You’re a creator. You sell things via e-mail. And as you know, what applies to fitness e-mail marketers may not apply to your steampunk elephant comic; mileage varies.
I’ve spent a little time studying the expert copy creators who net thousands of dollars per e-mail. I’ve also tried applying their principles to COMICS creators and scifi fans like myself over several years and a tight niche of several thousand e-mails. Voila, below.
And as far as I’m tracking, the blog post you’re reading is the only analysis available online now about e-mail subject lines that work for small fringe culture creators like me and you.
What I’ve learned from expert copy creators:
- Putting a dollar sign in your subject line increases opens. For a lot of copywriters, subject lines offering money still work. “A $2000 ethical bribe?” and so forth.
- From the Gmail Boomerang add-on (which I highly recommend), computer analysis demonstrated that asking questions (putting a ?) in the subject line helps. For that matter, asking questions in the e-mail increases response rate, and subject lines like “Your Questions Answered” also generated thousands of clicks. Questions imply conversation. People want to continue that.
- Creating scarcity works. Subject lines that seemed to work from several resources I studied (“you missed it” or “expires tonight”) make readers uncomfortable enough to click. FOMO, baby. Other subject lines that created discomfort in other ways worked, too, like offering “a quick warning,” or “Please don’t be angry” etc. Your e-mail better actually deliver on the threat, though: a lot of us find this use of negative emotion annoying and click-bait-y. I would be careful using this specifically for indie comics fans, who tend to be a bit more cynical.
- Giving away free stuff they know about works (“I’m giving away tickets to XXX).
What I discovered from my own tests on a couple thousand specifically scifi or comics readers over several years:
- I got one of my highest open rates, 56.7% open rate, astoundingly high in this industry, with the simple subject line “I failed.” That’s one you can use, too. This worked for me because I’ve already built up a relationship, so people care if I’ve failed, but of course there’s no denying the human desire for schadenfreude. People want to look at train wrecks. Maybe give them a train wreck every now and then.
- Got almost 50 percent, from my e-mail address with the subject line “My artist got robbed.” I attribute this to PERSONAL relationship already built up, and the sense of drama the personal “my” and the statement create. Granted, at that time my open rate was somewhat increased because I had just purged non-openers (something you should definitely do), but the result still stands: tell a story in one sentence.
- 41% open rate for “Now YOU can earn money off MY scifi! Also, more organism-city space opera”. Several e-mails in that particular series had open rates over 40 percent, likely because of interest built by the series (people want to keep reading what they’re already reading). But the offer of money didn’t hurt.
- Last year, “Thought I’d lost you” got over 50 percent opens, a number generally unheard of in e-mail marketing. This uses the same “threat” principle described above. Use negative emotion carefully.
- “What weird adventure skill do you want to learn? Can I help?” got over 50 percent as well last year. Again, that entire series did well because I was sharing, in pieces, this scifi story about living in a city made of organic moving hallways. But this e-mail stood out above the rest because of the question.
- “Cowboy hat, photon blaster, and a thousand dollar question.” 40 percent open rate. These weird scifi lists of things tend to get good open rates for me, but usually around the low 40s. It helps that this particular subject line included money and the word question.
- At a whopping 63 percent sits the simple subject line from two years ago: “You left this at my house”. I can’t find the AB test, but I am fairly sure I tested this same subject line against “This belongs to you.” AB testing helped with my open rates a lot in the beginning. It’s a neat feature you can use in Mailchimp. It didn’t go so well when I tried to repeat a similar subject line too close to the original “you left this at my house.”
- My open rates went up, in general, when I changed my e-mail format to something my subscribers could understand and expect. I went from an average of twenties to an average of forties by rebranding as “your scifi superhero sister,” where I send ONE scifi story and ONE #superheroalert in each e-mail, and try to keep the chit-chat short. I let people know up front what to expect by setting that standard with a series of automated e-mails they get as soon as they join my list. This gets people in the habit of clicking my e-mails for free things, and then eventually when I send out my marketing e-mails they click to buy things.
Note that for a small, tight-knit, niche audience like mine, I have higher expectations overall: while Mailchimp lists the artist industry average at about 35 percent, I expect open rates much higher, and generally consider a 22 percent a failure even though in other industries that’s quite good. This picture is pretty common for indie fiction creators, whose work relies on close emotional connection more than most other industries. At any one time, I have no more than 2000 subscribers; I have had over 6000 to 7000 various contacts at one time or another, but I aggressively purge people who aren’t going to read my work. Don’t want to waste their time or mine. And that scales up: the big successful creators with thousands of rabid fans start from a base of a few hundred rabid fans, but the key is still rabies.
Create rabies by telling a story with your subject lines. That’s the bottom line for fiction creators, and the main thing that sets us apart from the rest of the e-mail marketing industry. We tell stories.
Let’s leverage that.
Oh, and because you read to the end, and I know you’re serious about selling your work, you can have a free marketing book I made: fifty free or cheap resources to automate your creative marketing FOR YOU! Enjoy. -_^