We wake up just enough to stay woke but not enough to live. We live on hours and minutes and second hands, gas, and expressways. Espressos and Starbucks. From the bed to the car to the job, back to the car to the house and to the bed where we will lie down again so that we can wake up and exist again. Begin again. Breathe again. Boldly expecting these bodies to be there to back us up again. Do we ever back up? Can we stop? When was the last time you experienced something beautiful and told no one? Can we be beautiful without filter? Can we examine this breath? This gorgeous breath. This inhale and exhale. This miracle that is in us. Can we examine these lungs? Let the seconds and minutes and hours add up, can we forget about time? Let it pass. Watch the orange and yellow rays of the sun bleeding into the sky. Can we experience the day passing onto the next? Can we catch it moving? Can we listen to the sound of quiet? Do we even know if silence has a sound? Can we listen to the birds sing for hours at a time and let the leaves change and crumble into colors? Can we let the wind blow dust onto the windowsill, can peace be still? You have to wake up before you can stay woke. Can we live?
As you all know, I have been spending less time on social media and more time getting out into the community and networking with local Independent bookstores. I am doing this as part of my goal to try things out for myself and to be a witness to the experience so I know what works and what does not work. I am calling it My Bookstore Journey. Currently, I am working with three stores at the moment in the Atlanta-land area with one that has already stocked me on the shelves. I thought I’d share a little bit about why I am doing this. I am also using this as an excuse to update this blog (lol).
My Bookstore Journey is not just about getting into stores. In fact, I do not desire to get into every store. My Bookstore Journey is about learning more about this returns-based industry, how to negotiate, set discounts and experience all of this on my own. I don’t just want to read about it any longer, I want to experience it. In this way, I can help others and offer insight based on hands-on experience. There is a lot being said about Independent Publishing that is just not true (one of them being that Self-Publishers can’t get into bookstores…I’ve already proven this to be false.)
I’ve been spending less time online because 2018, for me, is about stepping outside of my comfort zone (selling my books online) and getting out to talk with people face to face. As an extremely shy person, this is a big step for me. I’d much rather stay at home and speak to you this way. (Am I the only person who thinks she writes better than she speaks?)
This is a journey of learning and discovering so not every place will be for me. (As the saying goes: “Never drink from every cup handed to you, that’s how you get poisoned..”) That said, here’s the latest update on my Bookstore Journey:
Atlanta has been cold but this weekend was a beautiful one so I took advantage of it. The bookstore at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Site is currently reviewing my latest poetry release I am Soul. The store is next door to the MLK birth home and if they like my book we will see about getting it on the shelves if everything is everything. If I decide to go through with it, this will be a major milestone as the historical area brings major traffic, tourists, and city officials.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” – Matt. 7:7-8
Yecheilyah is an author, blogger and poet. Be sure to pick up your copy of I am Soul, her latest collection of poetry on Amazon.
I’ve learned so far that there’s a lot more to building an email list than getting people signed up. I’ve had an email list for years but I feel that only now am I starting to really understand how it works. A little. OK so maybe I just have an inkling of an idea. Who knows but it’s a start.
While having one is great, building an email list and the upkeep is not easy! OK, well, it’s not hair-pulling difficult but it does take some tending to. I don’t want to scare anyone away. It’s not brain surgery or anything like that but I guess that’s why they call it “building”. You don’t build anything over night. There are lots of steps and parts to keeping an email list updated and valuable.
Here are some things I learned, or I should say I am learning, about the email list:
More Subscribers Mean Little to Nothing
At first, I was concerned with getting more subscribers. I mean, that’s a start, right? Yes and no. Yes because of course I want readers. No because that’s just the beginning.
I learned that getting people to subscribe, as challenging as it can be, turned out not to represent as much of the process as I’d thought. While getting subscribers is great, you should know that it’s never a guarantee that people will:
- Stay subscribed to your list (people can unsubscribe anytime)
- Open the emails you send
- Click on your links
- Support your product / service
One of the first lessons I am learning in my continual quest to better understand list building is that subscribers mean little to nothing in the grand scheme of things. It is not so much how many people are on the list so much as it is how many of these people are engaged: open emails, read the content, click links and offer feedback. Are they part of my target audience or just taking up space? Are they at all interested in what I have to say?
I’ve learned that an email list of only ten people on it in which eight are engaged and supporting is better than a thousand who can care less.
2. The “From” Address – Use the name that is the most popular and noticeable to your readers
When setting up an email list, part of the process is to enter a “From” Address or the name you want to appear as the person the email is coming from. For the two years or so of sending emails through Mail Chimp I used Literary Korner Publishing, my business name and all was well.
Toward the close of last year, I decided to do something different. I stopped using my business name and used my name, Yecheilyah, instead. I wanted to see if my open and click rate would increase. It did. It worked because it is the name most familiar to my readers.
3. Email – Use a business email address
Another thing I started off with is using my personal Gmail account as the email linked to my list. When setting up an email list, you’ll also have the option of choosing where the emails will come from / people can reply to. In the beginning, it was my Gmail account. I have since changed this.
Toward the close of last year I changed my email. It required an upgrade but it was worth it. It does look more professional but I’ll be honest in saying I didn’t do it for how it would look. I did it to make sure my emails aren’t going into my subscriber’s spam folders. As a result, my open rates did increase. I didn’t get a snapshot so you’ll have to take my word for it. I’ll remember to snag some images next time.
What’s a good business email address?
Your name (at) your domain name dot com (email@example.com)
4. Headline – Choose a headline that will speak to your list
I didn’t start off paying much attention to my email list headline. If people opened the email they opened it. If not, oh well. That’s how I saw it.
And then I grew up…
I am not doing this for my health which means that it does matter if people are finding value in the content or not and if I am seeing a return as a result. So, I started to pay more attention to the Headline of my emails or the title that people see that tells them what the email is about. It didn’t occur to me that if this didn’t speak to them there would be no reason to open the email! Yikes.
Somehow, I’d taken it for granted that people, though signed up, are not obligated to open and read the content. I thought about blogging and how important the title of the blog post is. (Click Here for 5 Creative Ways to Headline Your Blog Post) I decided to apply this to my list.
Just like someone must be interested enough to click on the blog and read it, someone must also be interested enough in the email headline to open the email and read it.
The headline is the first clue to the reader on what the email is about. If it is something they can care less about, they will not open the email. I have noticed that putting more thought into my email headlines has increased the open rates as well. Meaning, more people are opening the emails and clicking on the links. (A decent open rate is anywhere from 30-55%. It means that most of your list is seeing every email. But do not expect everyone on your list to be engaged. I’ve learned that even if only 20% of my list is communicating with me, that’s good).
5. Dividing the List – Sub divide your list by interest
I really didn’t want to do this. The only reason I can think of is laziness. I didn’t feel like splitting anyone up and sending more than one email.
And then I grew up…
I have recently began the first process of dividing my list and I feel good about it so far! The feedback alone told me a lot about the people who open and read my emails and gave me an idea into what it is they each want. Right now, I am only working with two lists and it was interesting to see who fell into which group.
Monthly – My monthly email list is compiled mostly of people who have either known me for years (at least more than two years but also as long as ten), enjoy getting everything summarized into one list, or who I know have busy schedules and don’t feel like being bothered with me more than once a month. They know me too well.
Bimonthly – My bimonthly email list, which is much smaller, is compiled mostly of people who have met me recently (anywhere from one week to one year ago), open my emails regularly and give the most feedback, are interested in emails about inspiration and motivation, and who like their emails smaller.
I loved the process of dividing them up! It was fun and helped me to focus on every single subscriber and to get to know them on a more personal level based on their interest.
6. Less is More – Limiting the Creative Mind
I consider myself a boring person outside of writing. But when I am writing and putting together emails I love colors and images! I love doing different things and experimenting. I love being silly and using my cartoon avatar. However, I have since pulled back a little with this.
Maybe I’m just getting older or I just know better but I cut a lot of that out. My avatar remains but outside of this I’ve limited the number of images used, switched to a basic theme with a white background and toned down the colors. While I’d love for my email to look like a magazine spread, images increase the possibility of spam as well and too much going on is distracting. The white background on the other hand made everything pop and it is easier to read.
7. Removal – Taking people off your email list
What? You mean I did all that work to get people signed up and now I have to…take them off?
Yea, pretty much.
It took my numbers down a notch but I feel that the cleaning will do me some good. I am not interested in having people subscribed who really don’t want to be there or who are just there to spy, just for the sake of numbers. That’s never been me. One thing I am sure everyone should do every now and again is to clean up their email list.
This means to go through the list and either (1) reach out to or (2) remove altogether those emails belonging to people who never open your emails or interact with you at all. I imagine they see the emails and trash / spam them but for whatever strange reason they don’t unsubscribe. Or maybe they subscribed because you had a contest or offered something for them and now that they got it they’re no longer interested. Whatever the reason, it’s their business. Growth is not just about gaining. It’s about losing too. I believe trimming the weeds will help me to grow and I will soon have twice as much support as I’ve had to lose.
The point is that I want people on my email list who want to be there. Not people who are just there to spy or be nosy. They hate my guts but they open every email. That doesn’t make any sense. I also don’t want people on my list who never open a single email but they won’t unsubscribe. I don’t understand why they are there.
Even when people unsubscribe themselves, I’ve learned this is not a bad thing. It literally does me no good to have people around who don’t want to be. This is a business not a hobby. Whatever is not contributing to growth has gotta go. Don’t be afraid to get rid of dead weight.
When I look at my list today I feel good. I know that the people subscribed want to be there and if they ever feel bored, I hope they will just unsubscribe. That’s just the realness of it. You win some, and you lose some but you live. You live to fight another day. Yes, that’s from the movie Friday. It doesn’t have anything to do with this article but I thought I’d leave you with a chuckle. Or not.
Interested in being part of my crew? They’re great! Emails go out once or twice a month based on your preference. CLICK HERE to sign up and thank you!
Do not think that I am upset right now, though my speech is slow and my brow furrowed in my forehead. This is just my thinking face. We are actually pretty calmed right now, optimistic if you will. You see we’ve learned to be this way, content. I want you to know that it is OK to take your time. What you need is already prepared for you in the day that you need it. You’ve got some hard times ahead but some groundbreaking ones too. Your level of resolve will continue to be placed against your desire to endure, so pay attention then to the choices you make; they will bear fruit of whether or not you’ve chosen to be strong or held captive to your weaknesses. I want you to know that it is OK to acknowledge the good in your life; to seek good and to pursue love. The attacks to which you are set to receive are not small but they do have the potential to tear you down if you let it. But if you can instead take the time to ponder all of the good things in your life, to notice the small progressions, these occurrences will not move you nor will they alter your desire to win. I know, I know things are never easy for us, never have been. They are always hardcore, up front, and personal. I regret to inform you that this will not change and it will cause you to often, doubt. I would tell you not to doubt but you won’t listen. Experience will continue to boss you around and pain is still your teacher. However, love, joy, happiness, and contentment will not leave you. Like a mother, sister, aunt or a good friend they will not leave you. There will be temptations galore and they are not limited to the flesh. But remember that the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. Hold on to your innocence but do not be naïve. Learn to understand the world that you live in, and how to properly navigate it. If I remember correctly, we have much more important teenage stuff to do than to sit here and talk about goals but one more thing before you leave. I want you to write this down and to remember it whenever you feel hopeless. Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian journalist, once said
There are moments when troubles enter our lives and we can do nothing to change them. But they are there for a reason. Only when we have overcome them, will we understand why they were there.”
Signed, Your Future Self
I’m reposting this from a throwback Bewow post I did last year. My birthday was yesterday (yayy) and I thought it was perfect to repost as the #MayChallenge is coming to a close, which I’m sad to admit makes me excited. (Seriously, I think I was the only person who participated lol). I’ll have something much more organized next time. I don’t think I was ready. LOL. Anyways, enjoy your weekend.
Now what? No, seriously. Now that I have your attention, I don’t know what to do with it. It’s just that, well, I really wanted to use MAY in my title.
But, while we’re here, I MAY as well say something.
I’m really excited about the results of my Spring Giveaway. The purpose of the contest covered a number of areas so what I’d like to do is list some benefits I found of hosting a Giveaway in the way that I’ve done and some things I wished I’d done better. I don’t feel like being long winded today so I just have four points.
- Extending My Hand
I believe, as an artist, that giving back is a very important part of the work. Just look around your Blog neighborhood. The top blogs, the ones with lots of support, are the blogs that give lots of support! I truly believe that what you give comes back to you. Not that you should just do something for that reason, but you get the point here. Giving is just really important on so many levels, business, and personally. It is also a part of me. I have to be able to give back. Giving is such a gratifying experience and just fills me up. There is really no better accomplishment than the opportunity to bask in someone else’s happiness. It’s like this quote here by Denzel Washington:
Thank you Denzel for summing that up for us because I didn’t feel like explaining.
2. Social Engagement
From a Social Media perspective, I really wanted to increase the social engagement of my followers. You know sometimes, with the way social media is now, its easy to accumulate thousands of subscribers or “friends” (gotta use this F word loosely) and never have anything else to do with them. So easy to have large readerships or support and not do anything with them. So I’ve really been on this personal, get-to-know-you-better type kick lately with seeking to understand how to build better relationships with the people who support me and really dig into this networking thing.
Speaking of networking, I also wanted to increase my social media presence online by offering people who may not be familiar with my work an opportunity to connect with me. Its another reason I wanted to sort of “go all out” by hosting a Giveaway on this level so I can really peer into my circle of supporters and really get to monitor what things are actually looking like around here. If there’s one thing I don’t want to be is in the dark. To have this perception of my work that doesn’t reflect the truth. So one major benefit to this Giveaway I found is the increase in social media. Over the course of this contest I’ve done the following:
- 17 New Email Newsletter Subscribers (Only 1 person unsubscribed after the contest. Remember when we spoke about the risks of this kind of a giveaway? That people may unfollow you after the contest ends. I am happy to have only gotten one unsubscribe).
- New Blog Followers. I think there’s a handful of you who found me, welcome, welcome.
- 21 New Facebook Likes to my Business Page
- 10 New Twitter Followers
I cannot leave without thanking @Opinionated Man, @Annette Rochelle Aben, @LisaTetting, and @Don Massenzio for their support and others who helped to re-blog the post about the giveaway. I do know that it really helped to contribute to getting the word out to the blogosphere and is most definitely appreciated. This Giveaway has also helped to spread the word about the books themselves and helped me to gauge just how interested people are in the series. If only 3 people are selected to win but there are lots of entries, or not so many entries, I would be able to see where I stood in relation to demand. Now that its all over, I understand where I am on that level.
If there is one negative about the giveaway, there is one thing I wish I’d done better.
4. Ask For Contestant Names
I know, it seems obvious, but because of the popularity of social media, it was easier to just ask for an email address because that gave me access to the person in which to communicate without doing a whole lot of shout outs. The negative thing about this however that I didn’t think about, was putting my winners at risk of Spam and Junk mail by publishing their emails across my social networks. It occurred to me this week as I was announcing the winners that I probably should have just asked for everyone’s first and last names! LOL. But, on a positive note, I think that by just asking for an email address, it increased participation because people didn’t have to do much. Not that entering your name is much but a lot of people have nick names or maybe they just robbed a bank and don’t want to give their name, who knows. But an email address. Well, you can enter an email address with one click and from anywhere. I definitely did not want a whole bunch of questions or mandatory info that would make that process any less smooth.
In any event I’d say my first Giveaway was a success! I didn’t have hundreds of entries but I had far more than I thought I would have and the experience was really uplifting and brought me closer to understanding how to network and build those interpersonal relationships that are so vital to online promotion / marketing.
No, not like that. By “Come Out of The Closet” I just mean to reveal yourself to your readers. I know, I know, you MAY not consider yourself to be that much of a blogger to have “readers”. It MAY feel arrogant in nature, narcissistic or whatever, but the truth is that its not. It doesn’t matter how big or small your blog is we all have readers. There is someone somewhere who reads your blog. Someone somewhere who is always watching, silently and consistently keeping track of everything you post. Scary isn’t it? In some ways yes. You MAY feel that one day you’re going to be judged, called out, accused. I wouldn’t worry about that. First of all, no one reading this is my judge. Neither of you have the power to give my breath or to take it away from me. So for me personally, if I were you, judgement is not something I would worry about.
Today is the first day of the #May Writing Challenge and my first message is MAY you come out of the closet. For most of our lives we’ve been taught to keep our skeletons in the closet, which means to keep those most intimate parts of ourselves, those mistakes and faults secret. The closet represents something hidden, the heart if you will. We are taught to keep our deepest darkest secrets in the deepest darkest places of our hearts. The problem with blogging this way is that readers will never get the chance to see who you truly are. It is not about airing dirty laundry (My motto is always to: Keep Ya House Out Ya Mouth” meaning everything that goes on in your home should not be shared). So obviously we’re not talking about that. What we’re talking about is the kind of openness and intimacy that will allow people to get to know the real you because that’s what people want to connect to. Not something fake, something transparent, something real.
Bloggers: May You Come Out of The Closet
Tell us something about you that is personal. By personal I mean your favorite food, music, movie, your mistakes, your experiences. By personal I mean something that we can connect to. Something we can bridge to. Experiences are what connects us. Sure, we MAY make mistakes but that’s the beauty behind the whole process. Re-blogs are cool, writing tips are always good, and quotes are uplifting but sometimes that gets boring. It gets boring because people read blogs not just to be inspired or encouraged but to be informed. People want to know who you are on the inside, what your life is like, or did that new recipe work out for you? Yesterday I read a post about a woman’s journey to conception and it was truly touching and close to my heart. Truth is you never know how sharing your experiences can help others. In the end its about blogging without fear. Don’t be afraid to share a piece of yourself with your readers so that they can have something to connect to. Its the only way to build.