We’re drowning in email.
The average person receives 92 emails every day—and only opens about a third of them. When you’re looking at business email, that goes up to a whopping 122 emails a day and climbing.
No wonder you didn’t get an answer the last time you sent out a PR pitch for your book! The person you were writing to was probably swamped.
But there’s ways to stand out from the sea of messages. Use these 9 easy techniques to write emails that will grab your reader’s attention and get the results you’re looking for.
1. Use an Active Subject Line
Think of the subject line like the hook of your book—this is your first chance to catch someone’s eye and get them interested in what you have to say.
If your subject line is boring, why would someone want to click on it to read more?
Add action and interest by using active verbs and keeping your subject short enough to easily digest on a mobile phone—think tweet length.
For instance, rather than “Review request” or “Guest post inquiry,” try jazzing things up with “Launching a new thriller” or “New Kindle marketing article for you.”
Try asking a question: people are more likely to respond if you engage them directly. Think about “Looking for contributors?” or “Can I help with articles?”
2. Be Personal
No, I don’t mean asking uncomfortable questions about someone’s bunions!
Being personal means treating the person you’re writing to like, well, a person. We all get a lot of spam email, newsletters, and other junk cluttering up our inboxes. It’s easy to just skim past something that looks like it’s yet another email blast that has nothing to offer.
Make it clear from the get-go that you’re looking to offer something of value to your specific reader.
Lead with their name—research has shown that our brains light up when we hear or read our own names—and mention why you’re reaching out to that person specifically. Did you meet at a conference? Do you love their blog? Briefly mention the specifics to show you’re not just blowing smoke and to start establishing a real relationship.
For instance, you might say “I wanted to follow up on our discussion at Readercon about diversity in science fiction” or perhaps “I loved your recent post on using yoga balls at the beach and wanted to reach out.”
3. Keep It Short and Sweet
Don’t spend an hour writing a fluffy introduction to your email. Get straight to the point. Explain why you’re writing up front—is it to ask for a review? To offer a guest post? To try to get a publishing deal?
Don’t make your reader skim through a page of jabbering to figure out your point. That just makes it more likely that they’ll delete your message or file it away to deal with “later.” And let’s face it, with around a hundred emails coming in every day, “later” means “never.”
4. Be Specific
State exactly what you’re after. Don’t use jargon or circle shyly around your request—go for it!
If you’d like to write a guest post, say so outright rather than hinting at “possible cross-promotion opportunities.”
If you want to schedule a phone call, offer a possible day and time instead of vaguely asking when might be good for the other person.
By offering specifics, you make it easy for your reader to see what you’re looking for and to give you the response you’re after, instead of having to put in the effort to come up with a proposal of their own.
5. Break It Up
These days, lots of folks read their emails on their phone on the go. Even if they’re at their desk, they’re likely skimming through email on a break from other work.
So break your writing into bite-size nuggets that are easy to glance between. Use bullet points for supporting information and keep paragraphs short.
6. Be Polite
It’s easy to sound curt when we don’t have tone of voice and body language to add context and nuance to our conversations. To avoid seeming snippy or demanding, throw in “please” and “thank you” regularly when you’re writing an email.
Ask some questions rather than giving instructions. “Would you be interested in getting a post on writing to market?” is more likely to get a response than “I’ve written a post on writing to market that would be ideal for your blog” because it’s less presumptuous and involves the other person in the process.
End your email with some gratitude, too. Signing an email with “Thanks” or “Thanks in advance” has been shown to get better, more positive responses. That’s because showing gratitude builds social trust and proves you value the person you’re communicating with. You’re positively rewarding the person for doing what you’ve requested before they even do it, predisposing them to want to help out.
7. Write Like a Pro
You’re a professional writer—so you should sound like one in your emails! That means using proper capitalization, punctuation, sentence structure, and spelling.
Always proofread your emails before you send them. Using the wrong “their” because Autocorrect kicked in is a sure way to get your pitch deleted, because you’re showing that either you don’t know how to write professionally…or you don’t care enough to do so in all your professional communications. Neither of these is a good sign to give someone you’re asking to work with.
Writing like a pro also means keeping it semi-formal. You don’t have to open every email with “Dear So-and-So” and close with “Sincerely,” like you might in a professional letter, but be more formal than when you’re texting with your BFF.
That means keeping exclamation points to a minimum (no “So excited to work with you!!!!!!”) and ditching the slang, like “LOL” or “BTW”.
8. Throw in Some Humor
But keeping it professional doesn’t mean being boring and dry. Making someone crack a smile makes them more likely to want to interact with you more—and to help you with whatever you’re asking for.
It’s probably not appropriate—or effective—to start telling knock-knock jokes in every email, but toss in a little funny comment or smirk-inducing statement when it makes sense to do so.
How about opening with something like this?
You’re probably buried in requests to review books, but I absolutely loved your recent post on The Adventures of Jeb Tucker, Space Pirate, and I wanted to reach out to offer you a copy of my own YA action novel. I’d also like to offer you a puppy and an espresso as a bribe to read it, but those don’t transmit too well over email.
9. End with a Call to Action
Don’t leave your reader guessing. You’ve been specific with what you’re looking for and kept your email short and to the point, so you should close out the same way.
End with a classic marketing tool: the Call to Action (CTA).
This lets your reader know exactly what you’d like them to do, whether that’s offer feedback, write a review, read your manuscript, send you a guest post, etc.
Again, make it specific. Don’t say “Would you like to meet for lunch?” Instead, offer a time and date: “Are you free Friday at 1?”
Using an open-ended sign-off means the other person has to come up with their own response or solution. Turning it into a specific, targeted CTA that requires a yes/no response or specific action makes it much simpler for someone to do what you want—either they do it or they don’t, no dithering about what an appropriate followup response would be.
Tools to Help
It’s not always simple to write a simple, concise email that breaks up your points, strikes the right tone, and includes all the appropriate information while being approachable and grammatically correct.
Thankfully, there are some fantastic tools available to help you write better emails and get more positive responses!
Grammarly one-ups the built-in spellcheck in Word or Gmail to help you write more professionally. You can add a free plug-in to your browser to automatically proof all your writing, no matter what you’re doing—it’ll check your emails, your social media posts, the works.
Screwed-up spellings and homophone errors are a thing of the past!
Staying on top of email can be a nightmare, especially when you’re trying to make sure that someone has read and followed up on one of your emails.
Boomerang is a freemium plugin for Gmail or Outlook that allows you to schedule messages, pop messages back to the top of your inbox, send read receipts, and do all kinds of email magic that will help you see who’s opening and responding to your emails.
But Boomerang also offers another tool that’s even more amazing—Respondable. This add-on to the standard Boomerang features gives you a handy little green graph at the bottom of your Compose window that shows how likely your email is to get a response, based on a treasure trove of data the company analyzed for trends.
The feature is based on the idea that simple phrasings, short paragraphs, use of questions, and positive tone are all factors that improve response rates.
In essence, Respondable checks to make sure you’ve followed all the tips we just went over!
By applying a few simple techniques to up your email game, you’ll start getting more—and more positive—responses in no time.
Want to learn more about doing your own PR as a writer? Check out these articles:
- 5 Reasons You Absolutely Need an Author Press Kit
- Sell Sheets: How to Pitch Your Book to Reviewers
- How to Leave a Lasting Impression by Building Your Authentic Author Brand
Kate Sullivan is an editor with experience in every aspect of the publishing industry, from editorial to marketing to cover and interior design.
In her career, Kate has edited millions of words and helped dozens of bestselling, award-winning authors grow their careers and do what they love!