Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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July 5, 2013

The How and Why of Author Newsletters

Steena Holmes

Steena Holmes

by Steena Holmes

In my last post, I talked about Street Teams and using my newsletter to connect with my readers. It raised a few questions about newsletters to which I replied “but that’s another blog.” The ladies at WITS took me up on that. So today we’re going to talk about …


Some authors groan at the thought while others smile. But when used correctly, a newsletter can be your new best best friend.

Why? Because it’s your number one method of communication with readers.

What can you use your newsletter for?

  • Announce the release of your latest book
  • Promote when you have a special deal on your book
  • Get word out about a special contest
  • Boast about a great review or that sparkly new award you won
  • Tease your readers about your latest project

However – and this is a biggie – your newsletter isn’t just a way to promote you and your latest release. Your first task with a newsletter is to get people involved with you and your brand.

Getting them to sign up is the easy part. Keeping them signed up can be tricky unless you remember this one golden rule:

It’s not about you. It’s about them.

Every newsletter you send must be filled with things for your readers. Yes, you want to be sure to inform them about your latest sales, all of your exciting news – but that’s not all.

This is where the fun part comes in. Your newsletter should be branded similar to your website – so that you stay consistent with your brand (which is YOU not your book). The inside of your newsletter needs to stay within your brand as well.

I’ll use myself as an example to show you what I mean. I’ve branded myself as a chocoholic, writer, mother, chocoholic (yes, that is strategic placement on my part…as I am a chocoholic and I use that as part of my branding).

Every newsletter contains the following:

  • Information about my books – whether a new release, a sale or new series.
  • A special recipe that is not found on my website – preferably with chocolate in it.
  • My TBR List where I share what I’m reading and a contest for that month.
  • Information about my street team.

See what I mean? My newsletter is consistent with my brand.

There are quite a few options for developing and delivering your newsletter. I chose Mailchimp so that’s what I’ll use as my example.

Newsletter options you can choose:

  • Set it the newsletter template to use one of Mailchimp's templates but with the colors of your website.
  • Or you can create a newsletter to look very similar to your site by having a designer develop a template for you.

Either way, you should include a banner or graphics and colors that are consistent with your website and/or Facebook page.

There are a few things to be careful of when sending out your newsletter:

  • Do not spam your readers.
  • Don’t send out multiple copies of your newsletter because you saw an error. Proofread before you send or if you do have errors, use those errors as a contest on your website.
  • Do not send a newsletter for every little update. That’s a surefire way of ensuring your unsubscribe rate climbs high.

When do you send out a newsletter?

Myself, I like to send out quarterly newsletters. I’ve signed up for a lot of author newsletters and I find that when I receive one every few weeks or even every month, I tend to unsubscribe unless it’s a favorite author and I don’t want to miss out on any of their news.

There’s no set standard though – send out a newsletter when you need to.

If you’re thinking to yourself – How do I get a newsletter started? – just remember: Everyone started with zero followers. Whether you have one book or multiple books out, there’s no better time than now to get a newsletter started.

What you can do to start:

  • Sign up with Mailchimp (or another newsletter provider).
  • Use the code they give you to place on your website.
  • Be sure to have your newsletter sign up at the top of your website where everyone can see.
  • Place the link in the back of your books.
  • Have it on your author page on Facebook (you can set it up as a tab).

How do you get people to sign up?

If you’re anything like me, when you first start you’ll question your sanity. That’s okay – just eat some chocolate and you’ll be fine. There are several different ways you can get people to sign up:

  • Hold a contest and have joining your newsletter part of the requirements.
  • Ask people (but don’t spam with repeated pleas).
  • Offer something special to all those who sign up: a special discount, a free book, a sneak peak preview of your next book…the options are endless.

The sky’s the limits when you begin your newsletter. Have fun with it, be smart with it, and watch it grow one subscriber at a time!

Have fun and good luck!

Do you have any newsletter tips to share? Any questions for Steena?

About Steena

Emma's Secret-front coverChocoholic. Reader. Wife. Chocoholic. Mother. Author. Chocoholic. Living a life full of passion is the only way to live – especially if you have coffee on hand. Author of Bestselling Finding Emma, Steena snagged a 3-book deal with Amazon Publishing after thousands of readers fell in love with a little girl and grandfather from her story. Emma’s Secret was released on June 25th!

Visit www.steenaholmes.com to find out more.

46 comments on “The How and Why of Author Newsletters”

  1. Reblogged this on Merry Farmer and commented:
    This is a really awesome blog about author newsletters! I'm reblogging it half because I think my author friends should see it, but half because I'm about to knuckle down and start my own author newsletter and I want to remember all of these tips!

    Also, a question: Who here subscribes to author newsletters? What do you like about them? What drives you crazy?

    1. Merry, I only subscribe to two because most of the others wore me out. Steena is exactly right about not updating too often. To me, that's what the blog is for.

      Just my $0.02. 🙂

  2. Oh Steena, I've been waiting for this post! I've wanted to get started with a newsletter, but didn't know how! I'm off to Mail Chimp now...

    I owe you, big time! Thanks so much!

    1. Laura, I eat Mailchimp for breakfast three times a week. Let me know how I can help. No sense struggling with something if I can give you an answer in 10 seconds.

  3. Okay, you've convinced me. For every reason I dragged my feet on this, you've laid out logical and fun reasons why I need a newsletter. I'll be setting mine up this month. [[shakes head]] Never say never. Ha!

    1. Lara - I'd say when you are starting to build your platform. There's no reason you can't start now (assuming you haven't). If you begin BEFORE you publish - you'll have already created a fan base to announce your book and get the word out.

  4. How did you know I'm about to start my own newsletter?! I've seen several newsletters sent out as an email, apparently from a yahoo loop, without graphics of any kind. When you talk about MailChimp, which I haven't looked at yet, what format does the newsletter go out as - something like the newsletter from Goodreads or is it an attachment of some kind? Thanks for filling me in on the hows and whys of newsletters!

    1. Betty, if you use MailChimp you can add graphics to it so that it's looks like goodreads or any other promo email you would get from a company/author. It comes embedded right in the email so there's no clicking to open up a link to see the newsletter...

  5. This is the first how-to I've seen on newsletters. Thanks so much. I like the idea of focusing on the brand instead a barrage of annoying promo. 🙂

  6. Steena, thanks for taking the mystery out of newsletters. I have signed up for some, unsubscribed to some and only remain with three ... and reasons you site are exactly why. I love those that have something new and interesting to tell me about that particular author.

    I think many writers jump into that particular pool of water too soon in their career and it reads like another attempt to grab sales 🙂 How many ways can we read the same news? On a web page, a blog, a Facebook page, visiting blogs, group blogs ... the newsletter is the last thing a new writer should establish and only if it truly has a fresh approach their fans don't find in the other dozen venues.

    1. Keeping it fresh and offering your reader something only found in a newsletter is vital - it's what keeps people signed up. But I think the newsletter is the first thing a writer should establish - they could get their list started for people to sign up...they don't need to send out an actual newsletter until they have something to announce, like first glimpse of a cover before you see it everywhere else, or release dates for your book...

      Actually - imagine if we only gave out that info in our newsletters first? First glimpse anywhere of our covers/sales links/ release dates/review copies/newsletter only contests... etc...and only then put it on out social media...a perfect reason to sign up for a newsletter

  7. Good information, Steena. I'll file it away. My first book is coming out sometime this month and right now I'm focusing on my weekly blog (with another day for guest authors) and a blog tour. Not about to start the newsletter thing, right now. (Not saying never since my face is still red over that and Facebook! LOL) I personally don't care much for newsletters. I get the info I need from authors' websites. I can see fans liking the contests, but think I could do that just as well on the website. Perhaps not. We'll see. As I said, I don't say "never" any more. And whenever I do, I have your great info on how to do it. Appreciate another great post from WITS.

  8. I keep reading about how a newsletter is so important...but I haven't published yet, and it will still be a while before I'm published, so I'm not sure what to do just yet.

  9. Thanks for doing this post, Steena. I'm a graphic designer in my day job and I design newsletters, so I'm very familiar with this. All your points are excellent, and I'll add that you need to remember that people are less likely to be patient with your content because newsletters clutter up inboxes. Keep your content short, entertaining, and to the point. Also creating exclusives for your subscribers that you can't get anywhere else will help people sign up and stay subscribed.

    I wrote a similar post here: http://sierrafong.com/2013/07/using-newsletters-with-your-website-or-business/ You cover more author-centric points but I have a few mechanics. I also have a link to a post by Scott Stratten that discusses how to keep your subscribers that's super useful.

  10. As a former newsletter editor, I give you Kudos! Well written. Good voice. Great info. So glad you included tips for building your subscribers. See my promo for you and my friends at WITS on my FB page.

  11. Steena, as a reader I like those newsletters that offer exclusive sneak peaks of forthcoming books. It's an excellent way of keeping track of my favourite authors new books or any special offers as well Recently, I bought some of Loretta Chase's earlier books which had been re-released on Kindle because she mentioned them in her newsletter.

  12. I totally agree with you. Steena, on starting a newsletter before you're published. The email list is critical when launching a new book, especially your debut novel. If you have have 50 subscribers to your newsletter when your first book comes out, that 50 people you can speak directly to and feel fairly confident they'll buy your book and tell their friends. For those who don't know what to put in a newsletter if you don't have a published book, here are some ideas: you do have to offer content of value to the reader that is not found on your blog, as Steena said; talk about your writing process, your characters, the setting, or how you get your ideas; talk about your passions (like Steena's love of chocolate) and offer a contest or game so you can share your passion with them; use your website brand for ideas, (i.e. I write about strong women on my blog so I offer tips, stories and inspiration for women); include a video or podcast that might appeal to your readers.
    I use Aweber for my newsletter because i find it easier to navigate than Mailchimp, however it isn't free but is low cost. It's worth it to me but may not be for everyone.
    Well done post, Steena! You identified a need and filled for all these writers. And that's what blog posts and newsletters are supposed to do!

  13. The single most important piece of your advice is "make it about them." My newsletter has an open rate about 3x the industry standard because I make sure it's what my fans want to read.

    Any author who doesn't have a list should start one NOW. Word of mouth from your fans is the best marketing possible, and your newsletter is how you'll help your street team give you that gift. Huge thumbs up for Mailchimp; as a marketing guy and web geek, it's the only newsletter/autoresponder tool I'll ever use. Ever.

    I'm considering moving from monthly to biweekly, just because there's so much information to share, but I'll probably split it into two categories: tools and news. I'm watching which links get clicked and who's clicking to see how I can make folks the happiest.

  14. Oh boy, another thing to learn! I've published two books in the last 7 months, and my learning curve has sped up up up. But now a newsletter too? Sigh. But it sounds fun and great for my followers and readers. Sigh. I'll start working on a new learning curve. 🙂 Thanks for the info.

  15. Excellent author newsletter tidbits. I was looking for some direction as I came to writing a newsletter and found I hadn't a clue what to put in it! 🙂 thanks for sharing.

    Cailin Koy, author of Go From Blog to Brand in 30 Days

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