Write an Author Newsletter That Sells
For a lot of writers, marketing a book can be an intimidating process. The industry is constantly changing, and keeping up with promotional trends is daunting to say the least. Luckily for you, some techniques are time tested and proven to work. Author newsletters have been one of the most effective marketing tools available to writers for a long time. Most of us think of newsletters as spam, but I'm here to tell you, that isn't true. When utilized correctly, an author newsletter can be a beacon of hope for those struggling for exposure in a saturated market.
But before we get started, let's talk about the stigma behind newsletters. If you are someone who thinks building a mailing list is a waste of time and instead focuses on social platforms, I challenge you to review your social media analytics, because the truth will become painfully evident. Most of the hard work you put into your various social platforms goes unseen due to algorithms, which certainly do not work in your favor, or it simply gets lost in the endless scroll. I would even bet that more often than not, your social posts are seen but unread, and hence, not as effective as you might have thought. This is not to say social media is a waste of time. No. You may just want to consider the other avenue at your disposal— a newsletter.
If you already utilize a mailing list, you might be discouraged by things like open rate or click-through rate, but don't be. The industry standard for open rates are as low as 20%, and click-through rates can be even lower. That doesn't stop the top marketing experts from using them though, because the 20% opening your emails are commonly super engaged and will like, follow, comment, subscribe, preorder and most importantly, BUY. So, let's discuss the different ways you can build up that mailing list and turn subscribers into devoted fans.
Why should I sign up for your newsletter? Have you given me a reason to let you into my personal space? A mailing list needs to provide the recipient value in some way, shape, or form. The worst thing you can do is send out an email where you just talk about yourself. The 80/20 rule of marketing needs to apply (80% peer promotion and 20% self promotion). Give the reader some reason to open that email. My favorite newsletters are the one's that provide advice or give me a useful takeaway. Tim Waggoner comes to mind. His newsletter is packed with valuable information about writing and publishing. He literally makes it difficult for people to leave emails unread. Not only that, but the value provided encourages subscribers to share or recommend it to other readers.
There's lots of ways to provide value. Consider your audience and don't be afraid to ask them for ways you can help them. This leads to my next point.
Engage Your Audience
Engagement is crucial. We know this is the case with social media, and it's especially true with author newsletters. This means you will need to step out of your comfort zone and send emails more consistently. But readers don't want to hear from you only when you want something. Imagine how you'd feel if you only heard from a friend when they needed to borrow something. You probably wouldn't get too excited to see their number show up on your phone. If you only send an update when a book is about to launch, people aren't likely to open the email, let alone be interested in the message. Write an email as often as you can without being overwhelming. I like to send emails two to four times a month. I find my audience responds best to that frequency, but everyone will have their own trial and error period.
Answer the Public
Now for the hard part. Including content people actually want to see. I recommend involving your readership by answering questions they have about your work, showcasing the reviews they write, the fun pictures or videos they take of your book, etc. Reach out, find out what you can provide to your readers (other than a good book). If you are unsure how to create engaging content, here's a trick I use. Answerthepublic.com is a powerful tool that you can help you find out what questions are being asked by people in your niche. Simply type in search terms related to your audience and the site will produce the most commonly asked questions about that search term on Google. For example, when I search "author newsletter," some questions being asked are:
- What should I include in my author newsletter?
- How to make an author newsletter?
- What service do I use for my author newsletters?
Do your best to produce content based on the answers your readers give to the questions you come up with. Not only is your audience going to thank you for providing value, they will be deeply engaged by your content.
Now, this part is a little new to me, but I found that it made a MASSIVE difference on the technical side of things.
Follow the Rules About SPAM
Google has an algorithm it uses to determine what is spam and what isn't, and there are small tweaks you can make to ensure that your emails are not falling victim to the dreaded promotions folder. There are trigger words that Google will pick up on if you're not careful. You can easily find these all online, but the one you need to be most careful with is FREE. I use this word a ton in my emails. Not only do I provide a freebie for new subscribers, I always include free or discounted books in my newsletters. The instant I stopped using the word "free" in the body of my emails, my open rate shot up nearly 10%. That is a huge difference.
Another thing monitored by the Gmail algorithm (which did not necessarily affect my stats, but Google has been vocal about) is links. Reduce the amount of links in your email and you should (technically) see a difference in your open rate. There is a ton of information surrounding this point, but I believe the above will have an immediate impact on the success of your email campaigns.
The promotional landscape has evolved into an agricultural methodology. You need to nurture and cultivate your audience to amass a healthy fanbase. Pay it forward and give more than you get (80/20 rule), be considerate of your audience's needs, create engaging content they will crave, and don't fall short in your stats because you didn't appease the technical forces we are bound to. These are sure fire ways to create a powerful email marketing campaign that will produce results and make your work stand out.
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