do the trick.
- Merge tags: Merge tags enable you to personalize the email to each reader. The easiest way to get started with merge tags it to include the *|FNAME|* tag. *|FNAME|* will automatically pull the first name of your reader if you have asked for that information as part of your signup form. If you are not asking for First Name, simple use a generic term, like Reader and skip this step.
- Call to Action: This is a fancy word for a button. Do you need a button in your email? The answer is YES. All of your emails should have a button in them. You can drag and drop a MailChimp button into your email right below your text. If you have a free book, link to it here. If you don’t have a free book, add a link to your website, or you can link to social media profiles. The important thing is to give your readers a way to engage with you more deeply if they want to.
- Lead-In: A lead-in is a really important part of your email. It’s that part that a reader sees after the subject line. Mailchimp makes it easy to customize this. Users will always see your subject line, so your lead-in should be different information. You don’t need to say welcome twice, we recommend something that personalizes the message and speaks directly to the reader.
When your email is all designed, click Save & Continue.
Step 5: Customize your Triggers
A Trigger is just marketing speak for ‘what happens to make your email send’. By default, that trigger is a reader joining your list, so when a user joins your list, they get the welcome email 1 day after joining your list. That’s fine, but we like to welcome our users faster than that, so we would recommend eliminating the delay.
From the Campaign screen, under “Sends To”, change the delay setting to ‘Immediately’. Additionally, if you are importing users often from signings or other sources, make sure to tick the ‘Trigger when subscribers are imported” box.
Step 6: Confirm
Almost there! The last step is confirmation. We always recommend that you regenerate the plain text version of your email. Very few people read in plain text anymore but if you don’t have a plain text version you are likely to get put in your readers’ spam folders. Click Edit on the plain text line.
Next, click Regenerate from HTML, and then save.
Now you are all set.
If you skipped that part about verifying your ‘From’ email address, MailChimp is going to give you some flack for it. You’ll just need to suck it up and get a non-free email address. If you use a service like Squarespace for your website, you can get an email address pretty easily through them. MailChimp may give you a warning about what it calls ‘Social Cards’—if so, you can safely ignore that warning.
Click the blue Start Sending button at the top of the page to kick off your welcome email.
Then, select Start Now on the popup that appears.
If it went well, MailChimp will show you the Rock n’ Roll monkey hand to let you know you are done.
That’s it! Now each time a user signs up for your email list, they will get a welcome email. This is sure to engage your readers more deeply and boost follow on sales.
Having trouble? Wish there was another screenshot in here? Just ask away in the comments and we’ll do our best to give you answers and update the post.