Sound familiar? Julie, here and yes, I can hear groans from all over the Web, silent screams from writers who just want to write. Not blog, not Tweet, not pin, and not banter on FB, for pity's sake. And for the love of chocolate, NOT put out a newsletter out on a regular basis OR cultivate a newsletter list.
Well, good news here. I have discovered that putting out a newsletter is not only one of the BEST ways to promote you and your books, but it's also one of the least time-consuming promotions an author can do. Of course, I only put mine out twice a year, but that's only one day of my time at the most twice a year, which is chicken feed next to the hours and hours and hours I spend on FB, Twitter, my Journal Jots blog, or e-mails. So, settle in, folks, and let Barbour author Valerie Comer pass on some great information about the why's and how's of newsletters. Without further ado, I give you newsletter guru, Valerie Comer!
Where There's News, There's a Letter!
And really? I hate to say this, but I thought some of you probably had too high an opinion of yourself. Did you really need a newsletter? Maybe the best-selling authors did. You know, the ones who actually get fans waiting in long lines for books to be signed. For the rest, it seemed a bit presumptuous.
Then I sold a novella to Barbour. A novella, mind you, not a novel, but still, my Real Life friends were so impressed. They begged me to let them know when it would be released, where they could buy it, and if they could help.
These weren't my author buddies. These people don't read the ACFW loop. Many of them rarely go online. Some of them aren't even on Facebook. Can you imagine? They're busy just doing real people jobs and leading real people lives and taking their kids to hockey at 5 a.m. (I'm in Canada; it's got to be hockey here). And yet they wanted to be kept up to date on my writing world.
A teeny tiny light bulb came on in my head. Ohhhh! It's for people like these that newsletters were invented. Not for my author friends (though of course they're welcome to sign up!) Not for people I see every day, either on the job or online.
And so I began looking at electronic newsletter programs and discovered there were quite a few. Some free, some paid. Some ugly, some beautiful. Some easy to use, and some that required a degree in html to produce. How could an author ever decide, when she'd rather be writing or reading a book than evaluating software?
Always looking for content for my blog, I devised a set of questions and began asking my author friends if they'd be willing to share their answers as related to their service. I figured that if everyone had the same basic framework, I'd be able to evaluate the results more easily. It would also give me content for my blog, give my friends a bit of free publicity, and provide a body of reference material for other inquiring authors. Win, win, win.
Here are the category results and here are the individual results:
Mailchimp with Melissa K. Norris
Mad Mimi with Carrie Turansky
YMLP with Nicole O'Dell
Vertical Response with Sharon Hinck
Aweber with Janalyn Voigt
Constant Contact with Cheryl Wyatt
Gmail with Grace Bridges
World Responders with Phyllis Wheeler
Trafficwave with Shelley Hitz
Okay, so I'd become convinced I needed a newsletter, and found a program to use (YMLP). But what to write about?
Beyond "Hey, my book is coming out" and "Hey, my book is for sale" and "Hey, my publisher put my ebook on for $2.99" I had nothing. If a person has nothing to say, it's best if they say, well, nothing.
Oh, but then there's platform. We've all been hearing tons about that, right? For me, ACFW conference 2012 was all about platform, from Michael Hyatt's keynote to the classes and media coaching appointments I signed up for.
Platform. Platform. Platform.
Writers these days flounder without one. Mine had been staring me in the face for a couple of years, but I hadn't stepped on it with a megaphone. It seemed kind of rickety. Like many reading this, I'm an introvert. I dislike confrontation (unless it's between my characters--then, bring it on). When I'm in front of a group, I always wonder if I'm busy making a fool of myself. If there's a real expert in the crowd shaking his or her head. If I am making a mountain out of a mole-hill, or--just as awkward--making a mole-hill out of a mountain.
Am I credible? Why would anyone care about my two-cents-worth?
The various presenters and specialists at conference challenged me to brace up my platform and climb its steps. To focus my website and my blog. To kick the "occasional" newsletter into something regular with a purpose. To do my homework and step out in faith that I can be a voice used by God. Whether he chooses to establish a large following or a meager one is up to him. My job is to be faithful in proclaiming the passions he's challenged me with.
So as 2012 pulled to a close, I completed all the book reviews I'd promised to place on my blog--future ones will go directly to Amazon, CBD, and Goodreads. I wrapped up all the ongoing writing and marketing series, such as the one on newsletters. There are authors out there excelling at this type of focus for their blogs. I'm not. I need to find my own readers.
And who are they, you ask?
It's pretty simple, really. I believe in organic, real, local food. I believe in small farms and gardens and communities and farmers' markets. I believe Christians should care about creation and the environment.
So, my tribe will consist of Christian women who want to read romantic fiction in which the characters grapple with real-life environmental and food issues. Oh, and my readers have to want to laugh--that's a given.
Yes, I'd also like to find a publisher who embraces these topics. Right now, that's up to God and my agent. My job is to write the stories God has given me passion for then edit them to the best of my ability. My other job is to build the platform through which God can work.
My monthly (gulp!) newsletter is part of that platform. God's Green Acres shares my personal journey in farming, gardening, and eating responsibly. There will be a seasonal recipe and--yes!--information about my current writing projects.
I'd love for you to join the conversation. There's a free download called "Seasons from My Kitchen" for each newsletter subscriber. Just go here and push the Big Red Button.
Do you have a newsletter? How did you decide to focus it?
Are you thinking of having a newsletter? What is holding you back?
Do you read author newsletters? What features do you enjoy in the ones you receive?
Two lucky commenters anywhere in the world will receive an unsigned copy of Rainbow's End, a collection of 4 novellas featuring a geocaching adventure in the spectacular Lake of the Ozarks wilderness, with Lyssa, the reluctant volunteer whose former nemesis is now her chief sponsor; Madison, a city girl paired with an outdoorsy guy who gets on her very last nerve; cautious Reagan, who meets an equally cautious guy; and Hadley, who doesn’t know enough about guys to realize she’s met a womanizer. Will they find the treasure they’re looking for. . .or something else entirely?
Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local food movement as well as their creation-care-focused church. She only hopes her imaginary friends enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters. Her first published work, a novella, was released in the collection Rainbow's End from Barbour Books in May 2012. Visit her website and blog to glimpse inside her world.