Must you have an author newsletter?
Well, what you must have is a dedicated fan email list, but if you don’t want to send them a newsletter then you’re missing the point.
The point is to heap love on your most ardent supporters, the people who have asked to stay informed about your books and your career.
Of all the 8 billion people on the planet, the people on your list are the select few who have given you permission to take up precious space in their email inbox.
And your marketing success depends on what you do with that precious space.
So what should you write about?
The primary rule is: keep your readers’ needs first.
It’s easier for non-fiction writers
It is. If that’s you, then your newsletter should include more of the things you already write about. Give hard advice and add-on value that reinforces why your subscribers signed up in the first place.
Build your reputation as an authority, announce your appearances (where you’re probably making most of your money anyway), and keep your audience apprised of new content in every venue.
Use your copywriting skills to promote your training course. Make promises about the results your expertise can bring, and show your readers how to achieve those results. Educate. Inspire. Sell.
People signed up for you to send them offers and answer their questions. Done deal.
Fiction authors need more personality – so be you
To be likable, be vulnerable. This doesn’t mean publish your diary, but it does mean sliding back the curtain on the writer’s life just a little. Let readers know you, so they can like you.
Include photos of your workspace, your special occasions, your public appearances. You don’t have to log every moment and expose family secrets, but trust your readers enough to be the real person they’re trying to know. Provide something authentic to show you trust them.
Treat subscribers like distant but dear friends, like cousins you haven’t seen in years.
Some authors share recipes, fashion tips, or other lifestyle tidbits. Do this only if it’s what you do with your close friends and if it brings you joy. Don’t fake it.
Artifice is poison.
Create the “cool kids’ club” and reward them for being part of it
Your subscriber list is the cool kids club, the one place where your like-minded fans know they’ll get special offerings and the inside scoop available nowhere else. Here’s the first place to release news announcement, for example. Before any press release or social media post about big news, tell these fans first. Let them look good when they share your news with their community.
Did you land a new book deal? Get an advance proof of your upcoming book’s new cover? Hit a bestseller list? Tell the cool kids first.
Did one of your chapters or scenes hit the cutting-room floor? Send it to the cool kids.
Discovered a new author you just know your readers will love? Cool kids.
Also, give real rewards. Many on your list arrived through contests and promotions. If you have something to give away, or a price promotion, or a valuable collaboration, announce it in your author newsletter first.
Talk about your recent and upcoming releases
These readers already like your work. Show them how to get more of it.
You must send a newsletter on release day. It’s the reason you have the list.
But new releases aren’t the only book news to write about. Share progress on your work in progress. This gets readers anticipating and even encouraging its completion. When the time is right, add pre-order links.
Ask advice when you are early in the design stage. Nobody can resist weighing in when you ask which of several potential cover designs is best.
Pondering title possibilities? Ask.
Trouble with a character name? Ask.
On the fence about whether to write the next book in a series? Ask.
Don’t turn every author newsletter into a survey, but an occasional direct request for feedback fires up your audience and lets you know that someone is listening.
Assemble your advance team
You might have a special subset of your list who are especially active – even eager to be beta readers and provide early reviews. Nurturing an advance team is a special effort that earns special rewards, and merits more attention. An upcoming post will show how to create an advance team and what they can do to accelerate your book launches.
But don’t write about these things
A natural topic for authors is to write about craft. Resist the urge. You’re speaking to readers, not writers. Don’t bore them with inside baseball. The 10% of your readers who are also writers will need to find their coaching elsewhere.
Don’t write about the business of writing. Yes, your newsletter is a marketing effort, but when you speak too much to writer expenses or publishing woes you shatter the delicate relationship you’re nurturing: that this one-on-one with your readers is personal. Talking about your tax returns shatters that.
Don’t write about craft, business, or genre.
Some authors find newsletter success writing about the genre they are known for. Historical research for their Barbary Pirate zombie romance, maybe. Or expositions on yarn varieties for their Knitters in Space series. Your mileage may vary. I say let your novels do their own talking and leave your background work private. For too many authors writing more about subjects this close to their finished work exhausts the precious creative energy they need to leave their best words between their novels’ covers. But this is personal. Gauge your own energy, audience, and interest.
Demonstrate how much you care
For most writers, anything except butt-in-chair, hands-on-keyboard is a chore, including spending time with even your most zealous supporters.
But in today’s marketplace, if you want to succeed as a writer – to have it be your career – then you must embrace the marketing side.
And of all the tactics that are necessary for some authors and not for others – this isn’t it.
This is essential for all career authors.
If you don’t want to create and curate a mailing list, I understand. But if you choose to not have one, then I’ll also respect your wish to treat writing as only a hobby.
This is an opportunity. Your author newsletter is the place you get to show how much you care about your truest fans, your readers who, when hearing your voice inside their heads say, “She gets me.”
Then demonstrate that you really do.
What did we miss? What creative ways are you finding success with your author newsletter? Come chat on Facebook.