Email Marketing and Spam Compliance Issues for Authors

Email marketing and spam compliance issues come up quite a bit when I’m working with independent authors and I know authors have many in-person appearances and events.

Therefore, it’s important that you understand the regulations on email marketing and CAN-SPAM regulations, what the rules are, and how it could impact your digital marketing efforts.

I want you to have a firm grasp on these rules, not because I’m the spam police, but because I had a client once – with a rather small list – who didn’t take it seriously and things got a little ugly.


Get Permission First! Opt-Ins

You must have everyone on your list opt-in to being on said list – which is to say, they must opt-in to receiving communications by email, specifically from you and for marketing purposes. Yes, promoting your book to your friends is, in fact, marketing.

Think of it this way – but if you stand to make a sale from your email, you are marketing. Period.

Multiple author opt-ins are not a thing. Each author brand is treated separately. So when you are on an author panel or participating in an author event, you must have your own opt-in form or process – specific to you, your site, and your book(s).

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Best Opt-ins Are Digital

The best way to have someone opt-in to your email list is the digital way. As in – via a link on your website. Note: while Facebook can be integrated with some email marketing providers, you are still depending on your digital marketing system for complete compliance. Digital opt-ins receive a time stamp and an IP signature proving the individual did at that point want to receive communications from you/your brand.


If You Must Do It In Person

I suggest avoiding paper opt-ins at all cost. If you’re at an in-person, on-site event, simply direct guests to your website (and be certain you have a clear, opt-in button or link, above the fold, on your home page). Simple as can be. And you’re covered digitally.

However, sometimes things are beyond our control. So when you want to obtain email address for marketing purposes from people, in person, they must opt-in to your specific brand (i.e. your author name/site). Sharing a list after letting attendees know you will be sharing that list isn’t consider an opt-in process for spam compliance/regulation purposes.

I’m a bit of a compliance hound, likely due to my past life as a Compliance Manager, and other life situations where I knew things were headed in the wrong direction but I couldn’t steer the ship! 🙂

When it comes to skirting email marketing rules, I know it’s easy to think – well, everyone is doing it. And you may be right. But think of a stop sign. Many people roll through that stop, even though they know they should come to a complete stop. You can’t tell the cop that catches you – well, Sir, the car in front of me did it.

Also, keep in mind that spam complaints are evaluated based on your list size. One complaint per 5000 (5k) is considered the norm for spam purposes. So, if you have less than 5000 people on your list, even one complaint can take you over the threshold.

This all sounds like a pain. But the client I had who had less than 500 people on her list, received two spam complaints that she couldn’t prove were compliant (because they weren’t) and her IP address was banned from the email marketing system she was using. And then she found out that this information was shared with other email marketing providers and so she was pretty much done with any email marketing from home.  She had to hire an outsourced company to do her marketing for her and use a different domain.

So, yeah, it is a pain. Not worth the risk.

Read a bit more here and here.