#Marketing: Newsletter Basics for Authors

Jeri Walker
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Jeri Walker
Jeri Walker
Jeri Walker
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Newsletter basics for authors entail deciding how often to send, what content to feature, which service to use, as well as the effectiveness of the letter’s overall look. Plus, it’s of utmost importance to ensure the ethical building of your email list. 

 

Newsletter Basics for Authors

The purpose of an author newsletter is to deliver news to your fanbase. It should work in tandem with the content offered on your author blog if you maintain one as part of your author website. If you’re struggling with what to blog about as an author and haven’t set up a newsletter yet, focus on finding a groove for your blog. Build your platform in the continual search of finding 1,000 true fans. Once closer to releasing a new title, then focus on sending out compelling newsletters.

 

What service to use?

Using regular email to send an announcement is less than ideal because no analytic reports are available to indicate how many opens and clicks the email receives. Not to mention, we’ve all received those types of emails where the sender neglected neglected to blind copy (bcc) the email addresses of everyone else. Hands down, email is the best way of directly reaching readers. Use that power wisely.

Any newsletter email service comes with a learning curve. I’ve been using MailChimp for a few years for my editor newsletters and am quite pleased by its capabilities. It’s free up to the first 2,000 subscribers acquired. Such a service allows for a seamless process for collecting email addresses and providing a newsletter archive. Even though a mailing address is required, it’s okay to use “general delivery.” Other services include AWeber, Constant Contact, and TinyLetter to name a few.

Building Your Email List

An email list is something readers opt-in for. A huge pet peeve of mine is checking my email only to see I’ve been added to yet another mailing list because I left a blog comment. Connecting with someone on social media or sharing email communication in the past does not make it okay to manually add anyone to your mailing list. Anti-spam laws dictate letting the reader make that choice. I also find it a bit shady when blog commenting systems contain a pre-checked box that will then add the commenter’s email to the blogger’s mailing list. It’s always better to let potential fans make the choice to check that box.

 

You’ll want to  create an inviting sign-up form that complements your website and blog’s theme. After the opt-in form is created, provide readers with multiple ways to access the form. A sidebar widget is a must, and services like MailChimp provide options for generating one. If you use a WordPress.org site, consider using a plug-in such as WordPress Notification Bar to place a sign-up banner at the top or bottom of your site, as well as a pop-up form such as MailMunch to encourage more readers to subscribe to blog posts and newsletters. Various sign-up forms can also be created with MailChimp.

 

Picture of Newsletter Sign-Up Form

How Often to Send a Newsletter

The minimum number of times an author newsletter should go out is quarterly. Pick a schedule and stick with it, making sure the newsletter release will coincide with new releases. Every six to eight weeks might also be a doable schedule. Once a month is probably as frequent as a newsletter should be sent, especially if are also publishing blog posts. Don’t succumb to content fatigue, and don’t worry too much about readers forgetting who you are if you only send quarterly newsletters. Subscriber lists fluctuate. Publish as often as you can handle while also prioritizing the writing of the next book.

 

What to Include in a Newsletter

You can include items of interest to readers of your books. Nobody will ever complain about getting a short announcement.

  1. Announce a new release. Potentially include the blurb and/or an excerpt.
  2. Provide details on free and discounted promotions. Always include a link.
  3. Highlight speaking engagements, awards, and other recognition bestowed upon you.
  4. Link to author interviews and guest posts as well as posts (past or present) from your blog.
  5. Share your passions. What do readers most often ask you about? What research are you engaged in? Are you involved in any literacy programs? Does any of your travel relate to your writing? What fellow authors could you feature? The sky really is the limit.

 

The Newsletter’s Overall Look

Less is definitely more when it comes to author newsletter content. Pick a simple template for of one or two columns with fewer rather than more content boxes you will have to fuss over. Use plenty of images and make the newsletter skimmable. Every newsletter should contain a unique and compelling subject line. Always ensure your call to action is clear.

 

 

What newsletters do you enjoy receiving? Do you have any advice or pet peeves when it comes to author newsletter basics?

 

May Promo: Receive a 25-page manuscript critique or copy edit in exchange for a writing tips guest post that will appear the third week of June. Proposals accepted until Wed. 5/25.

 

 

Guest Post: Join me over on Finding our Way Now where I’ve posted on Fun Facts about Wine.

 

Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2016.

Author: Jeri Walker

Need help writing that book blurb, bio, or newsletter? Give your book the attention it deserves. Book your copy edit, manuscript critique, or proofread today. Make every word count.

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29 Comments

  1. I found this post interesting and timely as I am considering starting a newsletter – not for my author site, but for my travel blog.

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  2. Great advice, Jeri. I know that adding links and using bullets work best for my organizing and small business. Too many words tend to be ignored or never read. I am going to share this with my author friends. =)

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    • Sabrina, just think of all the content we skim in a given day. I save copies of newsletters I like so I can emulate them in the future when it comes time for me to start an author newsletter. My editor newsletters are on the longer side, but I will also be re-purposing the content for a blog sign-up incentive booklet. It took me a while though to figure out what content I was best served including in my newsletter.

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  3. I have read much about the benefits of newsletters. I admit to thinking it was not for bloggers at my stage, perhaps more suited to established bloggers with 1000 followers!

    I like the idea of a newsletter; to keep followers/readers updated. It will be an additional job along with blogging but progress is important.

    Thank you for sharing your pearls of wisdom.

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    • Phoenicia, I probably started my newsletter too soon. In any case, it was a good learning experience. I’m quite pleased with the format I’ve been using for a while now, but I do cringe when I go into the archives and look at the first six months or so of issues.

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  4. Good tips Jeri. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with newsletters over the years. I launched my first newsletter when I was working as a life and small business coach and I think that experience spoiled me because people were so hungry for the information the open rate was huge and hardly anyone ever unsubscribed. I had a very different experience with my first newsletter as a blogger. I put so much time into the newsletter it was discouraging to have an open rate below 40% (I later learned that was actually a good open rate!), so I ended up ditching it. When I launched my current blog I began offering a weekly newsletter and this one has so far worked out very well. It’s a process, and I think it takes some time to find your own voice for communicating with readers. Thanks!

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    • Marty, I know that feeling of thinking an open rate isn’t that great, but then when compared to the rest of the industry, the open rate really is quite good upon comparison. Not only does it take time to find one’s voice, it also takes time to learn how to use the info available in the analytic reports. I am admittedly still getting the hang of that part.

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  5. I have noticed that there is a free widget which allows you to add a “subscribe to my blog and newsletter” message on your blog… I could show reluctance, though…as I find the pop up message in the center of the blog quite annoying… Supposedly it shows only once… but I have not experience it just one time in certain blogs, hence I reinforce my objections…
    I think mailchimp might be super useful and a great tool to keep connected and grow an audience… But I guess the pop up widget is a little bit too selfish/ commercial. At least in my own terms 😉
    Also, I tried to add the wigdet on the right side bar, which is the same one thn the one you have at the bottom of your site… But I will still have to figure out technical things, such as adding the email list…
    Sending all my best wishes, dear Jeri… Aquileana 😀

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    • Aqui, I’m not a fan of the pop-up that come up in the middle of the screen either. I picked one that comes up when the reader is half done with the post, plus it is in the bottom corner of the screen rather than in the middle. I get really annoyed when it’s not clear how to exit out of such screens. MailChimp is a great way to manage your email list. If you ever need any help or have questions, just let me know. I’m always happy to help.

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      • That´s so kind of you, thank you… If I ever tried it, I would let you know (meaning, how lost I might get to be!) 😉 Sending best wishes, dear Jeri. Aquileana 🌟

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  6. Jeri, I never thought of sending a newsletter and I know I’m not ready for it yet. I’m still trying to determine where to go with my blog. My heading ‘frugalforeveryone” is a bit limiting since I need to stay within the frugal niche. But this is great information and I’ve pinned it so I can refer to it at a later date.

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    • Lenie, frugality is a great niche, but still broad enough to apply to many different contexts since people can be frugal in many different areas of life. One idea for a newsletter from you would be to send readers exclusive links to great online deals or to various resources they can start using to save more money.

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  7. Jeri — I, too, find it irritating when I’m automatically added to subscriber lists because I left a comment or requested a brochure. It has the reverse effect of turning me off instead of making me a fan of the site. I also think it’s illegal because it requires a double opt-in to add someone to your subscription list.

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    • Jeannette, it is indeed illegal to add people to an e-mail list that way. MailChimp is set up as a double opt-in, though it took me a while to figure out how to customize the final email the service sends new subscribers. I added an opt-in for blog posts, newsletters, or both but have found some new subscribers don’t click either box, so I then have to customize it myself. In the future, I may not separate the two. It’s hard to decide.

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  8. Your timing is excellent! I’ve been thinking about reviving the Candy’s Monsters monthly newsletter and I know it was “lacking” in its first outing. I’m going to study this!

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  9. Jeri, I need to do this. Ugh , there so many things on my list to do. Lol Getting a newsletter out to people is a great way to build your fan base. Thanks for showing me the way. 🙂

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    • Crystal, you’re still experimenting a bit with your blog’s content, so you have lots of time to think about what to include in a newsletter to offer your readers.

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  10. I always have mixed feeling about email. I agree with you that it is the best way to reach your audience. That is certainly true if someone wants to send me a message. Yet at the same time I feel the effectiveness of email is compromised by the way so many people use it. There are organizations whose messaging I would be happy to see until I find out that they are banging things out daily and even multiple times a day. It turns me into a reckless deleter and I’m afraid I sometimes get carried away and wipe out messages that I actually would have wanted to read.

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    • Ken, I know that I do that too when it comes to recklessly deleting. My rss-feed is much the same way at times in that I go on content overload, and just have to delete it even when I know I’ll be missing some good stuff in the mix.

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  11. –Am I the only person who does not have a News Letter?

    I’m definitely not in with the popular kids! xx

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    • Kim, you could use a newsletter to help spread word about domestic violence organization and events.

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  12. This is a great breakdown for how to start a newsletter. When I first started my weekly newsletter about a year ago, I was so overwhelmed. And I literally had only 2 people besides myself and my husband who had opted in. Well, you gotta start somewhere. It has grown quite a bit since then.

    I’ve never heard of WordPress notification bar so I will make a note of that for the future. I use Popupally which I like because you can put a bar on the top, create an exit popup or place one at the bottom of your page .

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  13. This is very informative, even for experienced authors.
    It never hurts to go back and re-evaluate what you have done. A list like this can shine a light on some aspect of marketing or promotion that you might have missed.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

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  14. Jeri, another informational post about something I hope to do one of these days. One writer newsletter I get monthly is C. Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers. It is also informative, helpful and totally geared toward writers. I recommend it.

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    • RoseMary, thanks for letting me know about Clark’s newsletter. I’ll be sure to check it out.

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