By Nate Hoffelder
In ten years of blogging I have always tried to follow two maxims.
The first is a lesson I learned from Penelope Trunk, which is that one of the secrets to a great blog post is to first ask a question that you don’t know the answer to, and then explain the answer in the post.
The second is that if you want to truly understand a topic, commit yourself to having to explain it to others in a blog post, conference presentation, etc.
So when Joel and Shelley invited me to be a contributing writer at The Book Designer, I thought it would be great to write a post on what I had learned from doing my newsletter over the past couple years. (I got a late start, yes.)
But they had a better idea: Why not turn the one post into a series of posts on newsletters?
Why Authors Need Newsletters
Newsletters are a vitally important tool that authors can use to connect with readers.
- They are the one connection that authors can make with readers that is not filtered through Twitter, Facebook, or some other third-party. All the social networks use algorithms to decide which updates to show to users, but they can’t filter your emails.
- Facebook has a couple billion users, and Twitter has hundreds of millions, but everyone has email. A survey conducted by Radicati in 2018 found that there are 3.8 billion active email accounts. That’s half the population of the planet, all waiting for you.
- Unlike social media, which is so ephemeral that your update will be lost from sight in moments, a newsletter will stay in your subscribers’ inbox until they take action. If you write something really useful, a reader might hold on to it for weeks before moving forward.
- Your newsletter can sell a lot of books. Even in this age of social media, creators are still finding that the best way to sell a book, or find supporters for a crowd-funding campaign, is to send emails.
- And not only can you use it to sell more books, but having this direct connection to readers will also give them the chance to tell you how they see your characters, which characters readers are shipping (inventing relationships for), and which characters that the readers like the most (and then kill them, like George RR Martin).
- You can help other authors and find new readers by doing group promotions with other authors in your genre. With a group promotion, all the authors involved contribute an ebook to use as a lead magnet and share the landing page on social media and through their mailing lists. A group promotion can help you gain thousands of new readers in a short time, and if you don’t have a newsletter you cannot participate.
- You can tell readers about your upcoming events including:
- book signings
- fairs and
Your fans are dying to meet you, but they still need advance notice of an event so they can plan their schedule.
- You can use your newsletter to request feedback on:
- a book cover
- a title
- whether you should expand a trilogy into a longer series
Fans will have strong opinions on the topic, so much so that they will share their views before you even ask.
- A newsletter is free to start. Unlike advertisements, setting up and running a newsletter doesn’t have to cost you anything other than your time.
Once I worked out the bugs in my processes, I have found that each newsletter takes about 90 minutes to set up and schedule. Most of that time is spent on formatting, so if you have a VA, you can out source that.
The Newsletter Learning Curve
Newsletters are a valuable tool, but at the same time, it is also very easy to be intimidated by the idea of putting out a newsletter. (I certainly was.) It can be very hard for a beginner to even get started. I struggled with figuring out how to put out a newsletter, and I can’t be the only one.
That is why I thought it would be great to approach this series of posts not as lectures from on high but as a journey where I will take you through the lessons I had to learn the hard way.
I’ll explain about:
- welcome emails
- what your unsubscribe rate can tell you about reader satisfaction
- and more
In this series I will walk you thought the technical side of:
- setting up your account with several of the more popular mailing list services
- integrating services with your site
We’ll get into detail on:
- the best language to use for an effective sign up form that maximizes conversion (This is something that marketers have been working on for decades, how a lead magnet can either help or hurt. The wrong lead magnet can kill your conversion rate, yes.)
- how to build your list by participating in a group giveaway with other authors
We’ll also give you opportunities to share your experiences and ask questions about the problems you are having with your newsletter. In fact, why don’t we start asking those questions now.
Tell me in the comments:
- What topics would you like to see us cover?
- What questions do you have about how to run a newsletter?
- What problem has you stumped?