Writing a Better Reader Newsletter

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by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I’ve mentioned before that I always feel a little apologetic when I send a newsletter to readers. I’m so inundated by emails that the idea of wanting more emails seems impossible to me.  But that’s just the thing we need to remember: readers do want to receive our newsletter.  That’s why they signed up for them.

I only send my newsletters when I have a release, which means that I’m sending a newsletter out about three times a year.  My newsletter include buy-links for the new book, a few recipes (I don’t enjoy cooking, but I like passing along easy recipes), and updates on my life and what I’m working on now.

I’m always on the lookout for ways to make my newsletter better. I came across three articles on the same day and saved all of them for future use since each one had at least one helpful takeaway.  I thought I’d pass the information along here in case it helps others.

Send your newsletter to one reader

This tip comes from Tim Grahl.  In his post,  “5 Myths About Email Marketing for Authors“, he asks:

Are you writing for fantasy nerds looking for new books? Are you writing for the thirty-something stay-at-home-mom that needs to lose some weight?

Who are you writing for?

Picture them and then work hard to add value to their lives.

Sometimes it’s easier to write for that one reader (and then, naturally, send to the entire list).

Create an editorial calendar for your newsletter

This tip comes from Problogger Darren Rowse in his article, “7 Common Newsletter Problems, Solved” :

Create a content calendar for your email list. Rather than sending a link to your latest post or a weekly/monthly roundup of posts, use an editorial calendar to come up with some ideas ahead of time.

This seems like a no-brainer to me.  Coming up with a newsletter while trying to launch a book is pretty stressful.  This way, I can stay ahead and make the process quicker.

Collaborate with another writer

Penny Sansevieri from A Marketing Expert, states in her post “Ramp Up Your Book Sales with Email Book Marketing“:

Reach out and ask if they’d like to swap promotions in your respective book marketing emails or newsletters. The worst you could hear is ‘no’ so what have you got to lose?

The benefit here is two-fold. You get more content for your emails and your readers see you as a resource for great book recommendations. 

This seems like an easy way to network with other writers.

Do you have a newsletter? How often do you send them?  What types of content do you include in yours?

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22 thoughts on “Writing a Better Reader Newsletter

  1. Good points, I used to send out a monthly self help ezine with content on four life areas… health, happiness, relationships and finance.

    Now I moved to weekly magazine which has a complete self help report in one of those areas and some short tips, motivational meme etc and of course, some jokes to lighten it all up a bit.

    I’m doing my best to upload the bulk of the ezine, with the report etc. a few weeks in advance, so that I just have to focus on the Editorial and product updates every week before publishing.

    Sometimes you sure do wonder if anyone is reading all that hard work, but when you get a reply from one of your subscribers, it makes it all worth while! :)

  2. Ours goes out monthly and I know Christine is staying several months ahead whenever she can with content. We should try cross-promoting more – we do feature others every month and need to ask to be featured in their newsletters as well.

  3. I like that you only send out newsletters when you have something important to say. Honestly, that is very important. When too many are sent, people can tend to just delete them. Just signed up for yours.

    1. Thanks!

      Yes, so mine goes out 2-3 times a year, although I’m planning on starting more of a welcome sequence at some point…maybe one extra email sort of acclimating new signups to the list (and maybe with a cross-promo thing in *there*, since my emails go out too infrequently to participate in cross-promo otherwise).

  4. One of the biggest mistakes authors make is thinking their newsletter is about selling. Marketing, which is what your newsletter is part of, is about building relationships. When you have good relationships with people, they’ll buy without you “selling” at all.

    When you imagine that one person you’re writing your newsletter for, also remember that you’re not dragging a friend down the alley to mug them (because it’s not about money.) Instead, you’re chatting with someone who asked you to talk to them. Would you really say “I’m sure you don’t really want to talk to me, so I’ll keep this brief and infrequent”?

    The origin of this problem is that too many folks aren’t building their list the right way. Numbers mean nothing. The people on your list should want to be there, to hear from you. If they signed up as some 7-author extravaganza where they got a bunch of free books in exchange, the chances of them feeling a close personal connection to you are small indeed. Organic growth from people who know, like, and trust you results in a list that’s eager to hear from you.

    Not that giving away a freebie to get folks on your list is bad; it’s actually perfect for authors. Just as a nothing gets folks to buy the bread & butter pickles like a free sample in the deli aisle, nothing gets the right folks on your list like giving them samples of your work before and after they sign up. First, it’s your blog posts. Then they want (want) the freebie and newsletter.

    And now you’ve got a list full of people eager to hear from you, not just when you have a book, but at least once a month. (Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads, greatest advertising writer alive, sends his Monday Morning Memo, erm, every Monday. And I’d pay to read it. When it arrives I drop everything and dig in. Every single week. http://www.mondaymorningmemo.com/)

    And if you shudder at the thought of bread & butter pickles? That’s right, the sample tells you to stay away.

    And that’s another reason to give samples: it keeps the wrong people off your list. Can’t have insiders if you never have outsiders.

    1. You make some good points and I’ve definitely read a lot on that perspective (having a newsletter to foster the reader relationship, as opposed to a marketing push). Good point about the free sample…I do have a free book as an incentive to join my list. My free book definitely reeks ‘cozy’, so no worries about ending up with thriller fans by accident.

      My issue is that I have signed up for lists intentionally and then am just bogged down with too much email, despite having multiple systems in place to handle it. I’ve even felt this way about the excellent Nautilus and Farnam Street Brain Food newsletters. I transfer that feeling to my readers.

      1. Understood. I combat that by regularly asking folks to unsubscribe. (And if I discover I’m not reading a newsletter, I unsub myself. There’s only so much time. We can’t do it all. What we cull is as important as what we keep.)

        Telling them it’s okay to leave helps cull the folks who are staying because they’re too nice to unsubscribe.

        Everyone is busy. I see the choices as (a) be easy to ignore, and become One of Those Newsletters, or (b) be so good they don’t want to ignore you.

        Yeah, (b) is harder. It’s also the professional choice.

  5. I like newsletters that come out infrequently, like yours. I want to read them because I feel like it must be something important and interesting as I haven’t heard from the author in a while.

    I’ve unsubscribed from a number of newsletters because it felt a bit like they were bombarding me for no reason and cluttering up my inbox. Others I just leave unread and eventually delete.

    1. I agree—for me, it has to be pretty darn good content for me to stay subscribed to any frequent newsletter. I can barely keep up with my own family’s updates! Maybe it’s also a ‘crazy life factor’ dynamic at play. Maybe those of us juggling kids or carpools or elderly parents or caring for grandkids have less tolerance for frequently emailed newsletters?

  6. Terrific post, Elizabeth! I have a newsletter template that I use, through my subscriber service (MailPoet). I just swap out book cover images, links, descriptions, etc, but keep the same basic format. I also try to keep it short. Also, I keep a Word document of all of my links, listed per book. Someone has suggested using Bitly for links, which can keep track of how many clicks you get, and you can customize the link name and modify where the link goes…in case there’s a change, you don’t have to update everywhere your links appear, such as inside ebooks.

    Happy Monday!

    1. Templates are huge time-savers!

      I’ve heard the same about bit.ly…a useful tool. Mailchimp now (recently? or did I just notice it?) shows where everyone is clicking in my newsletter and I’ve found it really helpful…for one, just figuring out what content is useful.

      Hope you have a great week!

  7. This is especially helpful advice for a first-time author, Elizabeth. Thank you. I’ve only sent one email to my list so far and am nervous about sending out more. Your point about writing to one reader makes so much sense, especially when you’re just starting to get to know who your readers are!

  8. Thanks Elizabeth – I’ve been remiss in getting here recently … really interesting and useful information here … I’ll look into MailPoet in February, when life should be easier!

    Cheers Hilary

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