Welcome to The Writer's Blueprint

Whether you're a complete newbie to self-publishing, or a grizzled old vet who remembers the "good old days" of 2011, The Writer's Blueprint will help you get the most out of your next book. Because your book is a work of fucking art, and you want the whole world to read it, right? Damn straight.

The Writer's Blueprint won't tell you how to write the perfect book (although you may find a tip here or there on how to do it). But it will help you put that book in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

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How to make your blurbs look 1000% more awesome on Amazon
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How to publish a book (and promote it!) for under $500
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Why the “throw-shit-at-a-wall” approach to publishing doesn’t (usually) work.
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The author’s guide to building a kick-ass website in under an hour.
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Why all authors should split test their newsletter content.

How to make your blurbs look 1000% more awesome on Amazon

So you’ve read my guide on writing blurbs that sell, and you’ve got a killer blurb at the ready. Your cover’s on point, your book is ready, and you’re about to rock the self-publishing world with your new release.

Now I’m going to show you a trick to take your blurbs to the next level.

When you just publish your book normally, your blurbs tend to look something like this:

And sure, this is fine. It’s acceptable in most cases. But there’s a super easy way to make your blurbs stand out even more. And remember – the more your blurbs stand out, the easier they are to read, the more likely you are to get your readers to click that buy button.

Do you find it easier to read the blurb as it’s shown above, or easier to read this one?

Yeah, that second one not only looks a lot better, but it’s easier to read.

And all I did was use some simple HTML. And what’s even better: Amazon supply a list of the HTML they allow you to use in blurbs. Click here to look at the full list of available HTML tags you can use in your blurbs.

To close the tag, you just put the same thing as the opening tag, but with a slash mark added to it.

So to bold something, you start it off with <b>Then you write what you want in bold here.</b> And then everything from here on in will no longer be bold, because you closed the bold tag with the </b> mark.

How to preview your blurb to make sure you did it right

If you’re not used to using HTML tags you might be a bit nervous about adding them straight into your blurbs and then hitting publish without being able to preview properly.

Well, not to worry! You can use this tool to create your blurbs with all the formatting, then just copy/paste the code into the description slot when creating your book.

I don’t know who it is who made that tool, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to call them a true American hero. Even if they aren’t American.

There’s only one thing to note with the tool: if you use the header options (<h1> <h2>…) they show up as being orange text in the preview. This is how they used to appear in blurbs, and then about a year ago or so (it might have been longer… I’m so old!) Amazon changed their code, so now it appears as bolded text, but still in black in the descriptions.

Now go out there and make your blurbs gorgeous! Don’t forget to look at how bestsellers in your genre use the different formatting options and try to keep yours in line with that… after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Happy blurbing!

How to publish a book (and promote it!) for under $500

I’ve seen way, way too many self-published authors spend thousands of dollars getting their books ready for publication. That’s just not necessary. Especially when, for most of those people, they’re never going to get that money back.

So if you’re one of those people spending over $500 every time you’re launching a book, and not getting any results from it, this is absolutely the blog post for you.

Basically, there are three main things you should be spending your money on as a new author.

#1. Editing

If your book isn’t well edited, well, you can expect some bad reviews. Every author should be paying for editing, especially given how cheap it is.

How much to pay?

For copy editing, which includes basic proofreading for spelling/grammatical mistakes, as well as watching out for plot issues, sentence structure, and a few other basics, you can usually expect to pay in the $200-$250 range for a 50,000 word novel (I look for a provider generally charging in the $5 per 1000 words range). I wouldn’t bother paying for line editing. Copy editing is fine.

You’ll notice that we’re spending a good chunk of our budget on editing. Well, editing is pretty important. You don’t want to skimp out on something that might end up giving you bad reviews if you’ve made too many mistakes.

If you’re looking for a good editor, try forums like kboards, where editors are listed. The most popular editors are usually booked up pretty early, but they’re popular for a reason. You generally want to stick with those. Whoever you go with, make sure they have good references, whether they be in the form of forum posts, or if you have to ask for them. If you become a member of smaller communities, oftentimes service providers there will offer special discounts to members of those boards.

I don’t recommend it, but if you absolutely, positively MUST self-edit, well I have one piece of advice for you: step away from the book for at least 48 hours. Give your brain some time to forget about what you’ve done for a little while. If you finish your book and immediately go to self-edit, you will miss major mistakes.

#2. Cover

Your cover is the #1 thing that’s going to make people click on your books when they show up in their search results. I’ve seen wayyyyyy too many authors ask me why their book isn’t selling, and then showing me covers that look like this:

badcover

Sure, this is an extreme example, but this is the cover of your book we’re talking about. No one’s going to click on that cover I posted above. They’re just not. It looks terrible. And unless you genuinely have years and years of experience with Photoshop, and you’ve spent hours upon hours studying your genre and what the covers look like, chances are a cover artist is going to do MUCH better work for you than you could do yourself.

This isn’t the time to get all insulted about not being a professional cover artist. You’re NOT a professional cover artist. At least, most of you reading this aren’t. Some of you might be. But if you’re not, then buy a cover. At least for your first couple of books.

How much should I pay for a cover?

You can get decent pre-made covers in the $40-$60 range. For custom covers, which I only recommend if you really, really can’t find anything pre-made that fits your book, you’d be looking more in the $60-$80 range.

Again, go to KBoards, or smaller writer’s forums related to your niche. You’ll find great cover artists there. And if you take your time and look around, you’ll find a deal. I’ve seen amazing pre-mades selling for $35 before. Start looking for covers while you’re still writing your book, or even before you’ve started writing it but after you’ve come up with the plot. If you’re not in a hurry to buy something, just being able to have a quick browse here and there can help you find great premades at excellent prices.

#3. Marketing

So now we have around $200 left from our initial budget. We’re going to spend that money on marketing.

Now honestly, depending on what genre you write in, where the best place to spend your money is is going to vary. What I would do, however, is focus on mailing lists. Honestly, I don’t recommend Facebook ads when you’re trying to really squeeze as much as you can out of every dollar. The Facebook ads market has become super saturated after a few courses have come out telling authors about how good they are, and I would personally spend the money on mailing lists like ENT, BookSends, that sort of thing.

I would spend most of the money on one big promotion (in the $70-$100 range) and then the rest of the money on smaller promotions on surrounding days. This is where you really need to find a forum with writers in your genre: they will be able to tell you what sites are worth the money, and which ones aren’t. I can tell you that in romance I’ve had good results with ENT, BookSends, My Romance Reads, The Naughty List, Shameless Book Deals and ExciteSteam.

This of course doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use free sources of marketing – submitting your books to Facebook pages, making sure you have a bunch of reviews, promoting to your mailing list, etc – but paid marketing, when done well, can go a long way towards making sure your book is seen, and it doesn’t need to cost a whole lot.

Watch for my upcoming post with more free promotion methods to get as many eyeballs as possible on your books without having to break the bank. As you can see, we just launched a book fully for under $500. There’s no reason to spend more than that, at least not when you’re starting out. You haven’t skimped on anything, and this way you’re getting your feet wet in the publishing world in a way that makes you more likely to make your money back and then some.

Why the “throw-shit-at-a-wall” approach to publishing doesn’t (usually) work.

Now, I’ve been around the block for quite a while *angrily waves fist at young children on her lawn* and I’ve seen a lot of things in self publishing. A lot of good things. And also a lot of bad. Authors who go with the throw shit at a wall and see what sticks approach, well, I’m here to tell you why that approach rarely works.

It’s not like I can’t see the appeal. And I’ve seen it recommended on forums, social media and other places that new authors try a whole bunch of things and see what works for them. Inherently, it’s not bad advice. I can see where they’re coming from. But it still almost never works.

Because by “throwing shit at a wall” you’re not letting yourself become established.

I’ve been on author pages where the person’s written 10 or so books. And that’s awesome. It takes a hell of a lot of work to write 10 books.

Let’s pretend that these books belong to an author called Jane Doe. Of those ten books, you have:

  • 2 contemporary romances
  • 1 paranormal shifter romance
  • 2 cozy mysteries
  • 1 thriller
  • the first part of a fantasy series
  • 1 cookbook
  • 2 YA books

None of those books have a rank under 100k. Because this approach just doesn’t work. And I see it all. the. time. And I know that I don’t even see all of them, because a lot of people don’t want their thrillers and their contemporary romances under the same pen name, so they just use a different pen name with 1-2 books published for each.

Reason #1: You’re not mastering anything

I believe in the 95/5 rule. 5% of authors are making 95% of the money in any given genre. That 5% know their genre inside and out. Remember my post about analyzing covers? And if you’ve read Blurb Magic you know that I go through how different blurbs look in different genres.

If you’re publishing in multiple genres, you’re never going to get the kind of mastery of these arts that the 5% have. They know everything there is to know about their genre. Hell, you could give me a paranormal romance right now and I guarantee you it wouldn’t do nearly as well as my contemporary stuff, because I focus on contemporary romance. I don’t know what the trends in paranormal are. I don’t have the time to keep up with them. But I can tell you exactly what’s selling in contemporary, the latest trends for covers, how the blurbs are being formatted, what sub-niches are growing and what ones are starting to fade away, what new authors are starting to make a dent in the market and what promo places have the best mailing lists for contemporary romance.

You can tell yourself that you have the time to keep up with all this info in multiple genres, but frankly, you’re lying to yourself. Mastery of a niche. You are much, much better off focusing on one niche and absolutely mastering it than just putting things out there in two, three, four different niches and hoping something sticks. This is the kind of info that takes authors from being low-listers earning $100-$500 a month to full time authors making 5 figures a month, by the way.

Reason #2: You’re not writing fast enough

This one overlaps with reason #1 a little bit. When you’re writing in a certain niche, you’re going to have fans. And when you have fans, they will buy what you write.

If you’re writing in, say, three different niches and you can release one novel a month, that means your fans for each niche are going to have to wait three months between novels. Do you think they’re going to stick around when someone else who writes at the same speed as you and is focused on their one niche is writing one novel a month? No. Of course not. Plus that other person’s going to build a backlist quite a bit faster. So after six months, when they have six novels out, every time they get a new fan that fan has six books to buy to catch up on. Yours have two.

Of course this is assuming you’re running each niche on a different pen name. I’m not even talking about the people who run different genres on the same pen name, because that idea just makes the marketer in me want to scream. Brand yourself. Don’t stick a million different things on the same pen name. If you absolutely have to write both cozy mysteries and romance, choose a different pen name for each. You want people to think of you as “the cozy person”, not the “bunch of random books about different things” person.

I don’t care if you can write 10,000 words a day (I am jealous of you though, just FYI). Releasing a novel every week or so to rabid fans who can’t get enough of your work is still way better than releasing a novel a month in four different genres.

Reason #3: You’re not giving yourself time to be successful at something

Look at Jane Doe’s catalogue. She has ten books out, but no more than two in the same genre. How is that supposed to build a brand, build a following? What if she’d written ten books in one genre. She’d have learned a lot more, she’d be more likely to have a growing following, and she’d be more likely to be making decent money from writing. Things in this business, just like in life, they usually take time. Michael Jordan didn’t wake up one day and decide to be a great basketball player. But if he’d stopped after being rejected at the first 10 colleges he applied to and decided to take up baseball instead… well, do you think we’d know his name at all, let alone remember him as the greatest basketball player to ever live?

Just because something doesn’t make money after the first try doesn’t mean it won’t ever make money. If there are other authors selling well in the same genre, it means the money is there to be made.

 

It’s not that throwing shit at a wall will never work. It can work, and there are a few examples where people have gotten big doing it. And of course, if you’re writing something and no matter what you do it just doesn’t sell, there’s no problem with swapping genres to something you might find easier, or enjoy writing more, or that you think you’ll be able to sell better. But choose something, and give it a good go. You’ll increase your odds of success tenfold that way.

The author’s guide to building a kick-ass website in under an hour.

So you’re an author, and you don’t have a website. “Hey Liv, why do I need a website anyway? Isn’t that what Amazon’s for?”

No.

It’s so important as an author for you to have your own website, and why wouldn’t you? After all, the domain costs like $15 a year, and you can get hosting through the link I’m posting below for under $6 a month. So for under $90 a year you can look like a pro, have a bigger online presence, and give your readers a great spot to come and find all the info on your latest releases.

Not to mention, you should already be buying the domain name for your mailing list (having john@johndoe.com as your reply-to email for your mailing list will get you a much better inbox delivery rate than using johndoe@gmail.com), so really the only extra expense you’re paying for is the hosting.

Plus, it’s easy. I promise. Just follow the instructions below, it doesn’t take long.

“Alright Liv, you’ve convinced me, as always, because you’re amazing and you know everything. So how do I get started?”

First of all, you need to buy a domain name and hosting.

I always buy my domains from name.com. It’s not like they’re super amazing or anything, but I just started buying my domains from them and I like having them all in one spot. I’ve also heard really good things about namecheap.com.

If you’re really on a budget, you can also skip straight to the web hosting part of this tutorial. When you sign up for Dreamhost, they include free domain registration for the first year. I like to keep my domain registrations and hosting separate, but there’s honestly no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of Dreamhost’s offer.

Now, when you’re on the main site, you want to choose your author website name. The number one, 100% best name to get is authorname.com

Always buy a .com domain. Even if the .com is taken but .net is available, don’t. People are so used to typing .com now that they’re not going to remember that your website is a .net.

If johndoe.com is taken, try johndoeauthor.com. Or authorjohndoe.com

At least one of those three should be available. Click “Add to Cart” and then go to checkout.

Now, when you’re in your cart on name.com, you’ll notice that whois privacy has been added for $3.99. DO NOT TURN THIS OFF. You absolutely want whois privacy on all your domains, it hides the information of the person who registered the domain from the public. Basically, if you don’t have whois protection, anybody with an internet connection can look up your real name and address.

However there’s no reason to pay $3.99 for this. So click the button for Promo Code, and in the window that appears enter ‘PRIVACYPLEASE’ and name.com will give you the whois protection for free.

Then enter your payment info, and buy your domain.

When you’ve bought your domain, you should be taken to your dashboard, which looks something like this:

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Click on the domain that you just bought (ie. johndoe.com)

On the screen that opens, you want to click on “Nameservers”, the third menu option down the left hand side. Your screen should now look something like this:

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Click that “Delete All” button above the nameservers, then “Apply Changes”.

Next, in the “Add Nameserver” box, you want to write ns1.dreamhost.com. Then click “Add”. Then, in that same box, write “ns2.dreamhost.com”. Click “Add” again. Click “Apply Changes” again. Now, the screen should look something like this:

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Congratulations, your domain is now completely set up!

Now, let’s set up your hosting.

Dreamhost is the host I use, and I’ve been with them since approximately forever (2007 kind of feels like forever ago), since long before I got into self publishing. They’ve always been awesome to me. You can pay with PayPal or credit card, their customer service is top notch, and I’ve rarely ever had any downtime with them.

Click here to sign up and get $50 off your first year’s hosting with Dreamhost.

You need to use my link to get the $50 off, otherwise you’ll be paying the normal, full price. It is an affiliate link, but if I just linked to the normal Dreamhost site, you wouldn’t be getting the discount. I’m not recommending Dreamhost for the affiliate commissions, I’m recommending them because they are amazing.

Start off by creating your account with a username and password. Then, you’ll get to the domain page. If you have already bought your domain, enter it in the box, and select “I already own this domain” from the radio buttons below. If not, enter the domain name you want to buy.

Always buy a .com domain. Even if the .com is taken but .net is available, don’t. People are so used to typing .com now that they’re not going to remember that your website is a .net.

If johndoe.com is taken, try johndoeauthor.com. Or authorjohndoe.com

Your screen should look something like this:

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Then click continue. On the next page, you’ll be given three different plan options to choose from. Select the middle option (one year at $50 off). You can choose three years if you want, up to you. If you can afford the money right off the bat, it’s some good savings, but if you’re just starting out I’d go with the one year option. Then click continue once again.

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The next page will ask you if you want to set up a MySQL VPS. Leave the box unchecked (for ‘no’), and click continue.

Finally, the last page will ask for your payment info. Once you’ve entered it and paid, congratulations, you are all set up to build your website!

Let’s get this website rolling!

Now, when you log into your Dreamhost dashboard, you’ll see this menu on the left hand side:

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The two options that I’ve underlined in red are the only ones you’re going to need to worry about to build your site. First, start off by clicking “domains”, then click the first option, “manage domain” from the expanded menu.

Click the “add hosting to a domain/subdomain” option that pops up. If you registered your domain through Dreamhost I’m not 100% sure if you have to do this step. If you opened the page in “Manage domains” and saw the domain you purchased already listed, you can skip this step.

Now, fill in the info on the page listed. It looks like a lot, but there are only two things you need to fill out: your domain name, and the domain username. Everything else can be left as is. I’ve added a picture showing you what parts to fill out below.

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Then when you’ve done that, scroll past everything else until you reach the captcha. Fill it out and click “fully host this domain”.

Now we’re going to install WordPress

WordPress is basically a content management system that makes it SUPER easy for authors to set up really awesome looking web pages quickly.

Remember this menu, on the left hand side?

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Now, you’re going to click on “Goodies”. Then below that, “One click Installs” (the second option down).

Click on WordPress.

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The only thing you need to do in the window that pops up is choose your domain from the first drop down box (the one underlined in red in the photo below) and press “Install for me now”

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Now, this is the most time consuming part of the process. If you registered your domain through Dreamhost, you only have to wait about ten minutes before you get an email telling you how to set up your site. If you registered through another registrar and had to change the nameservers, you’ll have to wait a few hours for the information to propagate. Basically, when you get the email from Dreamhost, try clicking the link in it every hour or so until your website loads. I find it usually takes 3-4 hours.

When you get the email, this is what it will look like:

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You only really need to worry about numbers 1 and 4. Click on the link under number 1 to create your admin user. Choose your language first, then click continue. Fill out the information it asks for, then click install wordpress at the bottom.

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Once you’ve done that, follow the prompts to log in, and log in with the username and password you’ve just chosen.

Congratulations, you now have a website! If you go to yourwebsite.com, you’ll see something that looks like this. Now we just need to customize it and make it yours.

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Customize WordPress to make it awesome and your own.

The very first thing I always choose when I start a new WordPress site is a theme. There are literally millions of themes out there. Some are free, some are paid. Here’s a list of a few free themes that I think would work pretty well for authors:

Grid

Digest

Hitchcock

Pine

Portfolio

GK Portfolio

Now, you can use any of these themes, or any others. Have a look at what you can find on Google, and if you find a theme you like, go for it! For this example, though, I’ll be going through how to customize Grid, the first theme on my list. Begin by downloading your theme from the website, in .zip format. Don’t bother unpacking the files, just leave them in .zip. Grid has a free and a paid version, I’m just using the free version.

First, on the menu on the left hand side, go to Appearance -> Themes.

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Click on “Add New” at the top.

Now click on “Upload Theme” at the top.

In the box that pops up, choose the Grid zip file you downloaded, and click Install Now.

When the file successfully installs, click “Activate”

Now, if you go to your website, it’ll probably look pretty empty. Time to fix that! We’re going to add your books.

From the left side menu, click on “Posts”.

There will be one post listed, titled “Hello World”. Mouse over the name, and a few options will show up. Click on “edit”.

Now, we’re going to put your books here. If you have more than one book, start with your oldest. In the title, I usually put New Release: [book name]

Then in the description, I put the blurb, and links to buy the book.

Now, before you hit publish, though, you need to add your cover as the “featured image”. On the right hand side are a whole bunch of option. Publish, Categories, Tags, etc. The very bottom one is called “Featured Image”. Click “Set featured image”. Go to “upload image” and choose your file. Upload it, then in the bottom right corner choose “set featured image”. If you’ve done it right, your cover will appear in the “Featured Image” box on the main part of the screen. This is what your page should look like when you’re done.

(if you want to see the full-size version: http://i.imgur.com/OqJvZ6d.png )

Now on the right hand side, click the “update” button. If you visit your website now, you’ll see your book’s information:

How cool is that?

If you have more books, you can go to Posts -> Add New and repeat the same process until you’ve added all your posts to your website. Remember to go oldest book to newest book, so that your latest release will always be the first thing people see.

Here’s what your homepage will look like with a few books added to it:

Now that your books are up, let’s make an “About the Author” page.

On the menu on the left, click on “Pages”.

Mouse over the one that says “Sample Page” and click “Edit”. Change it to “About Me” (or whatever you want to call it!) and add in whatever text or images you want. Then, click update on the right hand side.

Now we’re going to change the logo. With this theme, the logo has to be 800 x 200 pixels. Either make your own logo if you have the skills to do it, or hire someone on Fiverr to do it for you.

On the left hand menu, mouse over “Appearance” and go to “Grid Settings”. The first option you have is to add your own custom logo. Click the “upload your logo” button just under the option. Select your logo file. When it’s uploaded, a thin white strip will appear under where you selected your file. On the far right of the white strip it will say “edit”. Click on that. In the new tab that opens, on the far right is a box titled “save”. In that box is a line called “File URL.” Copy the link in that box, and paste it into the “custom logo URL” box in your Grid Settings tab. Then click “save changes” and go have a look at what your site looks like now!

Pretty cool, huh?

I’m really not sure why the “About Me” shows up twice on the top of the page. Honestly, I might not have picked this theme if I knew that it was going to do that ahead of time, it might be a bit of a screw up in the coding, who knows.

But regardless, I now have a fully functional website showing off all of my books!

Now, just a couple more details to deal with before we’re finished.

First of all, hover over “Posts” on the left hand menu and click on “Categories”. Mouse over “Uncategorized” on the right hand side where the existing categories are, and click “Quick Edit”. Change the name to “New Releases” and the slug to “new-releases” and click update.

Then, mouse over “Settings” and go to “Permalinks”. Make sure the radio button is set to “Post Name” and click “Update”.

And lastly, mouse over “Appearance” and choose “Widgets”. Everything under “Sidebar” on the right is what will show up on the sidebar when people click on your books. You can click and drag different widgets to and from the sidebar. I personally recommend the following:

  • Search
  • Recent Posts (when it’s in the sidebar, click to expand it and change the title to “latest releases” or something similar)
  • Categories
  • Text

In the text box I like to put a button to Like my Facebook page. You can get the code you need to put in the text box by clicking here.

From here, please feel free to have fun with your site! This is just the absolute basics. If you’re so inclined you can add more pages to your site. Go nuts with it, have fun. You’ve just created a website from scratch, and I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty awesome. And I bet it wasn’t nearly as hard as you thought it was going to be.

 

Why all authors should split test their newsletter content.

Let’s face it: you’re not split testing your newsletter headlines or content right now.

I know a lot of authors. I know a lot of very successful authors. And none of them are doing this. Here’s why every single one of you, successful or not, should absolutely, 100% be doing this all the time.

First of all, what is split testing?

Split testing is when you send 2 (or more) different versions of an email to your list. So for example, let’s say you have a medium sized list (for an author) of 2000 readers, and you want to split test two headlines for your latest release. You would set it up so that 1000 of your readers get an email with this headline:

Check out Jane Smith’s latest release now!

And then the other 1000 readers on your list would get an email with this headline instead:

Jane Smith’s newest hit: read the rave reviews!

Once you start collecting data, you can start to figure out what headlines generate the highest click through rates. You can also split test your newsletter’s content.

Split testing your headline will show the results through the email’s open rate (the percentage of people that see a headline and open the email.

Split testing your content will mostly show the results through the email’s click through rate (the percentage of people who click on the links to your books in the body of the email). I say mostly because the headline you’ve used will also impact whether or not they click, but it won’t impact it as much as the email body text.

“But Liv,” you ask, “why should I bother split testing with just a couple thousand subscribers?”

Well the thing is, you don’t even need a couple thousand subscribers to have an impact.

But for the sake of continuing with the example of our list of 2000 people, let me use that one to show you just how valuable split testing can be.

Lets assume that your list of 2000 people has an open rate, on average, of 35%. That means, every time you send an email, around 700 people open it.

We’ll also assume that your click rate is around 15%. That means for every email you send, around 300 people – or around 40% of the people who opened the email – will click the link to your book. If 40% of those people then buy your book, you’ve made 120 sales from 2000 emails.

That’s not bad (it’s 120 sales you wouldn’t have had otherwise) but it’s not great either.

What happens if you split test enough that you increase your numbers?

Now let’s assume that the only thing you split test is your headline; you continue using the same content you’ve always used.

After some split testing, you’ve managed to get your open rate up to 60%. This is in no way unrealistic, by the way. You just need to test, test, test!

Now from your list of 2000, you’re getting 1200 opens! If you maintain a 40% click rate from people who open your email, that means you’ve gotten 480 clicks to your book. This brings you to a 24% click rate overall, just from changing the headline.  And, if 40% of them buy, you’ve gotten 192 sales instead of 120.

That’s much, much better, right? Especially to help bump you up the lists on launch day. Think of what kind of impact you would have by getting an extra 70 sales on day 1.

Now imagine if you get that click through rate from people who have opened your email up to 60%. And done a good enough job selling your book that 50% of clickers buy. Now you’re looking at 360 sales. Up from your original figure of 120. You’ve literally tripled your conversion rate.

Suddenly split testing your email headlines and content seems like a good idea, right?

But what if your list is a lot smaller? What if you only have 200 people on your list, instead of 2000? Is it still worth it?

Of course it is!

If your mailing list is only 200 people, with the same stats as above you would go from around 12 sales on launch day to 36. And chances are if your list is only 200 people big, those extra sales might be a big difference for you!

Besides, you don’t plan on having a list of 200 forever. Eventually you want to increase those numbers. If you learn how to get great results through testing when you only have 200 subscribers, you’ll sell a lot more as your list grows to 2000 and beyond than if you wait until you have a larger list to start testing.

The main thing you need to worry about when split testing, especially with a smaller list, is statistical significance.

What is statistical significance?

Statistical significance is basically a margin of error. If you flip a coin twice, you might get heads twice. So if you conclude from that result that if you flip a coin 100 times you’ll get heads 100 times, you’d be wrong.

So here, if you send a headline or content to too few people, you might get skewed results.

Personally, I always make sure to send a different headline or content to at least 100 people, and if I can, at least 500.

So if your email list only has 100 people on it, I would try to grow it to at least 200 people before starting split testing, otherwise you might end up with some false data.

If you have a big list, you can try split testing 3-4 headlines at a time if your email provider allows for it (most only allow A/B). Just try and make sure you have good numbers for each split test segment before you test it. But if you have a list of under 1000 people, I would stick to testing 2 different headlines/content at a time. Remember, the bigger your sample size, the more statistically relevant your results.

“All this sounds great Liv, but how do I actually do the split test?”

Luckily, pretty much every email list provider these days has a built-in split tester. I use MailerLite, and it’s super, super easy to do.

When you click the “create campaign” button, the very first thing it asks you is to choose a campaign type. Instead of going with a “regular campaign” just check the “A/B Split campaign” button next to it on the top. And then it becomes really self explanatory. See the picture below for reference!

Note how MailerLite doesn’t allow you to choose to split test more than one option at once. You have to choose between the subject, the from name (which honestly, I’ve never tested), and the email content.

It’s good that it does this, because you want to test everything in a vacuum as much as possible. Always only ever test one variable at a time. If you’re testing new subjects and content at the same time, you won’t know if more people clicked through your links because the subject line convinced them to, or because the content did.

Only ever test one thing at a time. This is really important, and will allow you to get more accurate results long term.

Once you’ve created your two types of content, you can very easily choose what percentage of people are going to get each result.

Honestly, this part of MailerLite is one of the few things I don’t like about their system (but I still use them because my lists are big enough that this doesn’t affect me). They don’t allow you to choose to split test 50/50 completely. MailerLite will only allow you to send your A test to 25% of your list, your B test to 25% of your list, and then it chooses the winner out of that 50% by a stat that you dictate (I always choose clicks and not opens – after all, your ultimate goal is to get as many people actually buying the book as possible) and sends the remaining 50% of the emails to that group.

If you have a very small list, MailChimp might actually be better for you (those are some words I never thought I’d say!) to split test, as MailChimp does allow you to do a real 50/50 split.

So give it a shot. After all, what do you have to lose? Try out some different headlines. Try out some different formatting for your body content, and some different text. You might just find yourself getting way better newsletter results than you ever have in your life.

 

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