Last month we celebrated Valentine’s day – a holiday marked by hearts, flowers, and love notes.
Whether or not you write love notes to that special someone in your life, every author should be writing love notes…to their readers! Okay, maybe not love notes, but we should be keeping in touch with our readers on a regular basis, and email newsletters are an effective, low-cost way to do it.
Authors have become comfortable using social media. But the problem with social media is that we don’t own our space there. The “owners” (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can change the rules of engagement at any time—and they have! In fact, Facebook has changed their algorithms again this year! So what’s an author to do?
The answer is found in owning our own marketing assets. This means that while we still use social media, our home base should be our website. AND we should pour our efforts into growing our email mailing lists. This will provide a way to remain in contact with our readers regardless of the latest changes in various social media platforms.
In The Benefits of Growing Your Email Distribution List, I talked about why we should have an e-newsletter. Today, let’s discuss some practical considerations to make it happen.
As you collect email addresses for your mailing list, be aware of anti-spam laws. Spam is defined as unsolicited electronic messages sent in bulk. Email newsletters are considered spam unless the recipient requested to subscribe. It doesn’t matter how sure you are that your cousin Martha or your mechanic is eagerly awaiting your writing news. If they didn’t sign up for the newsletter, don’t send it to them.
Professional newsletter programs have an opt-in feature that asks the recipient to confirm their subscription request. This ensures they understand what they’re doing, and that someone else didn’t sign them up without their knowledge. You should also offer a choice to opt-out or unsubscribe in each newsletter in the event recipients decide to cancel their subscriptions.
Where should you offer the opportunity to subscribe to your newsletter? Wherever you connect with readers! Your website, blog page, Facebook page, even Twitter are all potential subscription location opportunities. Just make sure you’re not harvesting email addresses without the express consent of the recipients. They must be the ones to sign up for your newsletter—you can’t do it for them!
One way to encourage subscriptions is to offer an incentive for those who sign up. Your incentive could be a free download of a short story, a sample chapter of your book (check with your publisher first), an informative article, a bookmark, or a discount on a future purchase.
Decide, in advance, how often you will be distributing your newsletter. It could be monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly. Longer intervals than that may cause your subscribers to forget who you are!
You will have to decide what content to include. Many programs offer templates that make it easy to “fill in the blanks.” Consider your readers and their interests, but don’t make the content one big hard sell. A successful newsletter will nurture an ongoing relationship with your readers.
Of course, you’ll want to inform them of your own writing news, even if you haven’t yet published your own book. So if you don’t have a new release or speaking engagements to announce, you can share activity on your current works-in-progress. Or share research tidbits that might interest your readers. Consider other information as well. Book reviews of your favorite reads and interviews of fellow authors are ways to keep your readers coming back for more.
How about you? What have you found that works – or doesn’t work in your email newsletters?