Courtesy Cincinnati Public Library

First impressions are important.

The subject line of your library marketing email is your first chance to communicate the value of your email to the person receiving it. It may be your ONLY chance to get someone’s attention to engage with the promotional content you’ve worked so hard to create.

A good subject line will drive people to open the email, read what’s inside, and take action. That will lead to an increase in the use of your library. And that’s the whole point, right??   

A bad subject line can lead your email to be marked as spam, which will affect your sender reputation. In fact, according to the marketing agency Convince and Convert, 69 percent of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line.

That’s why I think your subject line might be the most important part of your library marketing email.

I want you to spend the most time thinking about that section. Be very intentional about what you say in the subject line.

There are five best practices to help you create engaging subject lines. Scroll down for some more free tools to help you to test your subject line before you hit “send”.

Tip #1: Use brackets or parentheses in your subject line.

You want your emails to stand out in the inbox. The easiest way is to use these two punctuation symbols as part of your email subject line.

Worldata is a company that analyzes email marketing campaigns and provides free industry metrics based on that data. Their data shows using either brackets or parentheses in your subject line boosts open rates by 31 percent.

That’s because these punctuation marks subconsciously draw the eye to whatever is within the brackets. And that small detail can be enough to entice them to open the email.

Some examples are:

  • “Welcome back to the library! (We missed you.)”
  • “Your Library Giving Day donation will be doubled with a matching gift. (Today only!)”
  • “Homework is hard. We can help. [FREE VIDEO].”

Tip #2: Try using all caps on important words in your subject line.

World Data says that including words in all caps in your subject line can increase your open rate by as much as 14 percent.

You should, however, make sure that you use this technique sparingly. Pick one important word to capitalize. It should be a word that you know will call attention to your email when someone is scrolling through their inbox.

Some examples are:

  • “Fans of James Patterson have the chance to talk to the author IN PERSON next Thursday.”
  • “Your resume needs some SERIOUS help. Let your library make it irresistible.”
  • “Being stuck inside on a rainy day with the kids is TORTURE. Get some museum passes from the library and go exploring!

Don’t capitalize your entire headline. You’ll risk making your email recipients feel like you’re yelling at them.

Tip #3: Don’t spell out numbers. 

Yesware, a business communication company, analyzed 115 million emails and found that email open and reply rates are higher when a number is present in the subject line. (For example, “5” instead of “Five”.)

World Data’s surveys back up that claim. They found that putting a number in the subject line can increase your open rate by as much as 21 percent.

Numerals in your subject line will get your emails noticed. It also saves you in the character count.

For more of a boost, start your subject line with a number. (Example: “5 Great Ways to Get Free Homework Help from Your Library”). Doing that can increase open rates by as much as 18 percent, according to World Data.

Tip #4: Use the “F” word (I mean… Free!) and other power words. 

World Data says spam filters no longer filter out emails with the word free in the subject line.

Their study shows that including the word in the subject line can increase open rates by 37 percent. Plus, there is data to suggest that “free” produces an emotional charge in us. 

Speaking of emotion, there are lots of other words you can use in your subject line to get a response. Data shows email recipients respond to subject lines that convey urgency, curiosity, excitement, and joy.

Here is a starter list of words that World Data says are proven to do well in email marketing. Challenge yourself to add one of these words to the emails you send to your library community.

  • Amazing
  • Ultimate
  • Important
  • Challenging
  • Surprising
  • Best
  • Secret
  • Exact
  • Last Chance
  • Now
  • Final
  • Official
  • Free

Tip #5: Use words your audience will understand. 

Drop the acronyms and library industry jargon like periodicals, database, interlibrary loan, reference, serial, audiovisual, abstract, or resource. Use words that regular people understand–magazines, music, online classes, and helpful information.

Avoid reference to a vendor service like Overdrive, Hoopla, Freegal, BookFlix, Zinio, etc. As far as your cardholders are concerned, all material comes from the library.  

If you are using email to promote one of these services, like Overdrive, your subject line could say, “Free e-books are now available at your library!” You can mention the vendor in the body text of the email.

Free tools to make your headlines irresistible

When I craft an email, I spend a lot of time thinking about the subject line. Sometimes I think about it for days.

I use a couple of online headline analyzers. These free online tools all work pretty much the same way. You put your headline in and you get a score, plus tips on how to improve them. My favorites are:

The higher the score, the better your chances of getting people to open the email. I always shoot for a score above 70

I ran the headline for this post through the three analyzers, as if it were an email subject line. Sharethrough gave me a 71, Advanced Marketing Institute gave me a 73.3, and Subject Line gave me a 75. Those are good scores, so I would likely use this headline as a subject line in an email.

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