Author newsletters are a great way to reach out to your readers on a regular basis and interact with them in various ways. Unlike social media, newsletters can be sent over e-mail and by adding a newsletter to your platform, you will not be dependent on another website for your contact list. If you really want to keep people familiar with what’s going on with your books, a newsletter is for you.
Why a newsletter?
Even if you are posting regularly on Facebook and Twitter, you are still only reaching a fraction of your readers. E-mail newsletters have a far higher “open rate” and what you have to say reaches far more people. Newsletters can also be a fun way to interact with your readers, share upcoming news, and offer exclusive deals.
What software do I use?
There are several different online programs capable of managing your e-mail list, saving your newsletters, and keeping track of how many people read what you send, Mailchimp being one of the most popular. Though it has paid accounts, the free one lets you have up to 2,000 subscribers to whom you can send a total of 12,000 e-mails a month. Mailchimp also integrates with Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress so people can sign up for your newsletter through various platforms. The easier you make it for people to subscribe to your newsletter, the more people you’ll have reading it.
No matter which newsletter manager you choose, they will have user-friendly templates you can tailor to your own author branding so your look is the same across all your online platforms.
What do I include in my newsletter?
Make your newsletter something your fans will want to read by publishing exclusive content they won’t find anywhere else. It’s a great place to update your readers with upcoming releases and events, divulge behind the scenes information, and share topical discussions you know they’ll be interested in. It’s not just a place to recycle old blog posts, but is an e-mail filled with new content from one of their favorite writers: you.
While selling your books is a major goal of establishing a regular newsletter, it should never be all about you and your marketing efforts. Ask yourself, “How will this benefit them?” If you add value to the lives of your readers, they’ll be more likely to read what you send and share it with others. You also need to keep your voice the same across all your platforms whether in your books, blog, social media, or newsletter. If they like what they read in one form, the more likely they are to check out the others.
There are lots of different things you can include in your newsletter depending on where you’re at in the publishing process and how interactive you want to be. Use this list of ideas to get you started and then come up with some of your own to suite your individual style:
- Articles on how your book projects are going – Have you just finished the first draft of your book? Met with your editors? Write an article about it and update readers on how it’s going.
- Event promotions – Do you have an upcoming speaking engagement? A book release party? Book signing? Let your readers know about it!
- Articles on the topic you write about – If you write about personal finance, you can include an article on how to save money when on vacation. If you write fiction, you can include articles about your setting or dating advice if you write romance novels.
- Interesting facts about your material – Give readers a glimpse behind the curtain. Where do you get your ideas? Where do you like to write? What tools do you use?
- The stories behind the story – Have you written a character’s backstory not included in the book? Are there interesting historical facts you discovered that aren’t part of your published work?
- Announcing relevant news before sharing it with the wider public – Have you finalized your title or cover? Share it with your newsletter list before you release it to the wider public.
- Announce a giveaway or contest – Do you need suggestions for a new title or a character name? Try holding a contest with a prize for the winner!
- Interviewing someone from your team (editors, cover designer, type setter, beta readers) – Let people know the faces behind the pages of your book. It’s likely they are writers or authors as well and would appreciate the extra publicity.
- Review a relevant book – Are there other authors you love to read? Are there books relevant to your topic you think your readers would enjoy? You could review a different book every month.
- Highlight a review – Has someone reviewed your book? You can share a short quote and invite people to click on the link to your Amazon sales page to read more.
- A podcast if applicable – If you create podcasts, add a link to where they can download a recent episode.
- News on how an event went – Whenever you attend a public event as an author such as a book signing, discussion panel, or book release party, take pictures and write an article about how it went for your newsletter. It’s also a nice opportunity to thank everyone who came or helped out.
- A visual link to your books – Display your book covers somewhere in the newsletter to remind people to buy them without needing to actually ask.
- Q&A – Invite readers to interact with you by sending in their questions. Depending on how many you receive, you can answer one to three of them in every newsletter.
- Consider sharing your personal life a bit – Try to incorporate this into other articles but if you experience a life event such as a major birthday, wedding, birth, vacation, or your house flooding, share it with your readers and let them get to know you. They’ll feel more invested in who you are and have greater interest in hearing from you and supporting your writing.
- Promote a sale or a special deal – Are you lowering the price on your books for Christmas or another special event? Let your readers know!
- Let people know about your other writings – Was an article of yours published in a journal or magazine? Did you write a guest post on another writer’s blog? This is a great chance to promote it.
- Offer a teaser of the next book – Tantalize your readers’ taste buds with a sample from the next book.
What should my newsletter look like?
Mailchimp (or similar newsletter service) has a long list of templates and styles to choose from. You can choose from multi-columned formats to a main column with a sidebar, to one column only with all kinds of variations in between. Once you’ve picked a starting point, you can customize the look to your tastes, inserting places for texts and pictures, tailoring it to what kind of content you’ll be featuring. Once you’ve created a personalized template to match your branding, save it and use the same one every month by simply switching out the content. With such a user-friendly interface, creating a professional-looking newsletter is easier than you think.
While your main articles can go in the central column, consider adding a sidebar as well. In a sidebar you can post links to all the articles, recent posts on your blog, links to your website, and an online site where your books are sold. It could also be a great spot to feature your book covers. While not overwhelming the reader, make sure to take advantage of the space available. You’ll also want to include high quality images to add color and catch people’s eyes. No matter what design you choose, make sure it’s easily viewable on smart phones as well.
How often do I send it?
How often you mail out a newsletter depends entirely on you. Some authors only send them out when they are releasing a new book. Others mail one out every quarter or as often as every month. With the high amount of e-mail these days, I wouldn’t recommend you send one more often than once a month as they can become repetitive and thus ignored. Once you tell your readers how often they’ll get a newsletter though, stick to your schedule so they can look forward to receiving it and know you follow through on your word.
How do I get people to sign up for my newsletter?
With the right incentive, you’ll be amazed how many people will sign up for your newsletter. Offer them something for free if they sign-up they won’t be able to get any other way. For example, if you’re a fiction writer, offer an e-book of your short stories. A non-fiction writer can design a small workbook or worksheet to go with their text on personal finance or a set of questions for a book group. If you write poetry books, design a small e-book with samples from all your published work. With the right motivation, you’ll get a good start on a list of people who already love your work. Once the offer is up and running, you can then tell people about the free sample when you meet them and if they like it, they’ll come back to buy your full-length books.
Once you do have the technicalities smoothed out of signing people up for your newsletter, post a link on twitter and Facebook, both your professional and personal accounts. A lot of people you know who may not yet be a fan of your author page will want to get the freebie and read your newsletter. You should also post teasers about what’s going to be in your upcoming newsletters in order to pique people’s curiosity enough to sign-up ahead of time.
A few guidelines
With all the spam arriving in our in-boxes every day, there are a few things you can do to make sure people who have subscribed to your newsletter don’t unsubscribe.
- Never give out your e-mail list to anybody else and assure your readers their information is kept private.
- Never add anyone to your list without asking them first. It’s considered “spam” and they’ll simply delete whatever you send.
- Make sure to back up your e-mail list. It’s gold in terms of marketing and you don’t want to lose it.
- Though you want to keep your readers happy, make sure to have an unsubscribe link somewhere in your newsletter. (It’s legally required.)
People can be very choosy which e-mails they sign-up for so make sure yours is worth reading! With engaging content not available anywhere else and an easy way for your readers to share it, you can keep spreading the word about your books and start building your fan network.