The Writer’s Toolbox Series- Newsletters
It’s Wednesday, Writers, welcome to the middle of the week. These are wild times, remember to take a breath and be kind to yourself. Today we are tackling the rudimentary building blocks of another topic in the Writer’s Toolbox series: Newsletters. For me, personally, Newsletters have been a daunting trial and error spanning the last few years of my writing career. An Author Newsletter is an extension of your brand, another way to connect with your audience and build your readership, but how do you start one? How do you build a mailing list? How do you determine the frequency of your Newsletter? What content do you include? What subject line will entice readers to open it?
Each question is a piece of the Newsletter puzzle. Some authors choose not to do one altogether, and that is fine. Your Newsletter should be a tool for you, not an extra heap of stress. Properly building a Newsletter requires some time and effort, and you, the author, have to decide if you have enough to spare or if this is a project you can do another time. You do not have to have a Newsletter to be an author. You can start one at any time.
The Basic Basics
You’ve decided to create a newsletter! One method is to maintain a mailing list yourself, using something like an excel sheet to track names and emails. This can be a time consuming method that can be automated through a Mailing List service site. There are several that have free plans up to a certain number of subscribers with varying degrees of user friendly interfaces.
Some of the more popular services include Mailchimp, Mailerlite, AWeber, CampaignMonitor, and MailPoet. This is just a sampling. It is important to look around and find the best service that fits your budget and knowledge base. If you don’t have a great deal of HTML knowledge, sites like Mailchimp and Mailerlite provide drag and drop templates to help facilitate creation, as well as a free plan up to 500-1000 subscribers, a number that will help you get a feel for the direction you want to take your Newsletter.
Once you’ve picked a Mailing List Service, you should integrate it into your website, either through a sign up form, a pop up, something to direct readers to subscribe to your Newsletter. These platforms provide you with decent instruction to help you set this up. Take your time, take a breath, and use the guides available, but always ask for help if you are stuck. Many of these sites have tech support to get you out of sticky html tarpits.
How to Build Your List
There are a few methods you can use to build your list.
Organic- This is the slow and steady method, one that will require you to engage with readers and subscribers over other platforms, encouraging them to sign up for your Newsletter through the back end material an ebook or posting the link on your social media. Building organically can feel frustratingly slow at times, but often has the highest engagement rate of any other method because the readers are there to follow your work.
Buy in Builders- A Newsletter Builder has pros and cons. A builder can help you rack up a large list of subscribers very quickly but there are risks, such as a higher unsubscribe rate if your writing is not what they are looking for, a higher spam rate because subs forget they signed up, a higher unopened rate because people subscribed for the giveaway incentives behind the builder rather than an interest in your work. Builder’s can be high risk, high reward, if you capture enough sustained interest in your Newsletter, but sites like Mailchimp do punish users for high spam/ unsubscribe rates. If you do take a chance on a builder, try to find one tailored for readers of the genre you write in, which will give you a higher chance of finding new readers than a generic builder would. The expense of buy ins can also add up fast, and exhaust a budget that could be better applied in marketing.
Facilitation Sites- Third party platforms like Storyorigin and Bookcave seem to be middle ground. A site like Storyorigin facilitates newsletter swaps, reviews, and giveaways to help an author build their list at a fairly organic pace without exhausting their resources.
Content, Content, Content!
You’ve built a beginning list, you’ve created headers and graphics to fit your author brand. Now, what can you put in your Newsletter to engage with your audience as an author?
This facet is, by far, the hardest to master. Depending on factors like your writing and production speed, what is happening in your life, it can feel overwhelming to try to plan consistent engaging content month after month that keeps readers opening your Newsletter.
Some content inclusion is straight-forward, such as excerpts of upcoming work, any book deals or sales you may have going on, giveaways, launch team invites, and book news. But not every month is full of deals and reels. Some other ideas to help keep the content flowing:
Talk about the research behind your book- fantasy to historical fiction, writing involves research, whether you are looking up specific details of a time period or need an understanding of how things work to describe it in your text, this provides a sneak peek into your book and your thought process.
Blog Post Excerpts/ Slice of Life News- You don’t have to share everything about your life with your readers, but occasional quips and tidbits of life at large can be a great way to connect. Never share more than you are comfortable with.
Jokes, memes, and questions for the reader- It’s all about engagement.
Reading Recommendations- Share what you are reading with your readers! Share books similar to yours with your readers. You could even share reviews from other readers as further enticement to read your book.
Event calendars- If you have any virtual events you are participating in, include them! Give readers a chance to connect with you outside the newsletter!
This is just a sampling of possible content ideas. Build a bank of ideas to pull from. If you can set aside time, you can build content months out to toss together. Get creative. Think outside the box, and the book. Remember at the end of the day, the goal of your Newsletter is to provide another way for your readers to connect to you.