What can an author newsletter do for you that you're not already getting from Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, your author website and blog? This excellent question was raised recently within our private Facebook group, and many members shared their own thoughts and experiences. ALLi blog editor Debbie Young sums up their advice and provides tips for setting up an author newsletter, should you decide to add one to your book marketing toolbox.
What will an author newsletter do for me?
- provide a more intimate, personal communication than can be achieved by a blog post or social media message
- target specific, named individuals on your mailing list and ensure the message is delivered into their email inbox
- remain in their inbox until your target reader takes action (unlike social media messages, which are quickly pushed off the screen by subsequent updates in social media feeds)
- offer an alternative means of communication that might better suit those who don't feel comfortable with social media messaging
- be as flexible or regular as you wish: the discipline of a strict, regular publication date or a”special occasions only” issue for book launches or other big announcements
- give you a means of reaching readers entirely within your own control – not at the mercy of social media which, worst case, might disappear, taking your contacts with them
How do I create and manage the required mailing list?
- options include specialised services such as Mailchimp and Aweber (used and trusted by many ALLi members)
- or simply compile your own list within your email account (just be careful to mail subscribers only in small batches, e.g. under 30 at a time to avoid spam trappers, and bcc'd so no-one can see each other's addresses)
How do I get people to sign up for it?
- include a sign-up form in an unmissable place on your author website, at the back of your e-books (add the URL in print books), in the footer of your emails, and anywhere else you can think of
- offer desirable content available exclusively to subscribers only e.g. let them be the first to know of new releases, set up subscriber competitions or prize draws for signed copies or other relevant prizes
- offer an incentive e.g. a free short story or how-to guide for all new applicants (this has a high perceived value but will cost you nothing)
- ask nicely!
What should it contain?
- topical news, announcements and events
- acknowledgements of readers' comments
- reports on your work in progress
- reports on past successes and sales
- an invitation to forward the newsletter to anyone else who might be interested
What format should it be in?
- something that will be universally accessible, not requiring any particular software to open it
- PDF or Word document would be fine, or simply use a regular email message (though nicely formatted to make it look more special)
How will I know whether it's working?
- ask for feedback from your readers
- if you're using a specialised mailshot software, you'll be given reports on how many newsletters are opened and read
- new subscribers continue to sign up
What are the reasons for NOT doing a newsletter?
- if you're already very active and visible on social media and elsewhere and feel that a newsletter would be overkill
- if you're too pushed for time and have other priorities (not least writing new books!)
- you simply don't want to do one! – spend your time on what you enjoy instead
- if you start one but decide it's unsustainable, or not worthwhile, it's fine to close it – just make sure you send a final note to your subscribers to let them know
Should all authors run newsletters?
- if you're already doing lots to reach readers and be accessible to them, e.g. you're very active in social media, run a great website, and a regularly updated blog, you shouldn't feel compelled to add a newsletter to your workload – if you're not careful, you'll have no time left to write
- if you're not very comfortable with social media and/or hate blogging, a newsletter is a great alternative, allowing you to bond with readers without submitting to something you hate
- but there are no absolute rights or wrongs – do what makes you happiest!
Where can I find some author newsletters to study for inspiration?
- check out your favourite author websites to see if one's on offer there
- scroll through the list of comments below – where we're hoping some authors will offer their own as examples!
Calling self-published authors who publish regular reader newsletters – please leave details of yours in the comments box below, and you may find you pick up some new subscribers! Further questions or comments about author newsletters are also welcome.
With thanks to the ALLi members who took part in the lively Facebook discussion about newsletters: Michael La Ronn, Amira Makansi, David Ebsworth, Karen Myers, Orna Ross, Matthew Wayne Selznick, and John Yeoman.
Thanks also to David Ebsworth for his recent insightful interview about his own newsletter on my Off The Shelf Book Promotions website, which you can read here: www.otsbp.com.