Image Credit: Images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
In the last two years, I’ve set up a monthly author newsletter, using the free Mailchimp plan to do so. As they say, other mailing programs are available (the other hugely popular one is MailerLite though there are others out there).
Given there is always plenty to do as a writer from getting those first drafts down to editing to getting your work out there somehow, and, of course, marketing, why bother with an author newsletter at all?
The Advantages of an Author Newsletter
Firstly, it gives you as the author a direct way of communicating with your readers. As they have to sign up to your newsletter (to comply with data protection rules), this means you know they want to hear from you. No risk of spamming here.
Secondly, the fact you have an author newsletter at all can form part of your marketing campaign. I remind people a couple of times during a month when my next one will be out and share the link so people can subscribe if they wish.
Thirdly, most readers expect most published authors to have one. Even if you are not published at the moment (note those last three words!), why not sign up to author newsletters yourself? You can learn a great deal from these and use what you learn to give thought to what you would like to put in your own one should you set one up at a later date. I’ve done exactly that.
Fourthly, it is a good way to give loyal readers the chance to hear your publishing news first and/or share exclusives with them.
The Advantages of Using An Email Service Provider
There are various plans but I am currently using the free one. You have to build up audience numbers to a certain level before you have to pay.
What the Mailchimp templates give me is something I can easily fill in with my news and they include the declarations which have to be included as part of your email newsletter. This includes things like giving people a reminder they subscribed to you but they can also unsubscribe at any time by the simple click of a button. Signing up at all means they are opting in to receive your newsletter. Opting out by unsubscribing easily means data protection laws are again being followed correctly.
Mailchimp also provides me with reports on how my newsletters are doing. They store the email addresses I’ve collected (via the signing up procedure) and once I’ve finished my monthly round up, I just press send and off it goes to those who have signed up.
Sometimes I receive notices of unsubscribes. This is where people have decided they are no longer interested. Truth be told, everyone subscribes and unsubscribes to newsletters all the time. Every so often I have a “cull” of the ones I’ve signed up to myself. The ones I am still using and learning from I stay on but you do come across those which are no longer so relevant to you. So do I expect others to find the same with my newsletter? Oh yes. It’s all part and parcel of the writing life.
I also have a dashboard where I can add subscribers. When I am at writing events I take along a newsletter sign up form and I can then add anyone who does sign up at these things to my dashboard later. Again I can take subscribers off my list, which is effectively what Mailchimp stores for me, should they let me know directly they no longer wish to receive the emails.
That is effectively what my newsletter is, albeit with graphics, audio (sometimes) and video links to my stories on my YouTube channel. It is easy to link your social media links to your newsletter which is useful. Best of all, my newsletter sign up form is on my website so anyone visiting that will also come across it. The newsletter can boost the website audience and it can work the other way round too.
I keep the tone light. I have a section on news and another one on story links (for my tales on Friday Flash Fiction and my YouTube channel, as I want to share something entertaining to my subscribers). I also have a direct button link to the blog on my website. I will share exclusive stories directly to my newsletter sometimes.
I flag up writing articles I’ve written on Chandler’s Ford Today where I know there will be interest. For example, if there is wealth of writing competitions coming up, I could share something I’ve written on writing competitions in the past.
I also share writing tips in a separate section. I do this deliberately. People are busy. If tips are what they mainly seek, it is easy to scroll down to the part of my newsletter which will be of most relevance and interest to them.
As with any marketing I do, I try to ask myself what is in it for the person on the receiving end? I think it is a good approach because I know what I like to see in newsletters I receive. There has to be something of value (usually helpful information or stories or both) to encourage people (a) to subscribe at all and (b) to stay on your newsletter list.
Scheduling a Newsletter
I simply opted for the first of every month for sending my newsletters out. It’s an easy date to remember. I strongly suspect this is why a lot of author newsletters go out on this day! Once a newsletter has gone out, I start drafting the next one.
The nice thing with this approach is I can add to my newsletter as and when, save it as a draft, and then come back to it again. I also find sending myself a test email when I have a complete draft to be a useful thing to do. I can see the newsletter then as a subscriber would. Sometimes it means going back in and tweaking something but, hey, this is what writers do all the time. I tweak these posts a lot too before they see the light of day – there is always something to correct and/or add in!
- Work out what you would put in a newsletter before deciding to set one up. I took my time here, worked out what I could do, and now it is easy for me to stick to this or adjust as I see fit but I do know I will have things to share.
- Remember newsletters are all about sharing with readers. There has to be something of interest to them. Always keep them in mind when preparing newsletters. Mind you, keeping your Ideal Reader in mind for all of your writing is a great idea.
- Newsletters don’t have to be long.
- Keep your newsletter tone bright and breezy. You want readers to look forward to the next one.
- You can do giveaways with your newsletter. I share a pdf file with new sign ups to my newsletter.
- Start small. Start with a free plan. Build up as you need to.
- Share details of your newsletter and where people can sign up to it at events, on social media etc. Make it easy for them to find you and your newsletter.
- You are engaging with readers here. It should be fun!
- Have easy to read sections. Break up text with images (remembering to either use your own or copyright free ones. Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash are your friends here. I always like to credit, as you will know from the tops of my posts. I think it only right to put in a plug for those enabling me to use excellent pictures to illustrate my posts and newsletters).
- Think about what you could do in terms of a giveaway for people signing up to your newsletter. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just ensure it is only via your newsletter readers can get this item.
Above all, don’t send out newsletters too often. Once a month is fine. Some writers send theirs out quarterly.
I didn’t decide to have an author newsletter for some time. I wanted to be sure it was the right thing for me to do and to work out how I would get it done. But as time went on I saw the usefulness of this in connecting directly to readers and so went ahead.
What matters now is being consistent with bringing them out. No problem here. I work to deadlines all the time for my CFT posts and where I blog elsewhere so this was just something else to “book into” my writing time. And I do have all month to produce it.
My third flash fiction collection has been accepted by Chapeltown Books but I don’t yet know when it will be out. When it is, will I use my author newsletter to help promote it? Of course. But the great thing is those who sign up to these things expect that kind of marketing. I will be preaching to the converted but that’s fine here. You’re not annoying anyone for a start!
If you would like to sign up to my newsletter you can do so by going to the landing page of my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/
The nice thing with newsletters is you can monitor audience growth. I’m pleased to say mine is growing steadily since my last article on this topic (see my Related Posts below). I hope that continues. It can be hard for a writer to monitor progress but things like this help.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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