Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Author Success: The E-Newsletter

Last week, I wrote about how successful authors handle website development and maintenance. This week, I’m following up with tips about the e-newsletter.

Authors don’t have to have newsletters—or websites, for that matter. The only thing authors absolutely have to have is a book. But if you want readers—well, there’s the rub.

An e-newsletter does for your fans what a Facebook post does for your friends—it lets them know what’s happening with you that’s of interest and value to them. Social media is great for sharing news, but you have no control over which of your friends or followers will actually see your posts. In contrast, e-newsletters arrive via the inbox of each of your fans. If the news isn’t of value or interest, those folks will let you know by unsubscribing, a feature that by law must be included in every e-newsletter (and for that matter, in every promotional email that’s sent to a group).

Among the best practices for e-newsletters:

Professional platform: When you create and send your e-newsletters via a platform such as MailChimp or Constant Contact, you’ll minimize design time and maximize the benefits. Analytics embedded in the platform will help you tweak your campaigns, and your lists will be automatically culled of unsubscribers.

Sign-ups: By law, you must tell subscribers why they’re receiving the e-newsletter. The best reason is that they’ve asked to receive it, by signing up at an author event or on your website. The next best is that they’ve indicated an interest in your work. Don’t inflate your list by adding every person on your contact list. Keep in mind that the ripple effect from a negative impression is ten times greater than from a positive interaction. And don’t require a sign-up in order for someone to access your website. That’s bad form, plain and simple. A sign-up tied to a free offer for something of value works only if the content of the free offer is closely tied to the sort of information you’ll be providing in the e-newsletter.

Content: All of us are drowning in information, so make so yours is relevant to your reader. The key is to make sure it’s value-added—that the recipient actually benefits in multiple ways from opening and reading your e-news. Less is more. Embed links (to your website, preferably) for those who want to read more. And while social proof is great, your fans will quickly tire if your “news” is just bragging.

Frequency: In general, recipients don’t care whether your newsletter arrives on a particular day of the week or month, or even whether you send one each week or each month. The exception: if you’re reaching a particular audience with particular information that might otherwise be posted in a blog—in which case, you’re better off just offering an RSS feed option on your blog. A big reason for sending a newsletter is to remind your fans that you’re out there doing what you love—writing books that they’ll love. If your newsletter’s hitting the mark, you’ll receive personal correspondence from a few of your fans each time it goes out.

Author of seventeen books published by six different presses, Deb Vanasse teaches on topics related to writing and publishing. She also edits and coaches writers of fiction and nonfiction. After thirty-six years in Alaska, she now lives on the north coast of Oregon.