Author Newsletter Dos and Don'ts
By Sue Campbell
If you already know you need to be growing an email list and sending out regular content to your subscribers — Bravo! You’re ahead of most authors, even some of the big ones.
But if you’re stuck on how to actually execute an author newsletter, read on for some dos and don’ts.
Choose a regular schedule for sending your newsletter and stick to it — Aim for once a month at a minimum; two to four times a month if you can swing it.
Be personal and personable — Don’t try conforming to what you think a serious author — or worse, a serious author’s PR person — should sound like. Be yourself.
Spend plenty of time thinking up great subject lines — If you hurry this step, you’re just wasting your time because nobody’s going to open an email with a ho-hum subject line like: “What I’m Up To.” Except maybe your mom because you don't call her often enough.
Write something with the express intention of being helpful and/or entertaining — Your newsletter is not really about self promotion, it’s about relationship building. The best way to endear yourself to readers is to give them something worth reading.
Keep a running list of content ideas — It can be physical or digital. You just need a place to look when you’re stuck.
Think multi-media — Not everything has to be written content. Record a video or point people to your podcast. Draw a picture. Sing a song. People love to be surprised.
Subscribe to the newsletters of authors in your space — You’ll get ideas for content and maybe you’ll even be able to spot how they could do better!
Include a link to buy your book in every newsletter — Obviously, you can only do this if your book is available for preorder or purchase, but you’d be surprised how many authors who have a book that’s ready to buy don’t include a link to buy it in their newsletter.
Include links — Links are a great way to track if people are really engaging with your content. Send them out to the web to look at something cool, either at your website or elsewhere. Then look at your stats to see how many people actually clicked.
Include calls to action — Ask for shares, ask for reviews, ask people to buy your book, ask them to tell a friend. Always ask for something to remind your audience the terms of engagement: you provide great content and you ask them for things in return.
Include a way to unsubscribe — Legally you have to, ethically you want to, and from a marketing perspective, you only want engaged people on your list. Don’t make it tough for folks to opt out.
Include a mailing address — Again this is a legal requirement. If you’re concerned about your privacy, get a post office box or use your publisher’s address (if you have one).
Include news — Talk about what you’re working on and where you’re appearing, in addition to helpful and entertaining content, of course.
Make it all about you — Remember, this is about building a relationship. Write things that will help your readers. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about yourself, but it does mean it can’t be navel gazing.
Apologize if you miss a delivery date by a day or two — People are very unlikely to notice if your email comes on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Apologizing about such things actually looks unprofessional and seems self centered. People are busy, they are not tracking you that closely. If they are — then congratulations, people miss you when you’re gone and that’s a marketing gold star. But still, you don’t need to apologize, or even explain, unless it’s somehow related to the content in that particular email.
Worry if you lose subscribers — It’s not that big of a deal. Really. In fact, it can actually be a good thing. The point of your email list is to get folks to engage with you in the long term and buy your books. If there’s someone on your list who doesn’t open your emails anymore, that means your content has done its job — they’ve decided you’re not a good fit for them and that’s perfectly fine. Wish them well and let them go.
Wait to send any emails until your book comes out — you need to steadily build the relationship to get people excited to buy your book. I know I’m repeating myself a bit here. I already told you to send emails regularly, but seriously, nobody joins your list so they can not hear from you for a year and then be asked to buy your book.