I personally think a newsletter is very important when you are a writer. It’s a way to connect with your readers, pass on news, recommend other books or authors, and run promotions. A newsletter also gives a sense of exclusivity, like a special club.
A newsletter doesn’t need to be a lot of effort to create and continue. When you are starting out, you may not have much to say or share, so you may choose to send them out infrequently. I’m sending mine once a month. As your readership grows, you can increase the frequency if you have more to say!
What do you put in a newsletter?
It’s up to you. I like to include a personal update, details on where to buy my work, a link to an article on my website, and some recommended or cross-promoted books or authors. But you can do put anything you like. Some authors will have interviews with other authors, some will share memes or interesting pictures or articles, others may set theirs up like a catalogue.
Like any kind of online content, it’s good to include a variety, keep the content succinct (with a link or ‘more info’ directing to a website or full article), some good use of images, and a consistent design.
What platform do you use?
There are so many newsletter platforms to choose from, each with their pros and cons. It will depend on your budget, skills and time, as to which option you should go with. You can go for the simplest approach which is to keep a mailing list in your email contacts, and just create an email once a month (or whatever frequency you choose), and send it out. However, as your mailing list grows, this will likely become unwieldy and you’ll need something more sophisticated.
That’s where a managed mail distribution system comes in. I’m currently using MailChimp, but I’ve also used Campaign Monitor which is excellent (though more expensive). SendFox and MailerLite are two others I’ve had recommended. As always, my advice is to do your research and pick one that suits your budget and needs.
Things to look for are price, number of records (email addresses), ability to customise or personalise (including branding), amount of times you can send / frequency, and the info dashboard. You can compare the different tiered pricing of each platform and decide from there. MailChimp has a free version which suits me just fine for now with my small mailing list (PS if you are reading this, sign up to my newsletter!), and the other platforms I have mentioned will have free or trial versions to check out if they suit you.
How can you grown your audience?
Now this is the crux of this blog post. It’s all very well and good to have a newsletter, but how do you get people to read it?
First you need a way for people to sign up. Using MailChimp I’ve created a subscription form which is on my website homepage. I’ve also got a signup landing page which I can link to (like I did in the section above). I use this on my Facebook page’s sign up button, but you could equally link it in your email signature, on your Twitter profile, or anywhere else you can include links.
But if you want to get serious, you can grow your audience (and market your book to readers you might not normally reach) by doing newsletter swaps.
I’m a member of the 20BooksTo50K Facebook group and every week there is a thread where you can post your newsletter swaps. Initially, I had no idea what this meant, and even when I asked, it was still pretty unclear to me. But then I found StoryOrigin and it all became as crystal.
Newsletter swaps are where you offer a slot in your newsletter to cross-promote another author’s work, in exchange for their doing the same for you. StoryOrigin handles this really well – you can trawl through a list of available swaps based on genre, and then review any rules/conditions, and apply to swap books in each other’s newsletters.
It can be a bit intimidating starting out if you only have a small mailing list, and you want to approach some of those bigger distributors, but don’t be shy. I began my newsletter swaps with two smaller lists about the same size as mine, and one larger one. I figured, it can’t hurt to try, and if I’m considered too small fry, well, so be it, I’ll try someone else. As it turns out, people on StoryOrigin seem quite happy to pick up swaps regardless of your mailing list size.
Once you’ve had your swap accepted, you can include the book covers and special book links in your newsletter. You can track the number of clicks that come through your special links, and you may also see – as I did – a jump in your mailing list numbers.
Keep doing this every time you have a newsletter and you’ll not only grow your list, you’ll pick up some readers along the way.
StoryOrigin also offers group promotions. These differ from the newsletter swaps in that you may also need to do some other steps, such as posting the link to your social media or website.
A group promotion is like a bundle of books you link to. You can apply to have your book included, and then you share in the collective visibility that comes from the authors all sharing the list.
I’m including my book on two group promotions next month: one for fantasy stories within Kindle Unlimited; and another for fantasy in general. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Marketing your books and growing your readership is a slow burn for many self published authors. I’ll keep posting new tips as I learn about them, so check back often!