Monday, October 31, 2016

Author Newsletters: A Reader's Perspective

Email lists: sometimes these are more valuable to writers than the scant royalties they receive from book sales. These lists help you connect to readers, and more specifically, readers that are interested in your work. But how do you manage newsletters sent to those readers? How can you ensure that you won't get constant unsubscribe notifications? Here are some things that I've learned as an avid reader signed up for quite a few author newsletters.

DO: Provide plenty of info on your latest book

DON'T: Give out the first twenty pages in your regular newsletter

Getting excerpts of upcoming novels is a great thing, especially if your readers are fanatic and you're sharing pieces of the next installment of a series. However, as a casual reader, I may not want to scroll through miles and miles of text to get to a link (or, if I'm really annoyed, the unsubscribe button) or a giveaway that you placed at the bottom of the newsletter. The solution? Place your excerpt on your website and link to it. Or, there are options such as InstaFreebie which can provide a better way of giving out sneak peeks and extended excerpts. 

DO: Include a personal note or link to latest blog post

DON'T: Tell me every single thing that happened in your life this week

Loyal fans love to get to know their favorite readers outside of the writing itself. It gives them a sense of how you tick. Many authors provide this information through blogs and social media. And that's a great way to connect on a deeper level to readers. However, putting pages and pages of personal details in your weekly newsletter can get daunting. I get a newsletter where the writer goes on forever about all the stuff they bought and all the crafts they worked on that week (which has nothing to do with the fiction they write). The only reason I still get their newsletter? I get so frustrated from scrolling through to try and get to the unsubscribe button that I give up and just delete it.

But authors, let's not get too personal either. I subscribed to an author newsletter and not ten minutes later, I received what looked to be a regular, personal email from the author that said: "Hey, how are you? Tell me about yourself." Now I haven't seen an email like this since I still used Yahoo Chat in my teens. It's creepy, and it feels off. Don't get that personal unless you're sure you want to freak out your audience.

DO: Provide info on other authors and titles I might also enjoy

DON'T: Automatically sign me up for 30 of your friends' mailing lists

Giving your fellow writer a leg up by exposing your existing email list to their work? I applaud you for that. Forcing to me to sign up for all of their email lists? Not cool.

This did happen to me in the last couple of months. And I don't know how. I followed a link in one of these newsletters to a page where I had access to download dozens of free titles. The actual cost? If you downloaded a book, you were signed up for the author's email list. It was clear from the beginning, so I didn't mind. The problem was I didn't see any titles that interested me--and didn't click on a single book cover to download. However, over the next week or so I found out that I was subscribed to all of their lists anyway--and I didn't enter my email anywhere! I still don't know how they did it, unless it was from the single link I clicked on through the original email. I was not happy, and that's not the way to expose your readers to new writers. Let them come over willingly and you could have a loyal fan for life.

DO: Send out regular newsletters

DON'T: Send out newsletters twice a day

Your life and your career isn't that interesting. No seriously. I get that you're excited about an upcoming release. I understand when you go to a writer's conference for the first time and want to share what you learned. You, Responsbile Author, I don't have a problem with. It's that one behind you. Yeah, YOU.  The one that can't leave their computer screen long enough to do anything other than send ANOTHER email newsletter out.

I've been signed up for newsletters that have come to me up to three times a day--that, my writer friend, is excessive. If you are concise in how to present your information, this can all fit well inside a weekly newsletter. But what if you have great news to share like a contest or some other really cool thing? That's a toss up. I would say that there's very little that's so timely you can't wait to share it. A single weekly address should be standard.

There are exceptions, of course. A daily email blast on your release week is probably not a bad thing, but make sure that each newsletter that arrives in your readers' inboxes contain thoughtful, engaging and not completely repetitive information.

DO: Provide extras and incentives for sign ups

DON'T: Promise incentives that you don't deliver

I think every person I know has signed up for an email newsletter to get a discount, a free book or some other useful digital item. Authors offering these things are often giving away high quality work--short stories, extend excerpts, free full-length novels. What I can't stand, however, is anyone running an email list that offers an incentive and doesn't deliver.

Remember that story I shared just a few paragraphs ago about the creepy personal email? Yeah, I only signed up for that mailing list to receive a partial list of bloggers that review books (the rest of the list being available in ebook form). Not only did I not receive what I was promised, I got the creepy response to boot.

Under promise and over deliver. Every single person that's ever worked for a business or ran their own business knows that basic rule of marketing.

Full disclosure--I'm a writer without my own mailing list (at least a formal one). Yes, I know that's the most basic mistake I can be making right now, but when I get past all the hurdles to having one that complies with laws, ethics and basic email etiquette, I'll let you know. That's why I've written this from a reader's perspective. I'm not pretending to be an expert on mailing lists, but I thought this could be a useful perspective for writers.

As always, let me know what you think. Happy writing!

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