When it comes to marketing, nothing beats a newsletter. Sure, it sounds old school, and when you think about your own overflowing inbox, possibly a bit hard to believe that people use them to sell books. And yet, the direct connection with your readers puts your books in front of them and cultivates a relationship that you just don’t get through Amazon or other vendors. But newsletters also come with so many questions.
What do you write in them?
How often do you send them?
What’s the best way to get subscribers?
Why do I have to give Mailchimp (or any other newsletter provider) my address?
I’ll answer each of these questions today, giving you the tools you need to start growing your email list.
Why do I have to give my newsletter provide an address?
Let’s start with the last question, since it’s the easiest to answer. Nearly every country (except Russia and a few others) has anti-spam legislation. In the US this the CAN-SPAM act of 2003, and in Canada this is the CASL, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, passed in 2014. One of the requirements of these laws is that the emails identify from where they came, not just in terms of company name, but also physical location. According to the CAN-SPAM act, should you be caught, it’s a $10,000 fine. Now, I don’t know anyone who has been caught or how the act is enforced, but nearly every major newsletter provider requires a mailing address. It doesn’t have to be your home email; it can be a virtual mailbox or a post office box. As long as the company can receive mail there, the email address complies.
Failure to provide this address will violate the Terms of Service of Mailchimp, MailerLite, or other providers and could result in you losing your account. Don’t lose your newsletter account. Use a virtual mailbox such as Epona Mailbox, which is a service designed specifically for authors. (Newsletter accounts at Epona Mail include this service for free.)
How to plan your newsletter + what to send your readers
Once you have your newsletter service established, the next questions are how often do you send your newsletter and what do you write?
I recommend sending newsletters at a minimum of every two weeks. You don’t want readers to forget who you are, and let’s be honest, our lives are busy enough that it’s easy to do. When you don’t include your books, either new releases or back list titles, include books from other authors. You can find these in newsletter swap groups on Facebook, asking other authors, or utilizing paid services like BookFunnel or StoryOrigin. These two services will help you offer a free story to readers in exchange for their signing up for your newsletter.
If you can, send your newsletter weekly. This will keep your name in front of your potential readers. Aim for consistency no matter what frequency you choose. Being consistent will build expectations and help readers look for your newsletter.
But I don’t release a book a week, you might be thinking, what do I put in my newsletter?
Start off with a short note to your readers. You don’t have to go into personal details, but a friendly note will help reinforce the fact that you’re a “real” person and help your readers feel as if they know you. Share your latest release, any pre-orders, or a backlist book. Then, share any giveaway or sale events you’ve joined or newsletter swaps you’ve arranged.
Remember your readers want to know about your writing, the world(s) in which you set your stories, and anything related to that process will be of interest to them. I think we tend to overthink or worry too much about what we’re putting in our newsletters. I’ve found some of the best responses I’ve received have come to newsletters that may feel a bit sparse. A quick note, a newsletter share, just something nice and friendly.
One of the best ways to determine what you want in your newsletter is to see what you respond to in the ones you receive. Find a genre giveaway that interests you, pick up some free books, read them and check out the newsletters. There’s a chance you’ll find a new-to-you author to enjoy, too.
Newsletters don’t have to be a big daunting task. Break it down into smaller chunks. Write them and schedule them (or write and send immediately.) Be willing to experiment to find out what processes work best for you and your readers. Soon, your newsletter will simply be just another tool in your marketing kit.
Mary Kit Caelsto
When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Mary proclaimed she’d write romance novels and work on a horse farm. Today, she lives on her homestead in the Missouri Ozarks with her partner, six horses, a flock of poultry, the not-so-itty-bitty kitty committee, and two perfectly potbellied pigs. Oh, and she writes equestrian women’s lit, romance, and fantasy. She’s also a published erotic romance author as Mary Winter, with her first book published in 2002. So maybe those childhood dreams do come true.
She’s mentored and helped authors become published since 2006, and currently runs Epona Author Solutions, which offers editing, newsletter, website, and technical assistance. She launched Epona Mail (and Epona Mailbox) to help authors have an easy-to-use newsletter service that won’t break the bank.