An author newsletter delivered by email is a relatively inexpensive marketing tool authors can use to grow their readership, their platform, and their book-based business. Here are answers to common questions authors have about email marketing and email newsletters.
Do authors really need to send out a newsletter?
If you want to grow your readership and sell more of your books, both present, and future, having an email list of interested readers is your best and most cost-effective asset. Here are some benefits you gain by maintaining an author newsletter:
- You build a connection with your readers beyond your books.
- Receiving regular newsletters from you keeps you and your work top-of-mind.
- You have a direct line to your readers that belongs to you, unlike connecting with them via social media.
- It is quicker and easier to identify what content is working and what is not working with email analytics than with social media or website analytics.
- Newsletters give you more space to share information than social media.
- Newsletters give readers a feeling of exclusivity they can’t achieve on social media.
All of this can lead to increased book sales. And, if you offer other products or services beyond books, this newsletter will help sell those, as well.
But the question is do you need one? Like with all marketing methods, no. There are plenty of ways to market a book. But email marketing is consistently one of the best.
How do I develop an effective email strategy for my readers?
Developing an effective email strategy is a process. Here is a suggested step-by-step method you can use to develop your email strategy.
- Get clear on who your ideal readers are. What kind of content, that is related to your books, would engage them? How often would they welcome you into their inboxes? For example, if your ideal reader is a work-at-home mom who likes reading your mysteries in part because they take her around the globe, you’ve got some clues as to the content that would keep her reading your newsletter. You could feature information about the places that appear in your books and share your own travels. In addition, because she’s a busy person (working and raising kids at home takes some time!), you’ll want to set a slower frequency, such as once a month.
- Get clear on what you can handle in your schedule. You may be a busy person, too! If you don’t think you can handle sending out a good, quality newsletter on a weekly basis, don’t choose that frequency! Also, think about the type of content you will include and keep in mind the time you’ll need to create that content.
- Decide on the types of content you want to include. There are lots of things you can include in your newsletter, and it’s O.K. to mix and match. Each issue doesn’t need to follow the same format. You’ll find some ideas for content further down this page.
- Develop your email newsletter plan. With these three parameters in mind, you can now develop a solid editorial calendar. I like to create a plan for the year in November or December, realizing that it may very well get tweaked along the way. I recommend having at least a three-month content plan. And your email plan doesn’t need to be separate from your other content plans. In fact, it is better to have a comprehensive plan that includes your blog, your newsletter, your social media, and any other content you create. That way it is easier to make sure that they are supporting your main business goals.
What software should I use to send my author newsletter so that I remain compliant with email marketing laws?
I’m glad you’re asking that! Using an email marketing provider is a wise decision. Not only is sending emails from your personal email account make it hard to manage your list, but it can get you into some legal hot water, as well. In addition to the CAN-SPAM law in the United States, there are additional laws that affect your subscribers in Canada and the European Union. Most, if not all, email marketing platforms make sure you remain compliant without having to think much about it.
True, there are a lot of email marketing platforms to choose from. Some are focused on email marketing alone, others include other functionality, as well. If you are just beginning, I think a safe bet is Aweber. That’s what I use. MailChimp is also a good choice. Both offer a very good free level.
When should I start building a list and sending out my author newsletter?
There is no hard and fast rule about starting an author newsletter. A good rule of thumb is as soon as you have something to say. For some authors, that could be months or years before their book comes out. For others, it is much later. I believe that the sooner you start the better. This gives you time to build your list so that once your book (or next book) is available, you’ll have a sizable list of people who will probably buy it.
How do I set up my author newsletter?
Once you’ve chosen an email service provider, there are several things you’ll need to create to make sure everything goes smoothly and you’ll be set to grow your list over time.
There are two things you’ll need outside of your email marketing platform to successfully grow your email list.
The first thing is a relevant and useful opt-in incentive. This is the thing you offer prospective subscribers in return for their email address. One good incentive is a sample chapter of your book. But there are lots of other things you can use as well. You’ll find some suggestions further down this page.
The second thing is a place to host your opt-in form (which I’ll go into in a moment). Ideally, this will be your website. There are also ways to integrate an opt-in form with social media and some email marketing platforms (such as Aweber or MailChimp) offer landing pages you can use, as well. However, for best results, you want to have an author website.
Now you can go into your email marketing software and set up your newsletter. Here’s what you’ll need to create to make sure you’re set up for success:
- An opt-in form: This is the form your prospective subscriber will fill out in order to request your opt-in incentive and be added to your list.
- A welcome email sequence: This is the series of emails that welcome your new subscriber to your list, delivers the opt-in incentive, and sets their expectations on what they’ll see in your newsletter. You can also add emails to the sequence that encourage them to consume the incentive, to engage with you, and even to buy something from you.
- A newsletter template: You want to be consistent with the look and feel of your newsletters, so setting up a template that you can use over and over again is a wise thing to do. You can create one from scratch or modify one of the many templates your software provides.
Those are the basics. There are other things you can do to improve effectiveness, but I don’t have the space to go into those details on this page.
How often should I send out my author newsletter?
The most common frequencies I’ve seen for author newsletters are weekly or monthly. The next most common frequencies are twice a month or daily. Which one is right for you and your list? Only you can say. Choose a frequency that you can consistently keep to, and that won’t irritate your readers. See my answer to how to develop a strategy above for further clarification.
How do I grow my author newsletter list?
There are so many ways you can grow an email list! Below are just a few that can be effective for authors. However, before you start using them, make sure you have an opt-in incentive that is compelling to your ideal readers. If you offer them the wrong thing, they won’t sign up regardless of how many of these tactics you use.
- Post your opt-in offer on your website’s home page as close to the top as possible.
- Post your opt-in offer on a splash page that someone gets the first time they visit your website.
- Post your opt-in offer in the sidebar of your blog.
- Integrate your opt-in offer with your Facebook page and other social media accounts.
- Include your opt-in offer on the back of your business card.
- Include a link to your opt-in landing page, along with some compelling copy, in your email signature file.
- Do you participate in online discussion groups? Add your link to your opt-in landing page, along with some compelling copy, to your signature file.
- Write guest posts on other people’s blogs and include an invitation to your opt-in in your bio.
- Contribute to or purchase advertising in a newsletter that goes out to people who might enjoy your work.
- Participate in a link exchange with a fellow author in your genre. Each of you gives a shout out to the other in their newsletter.
- Include a note in your newsletter that encourages your subscribers to share the newsletter with their circle of influence.
- Participate in relevant giveaway events.
- Host a viral giveaway or contest. You can do this in a limited way for free using GoViral or for an investment, use KingSumo.
There are probably a lot more, but those should get you started on the right foot.
What kind of opt-in incentive should I offer?
The best opt-in incentives provide the new subscriber with a quick win. That gives them a nice dopamine surge and helps them start on the path of liking and trusting you. Here are some ideas:
- A sample chapter from your book
- A short study or readers’ guide for your book
- A checklist or cheat sheet that helps them implement a concept in your book
- A short video of you explaining a concept in your book
- A 3-7-day email course or challenge that helps them implement a concept in your book
- A quiz that helps them identify what parts of your book they should focus on
Do you see a trend here? Your opt-in incentive needs to be a taste of what you offer and it needs to provide quick, easy-to-digest, actionable, and valuable information. Which one is right for you depends on what your book is about, what you can reasonably implement given your current situation and your personality.
What content should I include in my author newsletter?
The content you provide in your newsletters should be engaging and relevant to you and your work, as well as to your readers. Providing a balance of different kinds of content is a good idea, too. Here are some suggestions.
- New about your latest project
- Links to your blog posts, podcast episodes, Facebook Lives, and other content you create
- Tips related to your book
- Reviews and recommendations for books, products, and services they might find valuable and are related to what you do
- Updates on relevant and interesting industry trends
- Interviews with or profiles of people they should know (or characters from your book!)
- Case studies of your clients
- “Fan of the month” interview or profile
- Announcements of upcoming events
- Exclusive reveals – for example, the cover of your forthcoming book
- Day in the life information – what you’re reading, fun things you’re doing, etc.
- Advice and insight
- Details about the research you’re doing for your next book
- Reader Q&As
And, of course, links to your book and social media pages!
Your newsletter is a way for you to keep you and your work top-of-mind. It doesn’t need to be a big production. Short, simple, and valuable content will do the trick. Use what you do best to provide this service.
How do I continuously improve my author newsletter?
Once you’ve got some subscribers and are on a regular schedule, you can start making small changes and testing them to see what works best. Here are some ways you can improve the results you get with your newsletter.
- Improve open rates by testing subject lines. Use the A/B testing feature of your email service to test which types of subject lines get the best open rates. This feature lets you send a percentage of your list one subject line and the rest another.
- Improve opt-in rates by testing your invitation headline and copy. Switch out your headline or your copy once in a while to see if you get increased opt-in rates.
- Send your readers a survey or poll to find out what they like. Give them some suggestions to choose from and go from there.
- Read up on best practices and start implementing the ideas. Test them out to see what works for your list.
- Use services like OptinMonster or Sumo to increase opt-in rates. These services let you do fancy things with your opt-in offer so that people visiting your website actually notice it.
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