Newsletters. Every author/writer/blogger/website should have one, but with the ease of social media, many have let their subscribers stall not realizing the true power of a newsletter.
So this is Quick & Dirty 101 for newsletters.
How to Send Them?
For most, MailChimp and MailerLite are the popular forerunners for managing subscribers and sending newsletters. I personally, prefer MailerLite.
How do I build a list?
Have a sign up in your front and back matter of your published works, have a form or a pop-up on your website, share a landing page that encourages people to join, sign up with similar genre authors and do the newsletter builders.
It takes time to build an active subscriber list so take it slow and know that it will grow.
**It is ILLEGAL to add people to your subscriber list without their permission. You can’t add a freelancer you work with, you can’t add a blogger you networked with, you can’t add your kid’s teacher, etc.**
**It is ILLEGAL to distribute your newsletter subscribers information. You can’t take your list and give that information to others.**
When to Send Them?
Have you ever opened your email and thought, “man that’s a lot of emails,” and instead of opening all of them, you open your favorites and delete the rest, unopened. Your newsletter could face a similar fate if you send yours to compete with all the others.
When I was researching when to send mine, I noticed a huge spike of emails on the 1st day of the month. Guess what day I don’t send mine… the 1st. Instead, I went with the first Friday of the month and sometimes do a resend to the unopened on Tuesdays.
When you pick your date, look for something that can be consistent.
How Often to Send
Some authors send out weekly or biweekly newsletters, and some send a newsletter out every month or every two months.
You might not like to get an email every week or every month, but your readership may enjoy those constant communications. Apply business logic to this like you would a cover design. Poll the subscribers, talk to those you network with, and see what works and doesn’t work before stressing yourself with crafting newsletters every week. I settled on once a month, and it’s manageable for my style.
When a reader confirms their subscription to your newsletter, take the time to encourage them to add you to the safe sender list and give them the steps on how to do it. It takes 2 seconds most of the time to do it, and it keeps your emails from becoming Spam or Promotion and lost in the shuffle as email providers try to combat spam. Yours doesn’t have to be massive; it could be as simple as “Add us to address book” on the confirmation email.
Since I began to do this, my engagement/open rate has increased.
Welcoming Sequence Emails
Have you ever noticed when you sign up for some newsletters you get a series of other newsletters within a month before it dips down to 1 or 2 a month? Those are preset, automated emails. You set them and forget them. When a subscriber joins, the emails are queued up and sent in specific intervals.
These emails can encourage social media following, give them free books, give them the last newsletter sent, but the real purpose is so that these subscribers care about what you send.
Here’s some useful insights into what to put into them.
Now that you’re crafting a newsletter, let’s look at what can go into them and how to increase your opening rate.
Crafting the newsletters don’t have to be time-consuming. These should be done monthly REGARDLESS if you have a new release or not. You want to make readers care about your works, and how are they going to do that if you never talk to them?
Here is a useful URL for subject lines.
These would be more useful in your welcoming sequence emails than in your monthly newsletter but experiment and see what fits your style and your subscribers.
My newsletter is divided into 3 sections:
- 1st section
The top section is the “more about me part.”
This can be things that I thought were adorable, maybe I went on vacation, maybe I got the worst Christmas Sweater and want to showcase it, or maybe there was a cute meme on FB or Pinterest and I’ll share it with my subscribers.
Sometimes I’ll throw a poll option (Poll can be a FB post—which can increase your social media interactions a little more—or use something more low key like http://www.strawpoll.me/) or ask them to share their favorite holiday recipe by replying to the email itself, anything that might help me get to know them better.
**If I have a new release or current promo it takes over this top spot.
- 2nd section
This middle part is all about my books. This could be an excerpt, teasers, an upcoming sale, what my plans are for 20**. I could put a poll here asking what they’d like to read next with a few WIP options that I had planned on writing anyway.
- 3rd section
This is my networking spot. I try to find similar books to promote, after all readers can read hundreds of books a year and this isn’t like buying tires where 1 set last a person a year or more. Don’t do just free books. You want readers who want to BUY your book so don’t train them to wanting only freebies. Show some variety, full price, reduced price, freebies. And cater your newsletter recommendations to the genres you write. If you write horror and you keep pushing sweet clean romance, chances are people will not click, they won’t find a reason to open, and they eventually become dead weight in your newsletter, costing you money.
Sometimes, like in the holiday seasons, I look for bookworm gift ideas.
Only New Release Subscribers
Some readers only want to hear from you when you have a new release. Set up a subscriber group that is made just for new releases. With MailerLite and MailChimp, it’s easy to pick when to include those people and with their form creations, you can have them select how frequent they want to get emails from you.
Don’t Cold Mail Subscribers
Most readers want to hear from you at least once a month, but if you haven’t been emailing your newsletters that often, don’t just email a sales pitch to them now. Reintroduce yourself and ask them if they still want to receive emails from you. If they went from not hearing from you to a ton of emails that are all “buy my book” they are going to unsubscribe or stop opening. The stop opening ones are costing you money.
Holidays. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Christmas. Valentine’s Day. For writers, seasonal books and national holidays can be a good reason to send more than your standard 1 or 2 a month. Remind subscribers that your books make great gifts. They can order signed paperbacks through your website or get an eBook certificate from Amazon. Use what is happening in your country to spark the “hey remember me” emails.
MailerLite and MailChimp both offer stats on opening rates. Don’t believe them. Example—your subscribers may read 3k, and your open rate might read 1k but a good majority of the unaccounted 2k could have read it in a Preview Panel mode and not been registered. Their program checker doesn’t accurately depict those who read your newsletter versus who opened your email outside the preview panel. Pay attention to engagement rates instead. You want readers clicking, responding, and engaging with the content you have.
The stats on why people don’t open emails is staggering. The average person changes their email address almost yearly between life events, changes at work, or the amount of junk mail they get making an inbox unusable. Don’t let the dead weight cost you money/space/time.
With most newsletter companies, you can select to send newsletters to those who have never opened or haven’t opened in the last six months or whatever time frame you want. I would recommend that you don’t do a purge that often; life experiences can happen and that can cause someone not to open an email.
If the time comes it is time to unload the “never opens” do a series of emails before removing them. I recommend a 3-pronged email. This, like your welcome email, can be fully automated with you just changing which group of inactives you want to target.
1st and 2nd Email
The first 2 are the “Haven’t Heard From You In A While, You Still Interested?” Inside the email you have a yes or no option. If they click yes, they stay in your subscribers, if they click no they are removed. If they don’t respond, they get sent a 2nd email, worded slight different with a yes or no option. If they click yes, they stay, if they click no they are removed.
If they make it to the third email by not responding, this email plainly states you’re sorry to see them go. They can rejoin at any time through your website. And then they are removed from your subscriber list.
Make the emails personal. Be kind.
I think the last ones I sent were something like this (I only clean my subscriber list in the spring so the wording may be a little off.)
“Hey (name), I noticed you haven’t opened an email from me in a while. Are my emails ending up in your Spam Folder? If they are you can move them to safe sender and never miss them again.
Are you still interested in my emails? Do you prefer interacting through my FB page? Is there anything I could add that you’d enjoy seeing/reading about?
If you want to stay on my list, please click yes. If you want removed, click no.
Then I have two buttons—Yes takes them to a Thank You page, No takes them to a Sorry to see you go page with a reminder they can rejoin.
“Hey (name), you haven’t opened the last 6 emails from me. I’m removing your from my newsletter. You can rejoin at any time through my website.
Then I have a button to my website.
The Law—Can Spam Act 2003
According to Federal Laws, you MUST include an address in your newsletters. If you don’t, and you get reported/caught you’re facing $10k PER EMAIL and they will backdate it. You are a business, learn the laws for your safety.
The address can be a PO Box or a street address (home or business). Some authors use online PO Boxes where mail is delivered and then they can pay fees to have any mail rerouted to their house. It’s a business write-off for taxes, go ahead and get a PO Box in your town and then use it.
GDPR is the European equivalent of the Spam laws in the USA. Basically, you have to have permission to add them (signing up via a newsletter form or in a clearly labeled newsletter builder counts as consent), keep their data private and give them requested information about what you have on them. For a better understanding of GDPR, check out these posts.
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This post was edited/proofed by ProWritingAid.