There is a science to creating strong email deliverability and everything we do in the beginning is designed to optimize that deliverability for our client's long-term success (here's a report that goes into detail into this science.)
Your Sender Reputation
In the beginning, everyone who sends emails begins with having a "0" sender reputation. This means the ISP's will view your communications with a watchful eye and not let very many get directly into their client's inboxes. Because of how the ISP's score and deliver email traffic, your beginning emails will have far lower deliverability than subsequent emails you send (this is why 1x email blasts to cold lists don't work well). Reputation scoring is how ISP's help prevent their clients from receiving spam. As your readers positively engage with your communications (opens, forwards, clicks, add to address book, click "not spam") your sender reputation, and hence your deliverability, increases.
At the outset of every campaign, one thing Digital Direct does to boost your sender reputation is to throttle your first communication over a 7-day period. This makes it take a full week to send out your first email. After that your emails can go out the same day however, (If you're sending weekly we recommend keeping the 7-day throttle as it yields better deliverability results.)
The beginning of the sending process is all about building a solid sender reputation. As you build a solid sender reputation, the leads will come and you'll be set up for systematic, long-term success.
Test & Measure
As you continue to send, you will notice a variance in each email's results. There are many factors that influence results, including: subject, preview message, "friendly from" address, publication title, story topic, email design, date/time of delivery and many others. Creating a long-term, effective email campaign is a process of trial and error. The suggested approach is to run your campaign for a month, to get a benchmark, then you work on improving your metrics by tweaking your approach. Systematically work to improve upon the best results you've already gotten.
Recommendation: We recommend you periodically compare your statistics against typical results our clients receive using our response calculator. Plug in your list size and stats to date, see both how they compare and the projected results you'll end up with.
Always keep in mind that email marketing is a numbers game. Percentages are a guide but, in the end, matter far less than hard numbers (because you can't pay the bills with percentages.) Your near-term objective is to generate a positive sender reputation, which comes from regularly sending quality content that will resonate with and engage your prospects.