BookSense.com E-newsletter: Promoting Your Independents

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Over the past year-and-a-half, BookSense.com's e-newsletter has established itself as a fun, promotional vehicle strengthening the bond between consumers and independent bookstores. "We get a lot of feedback from consumers," Linda Castellitto, BookSense.com's creative director, told Bookselling This Week. "And the newsletter will often prompt them to go look for books on their local independent bookstore's site, too. It's helped increase awareness [of independent bookstores]."

Castellitto said that the e-newsletter was created as "a tool for building relationships, to market [BookSense.com], and to give consumers insight into what we have to offer." The BookSense.com e-newsletter offers consumers reviews on books in all genres, many times highlighting those relevant to current events (i.e., soccer books during the World Cup), with links to BookSense.com for ordering. Additionally, it provides news on authors, new releases, and regular contests, among other items.

The BookSense.com e-newsletter first began as a bi-weekly and just recently changed to a monthly. "We decided monthly was the best, because we expect our readers to spend a little time reading it," she explained. "It also helps build anticipation."

Thus far, numbers bear out that the BookSense.com e-newsletter is giving consumers what they want. When it debuted in January of 2001, the e-newsletter had 3,000 subscribers. Since then, readership has grown to approximately 10,000 subscribers -- a remarkable percentage increase by any e-marketing standards. Each month, the BookSense.com e-newsletter garners approximately 200 additional subscribers from the BookSense.com Web site, said Castellitto.

Part of the e-newsletter's success can be attributed to features that hook recipients, creating loyal readers who anticipate each new BookSense.com e-newsletter. One such feature is the BookSense.com "Free Book Giveaway," where, via a link from the e-newsletter to the BookSense.com site, consumers can sign up for the chance to be one of five winners of a free book. "A lot of people open the e-newsletter to see what books are [being offered], and they enter the contest," said Castellitto. "Then they check back to see if they've won. Consumers get excited about it, so they're excited to read the e-newsletter."

Additionally, there are special features, such as the "Author Tour Diary" and "Expert's Corner," where booksellers serve up entertaining tidbits from the world of books, and contests such as BookSense.com's recent "Poets Speak Back: A Poetry-Writing Contest." The contest was promoted starting in the April e-newsletter, and the winners were just announced in the July edition.

Castellitto said that future e-newsletters would focus even more on special features, such as the tour diaries and "Expert's Corner." Additionally, staff at BookSense.com are in the process of archiving all of the past e-newsletters on BookSense.com, where users will be able to access them at the click of a mouse.

Castellitto noted that BookSense.com members are free to use the BookSense.com e-newsletter in lieu of creating their own e-newsletter -- especially handy for those bookstores that have neither the staff nor time to do their own. "We send [the bookstore] the text for the latest BookSense.com e-newsletter and instructions for setting up the link on the store's Web site," she explained. "They can edit the text of the e-newsletter anyway they want."

For more information about how to use the BookSense.com e-newsletter as your store newsletter, contact BookSense.com Director Len Vlahos, at (800) 637-0037, ext. 1215, or e-mail len@booksense.com. For feedback or questions about the newsletter, e-mail Linda Castellitto at linda@booksense.com. --Dave Grogan