Hi, I’m Linda J. White writing from Somerville, Virginia, where the cherry trees and Bradford pears are in full bloom, blowing blossoms everywhere and proclaiming the beauty of God’s creation. As writers, we, too long to bloom, to create, to proclaim his name to the four corners of the world. We write our hearts out, and then, well, how do we tell the world about it?
Of all the marketing possibilities for writers—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and so many others—experts say the one that produces the best results for writers is the email newsletter.
Now that may seem counterintuitive, because you’re probably like me—inundated with email. But the truth is, a consistently produced, interesting email newsletter has the best chance of producing long-term fans—book buying fans. Unlike social media platforms, newsletters are stable, not subject to the whims of companies who are constantly changing rules and procedures. You “own” your newsletter. You decide the rules. You control the frequency of publication. You determine the output. You send it to everyone on your list, not just a percentage. (Expert marketer Rob Eager suggests posts on Facebook currently reach only about 15 percent of your followers, unless of course you pay to boost your post.)
How do you start a newsletter? Jane Friedman suggests you decide on a frequency of publication and stick to it. Should it be quarterly? Monthly? Weekly? Or just when a new release comes out? Most writers find weekly is too frequent, and quarterly runs the risk of having recipients forget who you are. You want the newsletter to connect you, the author, with readers in a personal, almost intimate way, which means getting your name in front of them regularly.
But the quickest way to turn off readers is to make the newsletter another Me, Me, Me chorus. Eager suggests content that is 75 percent geared to helping the reader and 25 percent promotion. That reader-centered content can be Q&As with other authors, informative articles on a subject you’re researching, a bulleted list of helpful tips, etc.
Keep your content short, sweet, and structured, writes Friedman. Use a familiar template and keep it clean and crisp. Unique subject lines help generate “opens,” and important links should be repeated two to three times. And be sure to include an “upcoming events” list.
There are several email services to pick from: MailChimp, which I use, is free for up to 2,000 subscribers. It takes a little bit to set up a template and learn the system, but I find it easy to use. Writers also should look into TinyLetter and Constant Contact.
The one big no-no of email newsletters is this: DO NOT put anyone on your list who did not ask to be there. Don’t. Do. It. You’ll be tempted to “grow” your list that way but you’ll be violating SPAM laws and you’ll get a lot of unsubscribes.
I find my email newsletter to be the most satisfying of all my marketing methods. I’ve been able to write about Pony Penning on Chincoteague (the location for one of my books), do a feature on independent bookstores, highlight other authors’ work, and keep readers up to date on the progress of my next book. Writing the newsletter now takes me less than two hours. That’s time well spent in this writer’s book.