Friday, February 01, 2013

Authorpreneur: Which e-mail marketing service to use?

Distant cousins and genealogy buffs who find me through this blog say, "Let me know when your book is published." I'll be happy to! But I worry about losing their information; I need a way to organize potential readers so I can contact them when I have a book to market.

I've learned from author entrepreneurs and probloggers that building a mailing list before publication is important. One way to build that list is to add a sign-up form to the blog.

Meanwhile, my bookshop e-mail list has grown so much that I have to send out newsletters in batches of less than 50, a manual process that's starting to grow cumbersome. My local business association sends their informative newsletter out in batches, yet they still end up in my spam folder.

It's time for an e-mail marketing service. But which one?

Here's my research for four popular providers. Costs and features were taken from their respective websites and are subject to change. I may have missed some of the features, but you can check the links or contact support for each service to find out more. Several of them offer discounts to nonprofits.

Most offer no-contract options with reduced pricing for a full year. A word of warning: most of the free or reduced-price trials are limited to 100 or less e-mails (that's one e-mail to 100 people). I naively uploaded my bookshop mailing list to Constant Contact and was kicked out of the free trial. So use the trial to play around with the features and just e-mail yourself or a few close friends.

Constant Contact

Pricing: Offers a free 60-day trial, no credit card required (up to 100 contacts).
Cost for a mailing list of 500: $15 per month
5,000: $50 per month
15,000: $150 per month
50,000: You have to call for a price. There are other levels besides the ones I listed.

Features: Live support, you can segment subscribers into multiple lists, autoresponder (eg. send welcome e-mails when people sign up), add your logo or pictures to a choice of 400+ templates, performance tracking, iPhone compatible, social media tools.

Reviews: Joe Orlando uses CC for three lists: his bookshop, Fenwick Street Used Books and Music, his local business association, and an arts center. His bookshop list is just under 500. "I started with Mail Chimp, but found too many errors and not enough followup info," he says. "I like Constant Contact as they have a vast array of templates, great informational videos, and are always so helpful in their customer service department."
NCYM, a state-wide Quaker organization, uses CC to send e-mails to about 2,000 members. Office manager Janna Harris says, "I really like Constant Contact. I have used Mail Chimp in the past with another organization and like it as well, maybe better. NCYM already had CC when I arrived and they are similar. There are a few things different, but both are user friendly and efficient."


Pricing: Offers $1 trial for the first month (500 or less contacts).
Cost for 500: $19 per month, unlimited e-mails.
5,000: $30 per month
15,000: $130 per month
50,000: Call for price.

Features: Multiple lists, autoresponder, 150 e-mail templates, personalize e-mails, customer support, 30-day money-back guarantee, website signup forms ("hundreds of templates"), performance tracking, social media integration. Aweber offers animated sign-up boxes, so you can time the box to slide in or pop-up after someone has read a little of your page.

Review: Probloggers Ana Hoffman and Danny Iny use Aweber. Here's Ana's review of Aweber, with comparisons to a few other services.

Your Mailing List Provider  

Pricing: YMLP offers a basic, free version for up to 1,000 contacts with no performance tracking. The prices below are for the Pro and Pro Plus versions with the listed features.
Priced by e-mails, not contacts
500 e-mails per month: $3.75 per month (that's 1 e-mail to 500 contacts or 5 e-mails to 100 contacts), or $5 with advanced tracking
7,500 e-mails: $15 or $20 per month
20,000 e-mails: $30 or $50 per month
50,000 e-mails: $60 or $100
100,000 e-mails: $100 or $175 (2 e-mails to a list of 50K, or 4 e-mails to a list of 15K)

Features: 30 templates or use their editor or upload from various programs, can use images, targeted e-mails (multiple lists), autoresponder, personalization, social media integration, website signup forms. YMLP lets you export your list any time, and edit it in a spreadsheet format. 

Review: Craig Stark, editor of BookThink, has been sending out advice to booksellers for over nine years. About 15,000 bibliophiles currently subscribe to his e-mail newsletter. He likes YMLP's pricing, but especially their reliability. "I also like the intuitive interface, which translates to ease of use," he says. "And, in the almost ten years we've been using them, there has never been a delivery issue."

Vertical Response

Pricing: VR offers a pay-as-you-go plan, good for those who don't send many e-mails but want to build their lists (like authors who haven't finished their books, yet). They have a free trial (no credit card required) for up to 100 e-mails.
500 contacts: $7.50 per e-mail
5,000: $60 per e-mail
15,000: $180 per e-mail

Monthly plans (unlimited e-mails? I couldn't find out on their site.)
500 contacts: $10 per month
5,000: $72 per month
15,000: $120 per month
50,000: call for price

Features: 700+ e-mail templates, multiple lists, iPhone compatible, performance tracking, social media integration, nonprofit discount. A social media marketing plan is available at extra cost.

Review: Author and publicist Jennifer Hudson Taylor likes VR's pay-as-you-go plan because she sends her newsletter out quarterly. "For my author newsletters, I use Vertical Response. I only send them out quarterly and they allow me to pay as I go. I couldn't see the benefit of paying Constant Contact for monthly services for which I wasn't using them for 8 months out of the year. I currently use MailChimp for those small emails that I want to send out to select groups, since it is free."
Here's Jennifer's review of three different services.


Ana | TGC said...

Before I chose Aweber, I tried Constant Contact as well. Not sure exactly what I didn't like about them any longer, but either way, it pushed me toward Aweber.

Thanks so much for the thumbs up, Beth!

Elizabeth Saunders said...

Your review was very helpful for my research, Ana.

Kevin Timothy said...

Aweber to me was like that ex that you wish you would've never forsaken or discounted. When I began working from home five years ago I tried Aweber for the first time.

I left...tried (and liked) a couple others, and STILL ultimately found myself back with the Aweber family.

Between their over-willingness to please their customers, the courtesy you're presented with, and the product, I have yet to find another email marketing service that tops them.

Oh, and by the way I have used some really complicated autoresponders. Aweber is EXTREMELY user friendly.

At this point I don't even want to look at another. I'm just glad that Aweber is one ex that took me back.

Elizabeth Saunders said...

Thanks, Kevin. It seems like Aweber is the cream of the crop. I'm trying out less expensive solutions for now, but may move up to Aweber in the future.