Email newsletters… a pain, right? You have to build the list, you have to house the list, you have to design newsletters, come up with content and then send the newsletters. So much work… and so much techy type crap. Ugh. No, double ugh.
But, yes, you really should have one and here’s why…
You own the contacts on your list.
Yeah? So what? There are other ways to talk to your fans, ways that take a lot less work and money than putting together those newsletters. You probably have a Facebook page and profile, you have Twitter, maybe a nice following at Goodreads, Instagram or Pinterest or… dozens of other places. And you have Amazon! Amazon lets your readers know when your next book comes out, right? Or you can run an ad… Lots and lots of options besides that email newsletter that everyone, including me, is telling you that you have to have.
But, here’s the deal… depending on those places leaves your fate in the hands of others. Others who are not primarily concerned about your success or your book’s success.
I used to write for N.Y. I used to sit in meetings where the publishers would give us these HUGE “rah, rah, go team” pep talks about everything they had planned for the next year, how GRAND it was all going to be and how excited I should be. Uh, yeah, no, I wasn’t. Can you guess why? Because all of those exciting, fabulous plans were never for me. They were for some other more exciting to the publisher author. Increases in ad budgets, special publishing programs, whatever… were to promote the bigger picture and I was a teeny, tiny spec in that picture.
It sucked, but it was a great lesson. As an author, you have to look out for your own success and you have to keep control of as much of it as you can.
Facebook. Amazon, etc. control their algorithms. They control who will see your posts and books. Sure, there are things you can do to play the system and to get things to show up more frequently for free, but you will never truly be in control this way. They could cut you off completely and there would be nothing you could do about it. Nothing.
But your newsletter? All those names and emails you have worked to gather? You decide when and what you send them. Sure, not every single person on the list is going to buy your next book. Every single person on your list isn’t even going to open your email… but they are yours and they are the biggest asset you have besides your ability to write that next book.
So step one: Gather them. Gathering email addresses and names of people who might be interested in your books is way too involved for this post, but know that that will be your first mission. Note what I said there… People who might be interested in your books. This means just gathering names to have names is not what you want. In fact, having a big old fat list of people who have zero interest in what you write will cost you money. You have to pay to house those names… you want them to be good names (for you). You also want them to be willing names. Do NOT farm every email address in your Google contacts or from your church bake sale list. You want people to sign up of their own free will, or at least knowing that they will be signed up. Just plopping them into your list will gain you a whole lot of ill will and may get you banned from your chosen newsletter service provider.
Step Two: Treat them well. Part of this is covered in the above. No putting people on your list who haven’t asked in some way, or given permission to be added. Ever. The next is not spamming them every day, or ignoring them completely, or sending them something that has content that will be of zero interest to them. In other words, give your content and your scheduling some thought.
Step Three: Gather some more. Yep, you have to keep working to gain more subscribers. Just plopping a sign up link on your website is not enough. To get a really nice list, you are going to have to work with other authors, offer some giveaways, sign up for some other services, etc. I’ll get into all of that in another blog post.
Step Four: Keep it Clean. You are going to grow some dead wood. By that I mean people who signed up with an email address they no longer use or that they only use for contests… then never open any newsletter ever sent to them. You don’t need these people. They are costing you money because most likely your email newsletter provider charges you, at least in part, by how many names are on your list. They certainly will charge by how many emails you send in any given time. So don’t be upset when people unsubscribe (as long as it isn’t hundreds at a time) or when the service removes “bounces.” That is part of the process and you may even at some point want to do a clean of your own where you send messages just to the people who haven’t opened any of your newsletters in the past five or so sends to see if they are still out there, and if they aren’t… drop them. Give them warning though, maybe with a nice incentive.
Step Five: Keep it up. If people don’t hear from you somewhat regularly, they will forget you. I am horribly guilty of this. I had an email list that I maintained for years. When I first started sending to it again, I got a number of unsubscribes. Those people probably didn’t even remember signing up for my newsletter. So, figure out a good schedule and stick with it. I’m going for a 1x a month mailing, with some automation emails (that I’ll go into next), but you may want to be more frequent. Whatever works for you and your readers.
Step Six: Automate what you can. Automate? Yep, that’s right you can automate your newsletter. With services like Mailchimp,you can set it up so actions like replying to a certain campaign or joining your list trigger a set of emails which are delivered when you want them delivered. (Three days after joining, a follow up three days after that, etc.) You can even send birthday newsletters (if you have that information) or anniversary of joining the list newsletters. It’s a great way to be reaching out to your readers on a regular basis with a minimal amount of effort from you.
So that’s it for now. I hope I have convinced you that you do need an author email newsletter. If so, your first assignment is to find a provider you like (like Mailchimp ), sign up and get that “subscribe” button on your website. Tip most providers, including Mailchimp offer FREE service until you hit a certain number of subscribers and/or sends. Use that while you build your list, but do look ahead at what will come when you go over the free limit. You can switch providers, but it’s a bit of a pain. So plan ahead while you can.
Lori Devoti is the author of paranormal romance, urban fantasy and young adult fiction. Under the name Rae Davies, she writes the USA Today Bestselling Dusty Deals Mystery series. Check our her books at www.LoriDevoti.com and RaeDavies.com.