As I have business cards strewn on the floor of my home office to input in my Microsoft Outlook address book, I realize that I haven't been doing a good job in promotion maintenance.
Just as a reminder more for myself than anyone else, I've decided to launch this series here on the little things to remember in book promotion. So remember -- do what I say, not as I do!
The E-Mail List
I've discovered that the most important arsenal that a developing published writer can have is a good e-mail address list. Hardcore publicity-oriented writers always have a notebook or even forms for readers to sign up for their e-mail list. I bought a nice little guest book and honestly only remember about half the time at events to have it out on the signing table. I do collect business cards, however. I would advise people to immediately input their contacts into something like Microsoft Outlook or have a centralized place to store your cards (you might want to write the date on the back of the card). In my Outlook, I've divided my list into categories like certain regional contacts (so that I can quickly inform that when I'll be coming to their town for a future event), librarians, booksellers, etc. I do this for two reasons: to be able to create more custom messages for each group and also to break up my list because many people have servers that will reject mass e-mails sent to hundreds of people. The trickiest thing about this method is that I place each contact in only one category because I don't want them to receive the same e-mail multiple times. But a contact may fall in more than one category, but I usually chose the most appropriate one. If anyone has a better way to deal with this, let me know.
You can also send e-mails via Microsoft Excel. I've only done this once via help from mystery writer Eric Stone. That method is great because your e-mail messages are sent individually to each contact, thus avoiding servers bouncing back mass e-mailings. Since I had already started my mailing list in Outlook, I've just kept it there for now.
I don't send out an e-newsletter. For me personally, it seems a big presumptuous, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy reading some of my colleagues' newsletters. I prefer just sending out short bursts of news -- book release announcement, event notification, etc. -- usually no longer than a couple of paragraphs and only maybe two or three times a year. The people on my mailing list know who I am and are somewhat familiar with my work, so there's no need to spread it on thick with review quotes, etc. Besides, you can always direct people to your website for more information.
+ Also chose bcc (blind carbon copy) when sending out group e-mails. People really don't appreciate their e-mail addresses being released to people they don't know.
+ Create an appropriate description for the subject line. Include the most pertinent info so that the receiver quickly gets the gist of the message (signing in a particular city, etc.) or be so entertaining that the receiver can't help but to read the body of the message. I usually go with the former.
+ Remember to update e-mail addresses because people change them frequently.
+ Save your e-mail addresses on a portable drive or some other backup system. This again is a reminder to myself because I haven't done this recently!
If you have any other tips, add them to the comment section.