Have you ever opened up your email software and not had a clue what to write? You have no idea how to write an author newsletter that your subscribers will want to read.
Sounds crazy, doesn't it? I mean, you are a writer, aren't you?
I get it. Writing your author newsletter is completely different to writing a book. But in this post, I'm going to show you it doesn't need to be painful or difficult. In fact, I'm going to show you how you can write an author newsletter your readers can't wait to open.
There's an interesting contradiction I see all the time where authors tell me that they don't like book marketing because it makes them feel salesy and icky. But when I ask them how often they email their list, they tell me only when they have a new book out.
If I was on their list, I'd feel like they only email me when I was being sold to.
But there is plenty of opportunity for no strings attached connection with your readers between book launches. And by making the effort to connect with your readers between launches, you will have more successful launches. You will have developed that all-important know, like and trust factor with your readers.
Make your emails about them
There are two important things to remember when thinking about how to write an author newsletter.
One, your emails should not be about you, they should be about your readers. That doesn't mean that you can't talk about your books or awards you've won, for example, but it means thinking about what's in that for your reader. Why do they want to know about the award you won? Or what do they want to know about your books?
If you're talking about your research, perhaps there's an interesting fact you can share with them. If you're talking about awards, maybe you can talk about some of the other nominees so they can check out their books.
Always think about what's in it for the reader, rather than only broadcasting your news.
Offer value in every email
Two, you want every email to offer value. You don't want your emails to sound like some kind of public notice board.
I don't particularly like the term ‘author newsletter'. It sounds a bit dry and boring, a little like the school newsletter or the village newsletter that you might get through your letterbox. It's full of news stories that don't mean a great deal to you, or a list of announcements. You don't want your emails to read like that.
Instead, you want to offer stories or information that is of value to your readers, which they're going to get excited about. When you write your author newsletter, preferably, you will offer something that they can't get anywhere else.
For non-fiction authors, this is usually quite easy. You can offer a top tip or how-to in an email that you may not share anywhere else.
For fiction authors, you might test out some new ideas. If you've thought of a new character or developed a new aspect of the world you're building, you could share that. You can test out those ideas and invite your subscribers to give you feedback.
Engagement is key
Engagement is very important when it comes to email. Having a large list is meaningless if the subscribers you have are not opening your emails or engaging with them. It's much better to have a smaller well-engaged list.
Engagement means people reply to you, they click on the links in your email. So they check out blog posts that you talk about or your podcast interviews.
Every email you send should have a call to action, but that call to action shouldn't always be to check out your books. Remember, your goal with email marketing is not only to sell books, it is to develop a relationship with your readers.
So now you know what's important for writing a strong author newsletter, let's take a look at some of my ideas for what you can include.
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1. Give an update
This is the obvious one. Tell readers what you've been up to and what you're working on.
It could be facts you have discovered during your research. It could be a new character that you've developed, or it could be an addition to the world you're building.
These emails are great for generating curiosity and excitement for a forthcoming book.
2. Answer a question
If someone has asked you a question about your books or your writing – whether that's in person, on social media or via email – you can answer that in your author newsletter.
It doesn't matter if no one's asked you any questions, you can make one up, no one will know! But if you think the answer would be of value to your readers, then you can write it in your author newsletter.
And by sharing one Q&A, it may invite more. So share a Q&A and ask other people what questions they have, and that could become a regular feature of your emails.
3. Book reviews and recommendations
This is a great one, but it's often overlooked by authors. If you're trying to attract readers and you're a reader yourself, then it makes sense to talk about books. Your readers won't only find your books interesting, they're likely reading books from lots of authors. So they will be keen to get new book ideas from you, or to hear your thoughts about latest releases.
If you don't have time to actually read lots of books and do a full review of those books for your author newsletter, you can share what's on your to be read pile.
You can also share what new releases you're looking forward to, or create a round-up of other people's reviews of those books.
So there are ways around it if you don't have time to do lots of reading yourself, or as much reading as you'd like to do. You can still talk about other people's books in your author newsletter and it doesn't matter if you haven't been working on your own writing.
4. News and events
It's an author newsletter, so of course you need to include news. Although I don't like the term author newsletter, if you have something exciting to share with your readers, you'll want to include it in your email.
If you've landed a book deal, if you've won an award, if you've got a launch date for your next book, or you have a cover to reveal, you will want to mention it.
If you don't have many news stories of your own, there might be big news stories in your genre or in the wider book industry that you want to share.
Events are also good to include in your news section. If you're attending a book festival or signing, or any virtual events, you will want to let your subscribers know.
5. Behind the scenes
This is an exciting one. It's not for everyone, but if it feels right for you, you can share what's going on in your life. You can share your achievements but also your challenges. You can share things that like your writing set-up, or talk about the tools and resources that you're using. Or you can share a picture or video of where you're working; perhaps you have an inspiring writing nook or cosy reading nook that you'd like to share. If you live in a beautiful place, you may want to show people the view from your writing room.
There are lots of opportunities to share a glimpse of behind the scenes, share a slice of life. Again, it's not for everyone. Not everyone wants to share everything with their readers, and that's ok. But if it feels right for you, it can be an excellent way of developing a deeper connection with your subscribers.
Everyone loves to get free stuff, so giveaways can be very effective to include in your emails. This is especially so if the giveaway is exclusive to your email subscribers. Giveaways can be a great incentive to get people to join your list and to stay on your list as well.
And they also give you great content to include in your emails. You can talk about the giveaway and, once you've drawn a winner, you can report who won the giveaway in your next email. So one giveaway gives you content for two separate emails.
Just be sure to make the giveaway relevant to your brand. Giving away books in your genre, for example, makes sense and should appeal to your ideal readers. If you give away something with mass appeal, such as Amazon gift vouchers or an iPad, you will attract freebie hunters.
7. Something else…
If it's relevant to your readers and ties in with your book in some way then you may want to share something else.
For example, a recipe, a gardening tip, historical fact, an ancient spell, a poem, a prayer or a quote.
This can be anything else of value to your readers, but doesn't depend on you having created anything new.
Sometimes you will take a break from writing. Sometimes you won't have anything new to say. On those occasions, it's good to have a fall back plan.
There is always something else of value to share with your readers. It doesn't matter if you haven't created it yourself, as long as you give due credit where necessary. You can share something of somebody else's that you think will be useful to your audience.
Add variety to your emails
So there are my seven tips for how to write your author newsletter and what to include. Of course, you don't need to use all seven ideas in every single email, and in fact, I would urge you not to.
By varying the content of your emails, you'll be able to be more creative and you won't get stuck for ideas as often. You can always think, well, I've not done a giveaway for a while, or I've not shared a recipe or a gardening tip for a while. So there will always be something to share with your readers.
If you vary your content, your subscribers are less likely to get bored or feel like they've seen your emails before. There's nothing worse than getting a formulaic newsletter every few weeks and thinking this is exactly the same as the last one.
So vary your content, and I encourage you to vary your length as well. Experiment with shorter emails and longer emails to see which your readers seem to prefer and which work better for you.
Send something exclusive
My final tip for writing emails that your readers can't wait to open is to send something exclusive. That means, don't send the content that's already on your blog.
If you put your blog content in your emails, there will be no reason for your email subscribers to click the link to check out your blog. You want them to do that because it sends positive signals to Google.
There's also no reason for them to stay on your list if everything is available on your blog or website. They could think to themselves, I'll just visit that website to see new content. Unfortunately, they probably won't and then you will lose them.
It's important to make your subscribers feel special and to send them exclusive content so they know it's worth staying on your list.
When you do that, you will develop a more loyal and more supportive readership. And that's going to be incredibly helpful for your book marketing success.
Great article and advice! Almost made me want to start immediately. Do you recommend creating a bunch of newsletters ahead and scheduling them automatically?
That’s awesome, Mary! I’m a big fan of batching content but it depends how far in advance you create your emails. If you send one every week, you may want to batch 4 or 5 for the month. But if you only send one email a month, I wouldn’t batch too far ahead. Your emails are your chance to connect more deeply with readers, so often that means reflecting what’s going on in the world – it could be a reference to big things like Coronavirus or the US election or holidays, or something smaller like the weather where you are. If you write your emails too far ahead, you will lose some of that authenticity.