newsletter

Why Every Indie Author Needs a Newsletter (And How to Create a Great One)

In creating your book marketing plan, it can be tempting to focus your efforts on advertising – from social media, to BookBub and Amazon, there are so many platforms to consider. But while these strategies have the potential to be effective, they can also be quite unpredictable. Algorithm changes, increased competition and changes in buyer behavior can all have an impact on an ad’s success.

Because of this, it’s important to incorporate book promotion elements that are less volatile and that we can control. A great example of this is your newsletter and I’d like to dive in to the benefits of having one, and the key elements to making it effective.

A newsletter can help you sell more books

Your book marketing plan should always include opportunities to communicate one-on-one with your readers, and newsletters certainly check off that box. And, if used correctly, it can be a great tool to sell more books in the long-term.

But you’ve got to remember, it’s about them, not about you!

Sure, you can share personal details of your life, but keep in mind that oversharing in a newsletter and veering off-point is not only disrespectful to your reader, it will likely encourage unsubscribes. Your goal is to sell more books, encourage engagement and foster loyalty among your followers.

It’s hard to do that if you ramble on about your Aunt Ethel’s 86th birthday party. I mean it’s awesome for Aunt Ethel, but your readers may not care so much. This is probably better shared on Facebook!

With so much information coming at us every day, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle with your reader. To combat this, keep your newsletter super relevant and exciting, and always have something unexpected to share or special bonuses to offer.

How to make a newsletter great

So, what does it take to create an outstanding newsletter everyone will want to read? Here are seven simple factors to consider when adding one to your book marketing plan:

1. Know your audience: This is first because it’s most important. Know who you’re writing for and who will be reading it. Make sure the information is relevant to them.

2. Go light on promotion: When it comes to promotional copy in a newsletter, I recommend the 95/5% rule: 95% helpful information and 5% sales copy. Trust me on this. I can’t tell you how many newsletters I delete that are overly self-promotional. If the newsletter/email campaign is good, it will sell you. I know you want to sell more books, just don’t be so blatant about it that it gets you a load of unsubscribes each time you send out a newsletter.

3. Share focused content: Create one focal point for your newsletter. Each newsletter should have just one goal. Decide what that is and make sure all the content reflects that. This doesn’t mean you can’t mention 1-2 other things, but keep the focus (the big article) on the main idea. As with anything, it’s a good book marketing strategy to stay focused and on message.

4. Consider a collaboration: Filling an entire newsletter on a regular schedule requires a lot of content. If you’re worried you don’t have enough to do this, consider collaborating with a few authors who are in your genre/industry and at the same success level you are. Leveraging other professionals’ platforms is a really smart addition to your book marketing plan, and while it probably sounds daunting, it really works and takes a lot of pressure off.

5. Be smart about frequency: Watch this one very closely. The general rule of thumb is that the more frequent your newsletter, the shorter it should be. So, if your newsletter goes out weekly, think of offering just a quick tip or update. If it goes out monthly, then it can be longer. Often when it comes to effective book marketing, think “less is more.”

6. Give your newsletter a voice: What I mean by this is give your newsletter a personality. You don’t want a stale, monotone, unfriendly book marketing piece that doesn’t speak to your reader. Show your personality, let it shine through. I like to think that our newsletter has a lot of our voice in it. In order to create “voice” you might want to follow some of the same rules that you do when blogging. Don’t hesitate to share an opinion, viewpoint, stance, advice, whatever. Speak to your reader, not at them.

7. Have a call to action: Make sure that you have a strong call to action in your newsletter. If you have a few calls to action, even better. Get your reader to do something. Engage them in what you’re writing, send them to helpful links, offer them bonuses, specials, exclusives. Remember, if they took the time to open and read your newsletter, they should get something besides great content. Great links to helpful sites or maybe even a free download – all these things are enticing and will keep your reader coming back for more! By getting them engaged, you are pulling them into your message. This is not only a good book marketing tactic, but can help you sell more books – because readers may get inspired to share your content or buy your latest book!

8. Don’t sell them fluff: Ok, I know I said seven tips but I couldn’t help but adding a bonus one. (See what you get for reading all the way through this article? That’s what I mean by over-delivering.) Readers want the information and they want it fast. Don’t use a lot of fluff words or extra (and sometimes useless) content just to puff up your newsletter and make it seem bigger. Give readers the information they want in clear, concise language and then send them on their way. Book marketing rule 101: don’t use 10 words when only two will do!

9. Consider timing: When it comes to the timing of your newsletter, that depends on you and your audience. Our newsletter goes out once a month because it contains a lot of content and it would just be too much to take in if we sent it out more often than that.

10. Edit edit edit. Also, make sure your newsletter is edited. This is a big one. Nothing says “unprofessional” like a newsletter full of typos.

Ideas for newsletter features

  • Tips, marketing, business, whatever your area of expertise.
  • Specials that are exclusive to your newsletter tribe.
  • New books coming out, what you’re working on next.
  • News: what’s happened that’s exciting that you’d like to share?
  • A personal thank you to all of your readers, for reading and maybe sharing your newsletter.

And speaking of sharing your newsletter – why not do a contest to anyone who invites 5 of their friends to sign up for your list. Offer them a $5 gift card just for getting five new folks to join.

Getting people to sign up for your newsletter

In order to get folks to sign up on your website for your newsletter, you’re going to have to give them something in return. That’s called your ethical bribe. An ethical bribe can be the first chapter or two of your next book, or a monthly drawing for a $5 Starbucks gift card (it sounds small but folks love gift cards). You can also offer a checklist or something else that seems to align with your audience. Using an ethical bribe in the right way can be a solid tool to pull in lots and lots of new subscribers and sell more books!

As you start gaining subscribers, I recommend signing up for a free account at MailChimp or Constant Contact to handle your newsletter mailing. They offer free accounts for up to 1,000 subscribers so, if you’re over that, you’ll have to pay a small fee but it’s 100% worth it. They’ve got templates you can use to make some really attractive newsletters and they’ll also handle your unsubscribes.  Emailing folks manually – even just to 20 people – can cause you issues with your email service provider as most companies take big issue with spamming and if one person complains, it could cause you a host of problems.

Make collecting emails part of your book marketing plan

If writing pieces for other blogs is one of your book marketing strategies, make sure that there’s a note that folks can sign up for your email newsletter (if it’s appropriate and the blogger lets you do this). But outside of that you should always, always do newsletter sign ups at your book signings, book events, and speaking gigs. Never go to a single event without a sign-up sheet.

If you’re a fiction author, or aren’t sure what direction you want to go with your newsletter just yet, try experimenting with different messages before you land on one that “fits.” In most cases, your readers/fans just want to get your updates. They want to know what’s going on, what’s coming up, and what you are working on now. It’s a fabulous opportunity to open the door to direction communication and sales.  Yes, this takes time and effort but if done right, the pay-offs can be enormous.

As an indie author, creating a connection to your reader is vital to growing your book, brand and career, and a newsletter is an excellent way to achieve those connections. It not only gets you in front of your audience consistently, but it keeps you fresh and relevant. With an effective newsletter and a growing subscriber list, rising book sales won’t be far off.

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Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.

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