How To Make Your Author Newsletter A Priority In Your Sales Game
And enjoy writing it.
No way, I hate writing newsletters … I can hear you now. But read on and you’ll find out why I made that bold statement.
YOU HAVE CONTROL
This is the #1 reason to build a strong mailing list and keep those subscribers engaged.
All the other social media outlets we use, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest are wonderful ways to get your books in front of people. But, and it’s a biggie, those anonymous behind-the-scenes people control who sees what. Not you.
And worse, their algorithms change. Take Facebook for instance, I have a large group of friends, but I get to see only a smattering of their posts, and they mine. Why? I have no idea. We’re friends, I want to see all of you, but Facebook controls who I see and who sees me.
Same with most social media these days.
WHAT TO PUT IN A NEWSLETTER
First off, personalize your email. “Hello, Leslie,”
That is a simple tweak you can make in your mailing program. You can even allow it to make the email subject line be personalized, though I haven’t done that yet. Mostly because I didn’t request names when I started mailing list. That's a good thing for you to do. First names only if you wish. Just a name.
Don’t sell all the time.
What I’ve learned works with all social interaction is … DO. NOT. SELL. ALL. THE. TIME
You want to engage your reader. Give to them three to five times more than you ask from them. Giving doesn’t mean a giveaway. It means giving your reader interesting content.
But how, you ask? Remember, we’re writers….
Talk about you. You are an interesting person. And you’re an author. People think authors are nearly superhuman (we are, aren’t we?)
Find an interesting subject. One that isn’t controversial, then ask for input. I take a lot of road trips, and in an upcoming newsletter, I’m going to talk about a journey I take every year, and ask how to make it better. Long stretches of interstate isn’t interesting, usually. What’s a better route?
And if I want to chat about your book? Offer a tidbit, like the final edit is happening right now and you're so excited because it's finally coming together.
- And as a tidbit, create a series of book reveals and post one in your newsletter a month until release time.
Add photographs. You know my mantra. Images engage people. Take pictures about your travels, your animals, what inspired you to write this book. See that, you’re talking about the book but in a way that isn’t selling. Or create a fun image collage in Book Brush. I do all the time.
Just make sure your images are optimized, you don’t need high-rez as the overall kilobytes size of your newsletter matters for deliverability in general. 640px width is a good size to go with.
Offer something up for a gift. Ask for help, and give them an incentive. People love to help an author they admire. Reward the person whose idea you picked.
- For instance, I needed a name for a coffee shop, threw it out and got a name I loved. Those people (yes, two nearly identical names were sent in) will be forever credited on my acknowledgements page.
Limit the number of links in your newsletter. That can trigger that lovely newsletter to go into the promotions tab, or worse, spam.
Then at the end, let them know about a book you’re reading, music you’re listening, a quote you enjoy and please add a picture of you. Always. Whatever you add that is something personal brings you closer to your reader and them to you.
Ask for reviews when you are ready to launch the book and be sure to give them a ARC (Advance Reader Copy) to those who offer their time to write a review. Note I didn’t say a good review, you can’t ask for that. I do often say, if you enjoyed my book … but here isn’t the place to go into the delicacies of asking for review.
And finally when you are at the point of releasing the book, you can offer your preorder info. They get first chance at it.
One of my favorite books on newsletter writing is the Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert by Tammi L. Labrecque. You can Google it.
WHAT TO NOT PUT IN A NEWSLETTER
Tammi suggests that you ask yourself, “What’s in it for my subscriber?” And she doesn’t mean a gift. It means respecting your subscriber’s time. Make them glad they opened your newsletter. Which leads to my next paragraph.
Know your audience. I don’t swear, I don’t promote certain books because I know my audience. I know by the feedback I get that they love my pictures. They love the quote at the end of my newsletter. Because they've told me. I know them.
I know by the feedback I’ve received that they don’t really like newsletter swaps, and neither do I, as I got burned a couple of times when the swap was advertised one way and the images were not as … advertised. That wasn’t fair to my readers. And I heard about it. Now I know.
And as I beat to death above I don’t sell in every newsletter. I want a high open rate, and by beating them over the head with buy, buy, buy, why would they bother opening my carefully crafted newsletter?
Nor do I offer an Amazon Gift card or some other biggie gift every time, because if they’re opening your newsletter to win a gift it has nothing to do with you or your books. It has to do with the FREEBIE. And this doesn’t benefit you.
Right now I’m offering a free monthly calendar I designed. I have a good click rate on the downloads, but I know people aren’t just opening the newsletter to get that as the stats in Mailerlite tell me that. It’s a give by me. I’m not asking them for anything in return.
Don’t endlessly talk about yourself. There is a fine line. After all I did say above talk about you, but, you know what I mean.
At the minimum monthly. To be honest, I missed that once in a while usually because I thought I didn’t have anything new to say. (This was pre-Newsletter Ninja days). So now I keep a tickler file of interesting things. This month, I’m going to basically have images of Colorado’s snowmaggedon.
You want them to remember you. A few newsletters a year isn’t going to do that.
SUBJECT LINES FOR YOUR EMAIL
Too much? Too little? Too many emoji’s?
This is a touchy subject because we don’t want our emails to go to … heaven forbid … spam, and really we don’t want to be relegated to the promotions tab, but go straight to primary tab. (If you’re on Gmail, you know exactly what I’m talking about.)
And a lot of this is dictated by which words you use in your subject line. There are words that Gmail treats as spam. They’re not fond of FREE, GIFT, 100% anything, GREAT OFFER…There are websites where you can find lists of spam words. Pay attention to them.
Not every newsletter email I send out now goes to the Primary tab, but I’m getting there more often than not.
I’ve read that a command is often a way to get people to open that email. I’m not terribly fond of that, but I have used it on occasion and it worked.
Or using numbers like 5 Reasons To Do .... Numbers are a good SEO tactic to begin learn. (More about that in another blog.)
And emojis? As we go mobile, and more newsletters are read on smaller screens, subject lines are only 40 characters visible. ( I've recently read this is going to be the trend for all email subject lines.) And not all email clients present great looking emojis. Look at the subject line of the emails that you open. I noticed that David Gaughran's newsletter usually has no more than three emoji’s. Often just one. And they fit the content.
Nevertheless the use of emojis that fit with the message you’re conveying works well, but use your logic filter and then add them. I try for no more than 3.
READER MAGNET TO ENTICE SIGNUPS AND WHEN TO CUT THE TIE
There is a lot of debate about reader magnets. Use a short story, a chapter, a bargain? Whatever you use, keep that promise you made when they signed up. That means making sure your autoresponder works well.
I’m not going to tell what is right for you. But I will tell you that you want people who will engage. Having a mailing list of 10K or 1K isn’t the metric you want to judge your success by. It’s how many people click on and open your newsletter.
Do you write in different genres? I do, so I’m trying to decide if I need different newsletters. I haven’t decided, but for now, I’m making sure my romance, suspense, adventure novels all get a piece in some newsletter or another. And when I add in my new cozy mystery series that will be added to the mix.
Removing dead weight. As I said, you pay a fee once you get to certain subscriber levels in nearly all of the mailing list companies I’ve seen. So why pay for that dead weight?
We’re looking for great open rates. And keeping costs down. So, yes, it may be time to cull your list. If they're not opening your newsletter they aren't your fans. But you're paying for them.
There are a lot of great articles about it and Tammi addresses it as well. It’s a lengthy subject … just know it’s something that will have to be done at some point.
In closing, let your newsletter be an extension of you and your personality. We are writers, so have fun with your newsletters and don’t make them into a tome, just a hello, what’s up with you, me and the cat (dog, bird, squirrels…)
Article by L.A. Sartor
I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … specifically, a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study grammar.
But the muse couldn’t be denied, and eventually I wrote, a lot. I learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and I’m absolutely on the right course in my life.
Please come visit me at www.lasartor.com, see my books, find my social media links, and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers.