Make Newsletters A Part of Your Marketing Plan
Newsletters are one of the best ways for authors to reach their audience, and should be part of any overall marketing or promotional strategy. Yet many authors are hesitant to get started with one, for a variety of reasons – all of which Jane Ryder has heard before. Jane’s been helping authors succeed for many years, and today she’s giving us all some tips on not only how to get started with your newsletter, but how to make it as painless as possible!
A lot of authors I work with fight the idea of sending out a regular newsletter even more than they fight the idea of regularly engaging on social media (which is saying something). I understand you would rather be devoting your writing time to, you know, writing, but if you want to sell the books you write, you have to spend some of your coveted writing time on the business side of the publishing business.
And that means newsletters.
The good news is that with a little work up front, you can make newsletters a fast, simple, effective, and – dare I say? – fun part of your author platform.
The advent of indie publishing has changed the way readers regard writers, and that has changed how accessible writers need to be. I’m sorry, but you guys can no longer be the romantic figures typing away in lonely garrets, beloved by fans who buy your books but don’t intrude on your daily lives. Readers expect the authors they love to engage with them, to reward their love and loyalty with personal attention.
Newsletters are a terrific way to do that in a way that still leaves you plenty of time to write in your garret. Or coffee shop. Or office. Wherever.
So what should go in your newsletter?
“If you convince someone to let you into their inbox, you have to make it worth their while,” says Katie Rose Guest Pryal in her post How to Create an Author Newsletter That Isn’t Terrible. This is a critical point.
We all hate spam. We even hate email that isn’t spam but that piles up in our inboxes and makes us feel guilty for not having the time or energy to get to it, and that includes newsletters we may have signed up for and forgotten about, or that we signed up for as part of a special offer and now wish we didn’t have to look at.
Since triggering feelings of guilt and resentment and a finger hovering over the “unsubscribe” link is NOT the effect you’re going for, you need to make sure your newsletter is enticing, fun, and rewarding for the people who were kind enough to sign up for yours. Here are a few tips.
Be personal and authentic.
Share a little of the real you. In his post What to Put in Your Author Newsletter, Glenn Miller says “Treat subscribers like distant but dear friends, like cousins you haven’t seen in years.” That’s the perfect way to think of it. This isn’t the time to be formal or reserved; the folks who’ve signed up for your newsletter have already given you the very personal gift of their time and attention, so don’t treat them like mere faceless customers. This isn’t true confessions time, but share a couple of sentences about your family’s recent vacation, photos of your writing space, a favorite recipe, your thoughts on a movie adaptation of a book you loved (or hated), pictures of your pets … Anything that lets your readers connect to you as a person.
Make it easy for yourself.
Create a reproduceable template. Not only does this prevent you from wasting time constantly reinventing the proverbial wheel, it provides a consistent look and feel to your newsletter so your subscribers know what to expect. Name your newsletter and create a header graphic you use every time. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should reflect your author brand. (Canva is great for this, and it’s free.) Include all your social media and website links. You might also want to include a short bio with a picture. The rest of the content is up to you, and can include the obvious, such as updates on your WIP and a list of events you’ll be attending, or creative, such as character bios or artwork related to your book(s). By keeping the sections the same every time, you’ll minimize the amount of time you have to spend coming up with ideas.
Make it easy for them.
Keep it short, focused, and scannable. Don’t hit your subscribers with a newsletter that makes them work. Create a subject line that tells them clearly what’s inside, and use plenty of white space, images, buttons, and links to draw their eyes. In his post 8 Elements of Effective Author Newsletters, Rob Eagar says “Be brief, pithy, and focus on helping the reader solve a specific problem.” Include things like resources for readers, cool book-related products you’ve come across, interesting statistics related to books and reading, quotes about or by famous authors … The sky’s the limit. Just be sure it relates to readers, not writers. Apart from a quick update about your WIP, readers don’t want to hear you talk shop.
Always follow the 80/20 rule.
This isn’t about selling. This holds true in every aspect of personal book promotion and marketing, but it’s especially important when it comes to your subscribers, so I really can’t emphasize it enough: it’s not about selling. 80% of your newsletter should be fun and informative for your subscribers, with only 20% focused on your books.
Your subscribers understand that the whole reason they’re signed up is that you write books which are for sale. They get it. You don’t need to remind them every five minutes. So only mention your already published books if there’s something in it for your subscribers, like a giveaway or discount, or if you just found out one of your books is going to be featured on a TV show, or you’ve been nominated for an award. When you do have something like that to share, don’t hold back: let your excitement/fear/trepidation come through – it’s part of that personal touch we talked about earlier.
In the words of Shayla Raquel, from her post 20 Email Tips & Tricks for Author Newsletters, “This is not the time to be salesy. This is the time to be your adorable, nerdy self and to geek out about things that you love.”
Following these tips will have you sending newsletters that form an effective facet of your author platform, and which your subscribers will actively look forward to receiving. Geek out and have fun!