If one of your 2024 writer goals is to grow your readership or expand your marketing reach, consider the almighty email newsletter. Author newsletters are a tried-and-true way to build and maintain a community and fan base with less effort than you might think. And with a little upfront planning, a newsletter can quickly become a marketing workhorse.
As a seasoned email marketer, I’ve worked with small business owners—including authors—to develop effective email newsletters that keep customers coming back for more. Here are my top three tips for using your email newsletter to reach readers, sell books, and build your literary community.
1. Start Small
Most email marketing tools, such as Mailchimp, Mailerlite, and Substack, have free and paid versions. In most cases, the free version is a great place to get started. As you grow your list of subscribers, you can consider upgrading if needed. But there’s no need to pay upfront for a costly tool before you’ve tested it.
Post a link to sign up for your newsletter anywhere you market your books. That includes your website, social media accounts, and even your email signature. You can also send a personal email to friends and family inviting them to sign up for your newsletter.
Avoid the rookie mistake of adding everyone whose email address you have to your newsletter with the assumption that they want to be signed up. Not only is it a quick way to get your newsletter marked as spam, but it’s just bad manners. You want your newsletter list to be full of people who are eager to hear from you.
2. Include Worthwhile Content
The first question I get when talking to authors about newsletters is the question of content. Newsletter content varies from author to author, including what genres you write, newsletter frequency, and what activities you’re involved with outside of your writing life.
That said, there are some standard content categories most authors include:
- Writing updates
- What kind of progress have you made on your writing projects since you last sent a newsletter?
- Highlights from social media
- If you post about your writing and book(s) on social media, what are your most popular or engaging posts recently?
- Media consumption
- What books/shows/movies have you engaged with lately, and what’s your hot take on them?
- Book promotion (yours and others’)
- What other books in similar genres to yours have come up on your radar lately? Throw in a link for readers to check them out.
If that last point gives you pause, consider that your subscribers will want to look to you as somewhat of a literary authority in your genre. Promoting other authors’ books won’t take away from your own book sales but will instead give readers just another reason to continue opening your emails.
3. Develop a System
One of my newsletter clients has been with me for over two years. Early on in our time together, we quickly developed a system for her newsletter. But whether you hire someone to help you with your newsletter or you do it yourself, you need to have a system of some kind in place to be successful.
The worst way to approach your email newsletter creation is to panic partway through the month saying, “Oh (swear word of choice), I need to send a newsletter!” Then you stare blankly at your cursor wondering what you should say in the first place. Don’t do that.
Do this instead: Plan out a few months in advance what you want the key focus of your newsletter to be. Bonus points if you do six months or a year all at once! The point is that you’ll make writing the newsletter much easier if you’ve already planned your topics in advance.
Incidentally, the author I mentioned above recently bumped up her newsletter frequency from one per month to two per month. This is due in no small part to the fact that we’ve made it easy on ourselves by operating from an easily repeatable system.
While there’s so much more I could say about author newsletters, these three tips really are the best and most simple way to get started. By starting small, focusing on high-quality content, and developing a system, your newsletter can quickly become an invaluable marketing and sales tool for your books.
A lifelong writer and reader, Erin Hall (she/her) loves dissecting good storytelling to figure out what makes it tick. She’s the author of Dear Sylvia, Love Jane (Detective Molly Malone #1), a queer detective novel. After receiving a Master of Arts in Writing & Publishing from Portland State University, Erin spent most of the next fourteen years working in online marketing and SEO content. Today, in addition to writing novels, short stories, and memoir pieces, Erin is a bookseller, hiker, and vegan nacho enthusiast. Finally, as if she didn’t already have enough going on, she’s also a proud board member of the Newberg, Oregon-based nonprofit community theater group, Gather Repertory Theatre.