By Nate Hoffelder
I have been publishing my newsletter for about three years now, and in that time my biggest stumbling block has been content. The technical details were easy to iron out, graphics were a relatively simple problem that could be solved by Canva’s stock templates, and growing my mailing list wasn’t too hard, but figuring out what to put in my newsletter had me stumped.
It got so bad that I even let three or four months go by before sending out a newsletter, which is terrible because it gave subscribers time to forget me or lose interest. That’s why when I partnered with The Book Designer for a series of posts on the newsletters, I knew that one installment would focus on what to put in a newsletter.
Generally speaking, newsletters fall into one of two broad categories:
- a long single topic, where you explain a subject in detail;
- and what I would call a “smorgasbord” or “buffet” style newsletter which includes a number of shorter sections.
For the longest time I have sent out newsletters devoted to a single topic. This worked well for me because I write non-fiction and offer technical services, but lately I have started to transition to a “buffet” style newsletter so I could share a half-dozen interesting bits of information that reader would find useful.
Both types of newsletters have their merits:
- the single topic newsletter lets you demonstrate your expertise
- the “buffet”-style can be three or four times as useful to your subscribers
But no matter which type of newsletter you choose, they can both include the same type of content.
So What Can You Put in a Newsletter?
The short answer is that you can have anything that will interest your readers. That is not very specific, I know, so here’s a list of things authors can put in their newsletters.
1. Blog Post Excerpts
If you’ve written a blog post that your subscribers will want to read, you should mention it in your newsletter. I would not include the entire post unless it is shorter than 400 words, however, because a 1,500-word or 2,000-word newsletter will cause some to lose interest, and even unsubscribe from your newsletter.
2. Memes and Jokes
This might seem like fluff to some, but a lot of readers like hearing jokes that rely on clever word play. If you come across a joke on Facebook that is relevant to your genre, you should consider including it in your next newsletter.
For example, if you write historical fiction set in Great Britain in the middle ages, you might tell your readers about how the remains of Richard III were identified. (They were found in a carpark, buried under a two-door.)
3. Launch Team Invites
It takes a team to launch a book, or so I am told, and your newsletter is a great place to find new team members.
Ask your subscribers if they can help you launch your next book by:
- contributing creative skills to the campaign
- agreeing to pre-order the book
- sharing your launch campaign on social media
If one of your readers says yes, add them to a special mailing list for your launch team, and while you are at it you should also plan how you will reward them with perks.
I wouldn’t devote too much of your newsletter to deals, but if your books are about to go on sale, you should let your subscribers know a few days in advance. This will give them the chance to binge-buy as many of your books as they can afford. (That’s how I buy ebooks, at least…)
5. Details about Background Research
In my experience readers who are interested in SF are also interested in cutting edge science and tech, and readers who like fantasy also like to read about related topics like how food production impacted migration, etc.
If you come across a video on sword-making, or a paper on famines, while researching for your next book, you might mention them in your newsletter, and explain how these details impacted your story.
6. Related News
Those same readers are also interested in news that touches on the books they like to read, so if you find a story that either changes the background of one of your stories (or even better yet, news that invalidates accepted tropes in your genre) you should include them in your newsletter.
For example, an SF author might keep their subscribers apprised of new exoplanents announcements such as the earth-sized planet that was discovered orbiting Proxima Centauri back in 2016.
Or, a historical fiction author might share a link to a news story about DNA-testing Viking skeletons. (In some cases they have found that bodies buried with swords which had been assumed to be men were actually women.)
7. Excerpts and Bonus Chapters
A great way to reward your newsletter subscribers and keep them coming back for more is to give them exclusive content–or if not exclusive, at least give it to them first.
You can share tempting excerpts from a book before it is released, or share the bonus chapters where the story continues.
You can also reward your subscribers by running a contest where you give away something your readers will value. It might be either signed copies of your books, or fun swag that you picked up on a trip.
For example, I’d really like it if I could get a poster or a model of one of the ships in the SF series I read. I’d definitely enter a contest to try to win the poster or the model–and if I lost I would probably go buy the model – and the poster, too.
9. Questions for Readers to Answer
People appreciate being heard, and they like it when their opinion is sought on an important topic, so why not use your newsletter to ask questions?
You could ask your readers to choose between several cover designs, or ask them which of your characters they like the most (that character might be popular for a spin off novel!), or you might ask them what they are reading so you can find out more about your readers.
While you’re at it, why not embed a form into the email so that your readers can respond right away? Sure, you could ask them to email you, or you could link to a Google form, but if you embed a form you can eliminate one step in the process, and increase the number of responses.
10. Books Similar to What You Write
Readers are always looking for new books, and if you know of books in your genre that they might like, you should mention them from time to time. Not only will this introduce your readers to new authors, it will also help those authors find new readers. Everyone comes out ahead on this one.
12. Event Calendar
Your readers will want to meet you in person, so you should be sure to share your public events schedule.
Tell your readers about:
- book fairs
- other events
you plan to attend over the next few months so they can plan ahead and meet you at one of those events. Oh, and don’t forget your online events like webinars or live streams for podcasts!
While you’re at it, you might also mention your vacation travel plans. If you are going to be in a region near some of your readers, and you have the time and energy, you might meet them for coffee.
BTW, this event calendar is one of those things that you can recycle from one newsletter to the next. You should keep a copy in a Word file and then paste it into the newsletter. (That’s what I do.)
13. Reviews from Readers
One of the best ways to sell your books is to share what others say about them, which is why you should consider sharing excerpts of reader reviews in your newsletter.
If you can, you should also make sure that the reviewer is a subscriber to the newsletter; they will love that you value their effort, so sharing their review is a great way to pay them back for writing it.
At the same time, you need to be careful to limit how many reviews you mention in a newsletter; if you include too many, readers will lose interest.
14. Books You’re Reading
Your newsletter subscribers won’t be interested in hearing about all your daily activities, but they are readers so chances are they will be interested in what you are reading.
Briefly mention the books you’re reading in a 100-word to 200-word review, and explain why you like or dislike them. This will help you forge a connection with your readers, and also turn them on to new authors.
Do you have more ideas for newsletter content? If so, share them with us in the comments.
If you want to read more about what you can put in your newsletter, I found a number of great posts on the topic, including: