Monday, July 1, 2013

Author Newsletters

One of the best things about the Internet is ease and speed of communication between book professionals (authors, agents, editors, publishers) and readers. I love social media connections like Facebook and Twitter. But direct mail is a great way to give and get pertinent information, and direct e-mail is no different. I've signed up for quite a few e-letters to receive news and information from authors I regularly read, as I appreciate having an early heads-up about new book releases and promotions.

Do you have a newsletter you regularly email to a mailing list of fans you've gathered? If not, the best way to develop one is by subscribing to a few and analyzing what you do and don't like about them. One of my favorites is the long-running All About Thyme e-letter written by Susan Wittig Albert. It's billed as a "weekly calendar of times and seasonings" and it celebrates "the mysteries, magic, and myths of herbs". Anyone who reads Susan's China Bayles Herbal Mysteries will appreciate the "added content" of a weekly e-letter that shares all kinds of information related to herbalism. Here's a snip of the top portion of a recent edition:

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The week always begins with interesting information about what's coming up in the world of plants and more. That's followed with other interesting information like this:

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There are lots of live links leading to additional sites and added reading. Promotional information about the author's books are relegated to sidebars with clickable links to their respective websites. The reader can also open the newsletter in a browser. You can do that now to see the entire page in one piece by clicking here.

Not all author newsletters are this comprehensive, nor do they offer the reader the astounding amount of additional research and interesting information. That's exactly why this one has tens of thousands of subscribers. Your author newsletter can, too, if you plan and create it right from the ground up.

This month we'll have a few more posts about what makes for a good e-letter, and we welcome your comments about them. We'll also have a post from one of our team members, Elle Carter Neal, who quietly and behind-the-scenes, keeps this blog operating smoothly. She has just finished her first teen novel, Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin, and part of her marketing plan includes a mailing list and regular updates with an e-letter. She'll share with us how she plans to develop this tool.

What are your thoughts about this topic? What do you like about e-letters? What don't you like? What does it take to make you subscribe? Please share your opinions with us by leaving a comment.


Dani Greer is founding member of this blog. She spends her summer days with new writing and editing projects, waters acres of gardens, and often can be seen knitting yet another pair of socks. Visit her at News From Nowhere, Facebook, and Twitter.

25 comments :

  1. Weekly! Wow. I have a quarterly newsletter, and I figure that's plenty. I prefer newsletters that aren't pure "me me me" and "buy my books." Variety is good, because that gives you a wider target.

    Terry
    Terry's Place

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  2. I agree that Susan has a great newsletter, but I had no idea it had that many subscribers. Good for her.

    I'm looking forward to what will be shared in developing a newsletter and a mailing list. I do not have either one at this point, but I see it recommended by several people who are knowledgeable about social media.

    Thanks for getting this series started, Dani.

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  3. I just downloaded Penny Sansevieri's book, RED HOT INTERNET PUBLICITY (her all-caps), and she has a chapter about e-letters. I'm interested to learn what she has to say about them. I think authors avoid them because it's just one more marketing chore to do, and the idea of building a mailing list seems daunting. But I think it's a missed opportunity. Even a quarterly newsletter is better than none.

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  4. And amused to read that Penny claims to have invented virtual book tours. LOL.

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  5. Dani, thanks for featuring my eletter! I should mention a couple of things.
    1) I've been publishing this for 5 years, so there's quite a bit of recycled content--which is okay, since most people don't remember a lot of what they read online and I intentionally do NOT keep an archive.
    2) I have help: my miracle-worker webmaster, Peggy Moody, who codes this for me.
    3) It is sometimes a pain in the you-know-what, because people come to expect it, so it has to be done, whether I'm in the mood or not.

    Thanks again for this boost--you and your gang at BRP are terrific!

    Susan

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  6. A newsletter can be a very handy tool for added value for readers and to let others know more about you so that they may become readers.

    It took a long time for me to develop a mailing list--had to start rather laboriously--but with social media it should be easier. Now they come to me!

    I use a service I pay for so I can get the look I want. I also use the same format each time: an intro, my appearance schedule, any new info, and then a brief history article that relates to my medieval character and his time period. I include a link here, not to intrude on your article, but hopefully to add to it. http://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com/email/newsletter/1411750923

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  7. Jeri, thanks. Exactly the kinds of tips I'm looking for - Susan too. But not everyone can have their own Peggy to format a newsletter, so we have to tackle that aspect as well.

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  8. True, Dani (about Peggy). I would do it differently if I were doing it myself--but I would still do it. It's been more productive than my blog, in terms of readership/response.

    Jeri, your newsletter is very attractive. I especially like the colors/layout you've chosen. Excellent!

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  9. I guess I didn't jump through the right hoops earlier, because I commented, but it's gone now. I send a quarterly newsletter which is about all I can handle, and I don't have enough new stuff going on to bore my readers with. I've teamed up with other authors and they offer giveaways in my newsletter, so it's not all about "me."


    Terry
    Terry's Place

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  10. Teri, I agree--we don't want our eletters to be all about "us." I try to make sure that every eletter is 85-90% content (herbs, gardening, cooking, lore/history) and 10-15% book promo. My character is an herbalist (China Bayles) so that's the hook I hang the eletter on.

    susan

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  11. "... make sure that every e-letter is 85-90% content (herbs, gardening, cooking, lore/history) and 10-15% book promo..." is the pivotal part of Susan's comment and, I believe, why this e-letter is so popular. We GET so much more than from the usual advertising blah-blah-blah. I think every author can follow this formula, and even with a quarterly letter, if you GIVE information to the reader (whether a lesson, advice, recipes, encouragement), you go a long way toward gaining their affection. THEN they'll notice your book, want to support you, will promote for you, and buy. But you pay it forward first. Otherwise you spend effort on a newsletter, and nobody reads what you have to say. Susan, how many subscribers do you have today?

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  12. Dani, between this eletter and our quarterly Mystery Partners (book-content only), we have over 22,000 subscribers. But please remember that we've been online with the quarterly since 2001 and with the weekly since 2008. Persistence definitely pays!

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  13. Thanks, Dani; I'm bookmarking your post!

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  14. Elspeth, do you have an e-letter? Can't wait to read what Elle has to share about her very new e-letter. I want to know how to make them pretty without a lot of HTML know-how. Is that possible?

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  15. E-newsletter, e-zine, any similar entity that connects writer and audience has potential for good. I've intended to do this for a long time, but it may actually come to fruition this fall when I complete my website. I hope to incorporate interactive exchanges in the form of reader feedback, guest columnists, and other options that allow followers/subscribers to express themselves. As for the 85-15 rule, I absolutely agree.

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  16. In consumer magazines the editorial/advertising ratio is now around 54% ads/46% editorial; newspapers,60% ads, 40% editorial. Our readers recognize and appreciate it when we're generous with our content. As Teri says, when it's not all about "us."

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  17. I used to do one, but now I've been using Facebook, Google+ and Twitter instead.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  18. Dani, the mailing companies (I use Mail Chimp) have templates that make designing nice-looking emails only slightly more annoying than using Word ;-)

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  19. I don't email anyone,but it is an interesting idea.

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  20. I would really need to use a program that doesn't involve HTML or any other coding. My learning curve for all things technical is at 90 degrees.

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  21. I have a blog where I review others' books. I have another blog where I post health updates (related to my memoir, Multiple Sclerosis an Enigma, and I write a blog to help promote my husband's wooden toys. I update each about once a week. I have followers by email, and by google+, but don't have access to anyone's email. Blogspot and Wordpress don't give me the emails for people who 'follow' the blogs. How do you collect emails?

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  22. Terry, I invite people to sign up. The invitation is posted in a lot of different places; it takes people to a Constant Contact signup page. (That's the mail program I use.) It's entirely opt-in.

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  23. We'll discuss sign up tactics in another blog post. One way is to have a contest on your blog in which contestants have to give you their email to play. I think you can have a subscription feature on most blogs and see who signed up there. Add a newsletter sign-up link to your email signature. There are other ways.

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  24. And another thing we'll discuss later is to have an opt-OUT link on every newsletter you send out. That makes readers feel very secure.

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  25. I've been running a newsletter for some three years to 4000+ opt-in subscribers using AWeber, the most popular service. Subscribers get 1-2 ezines a week. My open rates are 40%+, which I'm told is above average.

    Two key things I've discovered:

    Folk don't like generic tips. Content has got to be original and good, or they just unsubscribe. (They can get generic waffle anywhere.) An ezine exists to build a brand. You can't clone one.

    Eg: Hope at Funds For Writers starts every ezine with a picture of herself plus a dog. Emetic, true... but that's certainly personal branding.

    You can't send a hard-sell more than once every five weeks. Or folk drop like flies. They need lots of value-added info in the meantime to sustain their confidence! And that info has to be original.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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