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Named to "Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites," this #SharingwithWriters blog is a way to connect with my readers and fellow writers, a way to give the teaching genes that populate my DNA free rein. Please feel free to add to the conversation using the very tiny "comment" link. For those interested in editing and grammar, go to http://thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com.

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Saturday, May 03, 2014

Dull Old Subject Lines? Would Farting Help?

How Are Your Subject Lines Doing?

Getting Folks to Open Your E-Mail


About once a week I get an update from an author with a subject line that says, “Shameless Self-Promotion from Joe Doe” in the subject line. It never varies. This subject line may be the most egregious misuse of subject-line space I’ve come across for these reasons:

  • “Shameless self-promotion” implies there is something to be ashamed of and that doesn’t exactly encourage his audience to open it. I doubt even his mother opens it.
  • It gives no indication of what the receiver might find within the e-mail, much less how one might benefit from the information therein.
  • There is no variety, no reason to be tempted to see what’s happening in that author’s life this week than there was the last time we opened the mail, which was maybe a year ago.
  • Though sometimes repetition in marketing is a good thing, this feels just plain lazy.

Recently I came across a subject line that took me only a split second to figure out that I wanted to know more. I’ll mention it here, because it’s an example of a mail that probably got a very high rate of interest and therefore a lot of clicks to open it. It was “Smart Phones and Farting the 1812 Overture.” Now, I know you’ll want to read it, too. Find it on this from journalist and educator Walter Brasch's blog at 

That’s not to say we can spend the time to make every one of our subject lines to deserve a five-star rating. We have lots to do. But do think “benefits,” “humor,” and—at least—“variety.”

You can learn a little more about subject lines by reading up on pitches and titles in your copy of The Frugal Book Promoter. Many of the basics are the same. Be sure to also look up “e-mail” in the index for more ways to make your e-mail dispatches count.


PS: “New Blog Post” doesn’t cut it either.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .


  1. "'New blog post' doesn't cut it either." Love that! Yes, so many people don't give you a reason to look at the post or email, while others cram too much information into their posts.

  2. LOL. Sometimes we can't control what alert services, etc. use, but we sure can control the subjet lines we use in our e-mails, Joy! And maybe Taylor Swift could get by with "Blog Post," but even she would do well to add her name. Ha!


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