We've talked before about the importance of building your author platform. Mastering your online author presence is something all modern writers need to learn how to do – especially those who are self-published.
An important part of that platform and online presence is an author newsletter.
We know, we know. There's a lot involved in being an author these days, and an awful lot of it doesn't have a thing to do with actual writing!
But we're here to explain why an author newsletter is an invaluable tool for authors (especially indie ones). We'll also take you through the steps for setting up your newsletter, and talk about what sort of content you might like to include.
It's all here, so let's get started!
Why do I need an author newsletter?
There are plenty of benefits to having an author newsletter, and they're all worth the bit of extra work it takes to establish one.
Perhaps the most important benefit is that regular email contact helps you create an additional connection with readers, beyond your books and your social media presence.
A regular newsletter keeps you at forefront of readers' minds and provides an insight into who you are as an author and a person. Who doesn't love to 'meet' the person behind the books they love, and get a window into their life and creative process?
In addition to this, your author newsletter is one of the most valuable book marketing tools at your disposal. It gets the word out there about your current and upcoming books, and provides an easy way for readers to click through and buy your novels.
So! Now you know why you need an author newsletter, it's time to learn how to create one.
How to set up your author newsletter
Once you're ready to start setting up your newsletter, follow these simple steps to get the ball rolling.
1. Choose a newsletter program to use
You'll be glad to know that a lot of the hard work is taken care of for you when you sign up with an email newsletter program. Even better news? A few programs, including MailChimp, are free until you reach a certain number of subscribers.
Some of the main contenders include:
- MailChimp (Free up to 2000 subscribers)
- Campaign Monitor (Starting from $9USD/month for up to 500 subscribers)
- Constant Contact (Starting from $20USD/month for up to 500 subscribers. 60-day free trial available)
- AWeber (Starting from $19USD/month for up to 500 subscribers. 30-day free trial available)
Once you've chosen which program you'll go with, spend some time getting to know your way around it. You'll find that once you have the hang of creating newsletters, your program will make the whole process quite simple.
2. Embed a subscription form on your website
It's important to make it as easy as possible for subscribers to sign up to your newsletter. Your first port of call should be a subscription form on your author website.
This should be easy to see – perhaps even appearing as a permanent sidebar or footer on every page of your site.
You don't need to worry about working out the code for the subscription form yourself; whichever newsletter program you've chosen will provide instructions on their website for embedding a sign-up box.
You might also like to include a pop-up invitation to subscribe, but be sparing in your use of this tactic – visitors will get annoyed if they're interrupted by a pop-up on every page.
Important note: NEVER add anyone to your email list unless they've signed up themselves or given you express permission to do so. It's not just bad email etiquette; it could also be illegal, depending on the spam legislation in your country.
3. Decide how frequently you'll send newsletters
Your author newsletter needs to go out on a regular schedule, but be warned: emailing subscribers too regularly could see you landing in the 'spam' folder, or have people's fingers inching towards that 'unsubscribe' button.
So how often should your newsletters go out?
Monthly is the safest option, according to novelist Katie Rose Guest Pryal:
Sending a newsletter out monthly seems to be the sweet spot based on all of the research I’ve done. If you send it more frequently, readers feel like they’re getting spammed. If you send it less frequently, readers lose touch with who you are."
We tend to agree. However, it does come down to what suits you and your subscribers best. Test the waters and see what works – it could be that a slightly shorter newsletter every two weeks gets a better response than a longer monthly one.
However, we don't recommend sending emails any more frequently than once every two weeks, or less frequently than once every month. You don't want to annoy people or drop off their radar completely. It's all about balance.
4. Put together your first newsletter
Once you have your program all set up and your sending strategy in place, it's time to create your first newsletter!
We'll be delving deeper into newsletter content below, but basically, at this point you want to have something ready to send out to your first batch of subscribers.
As we mentioned above, the first few months of your author newsletter are a great time to test the waters a little – finding out what works and doesn't work, and refining your content to find that perfect formula and balance.
See the 'What should I include?' section below for some specific ideas on what your newsletter could include.
5. Promote on social media
When your first newsletter is ready to go, it's time to drum up as many subscribers as possible before you hit 'send'.
Begin a campaign on social media promoting your brand-new newsletter. Let people know what sort of things they'll be in for if they sign up, and make it sound as enticing as possible – think sneak peeks at book content, insider info, bonus items, writing updates and so on.
To encourage people further, you might want to offer something in return for subscribing. People love freebies, and a little bonus might be what it takes to get them entering their email address. We'll talk more about these below.
Remember to keep promoting your newsletter even after you've sent out the inaugural issue. The aim is to constantly build your subscriber base and increase your reach.
You might like to prepare a generic 'welcome' email that all subscribers receive when they sign up, so that those who join the list after the first newsletter goes out still receive something to welcome them to your list.
What should I include in my author newsletter?
You should aim to include a good balance of content in your author newsletter. It shouldn't just be all you, you, you; yes, your readers are obviously interested in updates if they've signed up, but a bit of variety is nice!
Try to include things readers might find helpful, entertaining or insightful. Draw on your own areas of interest and expertise to diversify the content you're offering.
Susan Dennard's author newsletter archive is an example of a good balance of content. She divides her emails into different sections, including:
- Recent Goings On – An update about what's been happening in her writing and personal life
- For the Mislanders – A section for fans of her various book series
- For the Daydreamers – A section about writing and publishing
- Upcoming Events – A calendar of author events
Let's delve a little deeper into the elements you might wish to include in your own author newsletter.
It's nice to include a short general message or update in every newsletter as an introduction.
You might like to talk about current news in regards to your books and writing; give an update on where you're at with your latest book; or even just write about something that's been on your mind or happening in your life.
Just keep things light and try not to get too personal – remember it's a newsletter, not a diary entry!
Links to your blog
Driving traffic back to your website/blog should be one of the main aims of your author newsletter.
Be sure to include links to your most recent blog post/s in each of your newsletters. You can also do throwbacks to past posts for those who might not have already seen them.
And speaking of blogging – whenever you contribute a guest blog, you should use it to your newsletter's best advantage by including a subscriber link in every post.
One of the most exciting benefits you can offer to newsletter subscribers is access to exclusive reveals for your books.
Cover and title reveals are the most obvious option, but you might also like to offer additional sneak peeks with things like excerpts and 'first looks' at upcoming books.
Newsletter subscribers might also be interested in additional exclusive content such as deleted scenes or prequels, but we'll talk more about those below.
Let your subscribers know what author events you have coming up, such as book launches, talks and other appearances.
If you don't have any, perhaps just have a reminder section about upcoming important dates, such as book releases or even cover/title reveals as we discussed above.
What you're reading
We all love getting book recommendations and discovering new authors – and who better to receive recs from than an author you already enjoy?
Chances are, your readers will like the same sort of books that you do, especially if you mainly read within the genre you write. So a 'What I've been reading' segment can be a really useful and relevant inclusion in your newsletter.
It's also a nice way to show support for other authors. Including a shout-out to a fellow indie author and directing people towards their books is great indie author karma, and basically just a cool thing to do.
So if you've read a book you enjoyed recently, be sure to share it with your subscribers!
Writing advice and insight
If you suspect that many of your readers/subscribers might also be writers themselves, take a leaf out of Susan Dennard's book and include some writing advice and/or insight into the world of writing and indie publishing.
This could be as simple as including a top writing tip in each newsletter, or as in-depth as a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at the writing or publishing process for your books.
Readers generally love getting an insight into the life of the writer behind their favourite books, so if you're not too shy, give it to them!
Freebies, giveaways and exclusive bonus content are nice ways to reward the loyalty of your current subscribers. They're also a great enticement for new subscribers to sign up.
Some ideas for bonus free content include:
- Prequel stories
- Deleted scenes
- Pinterest boards/aesthetics for your novels
- Spotify playlists you use while you write
- Sketches of characters or scenes (if you're the artistic type, like the multi-talented J. K. Rowling)
- Writing advice/tip sheets
- Book club questions for your books
You might also like to run competitions or giveaways exclusive to your subscribers, where they can win a copy of your book or some literary 'swag'.
Links to your books and social media platforms
In the footer of every newsletter, you should include links to your social media platforms and website, as well as direct links to where people can purchase your books.
It's best to do this with some small, unobtrusive icons. You can set this up easily in a template in your chosen newsletter program so it's a permanent fixture in your newsletter footers.
So there you have it – everything you need to know about creating an author newsletter.
What are some of your favourite author newsletters? What do you like to see in an email from an author? Share with us in the comments!