Whenever I attend conference panels geared toward reaching readers, the author newsletter always stands out as the big kahuna. Why? Because newsletters allow you to talk directly to readers who have indicated they want to hear from you. This is a direct feed to your potential market.
So what is an author newsletter? It’s an email with information you want to share with subscribers: a promotion, a new release, a cover reveal, or simply what mischief you’ve gotten up to lately.
The main questions I hear authors ask are:
- What do you put in a newsletter?
- How do you find subscribers?
So, let’s address those two questions!
What do you put in an author newsletter?
When it came to my author newsletter, I asked my subscribers what they want to hear from me (yes you can do this!). I also look at other newsletters for ideas (you should do this, too!). Here’s a non-complete list of gleaned wisdom:
- Personal anecdotes, photos of your everyday life
- Behind the scenes peeks
- Recent accolades, awards, etc.
- Excerpts from upcoming books and free bonus chapters from past books
- Exclusive content like a cover reveal or a sneak peek at your next title
- Agenting, publishing, and writing advice
- Giveaways: a signed copy of your book, a free ebook, your best friend’s new release…
- Articles on your blog
- Exclusive articles not on your blog
- Interviews or spotlights on other authors
- What you’re reading
- What you’re writing
- And for the very brave, straight talk about the industry
Remember that the goal of the newsletter is to promote, so don’t forget to include:
- Your author bio and links to every possible place a reader can find you. Goodreads, Amazon, your website, Wikipedia (why not?), imdb (it could happen!).
- Purchase links. Include your cover and blurb or a marketing graphic. Draw the focus to the book you most want to promote.
- Breadcrumbs that lead your reader to perform an action outside your newsletter. For instance, ask readers to enter a drawing by following you on Twitter and tweeting an answer to a question such as: How do you feel about Mondays?
Hot Tip: Even unpublished authors can create an author newsletter. The sooner you start to grow your subscription list, the bigger your platform will be when you have something to sell.
How do you grow your subscriber list?
Your friends and family will likely be your first subscribers, and you might sit at 30 readers or fewer while you figure things out. Eventually, you’ll want a bigger audience. Here are some ways to attract people to sign up:
- Add a subscription link to your FB author page, the sidebar of your website, in the author bio included in your books, basically anywhere users might find you.
- Share subscription links whenever you participate in FB parties, guest blog, etc.
- Tweet/post about any giveaways or promotions in upcoming newsletters to entice readers to subscribe.
- At public events, bring along a clipboard with a sign-up sheet to gather names.
- Give away a free short story or ebook on Instafreebie in exchange for an email address.
- Join a big prize site, such as Ryan Zee, to drive subscribers to your newsletter for a chance to win books.
- Pay a service to cultivate your newsletter for you.
Beware of junk subscriptions. You want engaged subscribers who will open and read your emails. It’s not a bad idea to periodically delete subscribers who never open your author newsletter. Also be aware of GDPR regulations and always make it clear when you collect emails that you intend to send newsletters. Always provide an opt out link on your emails.
Once you have subscribers, you’ll want to retain them. Having consistently great content is the best way to ensure people will read what you send. An intriguing subject line can attract readers to come inside. You might tease with a fun promise to reveal a secret. Putting “Giveaway” into the subject might get you more opens, but these readers might scan for how to win and read nothing else. Try to at least make sure that a giveaway has some value for you by asking for some low-risk engagement from your readers (an add on Goodreads for instance).
How Do You Get Started?
If you Google “newsletter,” you’ll come across several different hosts (MailChimp, ConstantContact, MailerLite) for building your subscriber lists, creating and sending the author newsletter, and tracking results. Most blogs also include these tools. These services can be free or paid depending on how many subscribers you plan to send to, but they all work in essentially the same way.
Your first newsletters might seem simple and inconsequential, but you can create a template, and from newsletter to newsletter you can tweak the content, colors, fonts, etc., until you land on something that works for you.
Don’t hesitate to limit your first recipients to friends only and ask them for feedback on the look and feel.
Use images mixed in with text, but try to vary the sizes, resizing them to fit. Most importantly, believe that your readers want to hear from you (they signed up after all!) and have fun.
Finally, I’d be remiss to mention that you can subscribe to my newsletter here. Any other newsletter ideas you’d like to share? Post them in the comments below!