Author Newsletters: Tips, Misconceptions, and More!

Several of my clients have asked me to send out newsletters to their mailing lists recently. But none of them seemed to understand exactly what a newsletter can do (or the information you can cull out of sending a newsletter). With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to outline exactly what an author newsletter can do, when it should be used, and what kind of information you can cull from it.

So let’s start with (correcting) a few misconceptions that authors have about newsletters.

1. “I don’t need a mailing list.” Every author should be building a mailing list. This is invaluable! It’s basically the contact information of people who are interested in your writing. You couldn’t pay for such a list (and if you could, the owner of the list would probably be asking for a lot more than you could afford). So start building your list as soon as your site is launched, and offer people a reward for signing up.

2. “Everyone who signs up for my newsletter gets my blog entries, right?” People who sign up for your newsletter do NOT automatically start receiving blog updates. That can be done separately, but it’s not what a newsletter is. A newsletter is a compliation of text/photos/links that you specifically put together to go out via email to your list.

3. “I can just send out a mass email and it’s the same thing as a newsletter, right?” No! A true newsletter is designed in HTML (and yes, it’s sent in an email), which allows people to see colors, images, links, etc… much like they do on a website. It can also be designed in two- or three-columns, ensuring that people will see more than one type of content as soon as they open it.

Okay, so now that we’ve corrected a few misconceptions, we’re confident that you understand why you need to build a list and send newsletters. Once you have the list built (and hopefully, growing), you need to start sending newsletters. Not immediately, mind you; but eventually. Here are some of the things that you could use newsletters to do:

  • Announce the release of the book and/or the launch of the website
  • Promote a special deal on the book
  • Announce a contest
  • Boast about a great review and/or award you won
  • Offer a teaser about your next book
  • Let people know about an upcoming article/interview you’re doing
  • Promote your podcasts

And here are some dos and don’ts about your newsletter:

  • DO write your newsletter in the first person. People want to know they’re hearing from you.
  • DO include more than one piece of content in a newsletter. That’s the beauty of the web — you can include teasers to multiple things and allow people to click through for more.
  • DO put your book cover (and a link to buy the book) in the newsletter. After all, that’s your goal, right?
  • DON’T put long, wordy pieces in a newsletter. Nobody wants to spend ten minutes reading an email.
  • DON’T have the newsletter live as a stand-alone piece. It should be a jumping point from which your fans can take action, like enter a contest, friend you on Facebook or buy your book.

Lastly, if you send your newsletter through a true newsletter distribution system (like we do), there are lots of things you can get from your newsletter report. This is why you often have to pay on a per-recipient basis to send it out. Here are some of the benefits of sending a newsletter out through such a system (as opposed to just sending out a mass email):

  • You can create both text and HTML versions of the emails. This way, anyone who is opening it on a computer can see photos, colors, images, etc… Anyone looking at it on a mobile device can easily read the text.
  • The system automatically adds an “unsubscribe” link to the footer of the email (which is a legal requirement) and will automatically take anyone who unsubscribes off your mailing list. Again, that’s something you could get sued for not managing correctly.
  • You can receive a report after the newsletter goes out, which tells you how many people opened the email and which links within the email were clicked on.
  • You can “test” emails, creating two different subject lines and having each person on your list randomly receive one or the other. You can then analyze which subject line got the best open rate, giving you a good idea of what piques your readers’ interest.

See what I mean? An email newsletter is far more than a mass email. And if you’re not using it yet, you could be missing out.