... (or, "Where's a book by that title when I need one???")
Since I’m still fairly new and inexperienced when it comes to author newsletters, today let’s talk about what works, what doesn’t, and why anyone would subscribe to an author newsletter in the first place!
As I recently discovered, there are tons of online resources for e-newsletters in general and a few specifically for authors. (Maybe I should have done this research several months ago before launching my own!) Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Basically there are four primary aspects for creating and delivering an effective e-newsletter:
- A subscriber base (friends, family, fans).
- Interesting content.
- Attractive, easy-to-read layout.
- Dependable e-newsletter mailing service that suits both your skills and your budget.
In addition, I created a subscription page on my website and posted links on both my Facebook profile and author page. I also announced the upcoming newsletter launch on Twitter and Facebook and gained several new subscribers prior to the newsletter release date.
Content. The number-one piece of advice you’ll find anywhere is to offer subscribers something of value. One source recommends tailoring content so that at least 75% focuses on benefiting the subscriber, leaving only 25% dedicated to promoting yourself or your product.
Obviously, faithful readers want to know about your life as an author, and of course they’re interested in your latest book releases. If you’re speaking or signing at a special event, that’s important news. Anything unique or especially interesting about research for your latest novel is also a great topic.
Readers enjoy more personal glimpses into the lives their favorite authors, but be cautious about what and how much you share about your family or private life. Newsletters can get forwarded who-knows-where, so, as with the Internet in general, use common sense.
Favorite recipes are fun, as are contests, Q&A sections, interesting statistics, and expert advice about something your readers care about.
Layout. Think white space and bullet points! Don’t overwhelm your readers with dense blocks of text. Choose an easy-to-read font, no smaller than 10- or 12-point. Anything sans serif, like Helvetica, Arial, or Trebuchet, works great.
If you choose to use multiple text columns, consider how much scrolling up and down you’ll be asking your reader to do. For a two-column newsletter, I prefer one wider column for the longer articles, with the second, narrower column reserved for short items like table of contents, calendar of events, news tidbits, social networking links, etc.
Photos and graphics add visual interest. Again, though it’s nice to give readers a glimpse into your family life, vacations, leisure time, etc., use discretion.
Newsletter mailing service. A good service will assist you in almost all the areas mentioned above, including maintaining a subscriber database, creating subscription forms you can use on your website or blog, and providing a variety of layout templates to choose from along with other design aids. (Sorry, you have to provide your own content.)
These services usually offer tracking so that you know how many recipients actually opened your newsletter, which addresses bounced, and how many readers clicked on links. The services can also help you avoid breaking any spam rules by making it easy for subscribers to opt in or opt out.
The most popular e-newsletter services include Vertical Response, Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, and Mad Mimi. Pricing plans vary, so do your research and decide which one best meets your needs.
And now, a few words of advice from Seekers with e-newsletters.
Julie Lessman usually publishes her newsletter two or three times a year and uses the services of AROD Web Design.
Julie says, “I think a newsletter needs to be fun and bold and give a reader more insight and secrets to both you and your books than they can get anywhere else. It should almost be like a personal letter giving favorite friends a glimpse into who you are and connecting with them on a personal level. I always include pix of my reader friends, a new contest, excerpts, pictures of movie stars I envision for my characters, final book covers and sometimes the evolution of a cover from first draft to final.”
Subscribe to Julie’s newsletter here.
Mary Connealy doesn’t have a set schedule but sends out a newsletter with the release of each new novel. Her subscription service is actually a Yahoo Group.
Mary says, “A newsletter should reflect your voice and writing style. I try to make mine fast paced and funny. I have as my goal to be able to do it myself. I've tried a few paid newsletters because they are so much prettier and classier than a Yahoo group but I haven't been able to figure out how to lay them out and I've quit every time I've tried in frustration. I KNOW I could do it, but I just keep QUITTING.”
Subscribe to Mary’s newsletter here.
Cara Lynn James issues her newsletter twice a year. Her newsletters are composed using a template from a Mac program called Pages (part of iWork).
Cara says, “I include a lot of pictures, especially ones that relate to the setting of my newest book. Since I write historicals I like to write something about the setting or era I'm writing about.”
Cara doesn’t use a newsletter hosting service, but you can subscribe at her website here.
Missy Tippens sends out quarterly newsletters with the occasional “special news” edition. She uses Vertical Response as her newsletter service and adds, “I love it!”
Missy says, “Be personal (I love how funny Mary's newsletters are!). Include links to your website, blogs, and your books. Make it short and sweet. Include photos of events or book covers.”
Missy’s subscription info is on her homepage.
As I mentioned, I’ve opted for quarterly issues but would likely send out brief special editions for late-breaking important news. I also use Vertical Response, and you can subscribe to my newsletters here. Archived versions are also available on this page.
Your turn. How many author newsletters do you subscribe to? What type of content do you most look forward to reading? What turns you off? How often do you prefer to receive mailings from your favorite authors? Any standout newsletters you’d recommend?
If you’re an author with an e-newsletter, what additional advice would you offer? Feel free to include subscription info in your comment!
Join the conversation today to be entered in a drawing for a copy of my latest release, A Horseman’s Gift, the second novel in my Horsemen of Cross Roads Farm series.
Filipa Beltran is tired . . . sick and tired of living out her parents’ dreams. After years of guitar lessons and the seemingly endless string of part-time jobs to pay for them, Filipa makes a drastic decision to leave New York and the hope of becoming a professional musician behind and return to her hometown, to move forward with her life--on her terms.
The past year has been nothing short of crazy for Nathan Cross. Once set on becoming a big business mogul, Nathan’s plans derail following his father’s untimely death and his mother’s whirlwind remarriage. Now he’s headed back home to carry on his father’s legacy running an equine therapy program . . . and trusting God to sort out his future.
When Nathan discovers childhood friend Filipa is also back in town--to stay--he finds it hard to swallow. Maybe she wasn’t the girl he thought, or else she wouldn’t sacrifice everything her parents dreamed of for her. Can Nathan and Filipa find contentment in their God-given gifts?