Blog Feeds and Newsletters and Emails, Oh My!

One of the first things that I recommend authors do on their website is collect email addresses. After all, there’s nothing more valuable to you than contact information on someone who may want to buy your book, or your next book, or tell their friends about your next book. You get the picture.

But I run into a lot of confusion from authors who don’t know exactly what to do with these names. Should you be sending them every blog post that you enter? Should you be creating monthly newsletters for them? What’s the “commitment” on your end when you collect the addresses, and how do you make the most of them?

Here’s the breakdown on three different ways you can use these email addresses, and tips for making each one most effective.

1. Blog Feed
The simplest and easiest thing to do is to automatically sign up everyone who entered their email address on your site to receive your blog feeds. This is certainly doable within WordPress, and it means less work for you: if you’re writing those blog posts anyway, you might as well send them out, right?

However, there are a few drawbacks to using blog feeds as your form of email updates, including:

  • The lack of design in the automated email blasts
  • The frequency of posts (the more often you send emails, the more unsubscribes you’ll get)
  • The lack of “purpose” in the emails. Remember, since these are blog posts, they’re far less likely to include encouragement to buy your book, links to buy your book, etc..

If you decide to send blog posts to everyone who gives you their email address, think long and hard about each post before putting it up. How would you feel if you got this in an email? Would it be useful to you? Would it encourage you to visit the site and/or buy the book? If nothing else, make sure to include lots of links in your posts so that you can drive additional traffic to the website.

2. Monthly Newsletter
Most of the time, if someone signs up for a “newsletter” on an author website, this is what they will expect. All you would have to do is create a newsletter template and then, once a month, figure out what news, ideas, etc… you can use to populate the newsletter.

One nice feature about choosing to go in this direction is that you get to pick the best of the best in any given month and highlight it to your readers. So your best blog posts, your best reader-submitted comments, your lighthearted news, etc… This will add an entertainment value to your newsletter that a blog feed just doesn’t have.

The drawback to this, however, is the time commitment. It means that you’d have to sit down once a month and figure out what to put in the newsletter. If you are willing to make the commitment, make sure you make the newsletter rich with images and links. Include calls to action, like “buy the book” and “submit your own review.” And remember: these are fans of your work, so tailor the message accordingly.

3. Email Updates
These are much like the monthly newsletter above, except there is no set timetable for when these should go out. Instead, you would simply collect the list of email addresses and only use them when you have a message to share. For example, you may want to announce that an interview with you was going to be in tomorrow’s newspaper. Or that your next book is now available for pre-order.

This type of usage of email addresses is great because a) your emails will all have a clear purpose: telling people about something timely and what they can do about it; and b) the infrequency of your messages will not overwhelm anyone.

However, there is a drawback, too … if you go too long without sending an initial email, people may forget that they ever signed up for your notifications. Then they’ll just delete you, thinking that your email is SPAM. And no one wants that.

Figure out which of the three options above best suits your needs and your level of commitment. Then take advantage of some of the tips I gave out with each one. Email addresses are invaluable … so use them wisely!